How to apply positive psychology at work?

During the European Conference on Positive Psychlogy we (together with Ad Bergsma) will organize a lunch gathering (12.30 – 14.00) on Wednesday July 2. Experts working at several national and international organizations will share their extensive experience in implementing positive psychology at work. Two representatives from each organization will be present to answer your questions.

European Conference on Positive Psychology

European Conference on Positive Psychology

We are very interested to find out what kind of questions practitioners might have. To get a better perspective we will start an advance dialogue on an English and Dutch platform. We hope that this conversation will spill over to the offline lunch session we will have on July the second. Please find the online International platform here and the Dutch platform here.

Looking forward to meeting you either life or online!

Onno Hamburger & Ad Bergsma

Onno Hamburger is author of the book happiness at work; Improve your self leadership skills to flourish at work.  He has extensive experience with implementing happiness at work in organizations. He works as a senior trainer and happiness at work coach. He runs his own company which focuses on happiness at work (

Ad Bergsma is author of happiness at work; Improve your self leadership skills to flourish at work. He is a psychologist, speaker, scientific journalist and happiness researcher. He received his Ph. D. on happiness a the Erasmus University in 2011. (

Are you happy with your job? (and what about your partner, friend or mother in law :-)

The holidays are a perfect time to reflect on your current job. Having the time to think about this is great but sometimes you need some extra input to make up your mind. When I ask people what makes them happy or what makes them unhappy with their job they often mention the following 10 factors: Meeting

What makes people happy with their job? (in order of importance)

  1. Friendly co-workers/good atmosphere
  2. Enjoyable tasks
  3. Good management
  4. Good balance between your work life and personal life
  5. Variety of work
  6. Feeling that your work is worthwhile
  7. Feeling that your contribution truly makes a difference
  8. Being part of a successful team
  9. Recognition of your achievements
  10. Good pay

 What makes people unhappy with their job? (in order of importance)

  1. Insufficient communication on the part of the management
  2. Wages too low
  3. Little or no recognition for achievements
  4. Poor management
  5. Not enough freedom for personal development
  6. No attention paid to new ideas
  7. Too few opportunities for high performers
  8. Lack of fringe benefits
  9. Work is no fun
  10. Feeling that your contribution doesn’t really matter

Perhaps if you take a closer look at these 10 happy and 10 unhappy factors it is already clear to you. For those of you who need (or want) more we made a little questionnaire. This can help you to assess whether your current job or potential future jobs are compatible with you. For each point, award a score of between 1 and 10 (1 = negative, 10 = positive). Naturally, for questions 1 and 2, a score of 0 is also possible. (For more information on this questionnaire take a look at chapter 5 of our book on Happiness at Work).

 Questionnaire: Are you happy with your job?

1. Read through the list of factors that contribute to a happy working environment (see above). How many of these ten factors are applicable?
2. Read through the list of factors that contribute to an unhappy working environment (see above). How many of these ten factors are not applicable?
3. The organization and function suits my personality. See this test for your personality.
4. I can make optimum use of my talents.
5. My values and goals are compatible with the vision and mission of the organization.
6. I get along well with my co-workers.
7. I have a lot of faith in my manager’s ability.


Add up your scores for the seven questions and write down your total score. Read the descrip­tion that corresponds to your score:

54-70: A great result! The chances are high that your work brings out the best in you. If you have completed this test for a potential new job, then seize the opportunity with both hands!

41-53: If this is your current job, then it might be an idea to see what improvements can be made. If this is a potential new job, then it is worth taking the time to think everything through. Are there any alternative jobs that could give you greater satisfaction?

26-40: If this is your current job, then it might be advisable to investigate whether any new opportunities are available to you on the job market. This score suggests that you are greatly in need of change. If this is a possible new job, then you should only take the job if you are in urgent need of work and there are no better opportunities on offer.

5-25: If this is your current job, then it is certainly time to look for new possibilities. If it is a potential new job that you can afford to turn down, then you should do exactly that.

Photo credits: Assistant on CabarEng assignment

Seven myths about happiness at work

When you start talking about happiness at work some people get strange ideas. Some might think you are talking about a Steve Ballmer kind of attitude. While talking about happiness at work is getting more common it is about time to address and debunk a number of common misconceptions about happiness at work. We will address 7 over here.

7 myths of happiness at work debunked

7 myths of happiness at work debunked


Myth 1: For you to be happy, everything must be perfect.

Some people believe that happiness at work means the eradication of all negative feel­ings. These people are heading for disappointment. Happiness at work means that the balance is tipped in favor of the positive and that you have the feeling that you are doing something worthwhile. However, even when things are going well, we sometimes need negative feelings, as they serve as a warning when there is a chance that things may go wrong. Negative emotions also help bring about change. The problem arises when you get stuck in these negative emotions, as the feeling of powerlessness that it brings is very unhealthy. The increase in stress and burn-out over the past 20 years shows that this is a significant problem.

Myth 2: Happiness encourages laziness.

Happy employees are not lazy pleasure-seekers: they are more active, more committed and more result-oriented. Studies show that on average, happy employees are 50% more motivated, more than twice as committed and are 30% more productive than unhappy employees.

Myth 3: Happiness cannot be measured.

It is often claimed that happiness is a personal thing that is impossible to measure. However, studies conducted over the past 30 years have shown that individual happiness certainly can be gauged. Using specially developed questionnaires, people can quite reli­ably indicate how happy they are. Happiness is therefore a perfectly measurable factor.

Myth 4: Happiness at work is the same as job satisfaction.

Although these two terms are closely related, there is a critical difference in usage. Job satisfaction is often a factor that is influenced by the organization, which creates cir­cumstances that promote employee satisfaction. Happiness at work is a factor for which employees themselves are principally responsible. Studies show that while there is very little correlation between job satisfaction and productivity, there is clearly a positive cor­relation between happiness at work and productivity.

Myth 5: Happiness at work and happiness in your personal life are two separate things.

Happiness at work cannot be separated from happiness in your life as a whole. The disadvantage of this is that unemployment clearly has a negative effect on people’s gen­eral happiness. However, the advantage of this is that people who are happy at work are clearly happier in their lives in general. When you derive enjoyment, fulfillment and meaning from your work, this clearly has a positive effect on your general level of happi­ness. And vice versa, of course.

Myth 6: Happiness at work is only for highly educated people.

Some people think that philosophizing about happiness at work is only for intellectuals. However, nothing could be further from the truth. At every educational level you will find a comparable percentage of people who put their heart and soul into their work, while another percentage of the same group are simply there for the money. The more autonomy a person has, the happier they are. On average, managers and people who are self-employed feel happier. However, there are also ways to increase your autonomy without switching jobs.

Myth 7: Happiness at work is guaranteed if you have an enjoyable job.

The converse of this myth is that it is impossible to be happy if you have a boring job, which is equally untrue. The working environment is not the most important factor in­fluencing your happiness. How you think and act is much more important. It deter­mines the level of enjoyment, fulfillment and meaning you derive from both your work and your life, and it is completely independent of your particular working environment.

As more and more people (and organizations) are getting interested in happiness at work it is getting more important to have a good idea of what happiness at work is (and isn’t). In this post we focused on popular misconceptions about happiness at work. If you come across other myths about happiness at work please leave a comment or send us an email.

If you want to know more about happiness at work you can also take a look at our book. If you would like to get connected please “like” our Facebook page. We would love to stay connected!

Why following your passion is a bad idea!

Who does not know them? People who quit their jobs to do what they really want. They begin a “bed and breakfast” in Spain, take a sabbatical or become a personal coach. It sounds like a good idea. What could go possibly wrong when you follow your passion? To be honest I see it going wrong all the time. The choice for the passion often seems more a flight from reality than a truly sustainable way to become happier. Cal Newport told a fascinating story about this at the World Domination Summit.

Cal also wrote an interesting book on this subject. Both have inspired me to start thinking differently about passion. Passion without combining it with what you’re good at is pointless. And being good at something requires a lot of time, effort and endless practice. I wonder what you think of his story! Do you agree with him or not? Please let me know! Below or via email!

Albert Ellis - Happiness At Work - Onno Hamburger Positive Psychology Founder

Albert Ellis would have been one hundred today.

Albert Ellis - Happiness at work - Gelukkig Werken -- Onno Hambuger - Founder Positive Psychology Albert Ellis, would have been one hundred years old today. He invented ‘Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy’. Seven years ago he died in New York. Had he lived, today I would whole heartedly celebrate his hundredth birthday. Please find a short summary of his biography below. For an extended overview of his life, see: Albert Ellis 1913 – 2007

De world doesn’t end

Ellis fought all of his life. Hit started when he was six years old. He was an ailing child who had to spend months in hospital . His father only visited him once in this whole period. His mother visited only once a week. Ellis concurred his loneliness by addressing himself: “If I die, I die, but the world doesn’t end damn it.”

Looking differently

As a teenager Ellis was very shy. He hardly dared to open his mouth in public or speak to girls. Aged 19 he read somewhere it was possible to overcome fear by doing things that scare you. He imposed exercises to himself: He had to chat with every woman he saw standing on her own. It worked. Ellis noticed that you can change the way you observe yourself and how you perceive the world.

Rational Emotive Therapy

After an education to become a psychanalytic therapist he started to see the psycho analytic way of working as a waste of time. He started to give his patients homework en became more and more directive. Not only did his patients recover better because of this, but Ellis started to enjoy it himself. In 1953 Ellis broke with psycho analysis. Two years later he coined his way of working as “Rational-Emotive-Therapy”, RET in short.

RET was more easily accepted by patients and insurers than by his colleagues. Being critical towards Freud was seen as serious offence. [SIMON: They resented him for being critical, how to say that in correct English, JDD] In 1982 however, he was chosen as one of the most influential therapists of the 20th century, by his fellow practitioners.

More than comprehending

Ellis changed the name of the therapy to REBT. The B stands for behavioural. Eliss wanted to emphasise to patients the importance  of changing his behaviour. To merely comprehend didn’t suffice according to Ellis.

The years before his death Ellis spend mainly time fighting the institute he founded himself: The Albert Ellis Institute in New York. Ellis was expelled from the board but returned through law suits in the year before he died. A period too short to settle unfinished business like copyrights to his books and ownership of the brand “Albert Ellis”.

Albert Ellis, a corner stone to Happiness At Work

Albert Ellis contributed tremendously to the development of the field of psychology. He supported many people in gaining insights about themselves and how to change themselves. With REBT he invented  a methodology that helps many people to find more fun and fulfilment in in their work. With this he is one of the corner stones in enlarging the happiness at work in organisations.

Albert Ellis was born one hundred years ago on September 17, 2013 in Pittsburgh, USA. He died aged 93, on July 24, 2007 in New York.