How can I find a happy atmosphere to work in?
How can you tell that a company has the right work/culture environment for you? Should you be able to tell in the job interview? I have never worked in a happy atmosphere and I am wondering what I'm missing when I interview for jobs. Am I interviewing for the wrong companies? Should I look for non government positions? Is the private sector a happier place to work in? Am I asking too much from a company to be a happy place? Should I expect to not have a positive environment when at work? Any feedback on what makes a happy working environment and how to find one would be appreciated. Thanks!
Everyone has his/her own definition of "happy", so there's no universal answer. To get your personal answer, try answering a couple of questions:
1) Overtimes. For some people they are ok, for some - not. If they are ok, you may come home late, but if you need something from your colleague, and it's 5 minutes till end of official workday, you get it.
2) Openspace vs personal space. Openspace = quicker communication, personal room = more concentration on particular task. Side effect - openspace = usually more multitasking, personal rooms = more of large tasks.
3) Spending free time/time after work. Some companies have a tradition of going to the bar/cinema/...together on Fridays, or having a dinner together. Some not. Select what you like more.
4) Hobbies and age. if you are asked about your hobby at the interview, it's usually a good sign. If people around you are of the same generation, it's a lot easier. If some of them have the same hobbies - it's great.
After answering these, you'll define the vision of the place where you want to work. When coming to office for an interview, look around to see the answers yourself, and check if the interviewer's answers do not contradict with what you see.
A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment.
"What sort of people live in the next town?" asked the stranger.
"What were the people like where you've come from?" replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.
"They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I'm happy to be leaving the scoundrels."
"Is that so?" replied the old farmer. "Well, I'm afraid that you'll find the same sort in the next town.
Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.
Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. "What sort of people live in the next town?" he asked.
"What were the people like where you've come from?" replied the farmer once again.
"They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I'm sorry to be leaving them."
"Fear not," said the farmer. "You'll find the same sort in the next town."
Liz, the lens you're looking through is shaping the experience you're having. And when you commit to living FROM happiness (rather than waiting on your environment to supply it), you will shift out of being a prisoner of circumstances to a powerful creator of any world you choose to have. It's incredible.
Amid all the great advice these fine folks have provided you, I wonder how much you're using LinkedIn to see if you know anybody at any of the companies where you're interviewing. Are you familiar with the concept of "informational interviewing," whereby you approach people at a company/industry you think you might like to target, emphasizing that you aren't asking them for a job, and just ask them questions about the place where they work, the industry, the type of people the industry draws, etc.? I think you would do yourself a major favor if you picked up the latest edition of "What Color Is Your Parachute?" by Richard Bolles. He goes into detail about informational interviewing, and even provides sample questions.
But as most of these folks have said, you need to define for yourself what is important to you. What inner needs do you have to satisfy? Where (and at what job) would you work for no pay at all?
Happy places live between our own two ears. That being said, there are some things you can do to minimize the risk of joining another company with a culture you don't like. Know what you think will make you happy, and ask them about it during the interview. Is it flexibility, or being social outside of work, or a lot of group projects, or a lot of independence? Knowing what you think is a happy environment will help you evaluate the Emotional Quotient of your job. The government is a very regulated industry and there are private sectors with a lot of regulation as well, if you don't like pushing papers for instance, find another industry. Start by knowing what type of work you like...being alone or being with people as an example, and take it from there. Also, if you get offered a job ask them to provide you with an employee or two that you can talk to and see what they have to say. If your're not hired by your boss ask to have a conversation with him before you accept. Just remember, no one can make you happy except yourself because it's a state of mind, not a state of employment. To your SWEET success!
Let me answer this with a more concrete and practical approach. It's the end of the semester, and I have just given my "end of semester" lecture to my students entitled "How to lead a happy life". One of the points of my lecture is: "Know you are, and be who you are." And in regards to a workplace setting, I recommend that my students take a Myers Briggs Type Indicator survey.
I like the Myers Briggs, because unlike most other psychological profiles, which focus on pathology, its focus is on the behaviors that we prefer to use to solve problems, interact socially, convey information, etc. etc.
Once you know whether you are generally introverted or extroverted, a concrete or abstract thinker, whether you are ruled by your heart or your head, and whether you like to follow explicit directions or approach something as open ended and freeform, you will be able to address the essential questions of happiness in the workplace: does the work itself, and my supervisors style suit me?
This is not a matter of technical skill in your discipline, it is a matter of the style in which you accomplish tasks. For myself, my personality type values autonomy,but there are many employees who prefer a very precise and invariable set of rules, directions, and processes to guide them in completing their work. Neither of us are right or wrong, we just have strong preferences (and all of us do) in the style in which we are allowed to approach our work.
So once you are armed with knowing who you are, and how you like to do things, you can examine the job description and ask yourself questions like: I know I am an introvert, but this position addresses a great deal deal of customer interaction, and the corporate structure is to work in teams. Am I really going to feel comfortable in this setting?
And if you find yourself in an interview, I don't think it's inappropriate to ask what your supervisor's supervision style is. If you're a person who only requires a budget and a deadline, and then wishes to be left alone to do your work, but your supervisor is a command and control guy who holds four staff meetings a week to make sure he is thoroughly "on top" of everything, including you, will you be happy?
And of course, we all work hopefully for the love of the job, but compensation is an issue. But compensation takes many forms. So you need to evaluate not just are the salary and benefits worth it, but are there other compensating features. If you have a child in elementary school, are they amenable to flex time so you can see the school play? Will they accommodate you if you want to continue your schooling? if you cohabit with a partner, and you book a vacation to parallel their's, will the company honor it without question, or do they consider you "on call", and when you schedule vacation it is only valid if there's no other company demands on you.
I have been using the MBTI as both a guide for my own life, and as an invaluable hiring tool for over 20 years. I can't recommend it highly enough, and I hope that you find this helpful as I do.
Your question seems to indicate that you have been working in government jobs and not corporate. I have never worked in government, so can't comment, but can only imagine. I have worked in a number of companies across the spectrum and most all of them have been happy places to work.
A couple of things to think about. Laura has a good point. I have found that negative people attract a negative vibe so one must take stock of how you are perceived by others. If that is not the case for you and you have just had bad luck in choosing places to work, then there are a few things you can do.
1. Find a job represented by a recruiter. Many know the people doing the hiring, have placed people there and have a good feel for the environment and corporate culture.
2. LinkedIn is an outstanding tool to reach out to not only current employees of a company but previous employees as well. Make connections with these folks and let them know you are considering employment at XYZ company and was wondering if they could comment on the culture and work environment
3. Glassdoor provides employee feedback on an array of corporate areas...pay, benefits, management, the president or owner, work environment, etc. Check out your prospective organization there.
Hopefully some of these ideas will help you find your next happy job.
I think there are some good suggestions here. There are definitely plenty of unhappy places to work. I consulted for 20 years working at a lot of companies during that time and part of the happiness was if I was doing what I like and am good at, but there was definitely a portion that was related to the company. Tony's suggestion is a good one, just be careful how and who you ask the second one. But one thing I learned to ask was what I would likely find myself doing most of the time I was at the company that helped me determine if I was going to enjoy what I was doing. For me, I need to be learning and growing to be content and happy where I'm at. I can ask the questions to find that out during the interview. But asking people how they like working at a company has always helped me a lot also. I've found those truly happy answer quickly, upbeat and don't have to think about it. Those that take a while and start with "it's a job, so there are always..." is covering. Yes its a job, your interviewing, you know its a job, the question is are they happy there and why and how does that apply to you and what drives you. Good Luck!!!
It is definitely possible to work in a happier work environment. What you should do is define what you consider "happy" work environment and research companies that meet your standard. You can find this information out by networking. It is definitely not a crime to simply ask an employee of a company about its working environment. LinkedIn is a phenomenal place to gather this information but attending local networking events is also very helpful. Ask people about leadership which is the foundation of workplace culture. Also in an interview, a great question to ask is why is the position vacant? Remember you are interviewing the company just as much as the company is interviewing you.
Hi Liz ~
Happy is a rather amorphous term, as Pavel points out (and makes some excellent suggestions to determine). I'm wondering what "happy" looks like for you. Does it mean co-workers who become friends, people who enjoy their work, people who don't take their job too seriously, or people who are so committed to what they love to do they'll work 10 hours without looking up? Perhaps, when you find a position that feels like a fit in the interview, you can ask whether it might be all right to walk around the office and speak with a few staff members, or even just to take a quick stroll around and see what sense you get of how happy people seem.
Also determine how much autonomy you want/need over your work. I know that when I was in the corporate world, I was much happier having a lot of creative control over my projects than when a superior delineated the parameters. As you can see, I'm a longtime entrepreneur, so self determination was a huge "happy" factor for me. For someone who thrives in a structured environment, the decision would be very different.
Hope this is useful!
I am going to answer this from the perspective of my direct interpretation of your question: Before starting working there.
I have usually gotten a "vibe" from the people I have the interview with, but I must say, sometimes, they are well versed to create the correct vibe during interviews, so I do not always go that route.
I think your best bet would be to see if you can ask an HR lady about the staff turn-over at the company. If it is high, then there is signs of problems of some kind. This may not be easy to do though.
Something else I have done as well, although not easy either, as you might not have access to this information, but with Social Media nowadays being what it is, it should not be impossible to find a few people who work there, and strike up a brief conversation with them. I started one conversation like this: "Hey! I see you work at XYZ. I have always dreamed of working at a big development company, so I applied to work at the same one you are! How is the experience?"
The response was astonishing. Let's just say a lot of bleep words were said, and I knew it was not the fit for me. While I do agree that one person's opinion does not really mean that the company is rotten, but it gives me some indication.
In short: research before you go for the interview, and even more research before you accept the position.
Hope this helps!
Liz, I feel your pain - and you are not alone.
My own CV reads like a Chinese Restaurant menu, mainly because of really poor managers - I'm talking unequivocally incompetent, bullying, brown-nosing (upwards of course, not to me!), and micro-managing to the point that I was rendered completely pointless. They caused the workplace to be demotivated and even fearful. Career suicide.
The last time I experienced a good atmosphere at work was probably when I worked behind a bar - in 1996 - yet I love what I do.
So, I'd say it is not your fault; good managers are VERY rare, and we know from research that management is the key to retention. Although I've had some truly talented, visionary managers, they were anomalous.
But do not, as I did, find yourself on the down-escalator of self-esteem, blaming yourself for the failure of organizations (government, private sector AND the charity sector) to fix their problems.
Can you judge at interview? I'd say no. Is it asking too much for a company to be a happy place? Sadly, probably yes. I strongly dispute that it is down to what's inside (@Laura); how do you explain bullying if this is the case? My theory - and it will seem jaded but it's actually just prudent - is that if a vacancy has arisen, consider that it's because the holder didn't want it any more; there could be bad and good reasons for that.
I love Tony's approach. It's audacious, and I've found that interviewers often appreciate this kind of candour; it can turn a rigid interview into a more interesting and informative conversation. That said, I suspect it may be too audacious for those of us not in IT or the most highly sought-after sectors.
Remember too that many people tolerate bad workplaces because they have to - and that means they find coping mechanisms, one of which is to ignore or deny the problem. I've worked abroad, and I've concluded that expedience is at play here. Our housing costs in the UK are so high I sense that many workers just keep their heads down. If flagging up problematic management at a time when many of us are dispensable would risk their job - and ultimately their home - who would do it? I understand it, but I hate it all the same.
As for 'passionate', I am beginning to think this could be part of the problem. I care passionately about my work; I am fastidious, highly motivated, full of ideas, a hard worker - actually, on paper, I'm the ideal employee. So what went wrong? My theory: poor managers are so prolific, these qualities are now redundant. The only quality you really need is the ability to care less, so that you can tolerate the nonsense around you, so that you can eventually switch off and carry out your job as some kind of automaton.
If that's not for you (and um...something tells me it's not), force yourself to be optimistic and take a chance on being your own boss.
I held off going freelance for a long time because a graphic-designer friend of mine told me that when you do, you end up with not one but many (difficult) bosses! But that's the direction I'm heading now. It's not easy, but it's the lesser of two evils, I think. And I'm looking for a graphic designer partner, as it happens...
It's very difficult to know whether the culture of a company is one that would fit your standards of a happy working environment. Asking probing questions during the interview might give you an insight but would not guarantee that that insight is accurate. More often than not, one only finds out once they are already in. You can only make the most of what you have. My advice is for you to simply adapt to whatever environment you find yourself in. That way you will not have to be too frustrated or disappointed with the company's culture. Try to blend in and lower your expectations of people. For as long as the environment is conducive enough for you to perform your job well, be content with that. If people are unfriendly at work, try not to let it matter as long as they easy to work with. Other than that, just be yourself.
I love the job I apply for, I have prior experience or knowledge, I am passionate at work, I avoid clinging to group for rumors or grapevine, I have 'just do it ' attitude, I love learning and exploring new knowledge and expertise, always in the urge to provide solutions, analytically thinking and finding solutions through simple best steps or procedures, I avoid office politics in fact very ignorant about it and having a job position which doesn't require me to do too much communication with stakeholders or customers, I have patience for my appraisal and promotions, I speak less, discreet, precise, clear and straight forward avoiding me gossiping or others to gossip with me. Basically just doing my work what it requires for me to do in the first place.
In agreement with Pavel but I'd like to add though that, all of those points would mean nothing if your definition of "happy" is not consistent with what is on offer. My advice would be to "create one" whether within the same environment you're working in or perhaps somewhere else. And if it means changing jobs, then go ahead and be happy because, sometimes and sadly, people just don't like change or someone with differing views and if you bring something new (and it could be as trivial as as you're head scarf) to the workplace, it could spiral into a whole new "downward" working relationship.
The ratings just came out and the happiest place to work in the nation is Johnson&Johnson. They have a Credo that places priority on doctors, nurses and their patients, that is, customers first, stockholders last. Having worked there, not sure who's so happy about it, just a lot of work that must be done under tight schedules, just like a whole lot of other places. You could do a lot worse; trust me, I have.
Let's face it, work is drudgery someone else doesn't want to do, not a golden road to happiness. Yet you don't have to live for work, rather work to live. And the alternatives can be ghastly. Collecting dole means a continual search and endless rejection. Welfare doesn't pay middle class bills. Can you afford to retire? With no income, you can't even entertain leisure or transport. You take the bus, ride a bike, or walk. You don't eat every day. Shelter comes first, taxes second, and survival third.
I'd find any position and keep my ears and eyes open. A good long run is optimal but seldom possible. Permanence is a myth.
Government jobs offer low pay and rough conditions, maybe repeatedly relocating, for example, military careers. City or state jobs, less pay but no relocating or security. These public sector jobs usually offer decent benefits, but even that is changing. Nonprofit sector provides bad pay, no benefits, and temporary at best, but they may build an otherwise weak resume. Private sector jobs offer higher pay and more opportunities, though benefits can sometimes be sketchy. Self employment offers the highest pays, but only if you're successful; 95% of startups go bust. There is only one other wrinkle to consider, the contingent workforce, but you have to be a very talented individual to land these choice roles and willing to weather months without.
It can be tough sometimes, but what I have learnt over the last couple of years is that if you want something you have to create it instead of waiting for others to do it. If you want change than you need to start with you. There is a quote "Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself". Rumi
Often in life it is not what is happening, but how we are perceiving it. You may be stuck in a bit of a rut where all you see is an unhappy work environment. You may get a job and it may be a fantastic place, but you have programmed yourself to see the bad. Sorry if this sounds a little harsh, but I wanted to give you my honest feedback.
Thanks for all the advice. I think everyone's right about asking good questions at the interview and trying to connect with employees that currently work there to get an idea of the environment. I am definitely happy with my profession so I won't change that but maybe I need to be less expectant of a happy place and try to make it a happy place. Maybe I should try harder at making connections at work instead of being afraid to get too involved with the office politics. Hopefully I can find the right place for me.
This is a tough question, it all depends on you. There's a couple of questions you have to ask yourself to be able to find the right environment for you. Do you like to work inside or outside, do you like to work with people? The saying goes "If you do something that you love, you'll never work a day in your life." Maybe you would like to be your own boss?
It all depends on you and your management. If you are required in a big concern and your will feel difficulties and pressure by your seniors or co staffs then its hard to survive. If you are required in small concern and you'll feel comfort , then it is like a heaven. I'm not mean big concern will be like hell and small companies will be a heaven. It's also depends on luck and how you overtune the diffculties in success.
I appreciate WHAT you are looking for Liz however I believe it is something that is not likely to be predicted. Consider this- when an employer is interviewing a prospective employee they (and you) have their best face on. The employer is likely to try to engage YOU and so the dirt they know of (assume there is much they don't know about) will not be shared. Under the best of circumstances you may be able to chat with folks who actually work where you are looking to be hired (not the hiring persons). You have a better chance of getting the real insight you seek. I have to ask, are you able and ready to go off on your own?