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A Litmus Test for Happiness at Work

happiness work

Earlier this year, the folks at Gallup released a report showing that most Americans were disengaged from their work.

The report set off a flurry of articles giving employers advice on keeping their workers motivated, and giving employees ideas about staying engaged even if their jobs aren’t ideal.

But what, exactly, does it mean to be engaged at work?

Few people are happy every day with every aspect of their jobs, and a catch-all fix seems rather unrealistic. What makes one person engaged might not work for someone else, as we all have different talents and goals and needs. We also have different temperaments, and therefore different relationships with our co-workers and our managers.

Gallup has been doing polls for decades, so looking at the questions it asked in its survey can help you better understand your feelings about your own job. Why bother? Sometimes digging a little deeper into the specifics will guide you to make changes in how your work. Of course, you can continue to be miserable. But if you would prefer to feel better about your work, it pays off to focus on the things that you do enjoy rather than the things you don’t.

Take Gallup’s survey yourself by answering true or false to the following 12 statements.

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • In the past seven days, I have received recognition or praise for good work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • At work, my opinions seems to count.
  • The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  • My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • I have a best friend at work.
  • In the past six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • In the past year, I have had opportunities to learn and grow.

Most people who aren’t happy at work will have more than one reason. Often not liking an aspect of our jobs–and that is often our bosses–can cloud the whole picture. Before you start searching for your next job, you’ll want to be very clear on what really needs to be different to keep you motivated or you may wind up in the same situation all over again.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and, among others.