Rediscover Joy at Work

Rediscover Joy at Work

via the Harvard Business Review by Rebecca Newton


A year and a half of the Covid pandemic has left many of us bereft of the joy we once felt at work. Add to the losses we’ve suffered the constant need to present ourselves as more “okay” than we really feel and the requirement to always be in response mode rather than pursuing the work we most enjoy and it’s no wonder that we’re mired in malaise. Psychologist and leadership coach Rebecca Newton describes four steps to take to rebuild our sense of professional joy: Build your strengths into your day, focus on your professional growth, share your emotions with a trusted colleague, and rebuild relationships through the work itself.

“I just want to feel joy at work again. I want to feel like myself,” Susan shared in our first coaching session. “I used to be fairly energized. I like what I do, but now on Sunday evenings I feel flat and I’m almost dreading the week ahead.”

Susan is not alone. Across different locations, industries, and roles, my clients — driven professionals who have always loved their vocations — are telling me that they just want to feel joy at work again. This isn’t just an idle need for something fluffy; research has shown that joy is an emotional response and outlook that’s vital to our well-being, cognitive functioning, and our performance at work.

To bring this positivity back into your life, it helps to understand why it has disappeared. The obvious answer is “the pandemic,” but it’s worth taking a closer look at what specifically is amiss. As a psychologist who studies how ambitious professionals thrive in organizations, I’ve observed four root causes of this current malaise:

First, we’re all burned out from almost a year and a half of sustained stress and sadness. Even in organizations that have fared well through the pandemic, necessary changes meant pressure increased. We’ve faced continual uncertainty and hunkered down in survival mode in response. Though we’ve all experienced the pandemic differently, we all have been affected by losses and grief.

Many of us have also struggled with feeling inauthentic at times throughout these months as we’ve needed to show up like we’re okay even when we’re not. That’s especially true for leaders, who have bucked themselves up knowing that their people depend on them. A sustained disconnect between our inner self and the behaviors we exhibit to others can diminish our psychological well-being.

We also haven’t always been able to play to our strengths: We’ve had the pressure of just doing what needs to be done and getting on with it as efficiently and practically as possible. This has disconnected us from the joy we’ve naturally found in our vocations.

Finally, research indicates that perceived social isolation may contribute to poorer cognitive performance and executive functioning, including reduced cognitive flexibility and ability to deal with novelty. This can increase negativity, making you feel bad about your reduced performance and ability and kicking off a negative spiral that may rob you of the joy you once felt upon doing the same work.

The pandemic and its effects are dragging on, and it may seem that joy isn’t possible when we’re experiencing pain or being challenged — so why bother pursuing it now? But the strange thing about joy, as psychologists note, is that it doesn’t require the absence of suffering; in fact, it may even be a route through which fulfillment arrives as we note what is meaningful in difficult times.

So how do we go about getting our joy back? It’s not about striving for perfection. Instead, the research (and my work with clients as a psychologist and coach) tells us that it comes from taking advantage of our strengths, being courageous, authentic, grateful and connected. Here are four ways I recommend to get your joy back at work starting right now…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE