These 8 Things Suck the Happiness Out of Your Workplace. Here’s How to Control Them

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From Google’s nap pods to Nike’s basketball court, modern companies are going way (sometimes way, way) over the top to try to keep employees cheery. But when push comes to shove, controlling these eight factors might matter significantly more for your happiness than a bunch of perks.

1. Lack of boundaries

This can involve the coworker who just can’t seem to stop finding their way to your desk to chat exactly when you’re busiest. But it also can translate to being pulled into different roles on a whim, work events repeatedly preventing you from enjoying home life or others sharing more personal information than you care to hear.

2. Excessively strict routine

Some consistency in a daily, weekly or monthly schedule can be soothing, as familiarity typically helps people feel comfortable and secure. But if the routine is too stringent, you don’t have the flexibility to express yourself, check out new opportunities and grow. All you have is the hopeless feeling you’re stuck in the movie Groundhog’s Day where nothing will ever get better.

3. Control

Maybe your team lead micromanages over your shoulder to check every word you type. Or maybe a coworker flips out on you because you dared to open the blinds all the way in the conference room (you know they can’t work in more than 1,000 lumens!). In any case, trying to control absolutely everything is often more about fear and wanting to feel safe than it is simply minimizing risks.

4. Drama

When events or feelings are blown out of proportion, it can be distracting and pull everybody away from productive workflow. It also can create tension that, in the long run, creates a more divisive environment.

5. Perfection

Expecting or pursuing perfection can make you second guess yourself and slow you down. It also can lead to crippling guilt when you make a mistake, as well as unfairly harsh judgments on others who fall short.

6. Seeing the glass as half empty

A little pessimism can prevent you from blindly pursuing opportunities without a balanced understanding of what you’re getting yourself into. But always seeing just the negative can make you hypervigilant. That constant state of being on alert is stressful and can keep you from living life to the fullest in the moment.

7. Lack of transparency

A traditional, hierarchy-based business by itself is not a problem. People can appreciate that those at the top have worked hard and that their own specific skill sets still are developing. What really grates on people’s lemon rind is when they don’t know what others at different levels are doing or why. It makes them feel betrayed and inconsequential. Both emotions stir up fear of being isolated and left out.

8. Inflated individualism

Whether your coworker laments for a week about how they deserved the promotion so-and-so got or balks at the idea of pulling his weight on a team project, an overactive ego is a conflict magnet. If you’re busy focusing on taking them down a peg, you’re not able to get the real synergy the business needs. Even worse, you can find it harder to believe you can compete or have powerful strengths.

How to get back in the driver’s seat 

If you’re seeing any of the above joy suckers manifest where you work, the following might help.


  • Focus on your communication. Be clear and firm about your expectations, needs and impressions. Ask questions. Submit polite feedback.
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses for both yourself and others. Offer reminders of the strengths regularly. Set goals for eliminating (or at least reducing) the weaknesses and offer resources and support to others where appropriate. Keeping a notebook of successes and progress helps.
  • Look for stretch projects or activities that expose you to new skills, ideas, experiences or people.
  • Purposely leave time on your calendar open. Use that time to approach your to-do list in a more flexible, natural way.
  • Hold firm about deadlines. Give your all until that point and focus on meeting objectives rather than on what you could have done with more time or information.
  • Direct coworkers to specific spaces or people who can be a listening ear, or let them know you’re willing to chat at a different time.
  • When mistakes happen, note what you learn. Write it down if necessary. Learning is never a loss.
  • Share positive news or stories whenever you can.


People often think the dynamics of their office are out of their control, but this simply isn’t true. Your behavior can influence not only how you feel, but how others feel and act, too. Be watchful, make the choice to act and build the atmosphere you want.