The Happy at Work Manifesto

Alexander Kjerulf

July 11, 2007

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Much of what happens to us in life is beyond our control, but Kjerulf tells us that being happy at work is a choice. His message is simple, yet inspiring: When you decide to take steps toward being happy, you can be.

It’s time we stopped putting up with unhappy workplaces and bad bosses. Unhappiness at work is not a minor annoyance. It makes us tired, stressed and negative. Worst case, it makes us sick or kills us. Being happy at work makes you more energetic, productive, motivated, creative and successful. That is what we need more of. That is how we will work from now on. With happiness.


Here’s what you must know and do to make yourself happy at work.

1: I choose to be happy at work.

I refuse to work at any job that does not make me happy. It’s that simple. I want to wake up in the morning and look forward to work. I want to speak proudly to others of the work I do and the people I work with. I will look forward equally to Monday morning and Friday afternoon.

Making that choice won’t magically make me happy—but it is where I must start.

2: I can be happy at work.

Actually, anyone can. Provided they choose to be.

3: My happiness at work is my responsibility.

While my boss, my co-workers, my employees and my workplace all affect my happiness at work, the ultimate responsibility for it is mine and mine alone.

4: Knowing what makes me happy or unhappy at work is my responsibility.

Knowing what makes me happy at work is the first step to getting it. And if I don’t know—who will?

5: Letting others know what makes me happy or unhappy at work is my responsibility.

It’s not up to my boss, my co-workers, my employees or my workplace to experiment to read my mind and find out what it takes to make me happy at work. It’s up to me to tell them.

6: Something will happen when I do something.

As long as I sit on my butt and wait for my boss, my co-workers, my employees or my workplace to do something to make me happy, nothing will happen.

7: I know that my happiness at work affects my happiness outside of work.

A bad day at work is hard to shake when I get home. But a great day at work gives me energy for a great afternoon and evening at home. A great work week is the best springboard for a great weekend.

8: I know that happiness at work affects my health.

Being unhappy or stressed at work can make sick, depressed and even kill me. Conversely, being happy at work makes me healthier and stronger mentally and physically.

9: I may end up spending most of my waking hours at work—I want to make those hours count.

I may be spending more time at work than I will on my family, my friends and my hobbies combined. I want those hours to be fun and pleasant. And I want them to contribute to something meaningful.

10: It’s OK to have a bad day at work.

I can’t be happy at work all day, every day. It’s always OK to have a bad day at work. A bad week, month or year is not OK.

11: I do my best work when I’m happy.

When I’m happy I’m engaged, motivated, committed, more creative, less risk-averse, more service-minded and more productive.

12: There’s no such thing as too much happiness.

No matter how happy I am, a little more never hurts.

13: I recognize that happiness at work also comes from the time I don’t spend at work.

Holidays, weekends, days and other time away from work give me time to reflect and relax. It gives me new input and ideas. A life spent almost exclusively at work is LESS likely to make me happy.

14: I recognize that happiness at work is different for everyone.

One person’s dream job is another’s living hell. The things that make me happy at work may be a terrible experience for many other people.

15: Happiness at work is something I create now.

Not next month, next quarter or next year. I’m happy now...or never.

16: I recognize that happiness at work doesn’t come from the absence of bad things in the workplace.

All workplaces can have unpleasant people, too much work, demanding customers, stress, red tape and other idiosyncracies and annoyances. Though we strive to minimize these, I won’t wait to be happy at work until all of these have been eliminated. If I did wait, I would never be happy.

17: Happiness at work is infectious— I will be a carrier.

Happy people make others happy. That’s how I want to affect others. Unhappiness at work is also contagious—but it’s no fun to pass on that particular virus.

18: The best way to make myself happy at work is by making others happy at work.

It makes no sense to only try and make myself happy. Because happiness is contagious, I would quickly lose my happiness if I were the only happy one.

19: I will take time to do this.

Making myself and others happy at work takes time. This is time well spent. because being happy makes me more productive. I (happily) take that time.

20: I will fix my job or quit.

If there’s no way I can become happy in my current job, I’ll quit. Yes, this is scary. But what about going to work every day feeling demotivated, cynical, stressed and helpless? Is that really any less scary?

21: Happiness at work ain’t rocket science.

The things that are necessary to make me happy at work are really simple and can easily be brought into almost any workplace. Recognition. A positive attitude. Learning and growing. Sharing decisions. Openness.

22: I give first.

If I feel that others never appreciate me, I will start by appreciating them. If others never listen, I will listen to them. I will set a good example, and give first.

23: I recognize that a higher salary will not make me happy at work.

There’s nothing wrong with getting paid a lot of money. I just don’t expect it to make me happy at work.

24: I recognize that power, status symbols, a corner office or even access to the corporate jet won’t make me happy at work.

It feels good at first, sure, but the thrill quickly fades and it can never make up for a bad job.

25: Happiness at work comes from the things you and I do here and now.

I will get others involved and I will start now.

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