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3 Ways to Develop Contentment in the Workplace

How to give yourself permission to feel and be great.

Key points

  • Having a healthy sense of contentment is beneficial to our health.
  • Taking time to engage in critical thinking helps us to make better decisions.
  • Leading with a cup-half-full mentality improves interpersonal relationships in the workplace.

In the post-COVID-19 pandemic world, people are gradually getting back together physically and finding new ways of establishing healthy human relationships, especially in the workplace. Most people spend much of their time in places where they work. It makes sense for both the leadership of organizations and their team members to cooperate in making workspaces less stressful. It is always a great idea for leadership to carry employees along when making policies that might affect them. On the other hand, failing to support collaboration in the workplace can increase rather than decrease avoidable work stresses.

Constant exposure to a stressful workplace can create psychologically toxic interpersonal relationships and also contribute to physical health problems. For example, managers who spend more time taking disciplinary action toward their team members and less time in training them or building rapport are literally producing a group of timid and discontented employees. Likewise, the way workers treat each other contributes to the workplace being either a healthy place of contentment or a place of excessive stress. Employee discontent helps no one and contributes to low performance and ultimately high employee turnover. Managers of contented, productive workers are less likely to engage in micromanaging or other practices counterproductive to a successful operation.

Having a sense of contentment in life supersedes any status we would ever achieve. It is an internal fountain from which gratitude and peace spring. Even when material possessions are scarce, a sense of contentment serves as a north star for gratitude. For example, having a job while others are unemployed is something to be grateful for. Having a healthy relationship with our employees is a blessing, or being in good health in times when the pandemic is still claiming lives is something to appreciate. Developing a sense of contentment is a lifelong practice and requires intrapersonal work. Three ways to develop contentment in the workplace are to monitor your thoughts, cultivate a feeling of wholeness, and take action.

  • Monitor your thoughts. Sometimes we think that the solutions to our problems can be found outside of ourselves. While that might be true at times, examining our own thinking is important because it challenges us to evaluate our own perceptions and assumptions. For example, deciding how to treat another person may be an expression of a deliberate thought process. A person’s actions or inactions toward another individual are the products of their thoughts about the other person and about their self-perceptions, including the experience of contentment.
  • Cultivate a feeling of wholeness. Constantly experiencing a sense of cup-half-empty mentality can have an adverse effect on how we view ourselves and the world. With that mindset, we will never feel satisfied or enough because we always feel empty and behind in our dreams and aspirations. By contrast, coming to work every day with a sense of gratitude and meaningfulness can change the way we work and interact with team members. Everyone can practice wholeness, because we do not need to have permission from anybody to think whatever we want to think or feel however we want to feel. Simply put, we are the architects of our thoughts.
  • Take action. Thoughts that lead to action make a difference. The only way to measure whether somebody is good to us or us to them is by how we treat each other. It is difficult to experience empathy for a person until we get close, interact, and share an experience with that person. Only then, can we begin to understand what it might be like to be in their shoes. For example, we can never understand why a team member is having performance issues until we reach out to them to assist. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes has a lot to do with how contented we are with ourselves. There is a level of contentment that is associated with our abilities to assist others when in need, and one way to measure contentment is our action or lack of it.

Seeking ways to stay contented is a lifelong practice. Contentment is undoubtedly underutilized because sometimes we try to measure contentment with material possessions or our status in society. But contentment is a state of the mind. Taking time to edit our thoughts can help us make better decisions. Giving ourselves permission to feel complete after a hard day at work can save us a lot of unhealthy stresses, and taking action when we are motivated to assist others are simple but practical ways to be contented and empathetic in the midst of work pressures.

References

Gazzaley, A., and Rosen, L. D. (2016). The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brain in a High-Tech World. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Gettysburg College (2021). One Third of Your Life is Spent at Work: The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. Andrew Naber ’07 conducts research to make it better. Retrieved from, https://www.gettysburg.edu/news/stories?id=79db7b34-630c-4f49-ad32-4ab9…

Landry, L. (2020). WHY MANAGERS SHOULD INVOLVE THEIR TEAM IN THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS. Retrieved from, https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/team-decision-making

Moss, J. (2019). Burnout Is About Your Workplace, Not Your People. Retrieved from, https://hbr.org/2019/12/burnout-is-about-your-workplace-not-your-people

Van Lente, E., & Hogan, M. J. (2020). Understanding the Nature of Oneness Experience in Meditators Using Collective Intelligence Methods. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 2092. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02092

Weir, K. (2018). Life-saving Relationships. New research details how important close emotional connections are for health and well-being, prompting psychologists to call for making strong relationships a public health priority. Retrieved from, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/03/life-saving-relationships

When doing good boosts health, well-being. (2020, September 19). Psychology & Psychiatry Journal, 615.

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