Krawczak: We want more happy people

I was riding back from a road trip when the person I was traveling with brought up the topic of happiness at work. She said people often comment that she seems very happy at her job. She said she replies with confirmation – she is indeed happy at her job, but what really surprises her is when they respond with something along the lines of, “you’re so lucky, I wish I liked my job.”

Unhappiness at work, because of work, is a problem and unfortunately is quite common. Ironically I had been working on a column on this very topic. So after my travel partner mentioned it, I decided it was finally time to share. Unhappiness at work is not a Northeast Michigan problem. Although the reports vary, somewhere around 75 percent of employed are looking to leave their jobs (a 2011 article on stated the number was 84 percent, a 2012 article on said 70 percent, and a 2012 study by Jobvite showed it to be 69 percent).

That’s a lot of unhappy employees. But whether you are happy or unhappy at work, why should I, or anyone else, care? Who cares if you choose to be unhappy at work? It’s no one’s problem but the person who is unhappy, right? Maybe this is true at first glance, but if you dig deeper you will find that once the dots are connected, an unhappy person at work impacts not only him or herself, but the business and the community.

Why are people unhappy at their jobs? A 2013 article on summarized the top reasons why people become unhappy at work. Top reasons include: feeling bored or not challenged, feeling overworked or overwhelmed, disliking co-workers or a boss, feeling you aren’t compensated enough for the work, and feeling as if you are in the wrong career.

If someone is unhappy in a position, who is impacted? That person certainly is. Not only are they unhappy at work but research shows that workplace unhappiness impacts every other aspect of their life as well. So their family is impacted as well as their friends. The business is impacted because unhappy employees negatively impact other employees and unhappy employees are less engaged, more distracted, less productive and less innovative. The impact that is harder to see is the impact on the community. Having the wrong people, or unhappy people in positions impacts the customer experience because of inefficiencies or poor attitude, and the community suffers because of the spread of unhappiness and disgruntled relationships.

What would be different if the tables were turned? What if 80 percent of our working population were happy in their jobs? Not only would families be happier, but businesses would have happier employees, therefore becoming more efficient. In fact, one poll by Gallup Healthways estimates that unhappiness among American workers equals $300 billion a year in lost revenue. Happier individuals, happier families, happier employees, and a generally happier overall population would have a dramatic impact on the community as a whole.

It’d be great to see the entire nation become happier. But we can have a greater impact by first making our region a happier region. Can we change the statistics here? How do we do that? We start with ourselves. We may not be able to change the people around us, but we can still choose to take action. We can seek to better understand ourselves to discover in what environment we would be happiest, and doing what type of work would make us happiest. We can take action that will make us a happier workforce. We can make choices that may help someone else be a happier employee as well.

I didn’t like hearing those statistics. I don’t like knowing so many people are unhappy in their work. It is sad to know unhappiness in the workplace is so common. 2014 is coming up fast. Can we make happiness a goal for next year (but let’s start now). Happier employees bring a happier community. A happy community is a friendly community. A friendly community is a more successful community. Next time I tell someone I like my job, I hope they don’t tell me I’m lucky because they only dream of liking theirs.

Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.