Book review – Happy at Work

Happiness is elusive, dissatisfaction is much easier to quantify and describe. The things that cause many of us to feel discontent at work provide the opener for this book, along with the promise of common sense advice that will fix and improve an unsatisfactory working life. The keys to happiness, as described by the author, are to tackle or remove the things that make you unhappy, identify things that make you happy and learn to actively pursue them. Simple as that.

If this approach has never occurred to you then Happy at Work could be a useful guide. The 10 steps to ultimate job satisfaction are grouped into three sections: ‘Managing Yourself’, ‘Managing Others’, and ‘Managing your World of Work’. The first part concentrates on enhancing self awareness and how to find your career compass. Readers are encouraged to look at career lows and highs, work out what motivates and enthuses them and set SMART goals for a personal happiness plan. The second section covers effective communication, and dealing with your boss and other difficult people. There’s an interesting chapter here on the value of optimism and kindness. The final chapters focus on achieving a satisfactory work/life balance, culminating in a template for ‘Your very own unique and personalised 10-step action plan’.

Cartoons and lots of white space make for easy, light reading. There are questions to answer, charts to work through, and encouraging case studies. Large font quotes regularly reinforce the basic messages (‘be nice to people’, ‘be positive’, ‘smile a lot’ and ‘be assertive’). At times it can feel trite and clichéd (‘happiness is a journey’, ‘practise a positive thinking mantra’, ‘happiness depends on being true to yourself’), but this is a subject that has been written about so much that it’s difficult to come up with anything original.

Potentially empty phrases are explained, justified and given more meaning through questions and exercises. The underlying message is that everything can be changed and put right if you are determined and optimistic. It’s up to you. Those who respond well to being jollied along will respond well to this book. There’s as good a collection of received wisdom here as you are likely to find anywhere.

If you are discontented with your working life – and can’t work out why – then this book could be a useful prompt. It provides common sense approaches to tackling many of the annoyances regularly encountered at work. If you are really miserable, chances are your situation is more complex than the scenarios presented in this book, but it could provide a starting point.

Irene Krechowiecka is a careers coach and journalist

"At times it can feel trite and clichéd, but this is a subject that has been written about so much that it’s difficult to come up with anything original"