Seven Questions to Ask to Find Out if Work is Hurting You

May 13, 2011 — 4 Comments
Flourishing Blossom

Are You Flourishing?

Ever notice that one of the best motivators for doing something you have been procrastinating about is to find something you have to do that you want to do even less that the first thing? I ran into that situation again this morning. I think one of the best examples in my procrastination history has to do with studying. My apartment was never as clean as it was during exams. The clutter that had accumulated for 4 months all of a sudden became such a critical issue that I could not study in such an environment. The only solution was to clean before studying!

Sometimes we put off consciously thinking about our own happiness because it is easier to procrastinate than to face it down. I have been thinking about priorities a lot lately and ones I am sure you can relate to is happiness at work. How do we balance our need for security and income with a good workplace experience? Which takes priority if the workplace is unpleasant – money or sanity? There are so many factors to consider and even considering them takes energy. Energy we often do not have if we are negatively stressed. Then one day the tipping point comes and something, maybe even something which at the time seems insignificant, forces us to look at it. Which side of the tipping point are you on or are you balancing carefully on the point? Is fear weighing you down from beginning to explore your options or are you buoyed by a workplace that respects and nurtures you?

I have seen two people this week who look tired and sad even when they smile because of workplace unhappiness. Can you really see yourself in the mirror or is it time to ask someone who will tell you the truth about whether they think it is time for you to be creative in finding a good alternative to where you are working now? Harter, Schmidt, and Keyes in the book Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived (Keyes and Haidt) looked at aspects of well-being in the workplace for people and organizations to flourish. Aspects of their findings form the basis for a good thought-provoking self-assessment checklist.

In the workplace:

Do I know what is expected of me?

Do I have the tools and equipment I need to do what I should do?

Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

Does someone care about me?

Are my opinions respected?

Do my peers have high quality standards for their work?

Am I experiencing opportunities to learn and grow?

From the perspective of an employee, answering these questions can help you determine if energy should be focused on change if you are hurting or on appreciation for what you are living if you are happy.

From the perspective of a leader, how do you think your employees would answer these questions? Do they smile? Do they look tired even if they are smiling? Are they hurting or flourishing? What can you do about it?

For an organization to flourish the people who collectively comprise its soul must flourish.


Keyes, C. L. M. and J Haidt. Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2007.


Dr Susan Ziebarth


4 responses to Seven Questions to Ask to Find Out if Work is Hurting You

  1. christine welsh-wassef May 16, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Nicely done. I think that more of these questions should be going into our surveys. Financially many people are struggling with basics and it can be difficult to make the choice of taking expensive con ed courses or put gas in the car to get to work to be able to feed our families. The added stresses of an unhappy work envioronment just makes things worse.

    • Dr Susan Ziebarth October 31, 2011 at 3:39 pm

      Christine Sometimes we get trapped in a workplace because we can’t see a way out and are afraid to take the leap. The first step has to be recognizing that we are not in a place that fosters our emotional, spiritual, physical or social well-being. Sometimes we are so involved we can’t see the situation well. If a friend was telling you how they experience their life negatively at work we might offer them the very advice we are afraid to take in our own situation. Things can be better. We don’t have to settle.

  2. Great Blog Susan, you put everything so eloquently and very much into perspective. If I had of read this blog 3 yrs ago I would have agreed that I too was the tired and sad RDH, very unhappy in my workplace. The decision to open my own practice and be in control of my life again was crucial to my emotional well-being. I am happy to report that I am now a very happpy RDH once again. I love walking into my office everyday to an amazing work place, which also makes me very content in my “life”….you can’t ask for more than that!

    • Dr Susan Ziebarth October 31, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      Lori it is great that you are enjoying the success and had the courage to move out of your comfort zone of the known!

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