Is Your Workplace Set Up to Make You Unhappy? Three Signs to Look For!

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Signs of a toxic unhappy workplace cultureNot everyone is a happy camper at work, but what if you could be happier? Unintentionally, most workplaces are structured in a way that tampers with our human sense of happiness. We were so good at being productive that we forgot about our happiness and wellbeing! By shedding some light on the signs of an unhappy company culture, you might be able to move the needle towards having a happier [and more profitable] workplace. We’ve reflected on our experience in the culture-building space to bring you three common signs of an unhappy and potentially toxic culture: 


1. Your employees don’t have a WHY

When you’re doing a job just to get paid, your intrinsic motivation to do your best work is almost non-existent. Before I worked at Delivering Happiness, my WHY for being at most of my jobs was because the roles seemed like good opportunities and came with good pay. That explanation is probably the same for most people as to why they’re in their current positions. Or more commonly, people are only there for the pay and the insurance benefits. Extrinsic motivators like salaries, bonuses, and promotions don’t have a long shelf life [that’s why we want them to occur more often - that drive is only temporary]. 


Since joining the Delivering Happiness team, my WHY has changed to more intrinsically driven because of how DH is a purpose-run company. When one of my teammates asked me how I ended up at DH, I responded by saying, “Oh, I applied to the Indeed post.” Quickly, I realized it was much more than that. I was with DH because my life had recessed and bounded in directions of highs and lows helping me to align my purpose to that of company’s purpose: to inspire passion and purpose for a happier world. 


Happiness is created when the purpose of the individual aligns with that of the organization. When your employees have an understanding of how they generate an impact on their community through their work, it creates a strong purpose and meaning that make them WANT to contribute to the success of your company.


Questions to think about:

  • What is your WHY for being at your job?
  • Does your workplace have a higher purpose or vision? How do you align with it?
  • How can you bring more meaning in to the work of your teams? 


Learn more about the Science of Happiness with our Coaches' Tips video on the three essential elements:



2. Your culture supports a self-serving mentality 


Without a WHY or higher purpose connecting your employees to the community through impact, it’s a natural tendency to develop a self-serving mentality. Why? Well if your work doesn’t produce a greater sense of fulfillment, then you end up working to contribute to more self-serving desires like money, title, and status in hopes that it provides the same sense of fulfillment and happiness we are all looking for.


If money, title, and status are your guiding lights, then imagine the self-serving behaviors you might exhibit to get a little closer to them. Cue in the potential for cutting corners, bending the truth, stepping on others to get ahead, etc. and then seeing people getting awarded for them! Do you see any of these behaviors in your workplace?


Zoom out a bit and imagine how this works on a company-wide level. If your business is only guided by profits and not values or purpose or even ethics, what kinds of toxic behaviors can lead to bigger incidents or scandals?


Some examples:

  • Enron - systemic accounting and corporate fraud resulting in employees losing billions in pension benefits
  • Wells Fargo - bankers created deposit and credit card accounts for millions of customers without their knowledge to meet incentive programs 
  • Google - #GoogleWalkout employee protests against sexual harassment and gender inequality after allegations of misconduct against senior leadership 


Related: How Does Team Performance Change When Your Employees Are Happier?


3. No one really does anything about how you should act and how you actually act


One of my favorite quotes from our CEO Jenn Lim’s keynote is “culture is what happens when your boss isn’t looking.” It is so true! If you know you’re being watched, you might tend to put on the performance of the “best employee”. The problem is, when that performance is a big stretch from reality, then there’s a detrimental gap in how we practice what we preach. Why does that happen?


Here are some questions to get you thinking: 

  • Do your company leaders or favored employees get away with modeling undesirable behaviors? 
  • When your new hires come on board, they usually take a clue from their teams on how to act. At what point do they seem to stop being on their best behavior or producing their best work?
  • Do you evaluate your employees on how they contribute to a positive workplace culture? How often?

Learn more signs of a toxic culture and what you can actually do about them to create change in your workplace: 




About the Author

Briana Krueger

Bri is the Impact Storyteller on the Delivering Happiness team. Working previously as a freelancer, her goal has always been to work with passionate people who are focused on helping individuals and businesses find their purpose. As part of DH, she now gets to accomplish that every day. Bri resides in Arizona and is lucky enough to enjoy the sun all year round.


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