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March 8, 2018

Do I Have to Be Happy at Work?

Rosie Robinson

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I Am Not Myself Today

We all have those days when we don't feel like ourselves. Days when you wake up and something just doesn't feel right. You can't pinpoint exactly what's wrong, and all you want to do is stay in bed, watch TV, and eat junk food. Not the most productive solution, perhaps, but sometimes it just seems necessary for your mental health.

Chances are, staying in bed isn't an option. Instead, you have to force yourself to get up and go to work. You may even love your job, but, on these "blah" days, it can feel like a chore.

It's OK Not to Be OK

The prospect of sitting at your desk all day feeling miserable may not fill you with joy. But the most important thing to remember is this: it's OK not to be OK. In an article for Forbes, career strategist Gayle Draper points out that sometimes we need to "press the pause button" and, if possible, take a "mental health day." Exercise or mindfulness might make you feel a little better at times like these – but, when you're truly out of sorts, the first step is often to accept that this just isn't your day. 

So, instead of getting annoyed with yourself for lacking enthusiasm, give yourself permission to feel "low." The feeling may last for longer than a day, but that's fine, too. Even if you're usually the bubbliest person in your office, you still have the right to feel a little "off" from time to time.

It's also important to remember that one down day doesn't mean that you hate your job. You may wake up one morning and not want to go to work, but don't start dusting off your résumé straight away. As the author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek reminds us, "Bad days don't make it a bad job."

How Are You, Really?

Many of us would rather admit defeat and take a sick day than answer, "How are you today?" Do you lie and say you're fine, to avoid any awkward questions? Or, do you tell the truth?

The Canadian mental health initiative Not Myself Today questions whether people are "ready to hear the real answer." The fact is, we shouldn't feel judged by our co-workers because we aren't our normal selves. The key is to be able to have a conversation about it safely.

Bear in mind that a down day isn't just difficult for you. It can also impact the rest of your team – particularly if you're the manager. A leader's mood can dampen team energy faster than you think. So, whether you just "got out of bed on the wrong side," or there's a more serious underlying issue, you must remain professional. You can't use it as an excuse to take out your feelings on your boss, your co-workers, or your customers.

Can You Handle the Truth?

If you witness another person's off day, allow your co-worker to deal with it in his or her own way. For example, you might notice that he's a little quieter than usual, or that he's sitting away from the usual crowd.

Just give him some space. No matter how curious you are, pointing out your co-worker's bad mood will likely just irritate him more. So, before you label him as "stroppy" or "miserable," put yourself in his shoes. Doing him a favor, or just making a hot drink, may cheer him up, but chances are he just needs some peace. If the moment feels right, you may like to ask how he's feeling, but don't push it. Let him come to you.

Whether you're at home or at work, you owe it to yourself to be able to say how you really feel. So, don't say that you're fine if you're not. And don't ask someone how they are if you're not interested in hearing the truth. If you're not feeling yourself, it can be difficult to understand your own feelings, let alone explain them to your employer.

But opening up an honest dialogue with co-workers is vital for our well-being, even if it's just to give ourselves some space for the day. Don't feel that you have to maintain a consistent personality for the sake of your colleagues. You're not perfect. And that's OK.

But, of course, there's a big difference between the occasional bad day and persistent unhappiness. Prolonged negative thinking or stress can cause severe health problems. They could also be symptoms of a serious mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. So, if a bad day turns into a bad month, or more, don't be afraid to ask for help.

What do you do to cope with an "off day"? What's your opinion of "mental health days," and does your organization support them? Share your thoughts, below.

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4 comments on “Do I Have to Be Happy at Work?”

  1. Excellent article. Great points. This was a very helpful reading. Great ideas expressed and pointed out. Glad I looked it over. Sure that’ll be helpful in the future

    1. Hi Marc, Thanks for that feedback. I do think it is good that we get reminders that it's ok to not be ok all the time!

  2. I enjoyed reading its okay not to be okay,i found it informative and interesting
    and hope more people get the message and value it.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the article Stephen. For me, acceptance of what is the key that makes a difference.

Managers and leaders have been using Mind Tools for over 25 years

Now, 24 million learners globally benefit from our extensive Content Library, development tools, and custom learning experiences. See how Mind Tools for Business can help develop your managers and leaders.
Find out more

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