Solving the Sad Office

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Do you work in a sad office? 

A sad office often resembles your worst school nightmare: a playground brimming with bullies, liars, cowards, rude, selfish individuals, backstabbers, suck-ups, blamers, and other bad behavior types. 

Despite “grown-up” organizations boasting core values like integrity, teamwork, customer responsiveness, and so forth, many of these “values” are nonetheless gimmicky, shallow, or simply ignoredwhile bad behavior runs rampant. In The Cost of Bad Behavior, authors Christine Pearson and Christine Porath revealed that “the annual cost of job stress to U.S. corporations is $300 billion, and over 60 percent of workers in U.S. workplaces experience this kind of stress because of workplace incivility; 12 percent report actually leaving their jobs because of incivility.” 

Furthermore, a 2014 Gallup study reported that less than one-third of American workers (31.5 percent) felt engaged in their jobs in 2014. In other words, nearly 70 percent of workers are disengaged. While many reasons have been cited for that infamous statistic, it’s difficult to not attribute at least some of that huge amount of disengagement to sad office life. 

Millions of workers are unhappy in their jobs, causing billions of dollars to be lost from the lack of productivity. Even though the people we work with are often the people we spend the most time with every day, we often treat each other poorly. But your office doesn’t have to be sad. Your office can be a place of camaraderie, success, and happiness. 

Both success and failure are heavily linked to personal behavior. We see this in everyday life—in sports, business, and school. A well-behaved team is more likely to win than an equally skilled but badly behaved team. And, win or lose, the well-behaved team is more likely to attain popularity and ultimately feel the glow of success. 

I developed The Work-Life Equation for the millions of workers who want to transition to a place that is more populated by characteristics associated with happiness and success. This transition depends on solutions arrived at using the following heuristic formula, which is dominated by six key behavioral factors:

(H, S) = f (4C, 2R). 


Within this formula, Happiness (H) and Success (S) are a function (f) of six behavioral values: Cooperation, Consideration, Compassion, Courtesy, Respect, and Responsibility. 

An heuristic formula, by the way, bases itself upon experience-based techniques for problem-solving fueled by intuitive rationale (as opposed to scientific studies). This particular heuristic has actually been derived from the core values at a middle school in New Jersey, but they are also seen at other forward-leaning schools and children’s programs. Beyond institutions, clear-thinking parents demand the very same simple but powerful behaviors from their children.

 Unfortunately, many parents who try to teach their children these values conveniently forget to apply them to their own environments (sometimes as a result of pure intellectual dishonesty). Or they fall prey to friends and colleagues in their work/life environment who exhibit annoying, hurtful, child-like behaviors, ensuring failure for all. The fact of the matter is that a vast number of people behave like a bunch of nasty kids, and many of us know how sad that can be for those caught in the flak. 

Although the values in the formula may seem obvious, their significance lies in waking people up to the way we can all better live up to these values. It’s all about understanding the true meaning, implications, and consequences of each value, and then following up with practice. Consider this your call-to-action for getting back to basics—to self-discipline, respect, and a return to those previously held high values of decency most of us learned during childhood. 

You can start with a deep self-awareness and a commitment to self-improvement and understanding who you really are as a person. The majority of people out there at home and in the workplace are not intentionally mean-mannered. They are however, often victims of a stressful competitive environment where bad behaviors can set in. What is needed is to realize we can all make a concerted effort to reflect more consciously about our own behavior (“look in the mirror”) and change certain behaviors for the better. This can start with “you.” 

I have always been a big believer in the Pareto principle (or the 80-20 rule), which  states that for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. Try applying the Pareto principle to each of the behavioral values in The Work-Life Equation. Don’t strive for perfection. Instead, consider your everyday interactions in the office. Make the commitment to becoming more cooperative, more considerate (a better listener), compassionate, courteous, respectful, and responsible. 

In addition, consider devoting 20 percent of your time to “self-improvement.” Excluding the seven to nine hours of sleep recommended per day, devote roughly three hours each day (or 21 hours each week) to self-improvement, including physical exercise, meditation or self-reflection, time with a coach, reading, and learning new things. 

The sad office can seem like an overwhelming day-to-day experience. Improving the situation needn’t be. Any positive shift along the spectrum will help improve the behavioral interaction and the ultimate success of the individual, team, or enterprise in areas that matter, setting the stage for a much happier environment. By enhancing and enriching your own values of cooperation, consideration, compassion, courtesy, respect, and responsibility, you can “solve” for happiness and success. 

About the Author

Bill Maw is the author of THE WORK-LIFE EQUATION: Six Key Values That Drive Happiness and Success. He is also a business executive, social entrepreneur and mentor. He has more than 30 years of workplace experience with large-, mid-, and small-sized companies around the world where he has witnessed astonishing success stories and spectacular failures. Visit for more information and follow Bill on Twitter @billmaw.



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