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Happiness Within Stressful Workplaces

Some tips for dealing with 'that' coworker

By David Hart, Journey Meditation Teacher

Americans spend more time at work than many industrialized nations (including Japan), which means that our coworkers outrank our partners and families for hours spent together. Unless you’re a cyborg, that will inevitably mean that frustrations will arise. How can we cultivate happiness—especially when work gets stressful? Here are some quick tips to help tilt the needle in the right direction.

Create calm where (and when) you can
Throughout the day, find ways to incorporate small moments of pause. Something as simple as taking 3 deep breaths, putting your phone down while you’re on the elevator, taking the stairs, or finding a quiet space to walk around for 5 minutes can shift your day. Give yourself a pause and a chance to change the internal narrative.


Get a trusted sounding board
Having a good friend at work is a key indicator of work satisfaction (studies show up to a seven times increase in workplace success), but it’s critical to not let every conversation become a whine session. Make sure to leave space to talk about what else is happening, what’s bringing you joy, and what your long term career goals are.


Try to schedule an open conversation with your coworker
People are all under pressure, often with circumstances we don’t know about within the office and at home. If it’s available, try to schedule a brief face-to-face conversation to explore how to collaboratively improve your success as teammates. If you can come to the table with an attitude of curiosity and ask questions, your colleague will be able to reveal their own frustrations or challenges. Most of all, try not to jump into blaming, listing grievances, or trying to immediately fix the problem with a new system.


Try kindness practice for your annoying coworker
Working with a “jerk” (whether real or perceived) can be exhausting, but meditation can offer some relief. I’ve found that the frustration of working with a difficult person is amplified when I start to view that person as only “that” person. Every email gets read with an eye roll, every meeting gets entered into with the anticipation of that thing they “always do,” and my expectations of what’s possible shrink. Kindness practice is about building the habit of expecting more than the worst case, and wishing good will to others—not a pollyannaish wish that they magically become Mr. Rogers overnight.

Find a comfortable place to sit

After a few minutes of sitting, bring to mind this difficult person

Notice what thoughts, stories, and emotions come up. Notice how your body feels — is there tightness? A change in temperature or sensation?

Now picture this person doing something they love that doesn’t take from anyone else—going for a walk, riding a bike, or sitting comfortably at a beach.

If phrases work for you in meditation, try things like “may you be well” or “may you be at ease”

Notice any changes in your thoughts, emotions, or body sensations.

In the working world, much of what happens is out of our direct control—markets sway, consumer preferences change, and technology adapts businesses rapidly. It’s key that we take action where we can by building meaningful connections and support within our environment. Within an office, attitude is as contagious as the common cold, so nurturing happiness helps teams survive and thrive with resilience.

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