Anxiety Toll Management – ATM for Workplace Happiness

In our work life, productivity suffers as our unhappiness leads to lowered concentration, inadequate team work, and poor interpersonal relations. It also impacts the overall environment and culture.


Happiness and Unhappiness are like Light and Darkness which keep coming and going - neither of them can be permanent. Yet most of us focus our attention on unhappiness. Emotions of anxiety, fear, need for approval, expectation from others, fill our time. We have the power to awaken the light of happiness within us. The realization of this power will drive the rest of the negativities away. Acceptance the 1st key of ATM for Happiness is very critical in dealing with stress . Carnegie Mellon University–led study found that one component of mindfulness interventions is particularly important for impacting stress biology. Acceptance, or learning how to be open and accepting of the way things are in each moment, is critical for the training’s stress reduction effects. 

We know that most of our adult lives are spent in the workplace. It is a major part of our lives, a source of livelihood and also happiness, elation or anger and frustration. So how can we awaken, live and experience more moments of happiness at the workplace? Let’s look through common workplace situations.

1. Meeting a deadline: Most of us must have faced this common issue. There is an important deadline to submit a project at the work place. Consequently, you are late in reaching home. Perhaps, your family members have been waiting for you. There is anxiety about meeting the deadline and about not upsetting your family members. Both these activities are equally important. When the lines between your professional and personal lives start getting blurred, both your career and your family start suffering. The office work will always be at the back of your mind when you are with family and vice versa. You are not able to perform well in both of these spheres of your life. What do you do? Prioritization is one way to go about solving this problem. If you are prioritizing the deadline at office, then make sure that you keep people at home posted about being delayed and make alternate arrangements for their dinner. In office, you should focus on the task and take help if required to finish in time. Remember to balance out your priorities. Applying the ATM (explained towards the end of this article) framework will help in balancing the emotional need and objectivity of work.

2. Fear of failure: Say you have to lead an important sales call. When the company has entrusted this important task to you, it also expects you to get only positive results. The pressure of performing brings about anxiety. The key here is preparation. Chalk out various options. Start looking at them from the client’s perspective. Put yourself in the client’s shoes and think about their preferences and way of thinking. Prepare yourself for the eventualities. Picture yourself emerging out of the negotiation with a win-win decision. It will help to drive that anxiety away. Anxiety Toll Management led me to the ATM for Happiness.

3. Expectations: You are expecting to go home a little early on a Friday so that you get to spend time with your family. They have been neglected because of the long hours of work you have been putting in. You feel that your boss will allow you to go home early. But instead, he has planned a client meeting at the club. He expects you to join him. You have only two choices here- go for the client meeting with your boss, or refuse to do so and fall out of favor. All the hard work you have been doing will go up in a smoke. So you do what seems logical to you and go to the club with your boss for the meeting. If you accept the choice you made to attend the meeting and are happy about it, your performance with the client and the boss will be much better off. You can make it up to your family later. Your boss may even support you when you need time off. This is called expectation management. On the contrary if you stay back grudgingly and grumpily, no one is going to be happy about it. Your boss and client will notice this negative attitude. You family is anyway unhappy. Just your negative attitude makes it a situation where everybody involved is negatively affected. When you make a choice, go through with it whole-heartedly. The positivity that you bring out will make situations better. Acceptance is key to expectation management in the ATM framework.

4. Approval from others: You put in hours of work into that power point presentation. You had all the data, the graphs and every possibility covered. And yet, the reactions you got were desultory. Nobody gave that approving nod that you thought you deserved. They just moved on to the next person without commenting on your presentation at all. When somebody asks you how the presentation went, you are in a negative frame of mind and reply curtly. In these times, you have to remember that it’s alright. The golden rule is, “No feedback is good feedback”. Shrug it off and continue to do your best. You will get your due eventually. Negativity gallops at a much faster pace than positivity. It is up to us to stop it and rekindle the belief in our positivity. Over analysis leads to paralysis of our minds. Self-acceptance and being tolerant to our non-perfect state helps.

In our work life, productivity suffers as our unhappiness leads to lowered concentration, inadequate team work, and poor interpersonal relations. It also impacts the overall environment and culture. The workplace and the employee need to work towards making the environment more positive and engaging. The endeavor is to create a holistic, positive environment wherein most people feel safe and are yet able to work effectively so that they have superior performance over time and are in better health.

What can the workplace do?

1. Employee Engagement is the past, it’s now about happiness and social connection:

Employees tend to go to work bored and unengaged and return home drained of all their energy. It’s a vicious cycle. Workplaces can ensure active employee engagement. A Happiness and Productivity studyi, says that increasing employee happiness make them more than 7%-12% more productive.

Nicole Lipkin summarized people’s needs using the SLAM model: Social connection, Leadership excellence, Aligned culture, and Meaningful lifeii. “No matter how old you are, or your status, these are the things we need as humans. We underestimate the social connections — they can make a mediocre job enjoyable. It requires leaders to pay attention to the pulse of the culture. We are so busy rewarding for performance that we forget to reward for the behaviors that make an organization a great place to work.” Lipkin also noted that the expectations millennials have for flexibility, investment in their development, and work–life integration actually play more into our psychological need for autonomy, competence, and how we naturally interact with people than the industrial-age structures.

Personally, I feel that people feel engaged and energized when they know the larger purpose of the organization, it’s long term strategy and are able to align it to their own inner purpose. The connect goes a long way in establishing workplace satisfaction.

2. Evolving leadership and the atmosphere within the organization

Most people leave a company with some grievance against the leadership or the way things operate. The HR needs to be aware and take affirmative, positive actions, if the same pattern of grievance continues. In his article “The Psychopath in the C-Suite”iii, Manfred Kets de Vries, says that narcissism in leaders is on the rise and the SOB (Seductive Operational Bully) exists at all levels. When such a leader is identified, corrective action should be taken immediately. To ensure accountability, try introducing key performance indicators clearly tied to outcomes. Psychopaths typically don’t like to be called to account. A check on such leaders at an early stage can help channelize their energy in the right direction.

At times they also ensure a gang up against people not toeing the line & that can be dangerous for the people & the work place atmosphere. Take charge & start creating a small group which can stand together when the need arises.

3. Encourage Positive Emotions:

University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman has studied “positive psychology” extensively. His complex definition of “Happiness” includes experiences of positive emotions, combined with deeper feelings of engagement and meaning. He says that people see their work in three possible ways –

a. They see work as being a “job,” or a chore, and use the pay check as its reward

b. They approach work as a “career” and work to advance and succeed

c. They see their work as a “calling” and find work fulfilling because it gives them feelings of meaning and purpose.

Hire people with a heart, those who will happily do their work. It is also important to actively encourage social interactions by creating safe and judgment free spaces. Positive emotions will flow across and be reinforced at work.

What can the employee do?

1. Be grateful for what you have:

People have three times more positive experiences than negative.iv And yet, we tend to focus only on the negative ones. Look out for and notice the good things in life. Remember them and feel grateful for them. Gratitude is the perfect antidote for better health and well being. Most people aspire for the CEO title not knowing that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea to lead a team and be responsible for their performance. At times being able to do a role that we enjoy, learning from it and performing well is good enough.

2. Focus on building relationships:

By actively building positive relationships of mutual respect, you are more motivated to go to work and be around these people. Think of it this way- when we greet each other, it’s with a warm handshake of right hands. Yet to walk along we need to hold one right and one left hand. We build relationships because of our similarities. We continue and prosper in these relationships, because of the acceptance of each other’s uniqueness.

3. Remember and practice the ATM of happiness:

You can take charge of situations by accepting what you can control and what you cannot. Write down your options and look at them objectively. At times, it’s our fear of the unknown or our vulnerability that leads to negative emotions and thoughts. In retrospect, they may not seem so bad. If we learn to take charge of our thoughts, it will lead to all round positivity and happiness in our lives.

Don’t play the blame game .The ATM of Happiness will help you-

A - Accept the present situation with objectivity, let go of the past and stop worrying about future

T - Take charge of your thoughts, expectations, fears and hopes in a manner that negativity can be reset to positivity

M - Make the best of what you have in an effective manner with gratitude

As individuals, we are our own masters and must do our bit to be happy and spread happiness over unhappiness by being happy & doing an extra bit for others to be happy . ATM for Happiness is just the starting point of this journey wherein I welcome you to professionally connect with me & others who can be of help …as many employees and Half of the CEO’s reported feeling lonely in their roles.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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