The Work-Life Equation: Solving the Sad Office

June 23, 2015

work-life equation

At some point in your life you’ve likely worked in a sad office. In fact, you might be working in one now.

A sad office often resembles some degree of your worst childhood nightmare: a playground full of people behaving badly to one another—bullying, lying, backstabbing, blaming, and demonstrating all types of rudeness and unkindness.

Despite “grown-up” organizations boasting core values like integrity, teamwork, customer responsiveness, etc., many of these “values” are nonetheless gimmicky, shallow, or simply ignored while bad behavior runs rampant.

The sad office isn’t just bad for the soul. It’s bad for business. Authors Christine Pearson and Christine Porath in their book The Cost of Bad Behavior revealed that:

“The annual cost of job stress to US corporations is $300 billion, and over 60% of workers in US workplaces experience this kind of stress because of workplace incivility; 12% report actually leaving their jobs because of incivility.”

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.

Although the values in the formula may seem obvious, no one can deny that many people dread going to work precisely because of a lack of the behavioral values above.

Solving the sad office doesn’t have to be overwhelming or insurmountable. I’m a big fan of the Pareto principle (or the 80-20 rule), which states that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Try applying the Pareto principle to each of the behavioral values in The Work-Life Equation. In other words, you don’t have to be perfect—depending on the day, you may invest more or less in any of the given values.

Here are some tips to contribute to solving the sad office:

  • Take care of your “inner kid.” I have two young kids, aged 13 and 11. When they get hungry, sick, or tired, they can get irritable. I am 57 years old, and when I get hungry, sick, or tired, I get irritable. My “little kid” is crying for me to take care of him. You can’t function at your optimum if you are depleted. Make it a priority to get enough sleep, good food, and other forms of self-care.
  • Devote 20% of your time to “self-improvement.” Aim to dedicate three hours a day to physical exercise, meditation or self-reflection, time with a coach, reading, and/or learning new things.
  • Practice small acts of kindness. Hold the door open for the person behind you. Help someone pick up a dropped pen or pencil or file folder. Ask one of your coworkers about something that’s important to them outside of work (and if you don’t know what’s important to them, try to find out!).
  • Practice gratitude and appreciation. If you receive a well-prepared document from a coworker, tell them so. Appreciation needn’t be complex; it can be expressed as simply as a two-sentence email saying thank you, and great job.

Solving the sad office starts with you and your own self-awareness. Any positive shift along the spectrum will help improve the behavioral interaction and ultimate success of the individual, team, or enterprise in areas that matter, setting the stage for a much happier environment.

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Are you unmotivated at work or unhappy with your work-life balance? Learn how to rediscover your passion with these AMA resources and seminars:

About The Author

Bill Maw is the author of 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. Also visit Amazon at

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    […] Workplace personality conflicts are everywhere—does this scene sound familiar? Haley greets Mike first thing in the morning as they pass in the hallway, and never gets back a “good morning,” “hi,” or even a grunt in return. Mike swears he doesn’t see her when they pass each other, and you believe him. He’s a task-focused guided missile, and a great guy, but he bruises Haley’s feelings without meaning to. […]

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