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Miserable at Work? How to Make Things Better

If you are unhappy at your job, you're not alone. Most people's work environment has deteriorated along with the economy, according to the latest results of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. That threatens not only your productivity but your overall mental health.

The Index, which looks at several areas of well being including physical health, mental health, work environment and health behaviors, asked more than 352,000 adults four questions:

  1. Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your job or the work you do?
  2. At work, do you get to use your strengths to do what you do best every day, or not?
  3. Does your supervisor at work treat you more like he or she is your boss or your partner?
  4. Does your supervisor always create an environment that is trusting and open, or not?
The results? Only 48.2% of employed Americans rated their jobs positively, down from 51.9% three years ago.

Managers take note: The research shows that people who rate their jobs positively are more productive than people who don't. Those who rate their jobs in the top third will miss a third as many days as those who are in the bottom third in job satisfaction.

By the way, if you live in these five highest scoring states--South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota--you may have a better work environment than everyone else.

But before everyone else considers heading West, even the highest rated states are not exactly A students. Here are the scores, representing the percentage of people who scored positively on all four questions:

  1. South Dakota 57.6%
  2. Nebraska 52.8%
  3. Montana 52.4%
  4. Wyoming 52.2%
  5. North Dakota 51%
To improve the work environment Dan Witters of Gallup recommends that companies and managers start by taking these five steps:
  • Have semi-annual one-on-one meetings to define primary expectations, and set those expectations together. Individualize according to the skills and psychological needs of each team member in the work group.
  • Maintain an open and transparent work environment so that team members do not feel tentative to approach their manager in search of clarification around roles and responsibilities.
  • Develop a Team Charter that documents every team member's roles and responsibilities - as well as why each role exists â€" and keep the Charter posted in a common area for all to review.
  • When a team member approaches with an idea for improvement, either make the time then or immediately schedule a time to listen.
  • Feedback is given on ideas proactively, with logical explanations for why it was embraced or rejected. The critical part is closing the loop.
How do you feel about your office, and what steps have you or your boss taken to improve the conditions?
Laurie Tarkan is an award-winning health journalist who writes for the New York Times, national magazines and websites including Health, Prevention, iVillage and the Huffington Post. Follow her on twitter.
Photo courtesy flickr user archie4oz

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