Written by : Transcript – Overcoming Unhappiness at Work With Greg Kettner 

Transcript – Overcoming Unhappiness at Work With Greg Kettner

Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Overcoming Unhappiness at Work With Greg Kettner



[00:00:02] PF: Thank you for joining us for episode 439 of Live Happy Now. If you aren’t loving your life at work, you’re not alone. I’m your host, Paula Felps. This week, I’m talking with Greg Kettner, Founder of the organization WorkHappy and an expert in workplace well-being. New research shows that workers are the unhappiest they’ve been in years, and Greg’s here to talk with me about why we’re becoming less happy on the job, what it means to our mental health, and what we can do to make things better. Let’s have a listen.



[00:00:35] PF: Hey, Greg. Thanks for coming back.


[00:00:38] GK: Hey, Paula. Thanks for having me. It’s good to see you. It’s been a couple months. But, yes, life is good. It’s always good to see your face.


[00:00:44] PF: That’s so awesome. Well, so new study is out and the first thing I thought – okay, two things popped in my mind when I read it. First was like, “Man, that’s really sad.” The other one was like, “I need to talk to Greg about this.”


[00:00:56] GK: Well, good.


[00:00:58] PF: As you know, that’s what I did. I reached out, and I wanted to talk to you because this study, it’s telling us that workers are the unhappiest that they’ve been in three years. Then when you trace that back and it’s like three years ago, we were in a pandemic, and we were all pretty miserable. So when we say we’re less happy than we were then, that’s a sad state of things.


I guess for starters, before we talk about the why, does that kind of line up with what you’re seeing in the work that you do?


[00:01:25] GK: Yes. I think we all went in hunkered down, and it was brand new, right? Nobody knew what to do. Are we working from home? How do we work from home, right? I mean, remember Skype. I mean –


[00:01:37] PF: Who had Skype anyway? What?


[00:01:40] GK: Now, Zoom is a verb, right?


[00:01:42] PF: That’s it.


[00:01:43] GK: So now, we’ve learned how to go through it. But now, people are struggling with I have to bring my employees back to the office. Or employees are like, “I don’t want to go back. I enjoy working on my pajamas and getting my work done.” So it is. I’m finding the same thing that people are just like, “I want to do meaningful and purposeful work and do something that’s going to mean something, not just a paycheck anymore.”


[00:02:09] PF: So do you think that’s a big part of what’s driving this dissatisfaction? Because I noticed in the study, they talked about it’s not like the ups and downs that we used to have with work where it’s like, “I’m really mad at my boss.” It’s just a complete apathy and disinterest.


[00:02:24] GK: Yes. I think also, too, people have kind of had more time and even me personally, right? I got a phone call two weeks in the pandemic, and my boss was like, “We’ve taken away your job. You’re no longer essential.”


[00:02:38] PF: Which is everybody wants to hear that. I’m nonessential.


[00:02:42] GK: I go, “If I’m going down, I’m going down.” So I’m like, “Well, I think you’re nonessential, right?


[00:02:47] PF: I’m not nonessential. You are.


[00:02:50] GK: He felt that he could save money by eliminating my position, and I was mad. I was like no fault of my own. I had increased sales. I had done everything that he’d ask, and here I was. But looking back three years, I took the lemons and made lemonade and transitioned like a lot of people did. Now, I’m helping people. How do we work happy, whether we are back in the office or working remote? It is a struggle for a lot of people.


[00:03:18] PF: Yes. Do you think there are people who feel like they might have missed that window to reinvent themselves, and they’ve now – instead of doing as you did, you were kind of forced into a situation where you had to make a change, and you created basically your dream job. I know other people have done similar things. Do you think people who didn’t take that opportunity are feeling depressed and trapped in their old jobs?


[00:03:44] GK: Yes. For sure, right? Because they look back and going, “Well, Greg’s doing it. Paula’s doing it? Why am I not, right?” You missed the boat. Some of it is the older workforce, they were getting towards retirement. They didn’t know how to pivot, right? I mean, I’m on the older end, too, right? Whereas my daughter who’s 18 would show me how to use Zoom, right? So I have that advantage. But I think that is a lot of people like, “Well, I guess I missed my boat. I’ve got 5 to 10 years left. Let’s just keep our head down and keep grinding.” That’s no way to work.


[00:04:18] PF: How dangerous is that for us to stay in that kind of a work mode? Because work constitutes such a huge part of our day. Then whether we’re unhappy or happy, it affects how we go into that night, which then sets up the following day. So for us to stay in a mode where it’s like, “I’ll just suck it up and hate what I do,” what does that do to us?


[00:04:42] GK: Well, it brings us down. It’s not good for our mental health, right? You get in that spiral and in the mindset. There’s ways to deal with that depression, right? I mean, a lot of people who work really hard, they turn to the bottle. I’ve done that before myself, and that’s one way to get rid of like, “Uh, my job sucks.”


But the other way is want to take the other approach and do meditation or get a hobby or increase your friends, right? One of the biggest predictabilities of happy people at work are the friends that they have, right? If you have one or two good friends at work, life is much better because you have those people to confide with. You can go to lunch with them. You can talk about your problems or your successes, that kind of thing. Yes. If you don’t do something, it’s a long 5 to 10 years if you’re miserable at work.


[00:05:33] PF: Yes. Those friendships at work are everything. I know, especially in my 20s and 30s, that’s where my friend group came from. I’m still friends with people in my very first newspaper job. We were little hooligans, and we’re still friends and basically because we know where all the bodies are buried. But blackmail can be a great bonding experience. But that is. We had such great times. We had such a great friendship. Even though we were getting paid dirt, and we didn’t like the kind of stories we’re were having to write, we had a great time. That changes that whole experience.


[00:06:11] GK: Yes. The happiest I’ve ever been at work were jobs where I did have good friends, where we loved what we did, and it necessarily wasn’t money. Because I’ve had jobs that have paid more money but I wasn’t happy. I was just reading a study a couple of weeks ago where people now would rather felt like their voices heard, that they matter, a pat on the back, congratulations. Those kinds of things versus a $10,000 raise.


[00:06:37] PF: Which is stunning because we used to really think about the money, and that was our measure of success. What changed? What has changed that mindset a little bit?


[00:06:45] GK: I just think we came to a realization during the pandemic that anything can happen to us, right? I know that as horrible as it was, I tended or tried to stay on the positive side, and I did well. But there were days of overwhelm and whatnot. But just being in the mindset of I’m here to serve. I’m here to help other people. It’s just amazing how much better we feel. Then that leads, obviously, as you know, into our personal lives, into our families, into our spouses, into our kids, right? If we come home from work and we’re all grumpy, well, then your family’s going to be grumpy. Our friends are going to be grumpy. It spirals.


[00:07:22] PF: Now, what practices do you use or do you recommend? Because I think you don’t come home from work grumpy anymore. But what do you recommend when someone – when you have a bad day, it is hard to detach from that, to disengage and reset yourself. Do you have any tips that you offer people of if you’re in a situation, you don’t like your job? You’re trying to get out of it, but you’re not there yet. How can they do that? How can they do that little reset before they walk in the door and bring down the entire house?


[00:07:49] GK: Yes. No. I think it’s whether meeting someone after work or going and doing something. I like to golf. So if I have a bad day and when I pick Becky up, and she’s like, “Ooh, do you need to go golfing tonight,” right? I mean, you can – but golfing, to me, I usually go by myself, just because I like the solace of it but just doing stuff like that. But in the morning, it’s a routine, right? I get up and I exercise and I like to exercise before I do my meditation and my breathing because it gets me in the right frame of mind, right? It gets the endorphins going. So I’m feeling better already.


Another thing is I don’t check my phone until eight o’clock, until I start working, or my email. Whatever it is, right? Because you can spend hours, and I’m just as guilty of it. Now, I’m keeping my phone in the office. When I go to bed, I got an Alexa that wakes me up in the morning but not the doom scrolling, right? But it’s doing little things. I have ADHD, so I’m all over the map. But I never thought I would be able to meditate, and I started out. I went to YouTube, and there was a three-minute meditation. Man, that first one was so long.


[00:09:00] PF: Yes, the longest three minutes of your life.


[00:09:04] GK: Right? I know I was nowhere near meditation because meditation is trying to get your mind to think of nothing. But now, I’m up to 20 minutes every morning.


[00:09:12] PF: Oh, wow. That’s incredible. So it’s a practice, right? But if we do the right things and then we have to do brief. Some people, it’s journaling. Some people, it’s going for a walk. Some people, it’s just listening. Now that I’m married, I’ve learned how to listen instead of fix things, and that’s so much better, whether I’m the one who’s listening or Becky is the one who’s listening, when I’ve had a rough day as well, too, right? It’s that release valve. It’s like a pressure cooker. Take the lid off for a bit, talk about it, and you’re just like, “Ooh, okay.” The rest of the evening is going to go better.


[00:09:43] PF: That’s terrific. So what about people who are still working at home? Because I know there are some really interesting findings from Gallup about remote employees, and that’s getting a lot of attention right now. Basically, it’s saying that remote workers are feeling very disconnected from their workplace, from their mission, and the purpose. That brings up, too, what you were talking about having your friend at work. If you’re not going to work and you’re working remotely, even if you have banter on Slack or something like that, it’s not the same. So you don’t have that connection.


So I want to talk about how you can deal with that. Then it’s like why is – since remote working, we’re looking at that as being this next big thing. How are we going to get through this feeling of disconnection?


[00:10:25] GK: Yes. Well, I’ve certainly felt that, right? I’m an extrovert. So I sit in my room all day, in my office here. My wife is inverted, and she’s going into the bank and working, right? So she has all the people, I don’t, and our personalities are completely different. So what I’ve been doing twice a week, I will set up lunches or coffees with a friend, right? Even if it’s just a half hour, I go talk to them, get out of the house.


But I also – I set my phone for 45 minutes. Every 45 minutes, it goes off, and I get up, and I go outside, and I walk for 15 minutes or change laundry or whatever it is. But when we’re at our desk – and you know this well, too. You work from home a lot as well. We’re sitting here sedentary, and that’s not good for our health or mental health, so whether it’s getting up and going and seeing a friend.


The other thing is be more intentional about getting together. My brother is a psychologist. He just wrote an article about how men are feeling more lonely even than women are, right? Because women are really good at connecting. Guys are good at getting together, watching football, and drinking beer. But being more intentional, right? Maybe it’s have a couple buddies over and cook burgers with them if it’s during the summer and spend time because we are humans.


I know AI is taking over everything. Legitimately, there’s reason for concern. But AI is never going to replace a hug or a conversation or a laugh or a pat on the back, right? So we still need to do those things. If we’re working from home, try and have that outlet, those two or three friends that you can get out once a week or a couple times a week and be social again.


[00:12:07] PF: Then what do you do if you’re remote working and you don’t really feel connected with anyone on your work team? Again, how do you start creating connections at work when you’re not at work?


[00:12:20] GK: Yes. That’s tough. Again, I just have to go back to be more intentional. Maybe even reach out outside of work. Maybe it’s a phone call or a coffee or get together. I’ve had really good success with connecting with people. As you know, I started the group on The HumorLab on Facebook. I came up with it one night at the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s been really helpful for me because people reach out saying, “Thank you so much. I work at home all day long, but I checked The HumorLab, and there’s no political stuff.” It’s HR-friendly. It’s PG-13 because I wanted my kid to see it and my mom. But now, there’s over 40,000 people sharing their sense of humor. So it’s a think tank. When we laugh together, it creates bonds.


[00:13:07] PF: Well, that brings up a great point because that is one thing I’ve done in remote workspaces. I’ve got a company that I work with, and we use a Slack channel, too, for all our communication. Of course, we’ve got like the random channel and the humor channel. That is a great way. There’s a pets channel, so people put pictures of their pets. So that is a really good way to kind of like, one, show your personality and be able to share that with people.


Through doing that, I found people in that group that I know I connect with. Like I can see, okay, I have a similar sense of humor. I can – that person didn’t turn me into HR, so I guess I can connect with him or whatever it is. But that is. As you bring that up, that really is a great tool to be able to use remotely to connect through humor because talk about what a great connector humor can be, especially in the workplace.


[00:13:57] GK: Yes. It’s great, right? It takes [inaudible 00:13:59]. It releases the endorphins. A powerful example for our family, my stepdaughter lost her dad to suicide 5 years ago. Two days before, we had gone and seen a Brian Regan concert about 45 minutes from here. She loves Brian Regan, and through my connections, we were able to do a backstage meet and greet with him and stuff. So we found out two days later that her stepdad had passed away. It was, obviously, very traumatic for all of us.


I remember distinctly about two weeks after, we were sitting around the dinner table, and Rachel started crying, and then Becky started crying, and then I started crying. My default is to humor. When I feel awkward or emotional, I’m like, “Okay, I need to laugh.” So I said, “You know what? Time out. We’re going to go sit down.” We put on Brian Regan. Within 10 minutes, we’re all laughing. It didn’t get rid of the pain, but it got us through this, and it bonded us, right?


So time to time, all the time, we pull up Brian Regan. It takes us back, and it makes us laugh, and it created a bond between me and my stepdaughter that I may not have had had we not gone to that show.


[00:15:04] PF: That’s terrific. Yes. Humor is – it can just really be such a powerful bonding tool. I know a lot of times in the office, it might be dark humor. Maybe what you’ve done is you’ve banded together against the evil overlords that are commanding our workplace. But that really is a great tool for helping it.


[00:15:23] GK: Yes, yes. Well, the saying is laughter is the best medicine. Unless you have diarrhea, then probably not. It’s probably not your best choice.


[00:15:34] PF: I love that. So who’s responsible for turning this whole work dissatisfaction thing around? Does it have to come from leaders? Is it – what do we as workers do? Where do we start? Because, obviously, if you read a recent Newsweek article about hybrid working, it’s a mess. If you read the study that you and I are talking about, it’s a mess. The study that Gallup just had their findings about remote employees, it’s like nobody’s happy. It doesn’t matter whether they’re in the office, working at home, or doing a combination. The research would indicate that nobody is happy at work, except maybe you and me.


[00:16:09] GK: Yes.


[00:16:10] PF: So where do we start turning that big ship around before it becomes the Titanic?


[00:16:14] GK: Well, happiness is an inside job, right? I can do things that make you happy. We can get on the phone. We’re smiling. We’re having a good time. But if you were in a bad mood or if I was in a bad mood, I can’t go, “Hey, Paula. Snap out of it,” right? That’s a choice that we have to make ourselves. I think it can go from top and bottom. Obviously, it’s easier. If you have a manager that is happy-go-lucky and in the right frame of mind, it disseminates through everybody. But it can boil up as well, too.


I’ve had jobs where I did not appreciate my manager. But what I did was connected really well with my teammates, and we would laugh and have fun. We go out for lunch. We do different things. So we became a bond and a team. Even though our manager wasn’t the most – he was prickly. Let’s put it that way.


[00:17:03 PF: That’s nice.


[00:17:03] GK: Right? So we were still able to work happy because we knew that it came from within. Whatever he did, yes, it was part of the job. But when he went home, we didn’t worry about it. Just because somebody else isn’t happy, it doesn’t mean that I have to be unhappy and fall in their footsteps.


[00:17:20] PF: That’s a huge skill to develop, to be able to leave it like that, to say that is their thing, and I don’t have to take it home with me. What are some tools that you can give us to be able to implement that kind of thinking? Because it’s just human nature to be like, “Man, he was on my butt all day about this. I’m mad at him.” Then all night, it’s like, “I should have said this, and why doesn’t this happen to him?” Just it eats and eats and eats away from you. So how do you do that, where you kind of say, “No, his deal, not mine. I’m going on. I’m going to be happy.”


[00:17:52] GK: Yes. I think it’s a learned trait over time. I, obviously, wasn’t born that way, and it took me a long time to figure it out. But another thing that we can do, even if you don’t like your boss, try taking them out for lunch or her or whatever. Showing kindness, right? Maybe they’ve got something going on in their life, and it’s coming down at work, right? Maybe he’s not happy with his marriage, or his kids aren’t in school, whatever that might be, that dynamic, right?


But if you try and reach out, and you have to, obviously, be careful what you do, especially in this day and age with often politics. But maybe it’s having a conversation or saying, “Hey, I had an idea. Why don’t the whole team go out and watch a comedy show one night, right?” So everybody’s paying for their own ticket, their own drinks or whatever. But, again, you’re all sitting around the same kind of table, and you’re having fun.


Most people, when you’re out, and you want to have fun and be friendly and converse, most people, I don’t know what the right word is, but will lean into that, right? You’re not going to have a manager go to a comedy club with you and just sit there with his arm crossed and be grumpy. If he is –


[00:19:00] PF: Hopefully not.


[00:19:00] GK: It means you got to call him out, right?


[00:19:03] PF: Exactly, yes.


[00:19:04] GK: It’s doing those things, right? If he’s not or they’re not leading the way they should be, maybe we can level up and say, “Hey, this is how it is to be happy,” and maybe they’ll take notice. Some people won’t. At that point, at some point, you need to say, “Is this worth my health? Is this worth my family time?” But I always caution people, if you are starting to look for another job, don’t quit. It’s always easier to find a job when you have a job, right?


[00:19:31] PF: Yes, yes. We talked earlier. I think before we had started recording, we were talking about people not having a sense of purpose and how much that affected work. I want you to talk a little bit about that, and then how we can use that drive to find purpose, to start something on the side that may or may not turn into our business, may or not turn into our next endeavor. But before we talk about how to leverage it, talk about how important it is to feel that your job has meaning.


[00:19:59] GK: It’s very important. It’s night and day. It has been for me. One of the best corporate jobs that I ever had, I was working in the National Hockey League selling tickets. I grew up in Canada. See Gretzky’s jersey behind me. It was a fun job. It was a high-stress job. But there were times where it was fun, but it wasn’t my purpose because I’ve always been a happy-go-lucky, and I love making people happy, right? So my purpose is to help other people be happy like I am, right?


So if you can find a job that matches your purpose. Not everybody’s going to do that, but maybe your purpose is service. But if you’re a computer programmer, how are you going to service people writing code? If your purpose is serving others, maybe it’s finding a group that you can go volunteer. We have a group here in town. Every fourth Sunday, it’s a bunch of dudes. We get together, and we cook dinner at the Christian Aid Center for homeless people. It’s giving people purpose because there’s older guys who are retired. Some guys bring their kids. It’s showing them that serving other people can be your purpose.


So work doesn’t necessarily have to align with your purpose. If it doesn’t, find an avenue that you can still share your purpose because for the first time over the last three years, first time in my life, I’ve been chasing my passion versus chasing the paycheck. It’s made a huge difference on my mental health. It’s made a big difference in my marriage, my relationship with my kid, and with my friends.


[00:21:29] PF: Yes. If someone says, “That sounds incredible, but I don’t know what my purpose is,” where do we start? Because that happens, too. You lose – one, your purpose can change throughout your lifetime.


[00:21:40] GK: Oh, absolutely.


[00:21:41] PF: Then, two, it’s like you realize you’re so locked down into your job and your routine and your pressures and obligations that you’re not even sure what your purpose is. So where do you start when you’re at that point? Because once you find that, that can override a lot of your dissatisfaction. Even if you just figure out, wow, this is my purpose, and this is what I can do, you’ve made this huge leap in mindset. So where do you start discovering that?


[00:22:10] GK: Simon Sinek. I’m a huge fan, right? Simon Sinek, I got his book and went through the workbook, Find Your Why, which is really great. But I think also, too, is be more selfish, right? Because how can I serve other people if I’m not taking care of myself? So what do I need, whether it’s meditation or listening to podcasts, reading books, talking with people like you? That gets me in the right frame of mind, and that’s my purpose. So not 100% of what I do lines up with my purpose.


But when I did find it, I can now – that’s my North Star, and everything is starting to line and go towards that. But take some time and do some self-discovery, whether it’s journaling or like I said. I mean, another person I started following during the pandemic was Jay Shetty, right? He took three years out and became a monk to learn how to serve other people.


[00:23:03] PF: That’s such an incredible story.


[00:23:05] GK: Yes. Now, his purpose is to make education go viral. Who would ever thought of that?


[00:23:10] PF: So in doing that, you talk about journaling. Is it really a case of sitting down and just writing about what do I want to do, asking yourself the questions? Or where do you go with that? Where do you start discovering what you’re –


[00:23:21] GK: Well, when I read the book or either read it or listened to it on Audible, the Find Your Why, I went through that process and took my time. But now, I still journal, and the journaling that really helps me is when I get frustrated, right? A deal goes sideways or a friend or my wife or my kid, and something’s not aligned. I will just sit down and just start writing. It is amazing how much of that crap you can get out of your head by putting pen to paper.


Sometimes, when I’m stressed out, I would just start writing. I was like, “Whoa.” I never realized how much that was affecting me, right? It’s almost like going to a therapist, but it’s just you in a room. But it’s amazing, whether it’s 5 or 10 minutes a day. But journaling has really helped me as well, too.


[00:24:08] PF: I think it’s surprising what your higher self will tell you, instruct – you realize. You look back and you read it and you realize, “Oh, I already had this answer. I just wasn’t asking myself that question.” It comes out, and it starts developing some clarity. That is also effective for dealing with a frustrating work situation, beyond finding your purpose. But just how am I going to manage it? That is a great way to handle those conflicts and pressures at work.


[00:24:36] GK: Yes. Whether you’re in the office or at home, if you have a disagreement with your boss or somebody at work, you sit down and journal and write about it for 5 or 10 minutes. It’s way more productive than having an argument or saying something that you’re going to regret, right? Because you can say whatever you want in your journal. You can tell your boss where to go and how to get there and how fast. If you did that face to face, you’re looking for another job very quickly.


[00:25:04] PF: When you’re journaling, you might be, “That is really funny, and I’m actually going to use that on him when he does fire me.” So you always keep those nuggets.


[00:25:14] GK: Yes, exactly.


[00:25:16] PF: So with everything that’s going on and all the things, you’re seeing all the things we’re reading, the things we’ve been talking about. Do you still have hope for the workplace that we can turn this into a happy work world?


[00:25:28] GK: I do. I’m an extreme Optimist. I know we can do it. It’s going to take a lot of work. But it’s a lot easier to work happy than to work sad, right?


[00:25:38] PF: True, true.


[00:25:39] GK: When we’re in a good mood. I mean, anybody, if you’re in a good mood, life is great. Things are good. I’m going on vacation, all those kinds of things. But we can. It’s just a matter of figuring out what works for us, what works for our companies. Some companies, they need to have people back in the office. Some people are okay with – I had an issue with my bank the other day, and I called in. This guy was in the call center, but he was in his house, 150 miles away from the bank.


So there are jobs that you can do that. If that’s what you want, if you want to stay at home, maybe take the next three months and come up with a plan on finding a job, something that you like to do, and that is remote because there’s a job for everybody out there now.


[00:26:22] PF: I love it. I love it. I’m going to come for yours.


[00:26:25] GK: Okay. Well, and you do the same thing with the podcast. It’s great. I listen to it when I’m on the road. I’m like, “Oh, Paula. Thank you. You made me happy today.”


[00:26:37] PF: Yes. You’ll shoot me a text sometimes, and that just makes my day whenever you do that.


[00:26:40] GK: Yes, right? The one I remember I was driving, I think, from Vancouver to Seattle. It was about some gal who was a teacher, and now she’s helping parents who are having kids at home, and they’re teaching their kids, right? She’s got the toolbox and everything else. So it’s being creative. We’re no longer stuck to a nine-to-five job. We can do what we want. I mean, look at all the people on Etsy that are doing what they love, right? Turn your passion into profit.


[00:27:08] PF: Yes. I love it. I love it. There are so many resources out there for people now of like how to do that. It’s not like you’re walking blindly anymore. So there’s a lot of ways to do it. I love it. I hope that people feel encouraged to start looking at not just thinking I’m going to quit my job but that positive inside of it. Like that dissatisfaction is actually about finding your purpose, and finding what does make you happy, and being able to live a purposeful life, and get paid for it.


[00:27:37] GK: Absolutely.




[00:27:43] PF: That was Greg Kettner, talking about happiness at work. If you’d like to learn more about Greg, check out his podcast, or follow him on social media, just visit us at livehappy.com and click on the podcast tab.


That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day happy one.


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