“Work is one arena where we express our humanity, search for meaning, play out our destinies and our dreams, contribute our energies and gifts to the world, and spend our precious nick of time.”

Gregg Levoy

FIERCELY AWARE: The Brutal Facts: 1.1.4

Challenges in Our Workplaces

Clearly the global stage will benefit from our collective reach for human goodness. (see Small Group, Big Change) But it is also clear that we are in urgent need of activating our character strengths in our everyday lives.   Despite our many advances and desire for happiness, we as individuals and as a society are showing signs of strain.  We need look no further than our workplaces.

The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime.  In the USA, full-time employees average 47 hours a week or about 42% of their waking hours.  Research suggests that many of us are not spending the working half of our waking hours in psychologically healthy environments.  One study of 3,066 U.S. workers conducted by the Rand Corp., Harvard Medical School and the University of California, Los Angeles summarized their findings by asserting that the “American workplace is grueling, stressful and surprisingly hostile.”



Workplace incivility is a primary contributor to difficult working environments. Christine Porath, author of Mastering Civility and professor at Georgetown University found that a quarter of the thousands of employees she surveyed in 1998 reported that they were treated rudely at their place of employment at least once a week. That figure rose to nearly half in 2005, and to 62% by 2016.  An extreme version of the uncivil colleague is what Babiak and Hare identify as the corporate psychopath.  In their book, Snakes in Suits, they suggest that the increasing numbers of such individuals indicate that most of us will come across at least one psychopath during a typical work day.

This may be why a recent study found that employees experienced 11.5 days of reduced productivity every three months due to mental health, costing the U.S. 200 million lost workdays annually and resulting in $17 to $44 billion in lost productivity overall.  The financial implications skyrocket to $300,000,000,000 when the impact of stress is accounted for according to Tal Ben Shahar and Angus Ridgway in The Joy of Leadership.

Clearly, many of our workplaces are not encouraging the goodness within all of us that we desperately need to meet the demands of the world.  But they could. (see how in Part 2)

Sadly we see similar challenges manifesting in our schools (read here) and our neighborhoods (read here)