The People Who Surround You Have a Strong Impact on Your Happiness

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Happy kids 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Article by Wendy McCance

Have you ever stopped and thought about how those around you affect your happiness?  I asked myself this question at my last job.  I was working at a company that was extremely competitive and cutthroat.  When I was interviewed I sat in a room with the hiring manager and assistant answering questions about my skills.  Throughout the interview, the manager kept making rude remarks to the assistant.  The assistant just sat there quietly taking the mean-spirited jabs of the manager and looked rather miserable in the process.  My head said RUN and don’t look back.  Unfortunately, I really needed a job and was hired on the spot.

I went home and told my husband that I had gotten the job.  While he celebrated, I worried that what I saw at the interview was just the tip of the iceberg.  How would I feel if that was the culture of this company?  Was I strong enough to separate my work life from my home life?  Would I be able to allow a toxic atmosphere to roll of my back for the sake of the paycheck?  Would I be able to come home each night to my family without putting the stress of the day on them?  The answers a resounding NO.

During my first week at this job, I was told numerous stories of all of the people who didn’t work out.  Not a comfortable way of starting a new job.  I was micromanaged by just about every individual at the company.  I had the lowest position and it seemed that everyone liked to use me as a personal assistant.  Not only that, but they pushed their personal style on me and expected me to act like them (hard to do when there are 20 some people expecting me to use their work style).

As the weeks rolled on, I was teased for my lunch choice (yogurt, berries, cheese, crackers and a granola bar).  I have 2 autoimmune diseases and try to eat as healthy as possible.  At one lunch break, a few women mentioned how they were obsessed with food and how it should be a question in the hiring process.  If you weren’t passionate about your food and if you didn’t eat as though it was the last supper, you wouldn’t qualify for a position there.

From there it just slowly got more and more miserable.  I heard how you were expected to give your life away to this company.  People would compete over who would stay the latest and who spent the most time at the office on the weekend.  Some of these women had kids.  The majority of these women with kids were divorced and didn’t have a support system for taking care of their children.  I would hear how they would stay till 10pm at night with kids younger than 12 at home.  Or, the kids would get sick and they would pick them up, drop them off at home and have them fend for themselves.  These people would compete to see who had neglected their kids the most for the job and they would be praised and put up on a pedestal.

There is an endless amount of stories from this job that I could relay (sadly).  The point is that for me, it didn’t jive with my ethics.  I would never treat people horribly by stealing their work and showing it off to upper management.  I would never gossip or put another person down in any way.  I definitely would never put my children second to any job no matter what the circumstances.  After just under 6 months of stress that came home with me and affected my own family, I left.  I had no job lined up, but physically and mentally I felt like I was losing myself.

I have found that the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on the way we feel and the way we act.  When you surround yourself with friends, co-workers and family that are supportive and positive, you emanate those same traits.  You hold on to your true self and lead a more productive, happy life.

When you surround yourself with negative friends, co-workers or family, it does rub off on you.  No matter how tough and immune you think you are to the effects of the negative attitudes, you will begin to experience pessimism, exhaustion, a short temper and a low value on your day-to-day life.

I am not saying that this is an absolute.  Look, I was a single mom working on 3rd shift at an auto plant.  I grabbed time with the kids each day from 3pm-9pm and then they slept over at my mom’s house while I worked.  I had no choice, I had to support my kids.  I get that you don’t always have complete control over your place of work or the hours you work.  I do know that there are limits and you are the one in charge of deciding when enough is enough.  I was put on 2nd shift for a summer.  I left after lunch and got home after the kids had gone to bed.  I was miserable.  I swore that if my shift didn’t change that I would find another job.  At some point the kids had to come first and when I was on 2nd shift, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stand it when the kids went back to school.  Only seeing the kids in the morning as I dropped them off for school wasn’t acceptable to me.

So, I am conscious each day of the choices I make.  I surround myself with good people.  I want to feel raised up by a strong support system not pushed down and stepped on by self-serving individuals.  I realize that even the choices I make regarding how I allow my own family into my life is a delicate balance.  There are people in my extended family that I tend to see sporadically because of the negativity they embrace.  Spending too much time with them puts me in a bad frame of mind that isn’t healthy or productive.

As for a job, I now go with my gut and really pay attention to the warning signs of a bad job environment.  I know that the more positive the people who I surround myself with, the happier and more satisfying my own life as well as my family’s life will be.

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Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer and social media consultant. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 9 local papers online, including the Oakland Press. The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: mccance.wendy@gmail.com

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23 thoughts on “The People Who Surround You Have a Strong Impact on Your Happiness

  1. I work in such an environment and it’s bad for your mental and physical health ! You have to be good at switching off once home.

  2. All great comments. I too left a job I truly loved, not because of the work, but because of some of the people making it a very toxic environment. Many tood people have stayed because the economy is bad. Some have been silenced, but stay on because need the job. It is very sad to see. The ‘guy in charge’ knows of all the issues, but does nothing to fix them. It amazed me to think the other day about how many there on staff have had some form of cancer over the years. I truly believe many cases have been caused because of the sick environment they function in. Very sad…

    • I totally know what you are referring to. I had a job like that and it was horrible. I really needed the job, but the misery started coming home with me and spilling into my personal life. I had to leave to save my brain from the toxic environment.

  3. I have been lucky enough to be in a job where I truly respect the people I work with. I have stayed at this job even though I could have had better paying jobs because the work environment has been wonderful. Not every second of every day, but over all. We have each other’s back and care what happens to each other and each have very high integrity. I have been one of the lucky ones who could make the choice to take the lower paying job. Not everyone is in that position. I have been blessed with that choice.

    • Hi Dana, thank you for your comment. The situation you are in I believe creates so much more satisfaction than money ever would. Being able to look forward to going to work each day is well worth a smaller income if you are in a position to choose. All the best. 🙂

  4. I loved this post because I think people struggle with this now more than ever. People (women and men) take jobs or stay at jobs that are in a toxic environment because the economy is still not at it’s best and may never be. I also feel that companies know that people need the job and are scared of being fired or leaving something secure so they “abuse” their employees. I feel that in America, our work ethics are screwed up. It is becoming more and more about being available around the clock in order to prove that you are good employee. This is leading to massive burnouts and I am scared how this will impact the next generation that is growing up with parents like this.

  5. Em qualquer lugar você estará cercada de pessoas positivas e negativas, o importante é voce saber lidar com essas diferenças e ficar um pouco longe dessas pessoas que não te faz tão bem. Tire proveito também das coisas negativas, elas te dão experiência, principalmente de não querer ser igual a elas. “Se olhares com olhar bom, o Cisne é Branco, se olhares com olhar mau, o cisne é negro”, PAdre Vieira.

  6. Thanks for your expression. It really does make a difference who you surround yourself with. I too left a position because of the negativity in the environment. What I wonder is…can you usually, sometimes or ever tell at the interview? I don’t know about that.

    I’ve been in interviews that were positive and personnel involved in the process and interview acted like they had a sense of humour, intelligent, supportative and easy going – but later found the work climate was different. Some organizations will put their PUBLIC face forward, which is different from their day to day operating personna. They will be careful not to let you see the problems staff are complaining about…and, perhaps staff are not allowed to talk about the business to others for fear of reprisal, or confidentiality agreements. I didn’t know the organization I chose to work with was one where people went behind your back, were very territorial and protective of their little areas and did not welcome offers of help…nor that when they asked for your opinion or how you feel on surveys…they didn’t really want to know.

    I’m attentive when I go on interviews, I look at the offices, talk to the receptionist, listen and observe….but sometimes you get interviewed in corporate or central offices and you don’t get exposure to people you may be working with at the actual job. Anyway, I retired and am writing, … I have my own pursuits, and not sure when/if I am returning to work, at least full time. I’m just curious if the signals are always there up front that the environment may be toxic?

    • That’s such a good question.  I don’t think anything is ever absolute.  I do know that your description of the experience you had sounds so much like what I faced.  It’s sad that so many companies operate this way.  I was talking about this very subject with my husband the other night.  I have never understood how anyone could look at this as a productive work environment.  These are the places where people become depressed, feel low self-esteem and sometimes even turn violent which is so scary.  If only more companies would express some gratitude towards the hard work people are doing.  The amount of care and respect for the overall success of the company that people show for their job.  You would end up with so much more productivity and a shared feeling of community between co-workers.

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  7. I believe at your interview, it was a test to see if you can take the lanbuage being used. They wanted to se if you had thick skin because this was a highly, fast pace job. It was just a short sample of what was to come. But there are so-called friends, well in my case my man, who will bring you down. He is so negative and I didn’t realize it until we got closer day in and day out. So he had to go. I feel better and I think better, hey I even react better. Thanks for this article.

    • Hi, Thanks for the comment.  You are absolutely correct when you stated that in the interview they were giving me a good idea of what was to come.  Instinctively I knew this, but I felt desperate for a job.  I just pushed down the voice in my head throwing out a warning and took the job.  I am glad to hear that you were strong enough to walk away from a relationship that wasn’t healthy.  Sounds like you are in a much better place. 🙂

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  8. I was eligible to retire some years ago, but I still work. It’s not that i love my job. It has it’s stresses. However, I feel I help my clients acheive their goals, and that is what gives me the greatest satisfaction.

    • I’ve heard that continuing to work in your later years is beneficial because it keeps your mind sharp, gives you a sense of purpose and people who continue to work tend to have more satisfaction with their life.  I think it’s wonderful that you work because you find it satisfying.  You are lucky to be in a position where that choice was yours.   All the best!

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  9. Great Article! I 100% agree with the views you are sharing! A positive, caring person can become stressed and go through depression if in a negative environment long enough. It is the energy that is around you and the new focus that becomes you. Positive support systems are key! Thanks for sharing your article!

  10. Thank you so much for this post. I am currently struggling in a job that is truly a bad environment for me. I keep telling myself that it will change, but deep down I know it won’t and that I need to move on. Your words help me trust my “gut” and stick to the plans to move on.

    • Hi Kay, You made my day.  I am so glad that this article was helpful.  It’s amazing how something will pop up to help you out when you need it most (and from the most unusual places).  I wish you all the best.  I know you will find a much better job that really suits you.  Thanks again for your comment.

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  11. It is hard to not be affected by those kind of people, and sometimes being on an environment like this can make you go crazy! We should avoid this kind of situations! If you are surrounded by people who support you, you can grow yourself into a bigger person 🙂

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