Word of the Year: Critical
January 18, 2019
Focus on the Essential
January 23, 2019
Word of the Year: Critical
January 18, 2019
Focus on the Essential
January 23, 2019

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” – Henri Nouwen

What is it?

The words joy and happiness are often used interchangeably. Generally speaking, happiness refers to a temporary experience of pleasure or well-being. Joy, on the other hand, is more a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is more profound than happiness. Joy is marked more by a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope…something that is deep within and doesn’t leave quickly.

Rarely is genuine joy challenged by the external ups and downs of the workplace. This is not to say that the person who has developed the virtue of joy never has a bad day. That would be naïve. No one escapes the disappointments and failures that are simply a part of the human experience at work. What distinguishes a person of joy is the way he or she reacts to failures and disappointments. Because the virtue of joy is anchored deep within a person’s heart and soul, the joy-filled person chooses joy over anger, bitterness or pain, as an intentional act of power over circumstances. A person of joy understands that you always have a choice even in the darkest moments – a choice for joy.

How can you practice it?


Be intentional about smiling, every day with every person, regardless of what the day promises.

Begin every meeting and greet every participant with a smile and/or pleasant word.

Smile at and/or kindly greet every person who shows up at your office or cubicle.

Smile at and be gracious toward those who serve you, especially those whose job it is to make your job easier.

Say something positive to counter negativism and pessimism when it surfaces.

Use your signature strengths in your work every day. Strengths are what power your passion and bring joy to your work.

Check out the Ted Talk on the hidden power of smiling.


Greet every person you encounter in the office with equal respect, from the CEO to the maintenance and cleaning staff.

Learn the name of every employee, those higher up on the ladder as well as those on the so-called bottom rung. You know the names of your bosses, co-workers, team members. Do you also know the names of the mail clerk, the maintenance staff, and the person who cleans the office? Why not? Spread greater joy by including everyone in your circle of acquaintances. Chances are you’ll share more experiences of authentic joy with the meek than with the powerful in your workplace.


Open up conversations with this starter: Tell me something good that’s happening in your life. Or, Share with us the best part of that meeting/conference/phone call.

Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, marriages, new puppies, new babies, promotions, milestones – there is no end to the list of occasions to mark with people. Celebrate what’s right with the world everywhere and with everyone that you can. JOY increases when shared with others.

Make “Celebrations” the first item on your meeting agendas. Encourage sharing both personal and professional celebrations that are happening to participants, their families, etc.


Connect yours and your co-workers’ jobs with the vision and goals of the company and, ideally, with a shared philanthropy as well. Sharing and working toward a common goal brings value to work and increases joy in the workplace.

Do your job and do it well.

Support others in doing their job and doing it well.

Explore the positive side and/or silver lining of every setback, failure, or disappointment. Take the “what have we learned from this” approach.

Offer ongoing, encouraging, constructive feedback to everyone on all rungs of the corporate ladder.

Don’t shy away from providing difficult feedback if it’s in the person’s best interest. Recall the advice of Kim Scott, mentioned in my blog on kindness: If you care about people and do not challenge them, you engage in nothing short of ruinous empathy.

Refuse to fall into the negativism and pessimism of office gossip and complaining. Take the high road, re-route negativism, or leave the conversation as a gesture choosing joy.

For more ideas on practicing the virtue of joy in the workplace, read JoyPowered: Intentionally Creating an Inspired Workspace, by Purple Ink founder JoDee Curtis, and listen to The JoyPowered Workspace Podcast.

For more on virtue in the workplace, check out the rest of this blog series.

Denise McGonigal
Denise McGonigal
Denise is a Purple Ink Collaborator and co-author of The JoyPowered® Family. With Learner in her top 5 Strengths, she is passionate about continuous learning both for herself and others.

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