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Staying Engaged after Your Professional Honeymoon
Published Wednesday, February 8, 2017

For many professionals, that first year in a new job can be a "honeymoon period," full of new and exciting challenges. But a recent study from Robert Half and Happiness Works shows that professionals with between one and two years on the job are less happy, less interested in their work and more stressed than those still in their first year. After three years or more on the job, happiness levels edge back up and interest levels increase. In fact, those with the greatest tenure (21 years or more) showed the highest level of interest in their jobs.  

"Once they get past year one, the 'honeymoon' appears to be over for many professionals," says Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half. "After 12 months on the job, employees are expected to work more autonomously and take on added responsibility. At the same time, aspects of the job that at first seemed novel and interesting may lose their luster."

Although managers can take steps to create a happier work environment, they aren't the only ones who can fan the flames of employee happiness. When asked who's responsible for keeping spirits high on the job, 25 percent of North American workers surveyed said it was their responsibility alone. Another 5 percent said it was all in their company's hands. The majority of respondents - 70 percent - cited a combination of the two. 

"Managers should be aware of this second-year slowdown and take proactive measures to keep employees engaged," says McDonald. "This includes providing stretch assignments and ensuring that workloads are manageable. By keeping an eye on it, companies can help minimize the risk of losing productive staff members who have already been through a learning curve."

Robert Half offers five tips professionals can use to maintain their spark as they build tenure at an organization:

  1. Find your passion. Think about your company's higher purpose. For example, if you work at a CPA firm, you aren't only performing accounting functions - you are helping client businesses grow and thrive.
  2. Deepen your connections. Having friends at work makes every day more fun. Go out of your way to socialize and build camaraderie with those around you.
  3. Mix it up. Don't wait for your manager to offer you new projects. Be proactive - talk to your boss about new assignments to broaden your skill set and contribution to the firm. This increases both your engagement level and earning potential.
  4. Show gratitude. Take the time to thank coworkers for their help and compliment others for a job well done, brightening their day while also giving your spirits a boost.
  5. Sweeten the pot. Keep up with compensation trends and ask for a raise, if warranted, as you take on more responsibility.

Nic Marks, CEO of Happiness Works, says that "progressive business leaders have always understood that happier employees are better employees. This research shows how managers and employees can work together to build a happier workplace environment for all."

View happiness levels by tenure here.

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