Why Work Sucks. The Zero Creativity Zone

Creativity, Innovation, & Productivity at Work

Creativity, Innovation, & Productivity at Work

When it comes to the workplace, people don’t often associate creativity or happiness with work, and that’s a shame. A growing number of employees are unengaged and consider their work time a soul-sucking nightmare.  Well, I for one don’t want to spend my time in any type of soul-sucking nightmare.  It’s just no fun.  Research tells us that creativity as well as happiness in the workplace are important.  It’s also key to our future success in this global economy.  A 2012 workplace happiness study in the UK by Mercer, shows that 50% of employees are unhappy at work.

So how do we make our work not suck so much?

Less suckage at work is important and leads to economic growth and an economy where jobs are added and people have money to spend.  And when it comes to job creation and returning to pre-recession levels we have a long way to go.  And by long way, I mean that if we continue the current jobs growth in the US, we will return to pre-recession levels by the year 2020.  In the US, 85% of Americans believe that creativity is the key to drive economic growth.  Adobe released their creativity study this month, and some interesting insights came to the surface:

  • 1 in 4 people believe that they are living up to their creative potential.
  • 6 in 10 consider themselves to be someone who creates.
  • Globally, 75% of adults say that companies are more concerned about employee productivity than creativity.
  • And yet, 55% of adults surveyed believe that they are being expected to be more creative at work.

Best Practices for Creative Work Environments

For me, the findings are intriguing but not surprising.  People’s happiness at work is at an all time low.  So what do we need to do about it?  I’m looking for ideas here folks so leave a comment below.  How are you making work suck less and embracing work environments?  What works?  Looking forward to your insights. . .

Today’s blog post topic seems to be appropriate today considering that the Oklahoma HR Conference kicks off this afternoon.  The theme for the conference is Art of HR.  You might be surprised that HR seeks to be creative, innovative, and artistic, but they do.  As a member of the OKHR State Council Board and conference blog squad member, I’m proud to be a part of this organization.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Maggie says

    I believe it’s a matter of management style. All corporations are run by managers and is a top-level down situation. I believe that managers who are insecure with themselves, both personally and professionally, lack the confidence to promote, boost and build their teams up. As a result, they let potential slip away.

    At my local Starbucks, we have an amazing manager–energetic, secure and fun. In a span of 2 years, she has promoted 3 people to managing positions while my other friends who work at Starbucks have never seen any internal promotions. What’s going on? Managers are self-absorbed. They are not there to develop talent, as their position is supposed to. My local Starbucks manager, Janet, finds a spark in job candidates and hires the ones with potential. As time goes on, she works with everyone individually, discovering what makes them tick, and has successfully trained some of the best employees I have ever met, and who fit the Starbucks culture.

    The result? It appears that HR needs to focus less on keyword details and look at individuals more, to find if the candidates possess that ‘spark’

  2. John Garrett says

    Very interesting figures Jessica.
    The most important and most widespread reason for unhappiness in the workplace is the continual active pursuit that companies engage in, known as “Peter’s Principle”. This outlines how individuals rise in hierarchies until they achieve their final placement, a role in a company that they are incompetent at.
    The second reason, in my opinion is the hierarchy within an organisation isn’t flexible enough to allow creative expression.
    My job is creativity, so how do I become suddenly creative after spending 4 solid hours book keeping, or project management planning, or content strategy planning, or ughhhh… you get the picture.
    So, when I need to be creative I have to switch off my rational logical mind and go exploring my emotional and creative side, whilst dipping in and out of mind numbing procedural operations every business has to perform.
    There is no single way to do this. You have to find your own way to explore your imagination. For me I start by going back in time to when I was a kid, when everything was new and exciting, this normally makes me enthusiastic about what product or service I am trying to be creative for. I start imagining things growing from peoples heads, or from tables, allowing them to take shape in my own mind.
    This free’s me up to start being creative, looking at things in a different way, through the eyes of a child, an imaginative one.

    I think the problem about happiness and creativity is that they are intrinsically linked. But Happiness is not something that can be given to us, it can only come from inside of each of us, and unfortunately not enough people know that being honest with ones own abilities and accepting happiness over wealth will bring happiness.
    That will translate into creativity.

    I suppose you could say it is the employers fault for promoting someone into unhappiness, but it is the individuals responsibility to be true to oneself and be happy outside work.

    If you asked the same group “Are you happy with your life?” I think you’d probably find the same response. I bet they all want more money, instead of a happier life…

  3. Yogesh Pawar says

    Stop working for money, work what you enjoy. Otherwise, i am pursuing diploma in mechanical engineering only because my parents want me to become engineer. But i love history, wanted to become an historian. But who the heck cares for it? I have edited in paint and posted in my Facebook timeline image, “I love to hate maths, and engineering is full of mathematical BULLSHIT!!!!”.

  4. Jody says

    Create a workplace focused on one thing: results. Get rid of the judgment surrounding when and where I do work. People are unhappy because they are unable to manage the demands in their lives in a way that makes sense. The paternalistic culture of work gives managers the right to control peoples’ time when they should be focused on the work and how to measure work success. “I need you here every day during core hours” is not about the work. It’s about old workplace rules from last century. ROWE anyone?

  5. Julie Gleeson says

    Having just co-written a book about this topic (Inside Job, 8 Secrets to Loving Your Work and Thriving) I have a lot to say! So, I’ll start slowly and see where we go. I find that many people have a habit of thought that goes something like this: I can’t make money doing something that I love. And so, when we look for work, we go on-line (the least effective way to find work), find something that seems like ti will pay well, or might be okay, and try to fit ourselves into that job. We arrive at the interview, if we even get one, hat in hand, with energy that implies, Please Sir, may I have a job?

    Just think about hiring managers for a moment. They have positions to fill, and thousands of applicants. Many of those applicants, maybe the majority, are just desparate to find work. Their mood is one of scarcity, worry, and anxiety. Hiring managers may have 10 interviews in a day. If even one person comes in to the interview with compassion for the day that hiring manager has had, and humor, a healthy outlook, and interest as their leading mood, guess which person makes it to the top of the list, even if their skills are not as good? The one who is fun to be with. Hiring managers hire who they like!

    Now back to people who are miserable at work. The same thing applies there. When we learn how to understand ourselves well enough to know how to return to interest and good humor, we become more creative, interesting and satisfied at work. It’s all about mood. Yes, there may be people who have miserable bosses and work they don’t care for, but short of leaving the job, the only thing we can control is how we feel about our situation. While looking for a position that might suit you better, try giving up being resentful, worried or critical at work. Try finding things to be interested in. You may be surprised to find that work will seem easier to deal with and you actually feel better. And when in doubt, if you catch a bad mood gathering in your head, step out for a walk, and take 4 deep breaths in and out. More O2 to the brain is always helpful to mood and creativity.



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