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Why Joy is Underrated

Throughout my career, I have met a lot of joyless people, and I’ll bet you have too. Like the CEO I once worked with who, when he heard people laughing, would slink out of his office and slither around in silent disapproval, giving everyone the stink eye until we “got back to work.” We called him Valdemort, because his mere presence would suck the life out of a room without him even uttering a single word. He seemed to have an aversion to happiness.

 Mehdi Ghadyanloo, The god of rainbows, 2022 - Acrylic and oil on canvas - 180 x 130 x 5 cm, 71 x 51 x 2 in / © Mehdi Ghadyanloo - Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech - Photo: Melissa Castro Duarte
Mehdi Ghadyanloo, The god of rainbows, 2022 - Acrylic and oil on canvas - 180 x 130 x 5 cm, 71 x 51 x 2 in / © Mehdi Ghadyanloo - Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech - Photo: Melissa Castro Duarte

Clearly not a happy workplace, and it should have been because the people there were talented, creative professionals who took their work seriously, but not necessarily themselves…ok, maybe a few were arrogant and egotistical, but even those @holes knew how to enjoy themselves. But if Valdemort was around, he would shut it down. He was one sinister, pasty-faced and absolutely joyless dude.


There is a term for the aversion to or fear of happiness – chernophobia, originating from the Greek term ‘chairo,’ which means ‘to rejoice, and we know what phobia means. And I must admit, when reading a list of the symptoms in an article on PositivePsychology.com by Jessica Swainston, Ph.D that I, myself, once stuck my toe in the murky waters of chernaphobia – gratefully, I didn’t drown in them:

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Believing that feeling happy makes you a bad person

  • Believing that being happy will lead to something bad happening

  • Believing that you should not express happiness in case it upsets others

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Avoidance of joyful social gatherings

  • Rejecting relationships or life opportunities that may bring happiness and success

nancy mendelson advice

“We spend most of our lives at work. In fact, the only place we spend more time is in bed. So we should hope (if not expect) that the workplace is an environment of joy. For most Americans, though, it’s not, writes Bob Bennett is his Forbes article, "The Role Of Joy In The Workplace." “Even before the pandemic triggered a new wave of workplace burnout, a 2018 Kearney survey found that only 37% of respondents reported experiencing substantial joy at work.” And that just sucks!


“Why is Joy So Important?” Asks Jessica Dawn Séguin in her Linkedin article of the same name, “There's research to prove that joy boosts our immune systems, fights stress and pain, and improves our chance of living a longer life. Being joyful could quite literally add years to life!”


To quote Helen Keller, author, disability rights advocate, political activist and lecturer. who lost both her sight and her hearing…“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” And she would know!


1 Comment


If only it would happen--workplaces celebrating joy. But for moments of friendship here and there, joy-at-work was never my experience. I'd love to see a new movement with the specific aim of transforming offices into places of joy, laughter, humility, encouragement, mercy, vulnerable humanity. Imagine. Values would need turning upside down, people over profit, a tall order in a capitalistic system, but it would radically benefit our world.

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