Solving the Sad Laboratory

Both success and failure are heavily linked to personal behavior

Do you work in a sad laboratory?

A sad laboratory can be your worst school nightmare: a playground brimming with bullies, liars, cowards, rude, selfish individuals, backstabbers, suck-ups, blamers and other bad behavior types. Despite “grown-up” institutions boasting core values like integrity, teamwork, commitment, etc., many of these “values” are nonetheless gimmicky, shallow or simply ignored while bad behavior runs rampant.

Studies such as Gallup report that a mere 31.5 percent — less than 1/3 — of American workers felt engaged in their jobs in 2014. In other words, nearly 70 percent of workers are disengaged. While many reasons have been cited for that infamous statistic, it’s difficult to not attribute at least some of that amount of disengagement to sad laboratory life.

Millions of workers are unhappy in their jobs, causing billions of dollars to be lost from the lack of productivity. The people we work with are often the people we spend the most time with every day, yet we often treat each other poorly.

But your lab doesn’t have to be sad. Your lab can be a place of camaraderie, success and, yes, happiness. Both success and failure are heavily linked to personal behavior. We see this in everyday life — in sports, business and school. A well-behaved team is more likely to win than an equally skilled, but badly-behaved team. And, win or lose, the well-behaved team is more likely to attain popularity and ultimately feel the glow of success.

The Work-Life Equation

I developed The Work-Life Equation for the millions of workers who hope and dream to transition to a place more populated by characteristics associated with happiness and success. This transition is dependent upon solutions arrived at via the following heuristic formula, which is dominated by six key behavioral factors:

(H, S) = f (4C, 2R)

Within this formula, Happiness (H) and Success (S) are a function (f) of six behavioral values: Cooperation, Consideration, Compassion, Courtesy, Respect and Responsibility.

A heuristic formula, by the way, bases itself upon experience-based techniques for problem-solving, fueled by intuitive rationale (as opposed to the scientific formulas you may use in your everyday work). This particular heuristic has actually been derived from the core values at a middle school in New Jersey, but which are also seen at other forward-leaning schools and children’s programs. Beyond institutions, clear-thinking parents demand the very same simple, but powerful behaviors from their children.Unfortunately, many parents who try to teach their children these values conveniently forget to apply them to their own environments (sometimes as a result of pure intellectual dishonesty). Or they fall prey to friends and colleagues in their work/life environment whom exhibit annoying, hurtful, child-like behaviors and ensure failure for all. The fact of the matter is that a vast number of people behave like a bunch of nasty kids, and many of us know how sad that can be for those caught in the flak.

Although the values in the formula may seem obvious, their significance lies in waking people up to the way we can all better live up to these values. It’s all about understanding the true meaning, implications and consequences of each value and then following up with practice.


Consider this your call-to-action for getting back to basics and to self-discipline, respect and a return to those previously held high values of decency most of us learned during childhood.

Where do you start? Deep self-awareness and a commitment to self-improvement and understanding who you really are as a person. The majority of people out there at home and in the lab are not intentionally mean-mannered. They are, however, often victims of a stressful, competitive environment where the stakes are high and bad behaviors can set in. What is needed is the realization that we can all make a concerted effort to reflect more consciously about our own behavior (“look in the mirror”) and change certain behaviors for the better. This can start with you.

I’ve always been a big believer in the Pareto principle (or the 80-20 rule), which states that, for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. Try applying the Pareto principle to each of the behavioral values in The Work-Life Equation. Don’t strive for perfection. Instead, consider your everyday interactions in the laboratory. Make the commitment to becoming more cooperative, more considerate (a better listener), compassionate, courteous, respectful and responsible.

Furthermore, consider devoting 20 percent of your time to self-improvement. Excluding the 7-9 hours of sleep recommended per day and, for the remaining 16 or so hours, devote roughly 3 hours a day (or 21 hours a week) to self-improvement, including physical exercise, meditation or self-reflection, reading and learning new things.

The sad laboratory can seem like an overwhelming day-to-day experience. Improving the situation needn’t be. Any positive shift along the spectrum will help improve the behavioral interaction and the ultimate success of the individual or team in areas that matter, setting the stage for a much happier environment. By enhancing and richening your own values of Cooperation, Consideration, Compassion, Courtesy, Respect and Responsibility, you can “solve” for happiness and success.

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