You are here

Happiness at work: advice from musicians

6 Jan 2020
Ewan Anderson

Happiness at work

Musicians throughout the ages have drawn upon personal experience to inspire their music. It makes sense, therefore, that over the course of modern western music the subject of jobs - and working in general - has made an appearance in almost every genre of music. Often songs about work lament the position the songwriter is in, usually not a particularly desirable one. Rather than relating to these kinds of songs and feeling down about your work, let us look to them for inspiration and use the lessons learned as a way of pushing your career in the direction you want.


Why do people work? Obviously the fulfilment of knowing you’re contributing to something bigger than yourself is the driving force behind many careers, but often it comes down to what makes the world go round – money. Moolah. Cheddar. Paper. Dinero. However, as many people in history have noted (especially rappers) the continual acquisition of money leads to its own problems. On the song ‘Money’, from the iconic Dark Side of the Moon album, Pink Floyd’s lyrical protagonist laments the personal dichotomy of needing enough money for oneself while also wishing for a fair distribution of wealth.

Money, it's a crime

Share it fairly but don't take a slice of my pie

Money, so they say

Is the root of all evil today

But if you ask for a raise it's no surprise that they're

Giving none away, away, away

If you find yourself in a position where you feel undervalued in work with no financial incentives in sight, as per the narrator in the song, it could be time for a change in direction. Have a browse of the markets we work in and then drop off your CV anywhere you feel your skills lie. Or, if you prefer, just give us a call and we’ll find the best person for you to talk to.

Making a change

It’s a sad, but unavoidable, fact that there are a lot of people who are unhappy in their jobs. In 2001 New York rapper Aesop Rock released his album Labor Days – a scathing critique of American working culture. He perhaps summed up his feelings best when channelling Dolly Parton in the final refrain of the track ‘9-5ers’ Anthem’.

Fumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen

Pour myself a cup of ambition and

Yawn and stretch and my life is a mess and

If I never make it home today, God bless 

The man clearly isn’t happy. It’s exactly when you’re having these feelings that it’s time to pick up the phone to a recruiter and start planning your next move. Singing Dolly Parton down the phone to them is not required or advised. Check our out blog about how to work with recruiters for some tips on how to get started.

Handling stress

Stress in the workplace can be one of the key factors in someone deciding to leave a job. You spend a lot of your life in work – it shouldn’t be an environment that causes undue or unwanted hardship. Everyone has their own way of dealing with stress like this – some play sports, others have a drink after work, or some, like Johnny Paycheck, tell their bosses to “take this job and shove it”. Now, we don’t recommend that as a course of action. We find that telling you boss to shove anything, least of all your job, is likely to burn more bridges than it builds.

Take this job and shove it

I ain't working here no more

My woman done left and took all the reasons

I was workin’ for

Right off the bat you can tell that Mr Paycheck could do with some advice on how to handle workplace politics. We’d recommend he reads this blog on how to deal with stress at work, which should hopefully lead to a reduction in “shove it”-related incidents, and also this piece on how to professionally tender your resignation and handle counter-offers. It seems unlikely Mr Paycheck’s employer will be clamouring to get Johnny to accept a counter-offer, but there is some useful advice in there for anyone who hands their notice in with a touch more grace.

Having a purpose

There’s a common trope in cinema that depicts a dissatisfied office worker dedicating the best years of their life to a company where they don’t really understand what they’re supposed to be doing – such as the protagonist in Office Space, who we mentioned in our blog about famous interviews and what we can learn from them. This is not a new phenomenon, however, and has been immortalised in song as far back as the 1920s. In the Disney Classic Snow White the seven dwarves sing the song ‘Heigh Ho’ on their way to work.

We dig up diamonds by the score

A thousand rubies, sometimes more

But we don't know what we dig 'em for

We dig dig dig a-dig dig

The fact that these workers are going to work day after day to mine jewels without a clear idea of why they’re doing so is a spectacular failing of their company’s onboarding process. If your company doesn’t articulate its vision or goals to the workforce, it can’t expect to get the best from its employees; guidance and a common goal are essential to success. We previously created a resource for employers to improve their onboarding procedures, but it is also very useful for people looking to understand what a good onboarding process looks like and how they can get the most from the experience. We’d also recommend reading our resource about the best employee benefit schemes; there’s no mention of any perks or benefits in High Ho so we can only imagine any incentive schemes are as inadequate as the procedures for newcomers to the mine.


It would be disingenuous to pretend that all work is fulfilling and worthwhile – the ennui of working culture has been one of the defining cultural zeitgeists from the late 20th century into the 21st century. From Billy Corgan’s nasal threnody of “despite all my rage I’m still just a rat in a cage” to Radiohead’s entire back catalogue, musicians have been lamenting the alienation that often accompanies late stage capitalism.

However, there are positive steps anyone can take to improve their position and tread a path towards fulfilment and happiness in the workplace. One such step is to conduct your own SWOT analysis to identify your strengths and identify what opportunities, both in your current work or in your wider life, you could be taking advantage of to help you get your career into a position you’re happy with. It takes a great deal of self-reflection and brutal honesty, but when you finish you’ll have a much clearer idea of where you stand and actionable steps to take. In their track ‘Slave to Wage’, Placebo note the courage it takes to change your career for the better once you identify what makes you happy.

 All it takes is one decision

A lot of guts, a little vision to wave

Your worries, and cares goodbye

It might take a formal letter of resignation rather than a wave to leave your old job behind, but that probably didn’t fit into the rhythm of the song. If you’re feeling like Placebo and are armed with your newfound knowledge gained from your SWOT analysis, you should read our blog about how long you should stay in a job. Sometimes it’s best to leave as soon as you can, other times it’s better to hold on a little while to make sure you get as much as possible from your current position. If you’re not sure what the best course of action is, pick up the phone and talk to one of our consultants – they’ll help you decide what’s best for your career and would be more than happy to talk you through your options.

It’s important to remember that it is possible, and should be expected, to be happy and fulfilled in your job, whatever it is you do. If you feel like any of the people in these songs, it’s almost definitely time to make a move and we’re here to help you every step of the way. Give us a call on 0131 550 1100 or email to start your next adventure.

Other blogs in our wellness series include:

How to deal with workplace stress

Advice from musicians about happiness at work

How you can, as an employer or employee, change the psychology of the workplace for the better

New year resolutions for your business

How to motivate your team through the January blues

When is it time to change careers?


Ewan Anderson
Share this article
Advanced Search