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ON THE JOB

Seven Ways to Be Happier At Work

Don't wait for your boss to make your job more fun. Take the initiative to create a more enjoyable worklife.

Let's face it: Many employers' efforts to inject fun into the workplace are feeble. Serve birthday cake. Allow workers to throw Frisbees. Keep the break room fridge stocked with soda. Gimme a break.

Although the following ideas may not turn your workplace into a barrel of laughs, they're more likely than the company picnic to make your worklife more pleasant.

Telecommute. Sometimes a good way to find happiness is to just stay home. Would you enjoy playing tennis with friends during the day? Rolling on the floor with Fido? Watching daytime soaps or CNBC's stock ticker? Who cares as long as the daily work gets done? Pitch your boss on telecommuting. If he or she resists, offer to go on a short leash; for example, agree to submit twice-a-day work progress reports.

Propose a special project. Love to travel? Propose doing a feasibility study on opening a branch in Hawaii. (Site visits essential, of course.) Love to talk with people? Offer to create a collection of how-to-succeed-at-work tips and tricks derived from interviewing employees in the company and maybe even at your competitors.

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Become a mentor. Let it be known that you enjoy mentoring people. You'll likely find yourself with at least one or two people who'd appreciate having someone with whom to hash out work problems.

Tweak your job description. Do you like some aspects of your job and hate others? See if you can trade tasks with a co-worker. Your drudgery might be another's relaxation; your weakness, another's m├ętier. For example, I know a lawyer who loved holding forth in a courtroom but couldn't stand the detailed research work. He found another lawyer in the firm who felt the opposite, so they agreed that, where possible, they'd trade work.

Make your workspace feel more like home. Want to put an oriental rug under your desk? Your favorite small painting on your cube wall? An aromatherapy zen fountain on your desk? Many workplaces have no issue with such personalizing.

Use at-your-desk stress busters. Just a minute of slow, deep breaths, or tightening and loosening sets of muscles from neck to feet can reenergize you. Or try a five-minute at-your-desk yoga session.

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Make a close friend. Find someone with whom you can become close. That can take the edge off work stresses. Ask your potential bud out to lunch and talk about things more intimate than the ballgame score -- everyone has important hopes, dreams and fears. Unearth those and share your own, and you're halfway to developing the sort of intimate relationship that can soften the edges of even the hardest workplace.

Still not happy at work? Maybe it's time to look for a better job. Check out these tips.

Columnist Nemko, PhD, is a career coach and author of Cool Careers For Dummies.