“Happy At Work”

I have commented on some current “happiness” research, and I still am confused and ambivalent by much of this work.  It seems like a good idea, but it doesn’t seem to be logically coherent.

This week I learned that apparently you can make money as a “Happiness Consultant” for businesses. The proposition is that happy companies make more money, among other good outcomes.

Super!   I’ll bite. Tell me more.

Unfortunately, the promotional materials don’t have a particular clear statement of what “happiness” actually is. Sigh. The manifesto is all about how it is your own personal responsibility to figure out what makes you happy, and then make that happen. Double sigh.

The operating principles are rather difficult to parse as well. Some of the principles are:

“6. Your happiness at work is your responsibility. Not your boss’s, not your co-workers’ and not society’s. Yours.

 7. Your boss and your workplace are responsible for creating a setting where it’s easy to be happy at work.

8. Happiness at work doesn’t come from the organization’s policies, strategies, plans or values. It comes from the things that you and I do here and now.

9. Happiness at work doesn’t come from raises, bonuses or perks. It comes from two things: Results and Relationships, ie. doing great work together with great people.

10. Happiness at work doesn’t just happen. It takes a focused effort from management and employees together.”

Huh? It’s my own responsibility (6), not my bosses’. But it is their responsibility (7). The actual design of the company doesn’t matter (8), because its up to you. But we have to do it together (10).

Baffling and self-contradictory.

Finally, point 9: It isn’t about what you get, only what you do. That actually is sound psychology, but really, really bad contract advice.

I can’t help but think about all the jobs I have had, and what made me happy or unhappy at work.  Honestly, the points above are both right and wrong.  Times I’ve been happy, I’ve been happy because of the people I was working with and/or what we were doing.

But times I’ve been unhappy it has often been issues of pay, strategy, management behavior–not my own “decision” to be unhappy.  Worse, much unhappiness has come from external stresses, especially financial downturns.  Again–not a matter of personal responsibility, exactly.

On the other other hand, the most cheerful environment I ever encountered was at a pain clinic–where exactly zero of their customers want to be there or are enjoying the experience.  I’m sure the staff is carefully selected and great effort is made to accomplish this environment, which goes to show what can be accomplished if you set this as a goal.

So, all this is interesting, if not completely satisfactory.

By the way, I found this from a post from the Freelancer’s Union, which suggests other interesting gigs to consider. And, as Van Thoen suggests, it must be exhausting to be “happy” as your job.

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