Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Are You HAPPY Yet?

Over the past several years there has been a ground swell of advising toward Happiness at work. Starting with Tony Hsieh and further by vendors and consultants alike, this movement seeks to better engage people's personal interests and infuse it in their work. Employee Engagement, Work/Life Balance and Organizational Culture are all central points of emphasis in bringing smiles to the workplace.

My father would hit an employee over the head with a chair who came into his office asking for more happiness. Steve Jobs would tell an employee to hit the bricks who said they weren't happy at Apple. Any great coach would bench a player who sought greater happiness. Very few academic institutions highlight Happy Time in their syllabus.

So the question emerges....

Is the workplace really a place to seek happiness?

As we explore further a trend emerges. Happiness may be characterized as gleeful jubilation resulting from a dopamine overdose caused by the engagement of ones heart. Instead of floor boarding the dopamine drip, organizations may want to focus less on happiness and more on achievement.

We can throw parties, send employees on trips and wear pajamas to work... but nothing will get done. At some point between meeting rock stars and knitting classes, we've got goals to achieve.

Achievement provokes courage which allows us to accelerate. In the end, we all want to do work that matters for a cause we believe in and a leader who sets the tone for the future.

Work That Matters
There are people who relish the opportunity to receive a trophy in front of a room full of their peers, others are embarrassed by such accolades. There are those who bust their ass all year long to earn a trip to an exotic island, some would prefer not to go on vacation with their co-workers.

More than trophies, trips or even cash; people want to know that their time on earth has a purpose. When we sunset our careers we won't cherish the big deal we closed or the money we made... we want to know that we've left an admirable legacy behind us. Snap reactions to achieve short term results only serve to tarnish one's legacy.

A Cause We Can Believe In
What are we doing here... what are we trying to achieve? Is it making a difference? Do people look upon us with admiration?

You don't have to be sending shoes to poor children for your work to make a difference. All you have to do is care.... for your co-workers, your customers and anyone who might witness your demeanor while wearing your company logo.

Do you care enough to stay on the phone with someone until their problem has found a solution?
Would you stay late at work to fix a problem?
Could you bring your children to work and be proud to show them what you have built?

One Person to Follow
I recall the first CEO who genuinely inspired me.... he was not a lovey-dovey person. He was driven, competitive, creative, and astoundingly fair. He appreciated the effort of his employees, was proud of us when we won and held himself personally accountable when we lost. He took the wins with a wink and spent nights awake fretting over the losses.

You don't have to be a jerk to be a great leader, much to the contrary, but happiness simply cannot always be top of mind. There is not an inherent emotion within us that calls for recognition of our every professional feat; we want to earn our accolades. We don't want to show up at an office where people are napping, we want to be in place that inspires us to be better. We don't want bosses that are going to pat our backs and tell us it will be OK... we want to work for people who get upset on our behalf when we do not achieve our goals.

We are driven by achievement! We are engaged by work that is challenging. We are motivated to conquer that which was presented to us as impossible. We want to be better than our mothers and fathers and we want our children to achieve more than we do.

It is time to wake up and take Accountability for our responsibility to achieve greatness. No one is going to perform to a higher level simply because they are happy. No one ever hung a 12th place ribbon with pride. There cannot be progress without a determination to elevate the norm. Happiness may only relate to the satisfaction with the norm.....

Create the impossible. Drive yourself to be better. Don't waste your time waiting around for someone else to determine what will make you happy.

Don't Forget to Remember!



  1. Great article; I recently read some research highlighting that some of the geographical areas where people were 'unhappiest' were the most productive (in terms of number of new startups etc.,) Perhaps unhappiness (although rarely a good thing) can be a great motivating influence/factor ?

  2. Thanks for the insight, Ben! I would guess dissatisfaction lights a fire under people to achieve greater results... in the end eliminating stress and providing greater peace of mind. We often times seek happiness when what we are really looking for is a greater challenge. Stay Cool!