For people that care about this kind of stuff (**raises hand**), now seems to be kind of a landmark time in the “Intersection Of Happiness And Work” research/execution world. Will Davies wrote an article for The Atlantic in June on worker happiness (long and good), which frames some of the basic problems well:
Few private-sector managers are required to negotiate with unions any longer, but nearly all of them confront a much trickier challenge, of dealing with employees who are regularly absent, unmotivated, or suffering from persistent, low-level mental-health problems. Resistance to work no longer manifests itself in organized voice or outright refusal, but in diffuse forms of apathy and chronic health problems. The border separating general ennui from clinical mental-health problems is especially challenging to managers in 21st century workplaces, seeing as it requires them to ask personal questions on matters that they are largely unqualified to deal with.
Now Harvard Business Review has an article about “The Happiness Research We’re Ignoring,” including ideas like this:
Happiness doesn’t necessarily lead to increased productivity. A stream of research shows some contradictory results about the relationship between happiness — which is often defined as “job satisfaction” — and productivity. One study on British supermarkets even suggests there might be a negative correlation between job satisfaction and corporate productivity: The more miserable the employees were, the better the profits. Sure, other studies have pointed in the opposite direction, saying that there is a link between feeling content with work and being productive. But even these studies, when considered as a whole, demonstrates a relatively weak correlation.
That British supermarket stat is terrifying, eh?
Now let me shift to a personal area. I posted an older article on LinkedIn today — this one — and I got a comment from my man Richard, who is one of those people you meet on LinkedIn and has similar viewpoints to you, but you’ll probably never meet in real life (I sadly have about 70 such people in my life right now). Here was his comment:
Those studies of happiness almost always are simply surveys, nor do they take into account opportunity cost. Money doesn’t solve all problems, but a lack of it creates problems that increase stress and decrease happiness. And the problem is managers read articles like this and figure they don’t have to pay people so long as they give them bagels on Fridays and are really, really encouraging at work. Money matters, plain and simple.
I’ve written a little about this before, but stop and think about this for a second, right?
- The job of a company is to make money, generally speaking.
- Personnel costs are about half of money going out.
- Companies have a legit reason to want to find ways to pay people less.
- If they just pay everyone but the top dogs 20K, people will eventually leave en masse.
- If that happens, you’re always redefining your goals and skills and positions, which also sucks.
- So they pay people a certain level and try to keep earnings stagnant.
- But we’re social beings, so we need a sense of connection/perks back to the bigger idea too.
- So it’s Free Bagel Friday!
So … is the whole idea of happiness at work just a giant scam designed to keep our wages down? It might be, yes. But on the flip side, there’s some documented research on the power of friends at work and the idea of being respected there too, which seem to tie back to happiness.
What do you think?