Reflections On Happiness At Work

One of my favorite current projects is working with a team dedicated to bringing happiness to workplaces. When we introduce the idea that happy people do well at work, we experience the whole range of reactions from passionate alignment to crusty skepticism. 

Having authored a groundbreaking book on happiness a couple years ago (The Joy Of Thriving), my experience leads me to instead of talking directly about happiness, instead talking about now people want to feel at work. Happiness in most contexts is a word fraught with issues that render it more complex than simple. I continue to meet people who argue that there are more important things to them than happiness, including suffering when life calls for suffering. And of course, the whole happiness paradigm threatens controlling leaders who believe, often at an unconscious level, that happy people cannot be controlled.

So in practice, I favor references instead to how people feel and how they want to feel in their work, arguing the science and experience that how people feel dominates how they show up at work with peers, leaders, partners and customers.

It turns out that asking people how they want to feel in any context is a new and therefore potentially powerful conversation. We take their responses and facilitate them crafting the kinds of actions that can bring about what matters emotionally to them. It is also powerful because it is a skill they can and do directly transfer to transformation in their personal lives.

The prime takeaway from this work is their realization that they can do things that ends up having a more profound and enduring influence on how they feel than their circumstances. It is core to their engagement.