I watched the TED video above with great reservation after a friend told me: ”Matt this is a very good video about happiness in the workplace, it’s what you’ve been saying for the past 13 years in your organizational analysis and consultation business!” There it is – I continued in skeptical thought: ”Everyone thinks they’re an expert in behavioural psychology because they picked up a book, or read an article, or in this case watched a TED talk.” I must confess I occasionally fall victim to this level of cynical reaction, especially when people are passionately trying to teach or share something with me they think I haven’t heard of before. In this case however, my cynical nature wasn’t fully aroused because I knew this would be something I could add onto what I’ve been advocating for a long time.
None the less, there I was watching a short TED video and still found myself a bit cynical of the presenter (Shawn Achor). Another speaker, another message, and the same questions in my mind: ”Why should anyone listen to anything he’s saying? Will this talk be relevant to people’s lives? People’s organizational lives (work, school, non-profits) are stressful places where the demands and expectations are overwhelming and never ending. And he wants people to smile through it all?!! Does he really expect them to be happy when they’re stuck in environments they don’t want to be in? With coworkers they don’t like? And supervisors that are ill equipped to lead?! Really?!!” (The irony of course being these are the questions I fear the most when it’s ME as the consultant and/or guest speaker on this same topic)!
…Afterall isn’t happiness a theoretical dream that can only happen when a person is wealthy & powerful enough not to care about others? Or even worse, if we decided to just drop everything and focus on happiness, wouldn’t we end up being poor and desolate? Without anxiety and pressure, how can we produce anything that leads to the wealth and power which ultimately frees us from our unhappiness? …Or to put it another way: Isn’t happiness simply a luxury we can’t afford?
Most people reading this article are intelligent enough to try and skip ahead to what they know is the ‘right answer’ –> ‘‘Yes, absolutely I need happiness otherwise all those bad things I saw and heard on talk shows will happen to me! Yup I’m super duper happy, look at me…happy happy happy!” (Thankfully most people are equally intelligent and perceptive enough to know when somebody is genuine and when somebody is in horrible denial of their actual feelings).
This past week I had a great conversation with an elderly gentleman who asked me what I did for a living. I excitedly told him about http://www.mattsilver.ca, and couldn’t help but share some of the things I enjoy most about my company. His response really caught me off guard: ”Oh no, so I bet people are worried and don’t like seeing you come into their organizations huh?” I thought I must not have properly explained how my company’s focus was on helping organizational mission statements, teams, and personnel placement for the purposes of increasing their productivity and satisfaction levels. So I tried once again with even greater emphasis on how good things have turned out for my clients and their organizational environments. His response was still not what I expected: ‘‘Yeah but when people see you come into their organization, it means things are going to change and they probably won’t like that very much.”
Of course I wanted to debate that point, but I realized, he’s right! We as a society have become so comfortable in our environments of unhappiness that we simply accept it as the norm. Furthermore, we actually believe the lie that was earlier mentioned: If we don’t live a life of pressures, demands, guilt, frustration then how would we know if we’re working at our best? This is an incredibly destructive lie many (dare I say most of us) have bought into. At our workplaces we believe we need to work ”hard”, not work ”happily”. In our schools and educational institutions we reward those that ”persevere” instead of those who ”thrive” in their learning. In our non-profit organizations (religious or otherwise) we reward those who really work ”with conviction” instead of those who work with ”joy”. There are countless stories and examples I could list for each of these environments, but again I suspect that most people are wise enough to know this to be abundantly true. I recently read an article even praising a certain well known author who lifts up certain cultures for their ”hard work habits” and credits that attribute as the best means to wealth & power… We are saturated by this destructive ”norm” at every turn!
But what if happiness wasn’t a luxury reserved for the wealthy & powerful? What if a happy person was more likely to experience greater health & finances than a hard working person? And what if a shift towards organizational job satisfaction lead to greater productivity not less as is believed by most? Could it be that folks like Shawn Achor & I aren’t the crazy pollyanna personalities some would easily dismiss because it conflicts with their ”work hard and suffer” philosophy in life?
I’m happy to see a new generation of research and facts on human and organizational behaviour starting to be taught but we need to keep moving in this direction or else this too shall pass as the latest ‘fad’ in our social evolution… If you’re in an organization that is looking for ways to cultivate an environment of joy & satisfaction, don’t wait. Feel free to contact me at http://www.mattsilver.ca and let’s get working on it together. Afterall, part of my greatest job satisfaction only takes place when I know that my clients are happy and satisfied with how I’ve helped them out.
That link once again…