Happiness is the new metric for recruiting and retaining innovative employees or so Google espouses. This is good news for those who are currently employed in mind-numbing work within rigidly autocratic bureaucracies. With the support of big data sources (massive workforce surveys, etc.), big businesses, including Google, are reinventing their screening processes for choosing the best and brightest candidates. Traditional hiring criteria like SAT scores and grade-point averages no longer predict employment and career success in today’s work world. Two big variables mined from big data — meaningful work and personal autonomy — are the new requirements for innovative and happy workers.
After 25 years of consulting in corporate settings and government agencies, I have to question how this can be news for those still employed in these workplaces. Having a sense of mission beyond oneself, as well as the ability to decide direction and action in pursuit of that mission, defines the relatively new field of social enterprise. The epidemic growth of social entrepreneurship was in no small part a backlash to the rigid autocracy, conformity and unhappiness found in most government and multi-national corporations. And, by the way, unhappiness is not endemic to large corporations only . . . where big business leads, small and medium-sized business tend to follow.
Before taking a look at how to get happier at work, let’s look at what constitutes some of the happiest and most hated jobs identified in University of Chicago research (National Organization of Research)
Apparently, if there is no heart in the job, there is no passion for the work. Happy jobs host both a heart and head function, and for the most part, emphasize growing and guarding the human body, mind and spirit. Conversely, the most hated jobs, which grow and guard the bottom line and generally pay better than their happier counterparts, lack a sense of meaningful contribution. Add a hierarchical bureaucracy as the prevailing organization structure and you have a formula for certain failure relative to happiness and longevity indices. Studies on the life expectancy of Fortune 500 companies indicate significant declines over the past 50 years — in 1963 a lifespan on average of 75 years, in 2013 dropped to 15 years, by 2020 estimated at 5 years.
From a corporate perspective, one solution for gaining longevity becomes obvious. Hierarchical bureaucracies — whether they employ a workforce of 50, 5000 or 50,000 — need to radically transform both their structures and cultures if they wish to attract and keep innovative, happy people.
However, that is not enough. I have always maintained that joy is an inside job. As proof of this, ask yourself right now, “What releases joy from within me?” “What do I love being and doing that fills me with joy?”
Research has proven over the decades that even the luster of copious external rewards (money, status, power, etc.) diminishes when we are not contributing from our passion and sense of higher purpose.
Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that
work has been put in every heart. Rumi, Sufi poet & mystic
As most spiritual leaders and mystics proclaim — happiness is found in the moment-to-moment journey not in the destination. Destinations or external outcomes are endings. It is in the stepping forward daily with passion and purpose where inspiration and self-discovery expand our existing happiness and grow our wisdom. From a personal perspective then, happiness is an awareness, an attitude and an action.
I use positive affirmations, such as the one below, to keep me aware and focused on being happy and bringing happiness to others.
I think only positive thoughts.
I speak only positive words.
I engage only in positive deeds.
Repeating the affirmation several times during the day or when negative thoughts or words surface within me restructures my habitual thought patterns, attitudes and experiences. Write your own affirmation to enhance your happiness. If nothing comes to you, Louise Hay has a wonderful daily affirmation calendar that will start you off on a positive note each day.
If you are interested in digging deeper into do-it-yourself strategies for moving toward greater happiness in your work and life, consider purchasing my book, From Now to WOW, or downloading a free chapter from Creating Space: Volume I — Inspiration.
Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity.
We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand — and
melting like a snowflake. Sir Francis Bacon