Category Archives: Happy At Work

How to be happy at work

Bob Sutton’s EXCELLENT advice on dealing with a bad boss

How should you deal with a bad boss? Here’s some EXCELLENT research-based advice from Stanford Professor Bob Sutton (51 mins into the video).

On a related note, a journalist once asked me during an interview why employees put up with bad bosses.

Without thinking about it I blurted out “Stockholm syndrome.”

I only later realized I may have been right.

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Podcast with Søren Lockwood – a (very happy) financial CEO

Michal Srajer, one of our Partners in Prague, is currently travelling the world and interviewing many different people for his podcast about happiness at work. His first interview was with me and you can hear it here.

His second podcast features Søren Lockwood, the CEO of SEB Pension in Denmark, who took his company of 300 serious financial professionals in dark suits through a transformation that has resulted in happier employees, lower absenteeism, happier customers and better results.

You can hear the podcast here:

Søren Lockwood also spoke at our conference this year in Copenhagen, where examined the classic question of whether  you can prove that happiness at work is good for the bottom line. He gave the best answer EVER:

 

At IKEA, umbrellas are CHEAPER when it rains

Complete this sentence: “When it rains, the price of umbrellas goes __.”

If you guessed up you’d be right in most places. But at IKEA stores, you’d be wrong.

Here’s how they price their umbrellas depending on the weather:

ikea-umbrella

Yes, on rainy days, umbrellas are cheaper :o) What a nice way to make customers happy.

This is no coincidence – happiness matters at IKEA. Their founder, Ingvar Kamprad, once said this:

Work should always be fun for all colleagues. We all only have one life. A third of life is work. Without desire and fun, work becomes hell.

To me, this attitude only makes sense. Making your employees happy makes the business more profitable and making your customers happy keeps them coming back.

It ain’t rocket surgery, and fortunately more and more companies are figuring this out and committing themselves to happiness at work.

Join the first ever conference about happiness at work in India

india-conference

On November 18+19 we are arranging the first ever conference about happiness at work in India together with Les Concierges and Naresh Jain of ConfEngine.

We have just announced the schedule with an amazing lineup of speakers and workshops, including critical themes like:

  • Finding and using your strengths at work
  • How to have a happy career
  • How to lead with happiness
  • How to deal with stress and busyness
  • Case stories from some of the world’s truly great workplaces
  • How to create more democratic workplaces

… and many, many more great topics. Speakers include:

  • Mikael Kamber, TV news anchor and author
  • Traci Fenton, founder and CEO of WorldBlu
  • Tim Dorsett, Culture Ambassador at Innocent Drinks
  • Nic Marks, Economist and founder of Happiness Works

And of course myself :) See the entire schedule here.

Attendance is limited to 300 people, so better get your tickets now.

Take the Whiteboard Challenge – and help improve it

A loooong while back we shared the idea of playing a game in the office, where you challenge coworkers to come up with ideas that combine two existing themes. You may even offer a small prize for the funniest or most creatives replies.

Here are two examples contributed by Destiney from Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs:

80s Songs & Sweets Movies & Food

 

Destiney is also looking for more ideas for themes.

Here are two I came up with:

Baked goods + TV show: Game of scones. Breading bad.

Celebrity + Car: Harrison Ford :) Too easy?

There must be a million more. What combination would you suggest? Write a comment!

My 5 favorite Coursera courses for happiness at work

2013-02-07 15.57.48My learning position

Coursera is an AMAZING site that lets you take hundreds of university-level classes taught by highly respected people from different fields.

It’s also my latest addiction. Seriously – I may have a problem. Yesterday I finished one course, and immediately signed up for 4 more :)

I’ve taken courses on many different topics several of which have been directly useful and relevant to happiness at work so I thought I’d share the 5 best ones here:

5: Unethical Decision Making in Organizations
A seminar on the dark side of the force’ that teaches you how strong organizational contexts push good people towards unethical decisions. You will also learn how to protect yourself and your organization against such forces lurking in the dark.

4: Positive psychology
A great overview and introduction to the “science of happiness” taught by Barbara Fredrickson, one of the leading researchers in the field.

3: Introduction to neuroeconomics
Neuroscience, when allied with psychology and economics, creates powerful new models to explain how we make decisions. Neurobiological mechanisms of decision-making, decisions under risk, trust and cooperation are central issues in this course.

2: Critical perspectives on management
Using a wide disciplinary approach – from economics and history to social theory and even a smattering of biblical criticism – the course examines several core management strategies and debunks them mercilessly as wrong and damaging, including:

  • Forced employee ranking
  • The idea that all companies should always grow
  • Shareholder value

Topics include: the function of the firm; the role of incentive; the ways in which narrative forces shape decision making, and how market relationships define the managerial culture in ways that can lead to sub-optimal outcomes.

1: Social pshycology
The best and most interesting online course I’ve taken so far. It examines how we affect each other in groups and almost all of the content is relevant to the workplace.

The course isn’t currently offered but will hopefully return.

But I’ve taken so many other great courses as well. Here are my 4 favorites outside of the field of happiness at work:

  1. Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life
  2. Revolutionary Ideas: An Introduction to Legal and Political Philosophy
  3. Philosophy and the Sciences
  4. Model Thinking

Have you done any online courses? What’s been your favorite things so far? Let me know in a comment!

UPDATE: As I was writing this, I stumbled on a course called Classical Sociological Theory and signed up for that too :) As I said… I may have a problem :)

This company forces a random employee to take 2 weeks off every month

This is just too cool: Every month, financial-services company Motley Fool selects a random employee who gets 2 weeks off and $1,000. Their mission is to spend those two weeks on whatever they want with zero contact with the office.

They do this to show employees that it’s OK to balance work and life and not overwork yourself to death.

Genius!

The 3 most common objections to Biden’s awesome letter – and my rebuttals

biden

10 days ago I posted this picture of a memo from Joe Biden to his staff, saying that he never wants them “to miss or sacrifice important family obligations for work.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 16.24.16

The image has since gone viral. It was retweeted by tons of people (including the amazing Sarah Silverman) and it has gained a lot of attention on LinkedIn too.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 16.30.31

The 1000s of likes/favorites show that people love this idea and so do the many, many positive comments. Here are some examples:

Having worked in the past for a company who insisted you “made up the hours you’ve taken off” for hospital appointments, dentist treatment and even funerals and bereavements, this makes me smile! A breath of fresh air.
– Lee Cashman

Having just started up a new business, one of the absolute joys is finally being able to treat everyone in the business as if they genuinely matter, not just paying lip service to this. I still find it amazing that companies fail to realise that treating the team with respect and trusting them will be reciprocated massively. We have written into our contracts that everyone gets time off for school plays, sports days etc.
– Glenn Martin

There is a real longing out there for leaders who understand that while work is important we must also recognize that sometimes important family events come first.

This is not only humane, it is also good leadership because it makes employees happier and therefore more productive.

In fact, it seems strange to me that anyone could be against it, but this being the internet, of course I got some negative comments too.

For instance, with the US election going on, some comments were negative simply because Biden is a Democrat and works for Obama. This one was my favorite:

“The man is a complete baffoon!!!”

You know, if you can’t even spell buffoon… you might just be one :)

But there were three common objections that I’d like to offer my rebuttals to.

3: “This is too god to be true – it must be fake!”

Some people just can’t believe that this could possibly be true. Some sample comments:

“But those that go the extra mile get the promotion. It’s lip service of the politically correct. If anyone believes that memo they must not understand American work ethic.”

“If I ever got a letter like this from an employer I would think there is a hidden agenda.”

“This is Reverse Psychology at it’s best.”

I’ll be the first to admit that this sounds unrealistic. In many workplaces, particularly in the US, there is a strong belief in the cult of overwork.

And I have to say that I’ve never actually worked for Joe Biden’s office or met anyone who has so I have no way of knowing if this is true or just nice words.

But what I have been able to learn from some internet research, is that Biden is, by all accounts, a tremendously nice person.

Here’s republican senator Lindsay Graham talking warmly about Biden.

“I called him after Beau died, and he basically said, ‘Well Beau was my soul’,” Graham said, his voice trembling, adding that Biden gave a speech at Graham’s retirement party from the Air Force Reserve “and said some of the most incredibly heartfelt things that anybody could ever say to me.”

“He’s THE nicest person I’ve ever met in politics,” Graham said. “He’s as good a man as God has ever created.”

Graham added, “We don’t agree on much,” but noted Biden has “been dealt a real gut blow” yet “focuses on what he’s got to do, not what he’s lost.”

“His heart has been ripped out but he’s gonna make sure the other members of his family are well taken care of,” Graham said. “He’s more worried about his grandkids than anything…. He started talking about the future, the future of his family.”

This GQ article on Biden also notes his friendly spirit and happy personality. Here’s what happened when Biden went to the Italian President’s palace:

I saw him freelance a grand Joe Biden entrance into President Giorgio Napolitano’s palace, teeth gleaming, arms fully outstretched, ready to hug this guy, that guy, Hey, guys! I’m here! You’re here! We’re beautiful!

Decked out in his smooth blue suit, white pocket square—his broad smile the kind a man reserves for his bowling team. This demeanor contrasted sharply with everyone else’s. Guards in shiny helmets sprouting horsehair ponytails, bedraggled White House advance team in smart skirts and solid-color pumps. A Biden entrance can make the stuffiest event intimate, for an instant human and vaguely…funny.

2: “This is easy in the government sector”

By far the most common objection was that this lax attitude of letting staff take time for family is easy in government. In a “real” workplace, it would never work. Some sample comments:

“Very easy to do on gov’t time.”

“Easier to write if one is not running a profit-making business, fulfilling commitments to clients.”

“Sure what does he care. Its the people money and he never signed a paycheck in his life so its not his money.”

Nonsense. This is good leadership in any workplace, public or private sector.

I firmly believe that if you want to give the taxpayers’ the best possible government, one that works as efficiently as humanly possible, then this is the exact right policy.

1: “This is soft – bosses must focus on results!”

Some commenters lamented that this soft attitude would surely tank any workplace sentimental enough to actually let its employees take time off for important family events:

“Nice sentiment, but totally disconnected from current reality & results. Consider it this way — If you were a C-level exec running a lackluster company with many problems and then taking long lunches and letting your staff take free days whenever they had an important moment… you’d be out of business.”

“What is right is the mission and getting the job done in either public or private. Showing you care is not the decisive management technique or sole point…winning is much more of a motivation.”

“I hope my competition reads this and adopts the policy, I’ll be happy to close deals while they attend graduations.”

This is exactly the kind of dinosaur thinking that is so prevalent in business today – and it’s exactly the kind of thinking that is creating a lot of stress, frustration and ultimately poor performance.

I call it the cult of overwork – the irrational belief that the more hours bosses can make people work, the better.

Look, it’s not rocket science: Studies show that happy employees are more productive, committed, conscientious and creative and also have lower absenteeism and turnover rates.

Simply put, happy workplaces get better results. And many bosses get that.

I found an excellent blog post about Wisetech Global, an Australian IT company with a completely different attitude to overwork:

If employees work more than 40 hours a week regularly, they have to talk to their manager to redress the situation.

WiseTech Global chief executive Richard White said the company’s approach was consistent with its core values, which state that although staff should strive for the best outcomes, “we do not ask people to impale themselves on their work commitments”.

“Its not the amount of work, it’s the quality of the work,” he said.

On the other hand, if you’re the kind of boss who demands that employees come to work even though they have important family obligations, you demonstrate clearly that you care nothing for the well-being of your people. What happens is they become stressed and frustrated. The best employees quickly leave and find work elsewhere, where they’re treated with respect and you are left with only those employees who lack the skills or the energy to get away from you.

Add to that the trail of devastation, the ruined health and the broken families that this antiquated management style also causes and I simply don’t understand how these managers can live with themselves. It is bad leadership, it’s bad for people, it’s bad for business and it’s just plain stupid.

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