Check out my op-ed piece

MediaToday The CS Monitor published an op-ed piece I wrote called “Yes, you can be happy at work” which talks about the difference between American and Scandinavian attitudes.

A quote:

“You get paid to do your job, not to like it,” seems to be the attitude of most US managers and workplaces. What’s worse, American employees seem to be willing participants in this arrangement. When I ask Americans what makes them happy at work, they rarely talk about the work itself many tend to see it as a means to an end, rather than as something to enjoy.

The result is that US workplaces are dominated by status-seeking career climbers, where the paycheck is the only motivator, where employee turnover is shockingly high, where bad management is never challenged, where burnout and cynicism are the order of the day, and only Dilbert comic strips provide relief.

Click here to read the whole thing.

It’s inspired by this earlier post about my experiences from a recent trip to America.

Before the paper would publish it, I had to agree to a few edits though. For instance this line didn’t make it into print:

In fact, recent studies have Denmark leading the lists of happy nations – so eat it, Sweden!

Though I kinda figured it wouldn’t :o)

8 thoughts on “Check out my op-ed piece”

  1. Alexander, Great Opinion Piece!!!

    I saw it this morning because I scan the news daily for articles about happiness. Wow. Only after I read it did I read the By-line. Nice going. You are an inspiration to me.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Funny, I made this contrast between Italy and the US some time ago http://www.beginningwithi.com/italy/living/whatdo.html – noting that many Italians don’t seem to care much whether they’re happy at work or not, since their jobs are very secondary to everything else in their lives (this attitude has its positives and negatives). I suspect that many don’t imagine they could do anything to change whatever unhappiness they may feel about their working lives anyway – jobs are scarce, especially given the geographical constraints that many impose upon themselves or have thrust upon ’em.

    But in the US – wow, what sorry-ass companies did you visit? I guess I’ve been lucky: most of the companies I’ve known or worked for were overall pretty happy. I haven’t been with Sun Microsystems long (yet), but I note that many, many Sun employees have been there a looong time. The company is also rated as one of the world’s most ethical, and I suspect that it takes happy, ethical employees to achieve that kind of outward behavior.

  3. This is a really interesting piece. I’m curious as to whether you have talked to those in US-based nonprofit organizations. All the problems you outline are also present there, but in my experience, a lot of those working in nonprofits are happier and more committed to the work than to the salary.

  4. This was an excellent post and I feel it addresses important issues that are eroding the very fabric of Western society. I’m not just talking about workplace issues but human issues.

    I can’t help but think, that to a large degree, employees are simply responding to the attitudes of their employers. Granted we all have the power to influence how we feel about our environment, but a lack of concern and respect on the part of an employer certainly doesn’t help to foster loyalty and productivity in the workplace.

    On the other hand I’ve known several good employers who struggled to find employees that were willing to work, no matter how favorable the workplace environment. It would be nice if there was a way to match up all of the loyal employees with all the caring employers.

    A smart employer with a long-term viewpoint will be quick to reward loyalty and productivity. Well-trained dependable employees are an asset to any business and should be compensated accordingly.

    This problem is probably just a reflection of the general, lack of respect, me first mentality that is all too common today. This is all the more reason for each of us to raise the bar on our personal values and standards. Personal development not only affects our relationship with our self, it makes the world a better place to live. Individuals who care make a huge difference

  5. Alex and friends,

    Excellent article Alex!

    The American work environment is so obsessed with “Task Excellence” that taking time to develop “Relationship Excellence” is viewed as slacking. Just mention a new quality, metrics or benchmarking program and watch how people roll their eyes and begin to look visibly ill.

    As human beings we are wired for relationships. Spending half our waking hours in environments that are relationally barren is unhealthy. People working in these toxic work environments are having the life slowly sucked out of them (which is not unlike victims of carbon monoxide poisoning…the oxygen deprivation is so slow that victims are unaware until it’s too late.)

    In the work my colleagues and I are doing with organizations, we teach them to create “Connection Cultures” where everyone feels connected to their work, their colleagues at work, and their team, business unit or organization’s identity. We show them how great leaders of businesses, nations, sports teams and social sector organizations create Connection Cultures. Connection helps achieve the Relationship Excellence that every organization needs to sustain Task Exellence. Absent Relationship Excellence, communcations and morale eventually breakdown…and, of course, take Task Excellence down with them.

    There is so much work for all of us to do if we are going to change this sorry state of the American workplace. I’m glad conversations like this are taking place because it will help all of us become more effective in bringing about change.

  6. some people at Disney are uncomfortable with their “take no prisoners” approach to negotiating the final details of their partnerships. Some employees in Danish firms are complacent, secure in their job yet not happy. Generalities, including the ones I just made are fraught with exceptions yet your underlying goal – to support organizations in finding ways to connect employee satisfaction/pride with organizationals success is indeed laudable.

    Even with M. Buckingham’s extensive Gallup-backed research it is difficult to discern what organization has happier employees who are using their best talents. Like porn, we each know “it” (org.-wide happiness) when we see it. It seems that having “cell” groups of people who love their role in a project is a strong indicator of self-described happiness – regardless of country. People involved in groups as varied as Gortex and Saddleback have discovered that…

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