I think this article from The Globe and Mail about why it’s okay not to be “happy” at work totally misses the point. Being “happy” at work means different things depending on the work environment itself – it’s not all about being “content” and demanding spiritual and aspirational fulfillment, as this article seems to suggest. For the vast majority of working people today, being “happy” at work means nothing more than operating in a workplace where they’re not being abused or harassed, not living under the threat of layoffs, not being compelled to work unethically (as we’ve recently seen at Wells Fargo), and where they’re not being assessed by a system that’s prone to racial or gendered biases. Many of today’s unengaged workers would be “happy” for a fair shake and a job that values them as people. Conflating psychologically healthy workplaces with lofty and/or unrealistic notions of office “happiness” is not particularly helpful for many of today’s businesses. You can read the article I'm responding to at The Globe and Mail.
After reading this list of the world’s “Most Admired” companies from Fortune Magazine, I have to wonder – who is doing the admiring here? In the short description of its methodology in picking these companies, Fortune states that companies are ranked by their peers’ perspectives on nine unidentified criteria (the only two criteria mentioned were “investment value” and “social responsibility”). One essential way that companies should and must be judged is by their workplace culture – and the people who should be making those assessments can’t just be those at the highest tiers of the system. According to this list, Amazon is the third most admired company on the face of the Earth right now – the same Amazon where, according to The New York Times, it’s commonplace to see employees crying at their desks. Companies can’t continue to be judged solely on their profitability or business practices – they should be judged on human factors as well.
The financial costs of psychologically unsafe work environments are self-evident: 60% of workplace accidents are due to stress, 550 million workdays are lost yearly due to work-related stress, and high-pressure companies spend nearly 50% more on health care than their positive-oriented competitors (American Psychological Association). These statistics are also compounded by the human cost – workplace disengagement, bullying, and in extreme cases, violence. Business leaders need to take note of how their corporate cultures create substantive effects on their bottom lines and on their employees. Read the full story at the Harvard Business Review.