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The Perfect Storm for Happiness at Work


Are you happy at work?  Do your clients speak of their own happiness?  Do your clients increasingly express interest in finding meaning and happiness in their work?

We may just be in the fortunate position to witness and thrive in a Happiness at Work Perfect Storm; a set of conditions that makes workplace happiness possible in partnership with organizational productivity and outcomes.

At the Fall 2010 Colorado Career Development Association conference, Mark Guterman shared about the Changing Paradigm of Work.  He spoke of how work in the late 20th to 21st century is all about mind and heart coordination compared to emphasis on eye & mind coordination or hand and eye coordination from earlier in the 20th century.  Several conditions contributing to this new paradigm can be observed.

A more foundational condition relates to how the chasm between traditional science and spiritually opposing perspectives is shrinking.

Recent scientific explanations about how the brain works speaks to many of the same concepts as spirituality and holistic human views have long demonstrated.  For example, the 2004 award-winning documentary, What the BLEEP Do We Know draws from quantum physics to demonstrate the power of the brain to understand and even influence reality (scientific perspective).  In comparison, the best-selling book, The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne describes the law of attraction, the power of the mind to attract wealth, health, and happiness (spirituality perspective).

Another condition of this perfect storm is the entry of Generation Y (Millennials) into the workforce.  Members of this generation seek happiness and meaning in their lives without feeling restrained by rules or traditional expectations.  They place high value on social concerns and incorporate this value in all aspects of their lives from consumerism to the workplace.

Conversely, many members of the Baby Boomer generation find the need or desire to engage in a post-retirement career.  They are bored in retirement or have a financial need to delay retirement plans.  In seeking a second career, many long for meaning and purpose in their work, much like what we see from members of Generation Y.  Encore.org is an organization devoted explicitly to helping Baby Boomers combine purpose, passion, and a paycheck.

How fortunate we are to live in a time that increasingly appreciates and celebrates the uniqueness in each of us and conditions exist to enable us to find fulfilling work that helps us combine purpose, passion, and talent.  We can look forward to more organizations like Zappos.com, Google, FedEx, Toms Shoes, Facebook, and many more who create environments that allow the perfect storm to flourish.  They reap the rewards, and so do their employees, customers, and partners.

Consider how these emerging conditions impact your work with organizations seeking to make the most of their people and with individuals seeking to make the most of their lives.

Your thoughts?

(First appeared as an article in the Colorado Career Development Association, CCDA, Spring / April  2011 Newsletter)

  1. May 4, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Great post, Holly! I agree that there are a number of social and demographic forces that are working in favor of happiness at work. The companies that are more humanistic in their approach to doing business will gain both loyal customers and loyal employees.

    Just watched a documentary on PBS last night about the history of Google and what struck me was their emphasis on encouraging creativity–in the physical environment, their 20% allocation of time to pursuing projects of interest, the level of autonomy/responsibility, and work structures (a regular walk with teammates as part of meeting time).

    Reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book, The Thank You Economy, and he points to the companies who care about their customers as the ones who will win.

    • May 4, 2011 at 9:28 am

      Thanks for the comments, Carol!

      In addition to creativity time and innovation activities (I know you are already familiar with Drive by Daniel Pink which shares other great examples). Additionally, Zappos.com serves as a great example of how company culture has a huge impact on employee satisfaction (aka happiness) which translates into extremely low turnover rates in a call center environment which typically can have up to and well over 100% turnover rates. There is an excellent HBR case study on the culture of Zappos.com – it is a great read.

      The book sounds interesting, I’ll have to check it out!

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