Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Don't Worry, Be Happy

There are almost 92,000 books being sold on right now that contain the word "happy" in the title.  This does not necessarily include all of the books that are actually about happiness.  Nor the ones that are about satisfaction, contentment or peace.  

#WorkHuman was a conference recently held by +Globoforce in Orlando. And while it was a conference founded upon recognition thoughts and strategies, there was a push towards happiness that I found refreshingly interesting.

From a scientific approach, the concept of happiness was explored by Shawn Achor.  What benefit is there to happiness in the workplace?  Of course, we would rather people be happy than sad at work.  It's not likely that any of us looks to see a line of sad people outside of our door that we need to convert to happy ones.  However, there is something to be said about our ability to promote a happier culture.  +JetBlue VP of People Michael Elliott shared how it's the job of HR, for example, to sell the success stories of the company.  Preach the ways we shine.  We have an opportunity to support the core values and encourage the mission of our organizations through a pursuit of happiness.

Consider, however, the concept of joy.  Happiness tends to be an emotional consideration, and while there are fuller perspectives, joy is more of a state of being.  What can we do to foster this level of consideration?  How can pursuing the right perspective of such a state of being impact workplace culture?
  • Where does the joy come from? - Look for ways to push those around us to consider self-awareness.  Not necessarily in the metaphysical sense, but think of it in light of the wellness and mindfulness initiatives available to us.  Grounding people is a gift.  Very often, we get ensnared by the busyness of our roles.  We need to motivate ourselves to do our work because it's an expression of who we are.  Look to align the joy being cultivated in you around the functional roles of existence.  If it's out of line, you'll sense it clearly.  Adjust this in a timely manner and, then, recalibrate.
  • What can the joy do for others? - In addition to the ways joy brings a stability to self, the joy one has can serve as a beacon to those looking to secure their own.  Reflecting the active nature of joy will inspire others, but will be done as a genuine by-product.  Manufacturing a trite or programmatic approach to this will be apparent to others observing, and the initiative will fail.  The honesty that joy gives is infectious and truthful.  There is something so attractive about someone who is naturally full of joy.  If you have known someone like this, think about how he/she made you feel.  Don't hide the joy at work; live it fully and others will observe it.
  • What will work be like in light of joy? - A study in Britain showed that providing happiness outlets, even in small doses, could increase productivity by as much as 12%.  12%?!  Think about that.  That could be tens of thousands to hundreds of millions for our companies.  Amazing to think that encouraging happiness could lead to such results.  And the feeling of happiness leads to an openness to joy, contentment and satisfaction.  When workplaces cultivate this type of depth, talent does not look to leave as willingly, especially those who've worked in other environments.  There will be a great appeal to remain connected and committed to who and what the company is.
None of this is meant to cover up the difficulties that come along with living.  Sickness, financial strain, divorce, death...all of this and more vie for our attention and steal our joy.  We should not look to be smiling idiots or attempt to gloss over the pain that others might have.  We're still people, People!  

The thoughts here are reflective of the measurable affect that happiness can bring to the workplace.  While at this conference, +The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research founder was on-hand to share his perspective on life.  To hear someone who could have become rather bitter and jaded at the unfairness of life, share that he loves his life, is humbling.  The gripes about work - the amount to do, the managers that annoy and the lack of variety of coffee flavors - find a better context and become minimized in light of such a perspective.  Michael J. Fox shared his heart and his joy.  The lesson for all of us is to do the same.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Love Yourself

Almira Gulch.  What a name.  It's fraught with constipation and furrowed eye brows.  And while it wasn't her idea to be named that, she found a way to fulfill the name's intent.  Wait?  You don't know who Almira Gulch is?  Really?  You might know her by her stage name - The Wicked Witch of the West.  In The Wizard of Oz, Almira is the black and white version of her technicolor green self.  And she delivers deliberate cruelty and fear across the spectrum of color.  And while Dorothy ultimately destroys her (she liquidated her, according to the Wizard), there is a scene prior to the trip to Oz that is symbolic of HR.

Auntie Em, the perennial calling card for home, is face to face with Almira Gulch.  Em has the perfect opportunity to tell Almira off.  Ms. Gulch has come to take away Toto (not Toto!), and it's crushing to the young Dorothy.  Em's maternal instinct kicks in and she's ready to take on this brash lizard of a woman.  And what does she say?  "Almira Gulch, just because you own half the county doesn't mean that you have the power to run the rest of us. For twenty-three years, I've been dying to tell you what I thought of you! And now... well, being a Christian woman, I can't say it!"  NO!

Why didn't she say it?  We're all there with her.  We want Em to haul off and deck her, honestly, and instead she leads us up to the finish line and then falls down just prior.  So frustrating.  We tend to do the same in HR.  

Think about terminations.  There are some that bring great joy to our hearts, admit it.  We're thrilled to see this slug of a human being exit our organization.  This person has been the bane of our existence for too long.  We've spent hours on this person and the situations created as a result.  And while there was hopefully some good that came through it all (management training, refinement of the discipline process), it is still a huge sigh of relief that he/she is gone.

Far be it from me to get my Philly on and ask you to just tell the person off on his/her way out (If you need that help, though, my mom is available for a reasonable cost...she's fantastic at it).  However, there is a truth to be shared.  In terminations, for example, it is helpful to the person for us to share what he/she can take from the experience in prep for the next role.  Frankly, we preach that formal reviews should contain nothing that hasn't already been shared with the employee.  So, sitting with the person on the way out to remind him/her of the progression shouldn't be new news.  What it is though is an honest recap of truth.

Haven't you hired someone and three months later think, "How did this person ever hold a job?"  And yet, they've worked for ten years' previous.  Likely, managers were just glad to see them go and didn't share much to help that person transition to the next role. 

And don't wait for a termination.  Give honest perspective throughout.  Are you afraid of being sued?  Seriously?  Anyone can sue any company for any reason.  Why fear what can happen no matter what?  I've watched companies get served lawsuits that are baseless and untrue, and yet still have to settle.  I don't think I am bitter in this, but rather, I take it as constructive freedom.

Please don't lose your basic HR communicative flow.  Frame your words, be thoughtful and encourage dialogue.  Ask perspective questions of the employee.  Be knowledgeable of the situation and prepared to discuss.  And tell the truth.

I would love to tell off a million people, give or take a thousand, but that's not ultimately for their benefit.  However, don't swing the pendulum too far the other way.  Don't live in fear and therefore not share enough.  Give people constructive feedback in an honest framework.  And if you need the release, go outside, behind the building and lose your mind.  And then come in, visit security, watch the video footage and crack yourself up.  You'll be back in the right frame of mind afterwards.