May 16, 2022

"Behavioral economists and psychologists have, in recent years, shown employers that there’s a business case for their fixation on positivity."

"One study in the Journal of Labor Economics found that people who were given chocolates to eat and comedies to watch — common happiness generators — were 12 percent more productive than a group left alone.... 'There’s evidence that we get the causal arrow of happiness wrong,' said Laurie Santos, a cognitive scientist who teaches Yale’s popular course on happiness. 'You think, "I’m feeling productive at work and things are going well at work and therefore I’m happy." But the evidence seems to suggest that the other arrow exists as well, that happiness can really affect your work performance.'...  But many see a risk for workers in believing that their employers are cultivating an emotional relationship with them, when in reality the relationship is about money. 'Your boss is not there to provide you with happiness,' said Sarah Jaffe, author of 'Work Won’t Love You Back.' 'No matter how much they say they’re focusing on happiness, they’re focusing on profits.'"

From "Are You Happy? Your Boss Is Asking. To some, the pursuit of workplace happiness — and its price, like an $18,000 'happiness M.B.A.' for managers — can seem like a corporate attempt to turn feelings into productivity" (NYT). hap


gilbar said...

that people who were given chocolates to eat and comedies to watch — common happiness generators — were 12 percent more productive than a group left alone

Okay, Serious Question.. IF they're providing chocolates and comedies to watch..
WHO cares WHY they're doing it? mmmmm Chocolates!!!!

The First Thing they tell you when introducing your children to fly fishing is: Bring LOTS of Snacks
The Second Thing they tell you is: People are children too

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

If you have a good work ethic then the satisfaction of a job well done should make you happy. If you are not satisfied with your own output or your efforts are purposely weak then taking time out to “watch comedies” won’t improve outcomes.

iowan2 said...

Your synopsis does not differentiate between the boss supporting the employee, vs, perks given to all. Productive people quit, because they are being ignored, not because they found a place that lets them watch movies (and are still ignored). Plus there is a commonality across the payroll. But with in that, people respond to different incentives differently. I personally like negative feedback. I use that to determine by bosses expectation. Others withdrawal and get mad. But that's why managers make the big buck to know those things.

Leland said...

I’ve always been wary of workplace initiatives to make me “happier at work”. I’m always happier at home, because I chose the people there and enjoy being with them. I can be happy with work, but happier usually is a gimmick to convince me stay at work longer. It is too easy to see the gimmick for what it is, and it is repelling. Save the money spent on consultants, give me a pay raise with the savings, and I’ll give you more production to make us both happier.

Richard said...

Corrected or the Hawthorne Effect?

What's emanating from your penumbra said...

"No matter how much [your bosses] say they’re focusing on happiness, they’re focusing on profits."

This seems mostly true. On the other hand, part of being profitable in many industries is maintaining a high quality workforce. So even if you assume that the employer prioritizes profit over all else, it still doesn't mean they won't do things to increase their employees' happiness.

But the happiness of the employees is not the goal. Who in their right mind thinks it should be? Was the business formed, and all the risk taken by the employers, primarily to make their employees happy?

Are the employees working at those jobs to make the employers happy? Or are they focusing on their own careers and compensation?

Paddy O said...

There's a whole field of philosophy focused on emotions and emotions are part of almost every religious philosophy as well, one way or another. One of the most naive and scientifically wrong-headed assumptions of the modern era was to dismiss emotions and feelings entirely, as if that is possible. It's not, so instead of being navigated, dealt with, or even used for their strengths, the emotions got repressed or diverted.

We are animals and emotions are a way our body engages the world and orients us, though we can get off kilter with them, there's a substantive wisdom in our emotions if we become mature in understanding and discernment.

This is all through, especially early, Christian teaching, going back to Paul's orienting contrast in Galatians 5 where he talks about the fruit of the Spirit vs the passions of the world. Unlike, say Buddhism, Christianity doesn't teach negation of the emotions but orienting them in a sense of fullness of life and calling in the wisdom of what we say Christ teaches. So it's not just temporary pleasures like handing out cookies, but a sense of being in tune with self and calling and purpose. That's where joy is, and patience, and hope, in investing more and more of self toward a cause because there's a sense of thriving in it.

Good teachers do this instinctively, they don't just teach content, they frame the content in ways that invite student emotional investment and connection, then with that in place, learning just leaps forward.

This is true across any kind of organization. Leaders are attentive to the emotions and are intentional about orienting them toward the desired direction and sensitive to where negative emotions may be highlighting issues before they come to light.

Happiness, for instance, is just another way of talking about positive morale. And yes, it's the job of a leader to be attentive to morale.

Ahouse Comments said...

Work certainly will love you back. A satisfying job, well done and especially if recognized as well done by superiors, colleacues and/or customers come pretty close to love.

The real problem is that most jobs are not particularly satisfying and there is little that can be done about that.

John LGKTQ Henry

Critter said...

Employees used to believe that corporations would be loyal to them if they did good work and were loyal to the corporation. The endless restructurings, right-sizing, and leveraged buyouts of the 1980’s and 1990’s pit an end to that. Since then, employees are skeptical about most initiatives that intend to get employees to be more productive. But it seems like there is a need to attempt things just for credibility. Kind of like remembering flowers on your anniversary. Does it change your relationship with you wife? Maybe for a few days.

Paddy O said...

The bigger problem in today's world"

"But many see a risk for workers in believing that their politicians are cultivating an emotional relationship with them, when in reality the relationship is about money."

rhhardin said...

It's a common cause of hapiness, not causation from one to the other. Not being a woman is a big one.

Michael K said...

Flow by Csikszentmihalyi addressed this 30 years ago.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience teaches how, by ordering the information that enters our consciousness, we can discover true happiness, unlock our potential, and greatly improve the quality of our lives.

Mastery of some skill like driving a car was his example.

What's emanating from your penumbra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
What's emanating from your penumbra said...

Not seen tomorrow in NYT:

"Are your employee being nice to you? Some think workers are nice to their bosses because they want a raise or other perks, want to be promoted, or perhaps just don't want to be fired. Not because they really like you and want you to be happy."

n.n said...

The travails of high self-esteem, unearned self-confidence, and progressive consternation, constipation, and conflict.

Howard said...

I don't have any peer-reviewed scientifically validated double blind studies to prove it but in my experience people are either happy or they're not or somewhere in between and it doesn't matter what kind of external pressure is acted upon them. People's level of happiness or misery seeks its own level with the individual.

dbp said...

""No matter how much they say they’re focusing on happiness, they’re focusing on profits""

Who cares? Whether the boss is trying to make you happy because he cares about you or because he wants you to be productive, you still get to be more happy. It would we churlish to be upset if, as a result of being happy, you were a little more productive.

Gospace said...

Told a manager years ago that there ought be a screening for potential employees in retail. Put them ins a room, and show them 30 minutes of comedy clips, all kinds. Obseve them. Anyone who doesn't laugh through most of it, or looks uncomfortable at any part of it- don't hire them.

People without a sense of humor make everyone around them miserable.

gilbar said...

When i was working at MCI (2nd shift mainframe computer operator)
Our Boss got a bonus for 'uptime', He then bought our crew Very Nice sweatshirts that were labeled:
MCI Cedar Rapids Data Center

THEN, reminded us that we couldn't wear them at work because the company sweat shirts would violate the company dress code.
Surprisingly, the sweatshirts Did effect morale.. They lowered it further.

IF he had boughten us boxes of chocolates (or, more traditionally; pizza) his money would have been better spent.
Corollary: Once a month we'd have to come in early for a departmental meeting. We did NOT mind this AT ALL; because there were free cookies and donuts
Food Works

tommyesq said...

It is amazing to me how many workplaces do not involve anyone telling another person that they have done a good job on something. A pat on the back costs nothing, doesn't have to be done all that often to hold meaning, and makes most employees eager to continue to gain such approval. Plus, in my experience, anyone who does not respond to this will be unlikely to respond to the chocolate, comedies, or $18k consultants.

TheOne Who Is Not Obeyed said...

This goes hand in hand with the new corporate obsession with "employee engagement". It's all to get us to work harder for less, or to shift the corporate environment to coddle the newbies from the Millenial and Gen Z cohorts who need to feel special and "seen" and have their existence validated every time they show up for work on time.

I recently participated in our company's "engagement" survey, an annual waste of money and time so the VPs and above will be seen to be doing the right things to validate the kids. We are assured that the responses are anonymous. (Pro tip - if it comes via email that is personalized for you and takes you to a log on screen, it's not anonymous.) I strained mightily and spewed forth as much anti-woke screedage as I could administer politely, as my company is way into wokeness.

Guess what? The survey is not anonymous, as you might have suspected. HR and I had a little chat in which I made it clear that if they didn't want my honest opinion about things they shouldn't ask. I guess I'm "disengaged" but they can't very well fire me for that since that's what they wanted to know.

TreeJoe said...

I've seen perhaps the best and worst of employee engagement...

Almost every company who is privately or publicly owned exists to generate profit for shareholders.

Some are short term focused, some are long term focused. The focus on long-term total returns tends to favor ensuring employee retention and stability.

The idea an employer is focused on your happiness, besides individual people who may actually care about that on a personal level, is naive. Employers focus on happiness as measured by stability, retention, promotions, and other measures. They don't measure whether you are depressed at home, struggling with anxiety, or actual emotional-state measurement.

Kai Akker said...

---If you are not satisfied with your own output or your efforts are purposely weak then taking time out to “watch comedies” won’t improve outcomes.

But could make Hell more bearable. Nothing to sneeze at.

ColoComment said...

Further to John LGKTQ Henry's comment at 5/16/22, 10:25 AM, by way of example of how nice it is to receive an "Attagirl."

Coincidentally, my daughter (an independent contractor who contracts with realtors/title companies/financial institutions to perform real estate loan closings in the purchaser/borrower's home, or other convenient location) just posted this yesterday on her fb page:

❤️Love my job!❤️ and love that a company shared this review with me cuz they usually don’t:

Here is a copy of the borrower’s comment:

Was your notary signing agent professionally dressed? Yes
Was the agent on time? Yes
Would you work with this signing agent again? Yes
Additional comments:
[Daughter's name] promptly contacted me. Arrived on time, providing professional and knowledgeable mobile notary services. Took extra time to ensure a complicated power of attorney document was appropriate and checked every signature for accuracy. She explained each document and took time without rushing the process. By far, the most precise closing I have ever had. Additionally. she was respectful of our property and house and was kind, efficient and personable. 5 stars and more.

Again, great job [_____]. !!!

Freeman Hunt said...

My impression from work was that employees were happiest when politicking wasn't rewarded and things seemed to be basically fair. Best environment for a wide variety of personalities to get along.

Owen said...

What about just trying to find ways to be happier about whatever you're doing? If one of the dividends is more productivity and that produces better payoff at work --better assignments, more positive recognition, bonuses, etc-- what's not to like?

What's the downside?

mikee said...

"One study in the Journal of Labor Economics found that people who were given chocolates to eat and comedies to watch — common happiness generators — were 12 percent more productive than a group left alone..."

This is called the Hawthorne Effect. The process improvement experts at Western Electric discovered way back last century that changing anything - ANYTHING - on the factory floor resulted in a productivity boost, for a while. More light, less light, cooler workplace, warmer workplace, standing, sitting, music, silence, any change known to the workers got the workers' productivity up for a short while. This must be controlled in all studies of psychology, behavior, productivity.

gilbar said...

Ahouse Comments said...
The real problem is that most jobs are not particularly satisfying and there is little that can be done about that

totally true! little indeed!
however, Several places i worked at, had something called "Employee Appreciation Day"
It was every couple of weeks (almost ALWAYS on a Friday)..
when the company would let you know, just EXACTLY How much they thought of you.
It was really pretty nice.. I'm Not At ALL Sure, that i would work at a place that Didn't do that