Kid you not. According to the Wall Street Journal, corralling employees in a conference room and showing them how to make happy is apparently the new black:
Happiness coaching is seeping into the workplace. A growing number of employers, including UBS, American Express, KPMG and the law firm Goodwin Procter, have hired trainers who draw on psychological research, ancient religious traditions or both to inspire workers to take a more positive attitude—or at least a neutral one. Happiness-at-work coaching is the theme of a crop of new business books and a growing number of MBA-school courses.
For the love. Have we taken this happiness business too far? Critics think so. Me, too. But back to the WSJ:
Critics say that pushing positive thinking is just a way for companies to improve morale while they continue to burden employees with the threat of layoffs and an ever-increasing workload. Barbara Ehrenreich’s recent book, “Bright-sided,” blames “positive thinking” for enabling people to avoid confronting a wide range of serious problems in the economy and workplace.
Well, sure. If you’re busy bright-siding yourself, maybe you won’t notice that you’re overworked, you deserve a raise, the guy in the next room just got laid off, and today’s list of things-to-do-when-you-get home is longer than your right arm. There’s that seventy-seven cents on the dollar thing, too, and those structural changes that never quite happened that would allow for gender equity at work — and at home.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with positive thinking. I tend to like it, actually. And it’s a sure thing that running around the office complimenting each other and counting your blessings is definitely a way to improve morale — not to mention your company’s bottom line. But it’s also likely to keep you from making any changes to the status quo. Or maybe even wanting to.
Kinda makes me think of “Up In the Air”, where George Clooney’s character attempts to convince the newly-laid-off that their pink slips represent marvelous opportunity. I’m also reminded of a visit to the corporate campus of this wildly successful and notoriously hip young company for lunch one day. The cafeteria boasted at least seven stations where you could order anything from all-American burgers to grilled fish to Pad Thai to salads to make-your own sandwiches. (In my case, a BLT with an unlimited supply of perfectly cooked applewood-smoked bacon.) We sat outside at an umbrella table, within shouting distance of the lap pool and the sand volleyball court. Lunch was gratis for anyone with a badge. As was breakfast. And snacks. Inside, employees could do their laundry, get their hair cut, see the dentist, and play with their dogs. Out in front? Valet parking.
All of which clearly led to good moral and high productivity. And, since employees could do everything at the office but sleep — and lots of them did that, too — insanely long hours at work. Quite the trick, when you think about it.
Which brings us back to the happiness coaches. Another kind of Kool-Aid? They trainers suggest workers do a number of concrete on-the-job tasks to up their happiness quotient:
Write e-mails to your co-workers every day thanking them for something they have done. Meditate daily to clear your mind. Do something for somebody without expecting anything in return. Write in a journal about things you are thankful for; look for traits you admire in people and compliment them. Focus on the process of your work, which you can control, rather than outcomes, which you can’t. And don’t immediately label events good or bad, but remain open to potentially positive outcomes of even the most seemingly negative events.
Not exactly rocket science. But good ideas nonetheless. And I’d be all over it. Sigh. If only I had the time.