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Happiness and the Zen of Work

Work is a four-letter word so can it ever be fun? According to the Conference Board, maybe not. In a recent survey, nearly half of respondents expressed dissatisfaction about doing work that was neither meaningful nor engaging. In contrast, six out of ten survey-takers declared themselves happy in 1987. Somewhat disturbing for would be recruiters is that angst and disappointment was not unique to any particular age group or income level though persons under 25 expressed "the highest level of dissatisfaction ever recorded by the survey for that age group."

As many on the hiring side know already, finding talent can be time-consuming and sap energy from even the most ardent employers. Now add the challenges of retaining productive workers while adding bright-eyed team members in a sad sack era of layoffs, mistrust and diminished budgets. Besides turnover costs, the bottom line could be impaired if few cheer lead for their company, collecting a pay check and already planning for the next gig.

Click to read more about "I Can't Get No...Job Satisfaction, That Is: America's Unhappy Workers," The Conference Board, January 5, 2010 press release entitled "U.S. Job Satisfaction at Lowest Level in two Decades. Click to read "Where America Stands: The State of America and Its Future," CBS News Poll, January 4, 2010 which echoes the observation that not everyone is optimistic about what the future holds.

In an attempt to end this blog post on an upbeat note, I invite interested readers to take a look at the work conducted by best selling author Marcus Buckingham. Rather than dwell on employees' weak points, he urges organizations to focus on strengths. According to his website, this author of "Go Put Your Strengths to Work" and "Now, Discover Your Strengths" urges that "individuals and teams playing to their strengths significantly outperform those who don't in almost every business metric."

The discussion that needs to take place now is one of responsibility.

  • Who should properly motivate and on what basis?
  • Do  happy, satisfied workers self-select by joining companies that provide "thank you" goodies such as great benefits, bonuses and opportunities to retool?
  • How much should and can employers do to make work fun or at least a place where people want to be for a reasonable period of time each day?
  • What can organizations do to overcome the survivor worries that accompany any recession?
  • How should benefit plans be modified, if ever, to marry together financial pressures with the part of the bottom line that is attributable to human capital?

We may never emulate Snow White's seven friends ("Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Work We Go") but obviously something has to give if one out of every two workers is unlikely to stay put for more than a few months.

Disclosure: No positions