At Work, Like Anywhere Else, Happiness Can’t Be Mandated
The National Labor Relations Board has issued a ruling against T-Mobile for violating the law by including in its bylaws a provision that required its employees “to maintain a positive work environment in a manner that is conducive to effective working relationships.”
Beyond the harm to freedom of speech and rights to organize, this provision also raises the question of happiness at work.
“When anything feels forced or externally controlled, it doesn’t tend to be as beneficial as when it’s coming from the self. The irony is, when you’re trying to get people to do something positive, you can’t do it. Once it’s required, it’s fake and forced. What you create instead is a negative backlash. It feels like Big Brother.“
To me, happiness (or fun) at work must be encouraged and nurtured, not demanded or enforced. Its fundamental condition, as with any emotion, is authenticity. Leaders who want to foster happiness in their team must be authentic regarding their management objectives (performance and happiness or, better, performance through happiness) and principles.
In this regard, a manager’s ability to empathize with their employees is essential. Human beings are not robots: Their emotions in the workplace are largely influenced by their personal lives. The managers who don’t take this reality into account can’t understand some of the reactions of their employees.
Of course, managers shouldn’t be intrusive in their employees’ private lives. But they should be active listeners, letting their employees know that everything is open for discussion – not only their professional performance.