Profit or Happiness?

Harvard Business School launched a seven-week Leadership and Happiness class in 2020. It is designed, apparently, to give attendees a better understanding of the basis of their own happiness and of their emotional strengths/weaknesses and enable them to ‘lead others in a way that increases happiness.’

The course documentation says that ‘to be a successful leader you need to understand happiness and manage to it – yours and others. Unfortunately, most leaders have to learn this fact by hard experience. They are never exposed to the expanding science of happiness, which contains a wealth of information on how to be happier as a leader and make others happier as well.’

So, all you leaders and managers out there, get to it!

You can no longer be just a profit-driven manager these days, with eyes only on the bottom line. Harvard teaches its students that that it is no longer enough, because workers, in large numbers – having been buffeted by Covid-19 – are leaving their jobs (the Great Resignation), changing their work patterns and generally rethinking what they want to do. They are seeking to optimise their pay and their work-life balance because their general levels of happiness and contentment have suffered and they increasingly question what they are doing with their lives and who they are working for.

Harvard believes, therefore, that happiness has to be focussed on and it suggests that leaders and managers need to look at the following four key areas not only for yourself, but also for the people you are responsible for: family; friends; meaningful work; and a life philosophy. Attending to these will mean you can create a happier workplace, be a better boss and gain a competitive advantage for your business.

Harvard itself now has a VP of Happiness for its student association who, according to The Times, is ‘sharing cheery posts from around the campus on social media and helping classmates to unwind with massages and sessions with therapy dogs.’

One can be cynical about this Harvard course, but I’m not at all dismissive of it, more disappointed that it is deemed to be necessary. Surely we all want to be happy – and to enable others to be happy – at work.

To round off, I offer a few random observations of what might lie at the root of achieving happiness for ourselves and others in our work lives:

  • treat people as human beings who have lives of their own,
  • be honest with colleagues, customers and clients
  • have a sound moral code (and a good grasp of ethics) which you rigorously follow and demand others work to the same high standards
  • share business goals and ambitions openly
  • be fair in your dealings with colleagues, adaptable when called for, but resolute when required to be so
  • encourage personal development and individual fulfilment
  • don’t expect the business to be the be all and end all for everyone you work with
  • be understanding of the daily pressures everyone faces
  • make the work environment as pleasant as possible
  • be flexible and trusting in how people carry out their work
  • reward effort as well as performance and results
  • be creative and imaginative in business solutions
  • expect the unexpected – it is never what you think is going to happen that actually happens
  • keep a sense of the ridiculous and a working sense of humour
  • keep a sense of proportion
  • read and encourage everyone to use the book, The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holliday and Stephen Hanselman which offers 366 short meditations on wisdom, perseverance, and the art of living.

Published on Feb 22, 2022 by Neil Thomas