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Three Ways to Be Happier at Work

June 29, 2015

I read a couple of interesting comments in response to my post, “Can Mindfulness Be Legislated?”. That post discussed the movement toward flat management hierarchies and their effect on employee interactions and productivity. The gist of the comments raised the following question: will individuals be motivated in an organizational system (e.g., Holacracy) that encourages cooperation and emotionally intelligent behavior?

Probably more than a few readers assumed from my blog post that in a Holacratic organization there is no reward for individual achievement. That is not true: “Zappos, for example, is still figuring out how compensation will work for the company. It is currently experimenting with HolacracyOne’s Badge-based Comp App, which assigns skills, talents, and capacities to badges, which have monetary value.

Of course, there is evidence that money is not the most powerful or effective motivator of individuals. According to the oft-quoted Daniel Pink in his book Drive, the three sources of motivation are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Presumably, any organizational model that encourages the development of these elements in employees will have a highly motivated workforce.

Interestingly, if we start with the general premise that individuals want to maximize their “happiness,” Chade-Meng Tan of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI) cites evidence that there is also a threshold for salary above which emotional well-being increases much more slowly (for example, it’s $75,000 for Americans according to one study). Thus, maybe money DOES buy happiness, but only a certain amount. Hsieh in his book Delivering Happiness, talks about 3 types of happiness, in order of increasing sustainability: pleasure, passion, and higher purpose.

Jon Kabat-Zinn defined Mindfulness as, “Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally”. Thich Nhat Hanh, refers to Mindfulness poetically as, “keeping one’s consciousness alive to the present reality”. According to Tan “Simply put, I think Mindfulness is the mind of ‘just being’. All you really need to do is to pay attention moment-to-moment without judging. It’s that simple.”

When approaching the corporate world, mindfulness practitioners generally offer to teach it in a secular way for stress reduction and increased emotional intelligence. The trick is convincing people that certain behaviors (e.g., greed) are an obstruction to long-term happiness. As you might imagine, a spiritual component can be added to mindfulness practice that incorporates a particular philosophical or moral foundation.

In the Holacracy Constitution, there are no rules on the purpose or morality of an organization or role. However, as stated on the HolacracyOne website: “According to the Holacracy Constitution, even though you can do anything you deem useful to express your role’s purpose, you may NOT cause an “impact within a Domain … owned by another sovereign entity” (article 1.3). In other words, you can’t violate another sovereign entity’s integrity or property — inside or outside the organization. This is common sense, but it also has deep implications.”

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