Happy IN work vs. Happy AT work

I had an email from a reader who gave me permission to anonamise it and share:

[After working in sales and feeling something was missing] I moved into the care sector, retrained and was running the company after 3 years. He’s where it differed, there was and still is very little margin in the sector for any financial rewards. Care practitioners are on slightly more than minimum wage and do not have a reasonable fuel allowance. In domestic care they are accountable legally for the care/support they give and must attend quarterly supervision (by law) and have to retrain yearly. They work 24/7 365 on a rota.

Last year I moved to a new company and had to explain to 300 staff why their duties would expand due to ward closures, their area of travel would increase, but I wasn’t or rather couldn’t pay them any more. They were not happy. As qualified care practitioners, they were on less than staff on supermarkets check-outs.

I had of course checked the budgets, asked the directors for an increase and took another look over the council contract, where I realised that the contract was worth less than the previous year. When I queried this, I was told “carers do it because they care, not for the money“.

How about that for assumption. I handed my notice in soon after…

Classic management screw up, making an assumption about their people ‘they do it because they care, not for the money.’

The huge flaw in that logic is not understanding the difference between being happy IN work and happy AT work. The carers were happy to be IN work in a profession where they had real meaning and improved people’s lives, but it´s impossible to be happy AT work if you’re paid so little that money is a huge, pressing stress and you’re worried sick about paying the bills.

This is all too common in the charity sector where employers believe it’s enough for people to be working for a cause they feel passionate about and so don’t pay people enough or create a good working environment. At best, this is de-motivating, and at worst it makes great people leave and take their talents elsewhere.

Conversely, in many corporate jobs, including sales much of the time, the opposite is true. You get paid really well and have a nice comfortable life so you feel happy AT work but if you feel like you’re just being paid in order to make even more money for shareholders then there’s very little to make you happy IN work. And again this can cause great people to lack motivation or leave.

The key therefore is to create organisations with a very clear, higher purpose that people believe in and want to be a part of, and to ensure that you pay people enough to take money off the table as an issue so that they can focus on work. Once these base level needs are met you can then work up to higher levels of human satisfaction through recognition, social belonging and mastery of their craft which will take their motivation and performance to soaring heights.

Inspiration Sunday: Why happiness is the new productivity

Here’s an awesome presentation from Vishen Lakhiani the founder of one of the Worldblu Most Democratic Companies – Mindvalley.

There’s so much I love in here:

  • The focus on being happy NOW (not putting off happiness until you’ve achieved other things)
  • Achieving a state of Flow
  • Rituals like ‘ringing the bell of awesomeness,’ ‘the gratitude log’ and even guided group meditations!

All of this has created an incredible workplace at Mindvalley that attracts and grows fantastic people, and that leads to success for the company as a whole.

The only thing I’m not sure about is the idea of sharing 10% of company profits on a monthly basis. I am all for profit sharing, but my fear would be that with it being a monthly thing, people may quickly grow used to it and instead of it feeling like a bonus it could come to feel like an entitlement. I’m sure that it is a motivator but I’m not convinced of the long-term value of it. But it’s part of a mix that’s working for Mindvalley so good luck to them.

Oh and if you’re thinking that all of this wacky stuff is fine for a company whose average age is 24 but not for a ‘grown up’ business, then just remember that these ‘Generation Y’ people are the senior leaders of the future so if you want to have them developing in your company then you need to create the right environment for them NOW.