Work satisfaction on a Valentine’s card ?

Last week, I attended a late New Year’s reception and met a guy whose business card announced that he was a Chief Happiness Officer. ‘A what ?’, I thought. However, I remained polite and asked  ‘So what does a CHO do ?’

‘I take care of the wellbeing of all our employees. That means that I stimulate initiatives to ensure that people feel happy at work and that all emotional needs are fulfilled’.

‘So, what do you actually do ?’ inquired an accountant who had joined the conversation.

‘Well, yesterday, I launched the ‘Appreciation Action’ to invite our employees to send a Valentine’s card to their colleagues’.

Why do companies think they need a CHO who ensures happiness for all employees ? Obvious ! They want employees to stay put and to be more productive. They say happy cows produce more milk, don’t they ?  Does this mean we all need our work environment to boost Hallmark’s business around Valentine’s ? Should we squeeze in pizza parties with colleagues on Friday evening or - lord forbid ! - attend early morning get-togethers ? Is our work satisfaction dependant on a billiard table in the office restaurant ? And do you really need a separate function to organise all that ?

Ask anyone : I am the last person to say no to fun at work (especially when it’s not ‘on command’).  However, the happiness that this type of initiatives provides has little to do with real joy or with the factors that bring true work satisfaction.  Managers,  make a mental note of the following 3 tips; they work for most people :

1. Autonomy :  Give employees enough freedom and support so that they can take decisions on how to do their job.

2. Connection : Make sure that your team members feel accepted for who they are and make sure your team has a clear common goal.

3. Talent : Give team members the opportunity to make use of their personal talents and allow them to keep developing these talents (or discover new ones).

Of course, HR can also play an important role to create the climate in which these three factors can be deployed.

No objection to the extra cherries that the CHO potentially puts on the cake. However, if your focus goes to fancy initiatives or funky job titles and you fail to address the real needs, Valentine’s wishes won’t help - in fact - they might even create cynicism.

All this made me think of the day I went to get a coffee in the coffee corner of a company I used to work for. It was 9 AM and to my big surprise I bumped into a fuss-ball table. I smiled. Two weeks later, I noticed a warning sign : ‘You are allowed to play between 12 and 1PM only. A game can last no longer than 5 minutes so that others can play as well’.  If you’d like to become their next CHO : give me a call !

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