How to Keep Workers Happy

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Happy WorkerThere’s a great news article on the BBC site – ‘from heart rates to surveys: How to Keep Workers Happy’ by Nastaran Tavakoli-Far. Great that it neatly illustrates the clear divide in thinking by those involved in staff wellbeing.  Those with narrow understanding advocate collective happiness monitoring and action whilst those taking a more general view talk of one to one manager intervention.

The essence of the BBC article is that on the one hand managers should be sending staff weekly wellbeing questionnaires (to learn how disgruntled they are with management), whilst on the other, managers should be giving staff values, direction and support.  Both are targeting the same problem – lack of happiness.

The article begins by saying that happy workers are more productive.  There is indeed evidence to suggest that job satisfaction tends to yield higher productivity but direct causation would be a bit of a leap.  And the article asserts that higher heart rate and negative mood suggest stress and poor well-being.  And it asserts that, of course, stress is bad for you.  Again that’s a leap to black and white causation and I believe it’s a leap too far.

Ms Tavakoli-Far goes on to cite that just because the internet and smartphones allow monitoring of mood and heart rate and allow completion of surveys, it’s something managers should do. And all anonymous of course.

Some thing’s wrong here.  Stress and well-being interventions and other management ‘happiness’ action must be done on a one-to-one basis – involving the manager and the worker.  Knowing there’s a problem but not knowing who has it does little to help.  And subjecting the whole company or whole group to camping or other collective activity (as noted in the article) will enthrall a few and horrify many, potentially exacerbating the problem.  With all the technology in the World, the manager is, in this case, still blind.

Job satisfaction is derived substantially from the job done and the worker-manager relationship.  It’s here that the focus should be.  Whilst technology often replaces human effort, this time it’s going too far.

So satisfaction is best achieved by good quality conventional management, communicating the firm’s values and giving support and direction.  But most of all managers must develop the listening and sensing skills that will allow poor satisfaction to be discovered locally and worked on locally.

Managers should use daily targeted rifle shots rather than the periodic blunderbuss.

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