Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Happiness in the Workplace

This Fast Company article, 3 Uncommon Ways to Drive Happiness in the Workplace, caught my eye as a job seeker as well and a future manager. It’s interesting to consider the evolution of workplace and role of the organization in providing structure, safety, monetary gain, and happiness in a workers’ lives. When you think of the labor laws over the past 100 plus years things look very different. However, I found it especially curious how the three elements included in the positive psychology definition of happiness correspond with the work of an artist or a non-profit. They are:

Positive Emotions: What we feel. Pleasure, joy, and comfort.
Engagement: The flow that comes from the frequent use of one’s greatest strengths and talents while doing gratifying work.
Meaning: Having strong connections with other people, personal growth, and feelings of achievement.

As leaders of people who—I assume—are inherently and/or keenly aware of these factors driving them towards the work they pursue it seems important to foster an environment that reenforces these positive elements. The three factors for driving happiness in the workplace, as suggested in the article, seem like an obvious and easy place to start. I think this also resonates with Lencioni’s message about maintaining the message and purpose in every aspect of the employee’s role and in each and every communication.

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3 comments on “Happiness in the Workplace

  1. evanjsanderson
    November 20, 2014

    I read a book a few years back by Tal Ben Shahar called “Happiness” that was about how people become happy, and one of the key factors he kept returning to was purpose. Not only in their jobs, but in their relationships as well. He posited that people are happy when they feel that they have a purpose in their lives, and that figuring how to gain a sense purpose is fundamental to feeling happy. Seems obvious, but this article points to some of the reasons why that might be. And I think you are exactly correct, Emily – arts organizations do seem poised to be able to provide a purpose that goes beyond monetary gain and financial stability. I think, in a larger sense, that’s the benefit of being a leader of a non-for-profit organization over a for-profit. As we discussed last week, there are many disadvantages when it comes to capital structure, but there is one wonderful fundamental advantage – we are doing this because we care about it and it gives us purpose.

  2. amyjoforeman
    November 21, 2014

    This article seemed so strange to me. I kept thinking, “yes, that seems so obvious.” At the end of the article, I was shocked when the author said, “Many of us can’t get beyond the traditional belief that happy workers produce unhappy shareholders.” That seems like majorly backwards thinking.

  3. benjamendouglas
    November 21, 2014

    Thanks for sharing this! Three things:

    – I spent a year (on and off) working with a career coach whom I very much respect, trying to figure out what makes me tick, what’s important to me in a work environment, my goals, etc. This article very much aligns with my personal standards, with two bits thrown in:

    – “Hire people with heart” sounds like a positive spin to what a former boss told me during an interview: “I have a no assholes rule. I refuse to hire assholes.” What she failed to mention was that there wasn’t any room for one, because she used up all of the room for assholes in that office.

    – Since arts orgs are notoriously short-staffed, and under-funded, I feel like most of the orgs I’ve worked for would’ve had much lower ratios of positive-to-negative words out of necessity and all those things that are bred from that kind of stress.
    Even still, if the environment is otherwise “healthy”, especially when adding the satisfaction that working in the arts brings (even when it’s a less-positive setting) I feel that the experience can still be rewarding overall.

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