What is joy?

It’s activities which make you feel good, happy, cheerful ,positive and content. Only you are the judge of joy and what the experience is like, especially when it comes to work.

Why is joy important at work?

We spend the majority of the time in our lives working. Isn’t this the reason enough to enjoy work?  Sadly, the usual experience of work for many people is quite the opposite. For many people, work is the experience of something to endure, get through as quickly as possible, and get over with until something else better comes along. Doesn’t this seem like a waste of one’s life when the majority of it is spent just getting by until we are struck by better luck or fortune?

Why many people don’t enjoy their work?

Many work cultures in the pursuit of making money treat people as children with endless silly rules of compliance, competitions, and far too many rules. As a result, people adapt survival behaviors to cope while wearing a protective mask to get through the day. These masks are meant to cover up feelings, emotions, opinions and sadly many good ideas. People pay a heavy price as does the society when the pursuit of profit has a higher priority over people.

How managers can enable joy at work?

First, managers should understand that people will be more productive when they work without fear, the threat of punishment or even the promise of reward. Managers need to be great teachers, role models always seeking how to enable others to be joyful in their work. This takes a humanistic approach to lead others. It doesn’t take much skill to seek compliance, issue orders or control and command.  When people align what they are good at and which they are motivated to do along with their deep interests, energy increases at work and people achieve great results for themselves and their organizations. Instead, in many organizations we see quite the opposite reaction from leaders.

For example, recently the CEO at Yahoo announced that all their workers are no longer able to work from home. The rationale from HR was this would encourage people to work better together. Much time is in fact wasted at work with non-value added meetings, coffee breaks and terrible processes like performance management. This decision which comes from a combination of inexperience and an organization is crisis will generate the opposite behavior then intended. Many folks will avoid working at Yahoo, the workers will literally feel like they are in job prison and many will withdraw their creativity and new ideas as a result of feeling in compliance. This new policy by the way comes after the new CEO initially announced free food and smart phones. People are more complex than the  simple  carrot and stick model of management. In fact, leaders need to be a role model of fairness. This CEO also built a nursery at work to care for her newborn child. This would be fine if all parents were given this option, but I think most would rather just have a flexible schedule!

Why enabling joy not compliance is most important for managers?

It should be obvious but sometimes we forget. People will spend the majority of their life working. When this work comes without joy or meaning, work becomes empty, useless and as a result potential is halted, wasted and harder to achieve. The results for people who experience joy in their work are greater. People grow, relationships are deeper, productivity soars, and people find new meaning and significance in their work.

What are the results for the organization?

I hope Yahoo’s CEO and other leaders take note. When people experience joy at work and not compliance they are loyal, committed, happy, and energized to offer new ideas. They are more productive. This provides great results for people, organizations and society.

Next steps?

Are you leading others? Aim to enable joy in your followers at work. This is both an art and a science. Command and control compliance organizations are like the dinosaurs, out of date and going extinct. 

 and strives to achieve it as a priority. This results in a work culture which is an enabler for joy and great results.

I’ll be cheering you on as you go!

Craig Nathanson


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