PUTTIN' COLOGNE ON THE RICKSHAW

A Guide to Dysfunctional Management and the Evil Workplace
September 19th, 2014 by William

Driving the Happy Time Tour Bus

Dr. Viktor Frankl M.D., Ph.D. (1905 – 1997) was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. Regarding his concentration camp captivity he wrote: “And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.”

Of course he was writing about his captivity, but it has amazing similarities to the workplace.

Have you ever asked yourself this question: Is happiness at work the responsibility of the employer or you; the employee? After all, the workplace is a social place, and social interaction should lead to happiness–right? However the fact is the majority of workplaces are not, by their very nature, conducive to employee happiness. Most are sequenced, controlled, compartmentalized and standardized, which by definition, doesn’t promote happiness. Also compound that with a healthy dose of dysfunction and it’s easy to see how it’s tough to be happy at work. So at a personal level ask yourself the real question: are YOU happy at work? If you asked Victor Frankl I’m pretty sure he’d tell you it’s all up to you. Are you driving your own happy time tour bus or are you a passenger waiting for the driver (management) to take you where they want you to go.

The fact is most employees are, by and large, unhappy with their job, working environment and, of course, their boss. I’ve quoted the sad statistics many times in past posts–no need to repeat them here. By definition being in any way unhappy isn’t a fun way to spend your working day let alone your career. I can attest to that from my own career–there’s only a handful of jobs in which I truly had fun and was “happy.”

In their article, “Workplace Fun and its Correlates: A Conceptual Inquiry,” Mildred Golden Pryor, et al. sum up the modern workplace environment and the effect it has on the employees. “A structure which can be the most stifling is a deep vertical hierarchy. In this type of workplace, employees have limited, or no, power, and the organization will typically bestow demerits for bad behavior, and few or no rewards for good behavior. Such an environment has a high potential of minimizing opportunities for fun and creativity. In addition, it may be a source of stress for employees.

“All this breeds negativism and distrust. A toxic triangle exists that is comprised of destructive leaders, susceptible followers, and conducive environments. Yet managers of dysfunctional work environments often contribute to the negativism as they micromanage, abuse power, lack anger management skills, threaten and demean others, and/or engage in other illegal, unethical, or de-motivating behavior. In many organizations a culture of distrust exists among the various constituencies, management and non-management people, team members, horizontally among peers, vertically along the chain of command, and even among organizational members and their customers and suppliers.”

Based on that, it’s obvious that unhappy employees are a necessary bi-product of the way business is structured. There’s no getting around it. So back to that question: Is happiness at work the responsibility of the employer or you; the employee? Based on the reality it obviously falls on the shoulders of the individual employee to make his/her own happiness and fun.

That said, many companies however, do take the need for the employees to have fun at work seriously. Their answer is by providing what’s called “mandatory fun.” This takes the form of parties, dressing up for Halloween, Christmas parties, Birthday cakes, having celebrations when some big milestone has been met, etc. However, mandatory fun is not necessarily fun. It’s just another less un-pleasant form of work. It certainly doesn’t bring employees together as a team. Events that promote team building must come from the team. In fact more team building occurs when a group of employees meet after work at a bar, get mildly inebriated, and then commiserate about their lot in life–now that’s fun. Management needs to stay out of the merry making business.

In the end, if there’s any fun to be had at work it’s up to the individual to create it on their own. So how can we make ourselves happy and thus have fun at work? My advice is really very simple. Happiness, and thus fun, at work is all about being self-confident. Yes–self-confidence is the key. That means feeling confident that you are great at what you do, despite all “evidence” to the contrary that’s provided to you annually in your performance review. Self-confidence is the ultimate self-deception. And self-deception is essential, in fact, to your well-being and your sanity. It allows you to see yourself and your surroundings as they truly are–in other words as a realist. I’ve written about this before–you really have three choices. Be a pessimist, an optimist or a realist. Pessimists are always unhappy, optimists are off the charts dopy-happy, and realists have just the right mix of optimism and pessimism.

So deluding yourself is not such a bad idea–its fundamental for a happy work life. To believe we are having fun at work we need our little everyday delusion, because without it the reality of the workplace would be a harsh, brutal place that most people just wouldn’t be able to bear. In my book Puttin’ Cologne on the Rickshaw I make the case that the best defense is to be able to see the humor in the dysfunction around you. In other words, in the end, sometimes your only choice is to try to love the hell you’re in. It’s just a matter of choice. You can choose lies and bliss, or you can choose truth, and misery. “Driving” the happy time tour bus is much better than simply being a passenger.

Remember what Viktor Frankl said: “Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance.”

From a workplace perspective, Frankl’s “opportunity” means that we have the choice to delude ourselves that we’re happy and things aren’t as bad as they really are. As tough as it may be, self-deluding yourself that you’re happy in the midst of the suckiness is the best way to stay afloat until it’s time to hand in your resignation and move on to the job where you can truly be happy.

Comments

One Response to “Driving the Happy Time Tour Bus”
  1. Stephen says

    good….

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