Work Emotion: How Can I Be Happy at Work and Still Succeed? Part 1

Posted by Bridget Beirne
August 28, 2014

by John Buxi

We're pleased to bring you another Blog Exchange, with thoughts on happiness in the workplace from Guest Blogger (and Friend of Ovation) John Buxi. As a Strategic Communication and Diversity Leader, John brings his knowledge (and great sense of humor) to today's leaders as well as tomorrow's emerging professionals. You can check out his blog, or follow him on the Twitter, @JustaSymbol. Thanks again, John!



Happy. That one word seems to be all we’re about… but why?

Is it because this emotion makes us feel…like we’ve arrived?

Funny enough, it is only recently though, that ‘happy’ has come to mean the experience of ‘contentment’, or ‘pleasure’. Before WWII certainly, it meant something very different.



 Such as Child Labor Laws not being fully in place till 1938.


The Origin of Happy goes back to, of all things, Luck – as in ‘happenstance’ or ‘happening’. It is unclear if Happiness was simply rare, but what is clear that while one could experience happiness, making it come about was thought to be out of one’s control.

Until now.


Happiness of the Employee has more recently become a significant managerial goal. Entire philosophies of management like Holacracy – adopted by firms like Zappos – have come up to promote better workplace conditions and install “different mechanisms for processing tensions into actionable clarity.” The idea was that if work was more efficient, communication structured and clear, with some transparency, we would have better work, and less stressful workplaces.

More than that, Happy is now the "work emotion" Companies want their Employees to feel, not because they suddenly care about Employees as people, but more because a link has been made between employees engaging more with the work they do, then evangelizing the company and it’s product/service to the customers, thereby driving profits. 

So, ‘Happy’ has moved from ‘Luck’ to ‘Contentment’ in our Lives.

In the workplace, though, it is defined by engagement in the work itself.

Engagement here, is not just ‘liking’ what one does, it is wanting to thrive at the work one does and be rewarded/recognized for the effort.

“I had this awesome team of smart, capable people who were energized by solving problems…It gives them a chance to be a hero and to flex their muscles. ”

-From “Can Holacracy Work? How Medium Functions Without Managers”-FastCompany.Com

 With that said, though, how does this engagement come about in Holacracy, or other systems like it?





 Fig.1. A chart for how Holacracy Circles work via Holacracy.Org

Instead of Linear Management, Companies like Medium and Zappos are using Function-Oriented Circles called Holons- they’re essentially task-groups focused on particular skills, departments or functions, such as Marketing. Don’t be mistaken though, they still report to someone, and the “CEO” Tony Hsieh is still called “Lead Link”. So it is important to know that there is a hierarchy, just not he typical top-down version.

Who’s in charge can vary based on the job at hand, - so in other words, you may be in-charge for Development (your expertise), but report to someone for Sales.

The big goal though, seems to be replacing traditional hierarchy with a Democratic engagement style, and give folks a Voice.

In other words, make them valued…and happy.

Part 2 of this article will tackle a question everyone would like to know - what actually makes us happy at work? Check back for that and more.




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