Why are conservatives happier than liberals?

The Big Happiness Story Last Week on all the North American sites is the study showing that conservatives are happier than liberals.

Actually the research shows that people with extreme political views tend to be happier than moderates, so the Occupy Wall Street people are happier than those of us who are more moderate in our criticisms of banks and capitalism.  This response to the story in blog post Are Conservatives Happier? brings out some of the more likely reasons why conservatives might be happier than liberals.  And discovers that the happiest man in America is

Alvin Wong. He is a 5-foot-10, 69-year-old, Chinese-American, Kosher-observing Jew, who’s married with children and lives in Honolulu. He runs his own health care management business and earns more than $120,000 a year.

The story has stayed live stateside this week.  In his post Mooney: Are Conservatives Happier Than Liberals? Chris Mooney references social psychologist Arie Kruglanski’s research that found…

Conservatives are uncomfortable with ambiguity and prefer to seize on and hold fixed beliefs and views and offers this thoughtful response: The upshot of this research, to my mind, is that it provides a huge wake-up call to liberals who would dismiss conservatism, and their conservative brethren, without understanding this ideology’s appeal or what its adherents are getting out of it. Overall, the happiness research suggests that conservatism is giving something to people that liberalism is not — community, stability, certainty, and perhaps, in Jost’s words, an “emotional buffer” against all the unfairness in the world…It would be foolhardy to mistake its appeal.  The world is cruel and hard and perhaps, as predominantly atheists suspect, ultimately meaningless.  In this context, it appears, political conservatism is doing much more than political liberalism to get people through the day.

This story has been pretty much ignored in the UK press, despite its potential relevance for us here, and  Happiness – The Mortal Enemy; Part 1 Politics contributes this to the discussion:

Liberalism is an empirical philosophy: for liberals, trust, approval, and respect for the establishment must always be earned and can be taken away at any point. Conservatism is an instinctive philosophy: if a person is part of the group or establishment worth conserving, then a large degree of approval, respect, and trust must be given automatically. It is not a question of conservatives being authoritarian and liberals being meritocratic, it is a question conservatives tending towards belief, and liberals tending towards doubt.

Here’s what the original Harvard study said:

In three studies using nationally representative data from the United States and nine additional countries, we found that right-wing (vs. left-wing) orientation is indeed associated with greater subjective well-being and that the relation between political orientation and subjective well-being is mediated by the rationalization of inequality. In our third study, we found that increasing economic inequality (as measured by the Gini index) from 1974 to 2004 has exacerbated the happiness gap between liberals and conservatives, apparently because conservatives (more than liberals) possess an ideological buffer against the negative hedonic effects of economic inequality.

In Who’s Got the Lock on Happiness? you can read a selection of responses Letters to the Editor in The New York Times.

Meanwhile a new Obama story is just breaking – concerning this quote from a speech Obama gave this week…

“If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. … If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” — Barack Obama

The right-wing critique  Obama considers individual pursuit of happiness a mirage –  suggests that the President draws on a kind of conservative energy in his progressive intellectualism…

the idea of the “moral equivalent of war” as a means of inciting citizens to drop their personal priorities and rally around the state for a government-defined “cause larger than themselves.” 

Sara Ahmed’s The Promise of Happiness maintains that happiness is a promise that directs us toward certain life choices and away from others. Happiness is promised to those willing to live their lives in the right way, and makes us realise that happiness can bring with a duty to conform to the status quo. Part of Ahmed’s exploration draws from Mill on the Floss

Phillip loves Maggie and gives her books that rekindle her sense of interest and curiosity about the world.  He gives he gives her one book that she cannot finish as she reads in this book the injustice of happiness, which is given to some and not to others, those deemed worthy of love…

We could describe happiness as a convention, such that to deviate from the paths of happiness is to challenge convention.  The word convention comes from the verb “to convene” which is to gather, to assemble, or to meet up.  A convention is a point around which we gather.  to follow a convention is to follow in the right way. Feminism gives time and space to women’s desires that are not assembled around the reproduction of the family form…  The word feminism is thus saturated with unhappiness.  Feminists are [automatically] read as destroying something that is thought by others not only as being good but as the cause of happiness.  The feminist killjoy “spoils” the happiness of others because she refuses to convene, to assemble, or to meet up over happiness.

We might say exactly the same for liberals.

For the full research report see Why are conservatives happier than liberals?

Happiness At Work 3 ~ a route map to edition three

Here is guide to through week’s collection of articles, news, reviews, ideas, pictures and sounds linked to Happiness & Wellbeing in our work and in our lives.  

The collection is published every Friday.
To view postings in the previous collections, go to Archives and choose 6 July for edition one and 13 July for edition two.

We hope you find something here to delight, something you can use, something that confirms what you knew already, and something that improves your happiness.  At least…

The Tanks: Art in Action (Tate Modern)

Happiness At Work – edition 3

Our Top Story

The most important story we found is the publication of the Quality of Working Life 2012 report by the Chartered Institute of Management.  It tells a bad news story about how UK management has deteriorated into much more controlling and untrusting style and the damaging consequences this has for organisations and its people, especially in the public sector. See Quality of Working Life 2012 – people are less happy than in 2007 and need training and new support

The Tanks: Art in Action (Tate Modern)

The Story Making the Biggest Noise This Week

Why are conservatives happier than liberals?

The Big Story Last Week on all the North American sites is the study showing that conservatives are happier than liberals.

Right-wing (vs. left-wing) orientation is associated with greater subjective well-being and that the relation between political orientation and subjective well-being is mediated by the rationalization of inequality … increasing economic inequality from 1974 to 2004 has exacerbated the happiness gap between liberals and conservatives, apparently because conservatives (more than liberals) possess an ideological buffer against the negative hedonic effects of economic inequality.

This debate has yet to have an impact here in the UK, but this question is surely worth us asking.

Happiness & Wellbeing At Work

Talent Management – July 2012 – Does Happiness Really Drive Results? is a beautiful e-book and thoroughly worth reading…

Promoting happiness in the workplace is now a scientifically motivated practice that has proven benefits for productivity, profits and people…

Curtis Roosevelt: Austerity? Stimulus? Or Happiness? presents some more strong arguments for why policy makers must take happiness and wellbeing findings seriously.

See too Have Your HR and Leadership Practices Become irrelevant?

25 Qualities Of The Leader In A Happy, Profitable Workplace support the findings from the Quality of Work Life 2012 research starting with…

1) Believes in herself

and completing with…

23) Creates an environment where all in the organization can lead 

In Workplace Happiness: What’s the Secret? Ben Waber’s research reveals factors that affect happiness at work and can increase productivity by up to 25%:

having a tight-knit group that you can commiserate with is a critical, as is a having largish network with plenty of diversity and branching out to talk to people in groups you wouldn’t normally talk to.

In The Right Emotional landscape for High Employee Retention, Granvilled d’Souza draws on a variety of research to show ‘the happiest employees are the most productive and this happens when their bosses are candid, relaxed, trusting and are approachable,’ and concludes with this wonderful musical metaphor:

‘Work satisfaction and keeping people happy at work requires an environment that adds value, fosters encouragement and stresses on people development. This only serves as a constant reminder that each person starting from the top strums the right chord to resonate what the organization stands for.’

In How To Motivate Subordinates Professor Srikumar Rao, author of Happiness at Work: Be Resilient, Motivated and Successful – No Matter What  brings what he calls…

a somewhat contrarian view about ‘motivation’. I think that it is NOT the function of a manager to motivate subordinates. It is his – or her – function to find out what is de-motivating them and systematically get rid of these factors.

This is a clear practical straight forward and helpful piece, but language really matters…

has anyone ever been happy to be called a ‘subordinate?’

Volunteering Makes Happier Employees – see the full technicolour pictorially presentation of what this research is saying.

A new gallup poll reveals The Five Essential Elements of Wellbeing

career + social + financial + physical +community wellbeing
Physiological -> Security -> Love & Belonging -> Self Esteem -> Self-actualisation
and this article provides a good Maslow history lesson (or a reminder for those who are already familiar with his model)

A happy mind is an open mind  is one of the elements of  The Science of Happiness  post How To Solve Problems By Doing Nothing …

Several studies have shown that positive emotions lead to greater internal awareness of our brain’s subtle signals whereas negative emotions cloud our thinking. The happiness you feel after a vacation presents a great opportunity to see problems from a fresh perspective.

Chris Dede’s Five Things I’ve Learned, Professor of Learning Technologies at Harvard, as well as being in fact four things, are not the usual list, but definitely worth a read…

  1. Leadership requires envisioning opportunities.
  2. Leadership requires displacing cherished misconceptions.
  3. Leadership requires inspiring others to act on faith.
  4. Leadership requires inspiring others to act on faith.

If Women Ran Hollywood…2012


Understanding and Playing To Your Strengths

8 Secrets To Happiness (part 4) – Proactive Living concludes its survey with

Know Who Are and What You Love

and offers this link to a free online Personality Test based on Jung Briggs Myers typology

And for an alternative understanding of the different MBTI styles, check out 16 Fiction Characters’ Myers-Briggs Personality Types

Knowing and activating our top strengths and working preferences automatically makes us feel good – about ourselves and about what are able to do and contribute to the world.  Another excellent and free online questionnaire is the Via Me Character Strengths Profile

Personal Happiness

Stefan Sagmeister: 7 rules for making more happiness  TedTalk is a beguiling personal response to the happiness statistics and information…

Using simple, delightful illustrations, designer Stefan Sagmeister shares his latest thinking on happiness — both the conscious and unconscious kind. His seven rules for life and design happiness can (with some customizations) apply to everyone seeking more joy.

A feeling of energy is a key to feeling happy

When you feel energetic, you feel much better about yourself. On the other hand, when you feel exhausted, tasks that would ordinarily make you happy — like putting up holiday decorations, getting ready to go to a party, or planning a trip — make you feel overwhelmed and blue.

Read The Happiness Project Grethchen Rubin’s 7 Tips to Boost Your Energy Levels Fast. The 6th one is Talk to friends.

Happiness Boosts Heart Health  Reported by the Daily Mail as “Cheer up and save yourself a heart attack,” new research seems to show…

The quality of optimism they say is most robustly associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular events. Hedonic wellbeing (based on pleasure and enjoyment) has a stronger association with positive cardiovascular health than eudaimonic wellbeing (based on fulfilling one’s potential and wider social goals)’.

Want To Be Happy? Don’t Pursue Happiness Steve Maizie’s very readable summary – with a link to an e e cummings poem – of how to be happy using Emmanuel Kant’s teachings…

For a truly different account of happiness — one that takes the pursuit of happiness to be fundamentally misguided — we turn to Immanuel Kant, who might sound preachy to the modern ear, but his message is an important antidote to the apparent consensus that we should spend our lives aiming to make ourselves happy.

Maizie’s big think post comes complete with a link to an e.e.cumming poem: three poems

(While you and i have lips and voices which
are for kissing and to sing with
who cares if some oneeyed son of a bitch
invents an instrument to measure Spring with?

each dream nascitur, is not made . . .)
why then to Hell with that: the other; this,
since the thing perhaps is
to eat flowers and not to be afraid.

On Happiness Equations is a great review of the irresistibility, futility and worth of equations to try and measure happiness, and in particular the now famous happiness formula advanced by Positive Psychology supremo, Martin Seligman: H(appiness) = S(set point) + C(ircumstances) + V(oluntary actions), out of which Jeremy McCarthy concludes…

For me, all of these equations are useful.  They force us to use an analytical part of our brain to consider the forces at play between variables that are unquantifiable.   To the critics of these equations, I’d like to share the same advice that Conley gives to his readers . . . “try not to let the math distract you from the bigger message.”

Here is another Happiness Formulae our research has thrown up…

M = (B + S) x A  = BA + SA and therefore

BA = M – SA = M – 1

and B = M-I/A

In the latter case

M = (B-S) x A = BA – SA; therefore BA = M + SA = M + I and B = M+I 33



Answers by the end of class please.

In Fame Not Key to Happiness  some words of wisdom about resilience from celebrity panelists to a school group in India include these from video jockey Juhi Pande

The idea is to give that best attempt because you never know when, what you consider success, shall come to you and you need to hang on till then. When you start working you don’t determine whether it will be appreciated by others or not, that comes later. But, no matter what happens you should not lose conviction or doubt yourself.”

Shut Your Face! 5 Things Women Should Not Say To Men.  No further explanation necessary.

Which Experience Is Best For You? Enjoyment of Experiences is Influenced By Life Priorities and Values research findings include not one but two arts experiences in the top five…

Using data from 142 adults who completed a values survey and an experiential preference survey, Beyond the Purchase was able to determine the top five most appealing activities:

1. A day trip/weekend vacation
2. A dining experience
3. Museums/galleries 
4. A concert 
5. Hiking

No Joke: 5 Guaranteed Ways to Increase Happiness.  We have no idea if these things will work but most of them look fun to try and all of them are small and immediate enough to take a chance with.

Art, Sound and Performance

The Tanks: Art in Action opened Tate Modern’s new performance art space this week including  Suzanne Lacey: Crystal Quilt long luxurious soundscape of women talking about being about life, living, love and relationships at an age when they are…

“not old – ripening…”

Tate Magic Ball is a fun app that you shake to get different selections from the Tate collection based on a complicated algorithm of where you are, weather conditions, time of day and ambient noise levels.

Deborah Warner and Fiona Shaw’s  Peace Camp is only live for 3 days around coastal locations around the UK this weekend, but you can download and enjoy Mel Mercier’s 70minute love poetry soundscape from their website.

Graeme Miller’s new sound show On Air sounds exciting and fresh way to experience the city:  

a durational site-specific radio broadcast that compacts the elements of local radio into a simple poetic system. Graeme Miller will create a continuous commentary on the everyday life of Exhibition Road for nine days from 28 July to 6 August 2012.

This is part of the bigger Cultural Olympiad project On Exhibition Road

a place for Londoners and visitors alike to unwind and recharge during London 2012 with games from the vintage collection at the V&A or readings from ROAD STORIES, a compendium of specially commissioned short stories by well-known authors and music and exhibitions.

Art and the Pursuit of Happiness Further away Londoners, artists Balasbas and Sonio, the Pinoy sense of happiness is best captured in the everyday communal rituals of the streets, soundtracked by the charivari of gossip, intoxicated banter and laughter.In their shared humility and lack of any artistic pretense, both artists map out for us a path to unencumbered happiness in the virtues of contentment and simplicity in their Makati City exhibition.

And we couldn’t resist posting this story about A Shortcut To Happiness, a new Roger Hall play in touring New Zealand with our old acting colleagues Alison Quigan and Stuart Devinie.  Apparently…

“There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.”

UK weather has remained cold, wet and miserable this week, but in New York they’ve had a record-breaking heat wave – wish we were there – which inspired Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings post: A Vintage Love Letter to New Tork’s Heat Wave as the Ultimate Class Equaliser

When a heat wave left the whole city gasping and sweating, a powerful fellowship blunted the edge of the common misery, bridging the most insuperable linguistic barriers, or the most unclimbable social barricades, if only with a wink or a grimace.

Book Reading

Book Review: The Coming Jobs War  Although written very specifically about the USA, Jim Clifton’s conclusions based on a huge amount of Gallup statistics are worth at least looking at.  I have re-presented his findings here substituting ‘America’ with “the country’ – see if you think they have validity for where you are:

  1. The biggest problem facing the world is adequate jobs.
  2. Job creation can only be accomplished in cities.
  3. The three key sources of job creation are: the country’s top 100 cities, its top 100 universities, and its 10,000 local ‘tribal’ leaders.
  4. Entrepreneurship is more important than innovation.
  5. The country cannot outrun its healthcare costs.
  6. Because all public education results are local, local leaders need to lead their whole cities and all youth programs to war on the dropout rate, with the strategy of one city, one school, and one student at a time.
  7. The country must differentiate itself by doubling its number of engaged employees.
  8. Jobs occur when new customers appear.
  9. Every economy rides on the backs of small to medium sized businesses.
  10. The country needs to more than triple its exports in the next five years and increase them by 20 times in the next 30 years.

Or for more positive sustenance, see Book Review: Strengths Based Leadership that highlights Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope as the four crucial capabilities of good leaders.


Enjoy Bill Plympton’s Animated Guides to Kissing and Making Love

Stephen R. Covey dies, author of ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ was 79

Stephen Covey dis this week after a bicycle accident.  Covey’ was a unique, intensely human and special voice, and his ideas and techniques have long been a central vein of our work, especially in our Managing Multiple Priorities Win-Win Negotiating and Leadership Communications  training.

Here is remembered beautifully by his friend, innovation specialist and provocateur Tom Peters…

Remembering Stephen Covey

By Tom Peters
Monday, Jul 16, 2012

Let’s forget the content of his books. Or the gazillions of copies The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, or any of his others books for that matter, have sold around the world. Let’s forget his memorable seminars—and his business success. 

One simply cannot pay tribute to Stephen Covey without saying at the outset that he was a lovely human being. 

Stephen and I have both been figures in the world of “business thinking,” or some such. And in our world, the response to his death seems rather parallel to Tim Russert’s. All in the news industry agreed that Mr. Russert was a remarkable journalist whose body of work had been highly influential. But the heart of the matter was Tim Russert the person. Every tribute oozed warmth for an extraordinary human being. 

Professionally, the term “humanist” could have been invented to encapsulate Stephen’s work. He was a man of the world, and, though in my view an optimist, he was hardly naïve and knew humanity’s darker side. 

Nelson Mandela’s greatest weakness, he has said, may be that he expects the best of all those with whom he comes in contact, including his most intransigent enemies. While I’m not quite drawing a parallel between Covey and Mandela, I will say unequivocally that Stephen expected the best of all of us—and he provided us with straightforward tools and advice to help us get from here to a better there. 

As also in the case of Mr. Mandela, many with whom Stephen had direct or indirect contact surprised themselves as they marched forward with their own enhanced humanism, courtesy of his work and example. 

Let me resort, finally, to the vernacular: I just liked being around the guy. 

I am a pessimist by nature (some find that difficult to believe), and a little dose of Covey from time to time would boost my spirits enormously—and strengthen my commitment to one or another quixotic pursuits. Though we were hardly bosom buddies, I would occasionally get an absurdly generous note from Stephen recognizing this or that that I had done. I often joked with him that, with the passage of time, I was ripping him off more and more. That is, I increasingly underscored essential principals he had articulated clearly and to which I had often given short shrift.  

In short, I will miss Stephen. He stirred my better angels, as he did for millions of others in truly every corner of the world. 

His book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is high recommended reading.

Quality of Working Life 2012 – people are less happy at work than in 2007 and need training and new support


from ‘white man’s burden’ – an workshop exploring 21st leadership (info@bridgebuilders.co.uk)

This week’s Quality of Working Life 2012 report of the research taken in May this year into how UK people are at work provides a vivid snapshot of the human effects the years of economic difficulty, organisational change and uncertainty have brought – especially for people working in the public sector.

“The scale and impact of change over the last five years has been staggering as all of our key measures from the survey have deteriorated markedly since 2007. What is more worrying is that there seems to be no sign of economic conditions getting better – we are in for a worrying time if these trends persist into the future.” – Report author, Les Worrall FCMI, professor of strategic analysis in the faculty of business, environment and society at Coventry University.

Post-recession authoritarian management style depresses job satisfaction, finds CMI/Simplyhealth study

The dominance of negative management styles in UK workplaces is having a serious impact on managers’ job satisfaction, wellbeing and working relationships, according to the report comparing the mental and physical health of managers in 2012 with those in 2007 by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Simplyhealth.

CMI chief executive, Ann Francke, said: “It’s official: especially in a recession, authoritarian is out and empowering is in. It’s more than just words – if you’re a trusting manager and are good to your people you can reap big business rewards. If you’re not, you’re causing stress that is damaging the health of your people and the business.”

Stressed Workplaces Need to Control Wellbeing

Employee wellbeing is at risk under the increasing dominance of negative management styles.  The Quality of Working Life 2012 reported that compared with 2007, managers have been working longer hours, increasingly suffering from ill health and more likely to work despite sickness.  It showed negative management styles were prevailing; 45% reported bureaucratic methods; 33% reactive; and 30% authoritarian.

Management style was closely linked to job satisfaction. Where the prevailing management style was seen as authoritarian, only 28% of respondents were satisfied with their job, compared to 67% of organisations where it wasn’t.

However this Report also states…

In spite of this, there are some hopeful signs that UK managers are ready to build organisations that are ready for the challenges of the next 10 years. There are examples of good organisations out there. These are characterised by more people orientated management styles and behaviours, by high levels of reciprocal trust, by openness, by empowerment and by more consensual approaches to decision making.

What stands out from this research is the crucial need for organisations to find some ways to provide and resource space and time for people to get learning, refection, and training.  The more difficult the things we are facing, the more critically we need the time and space to think creatively through the fullest spectrum of perspectives to find the best ways to progress forward, and new techniques and approaches to increase our repertoire of responses for the new demands and situations facing us…

Training boosts the effectiveness of policies – evidence shows that it is insufficient just to have health policies in place without also having training policies, communications policies and having set clear accountability for the delivery of policy.


While reports about this research, such as are rightly highlighting the high incidence and damages of bad management practice it reveals, too, the conditions in which managers are currently working in…

After analysing the 2012 data we can identify a number of themes that pose serious questions about how UK organisations are being managed:

  • Managers are being put under more pressure as cost cutting, redundancy and deteriorating terms and conditions take their physical and psychological toll.
  • Managers have become less positive about their organisation as a place to work and measures of job satisfaction have declined.
  • Working hours have increased and managers are having to work even longer hours to cope with the volume of work and to meet deadlines.
  • Illness levels have increased but managers seem less likely to take time off work when they are genuinely ill – presenteeism has increased.
  • The types of negative symptons that have increased most – such as feeling unable to cope, difficulty making decisions and avoiding people – are the ones which tend to undermine managerial effectiveness.
  • Managers have lost trust in senior managers’ ability to have their best interests at heart – possibly because senior managers and directors are those charged with putting difficult cost reduction exercises into place.
  • The difference in perceptions between managers at different levels in the hierarchy is wider than ever and we are left feeling that many directors are out of touch with the reality of their organisation as most staff experience it.

The final conclusion of the report is…

Health and wellbeing initiatives – at a time when cost reduction is a major driver of change in many organisations, it is particularly important for employers to understand the potential benefits of investing in health initiatives in the workplace. There may be a clear business case for health improvement initiatives in order to cut the costs of absence levels, but investment decisions should also be driven by the understanding that improved health and wellbeing can generate significant employee productivity benefits as a result of higher levels of engagement.

The research highlights how especially difficult things are for people working in the public sector, and what the knock-on effects of this are in their organisations.  Despite the severe resource shortages, in terms of money and people, this picture demands attention and new strategic thinking and action…

Change is the norm – 92% of managers had experienced organisational change in the last year. The scale and variety of change was highest in the public sector, with 98% experiencing change.

More Organisations are in decline – 46% of public sector managers said their organisation was in decline, compared with 18% in the not for profit sector, and 19 per cent in the private sector.

Wellbeing is worse in declining organisations – the number of managers affected by symptoms of ill-health was markedly worse in declining businesses, compared to growing ones.

Job satisfaction declined significantly – dropping from 62% in 2007 to 55% in 2012. Job satisfaction and many other measures were at their lowest in the public sector.

The clear evidence here is that organisations can not afford to wait to resume their training and learning programmes until things have got better, but rather must find ways to invest in developing leaders whose style and behaviours are open, collaborative, listening, trusting and empowering…

Managers are losing faith in senior managers – in 2012, only 30% thought senior managers were managing change well, compared with 45% in 2007. The percentage that thought senior managers were committed to promoting employee wellbeing also declined from 55 to 39.

Directors have  a much rosier view than other managers – the perceptions of those at the top of the organisation were far more positive than those of junior managers, and this gap has widened since 2007.

Junior managers are the least committed to their organisations – 47% of junior managers said they would leave their present organisation if they could find another job.

Management style, wellbeing, motivation and organisational growth – the most common management styles reported were bureaucratic (45 per cent – up from 40 per cent); reactive (33 per cent – down from 37 per cent) and authoritarian (30 per cent – up from 29 per cent). All these styles have a negative impact on motivation, health, wellbeing and productivity levels.

Leadership style affects job satisfaction – the prevailing leadership style in an organisation was found to be one of the strongest determinants of job satisfaction. The sense of achievement managers got from their job, the extent to which they felt trusted to make decisions, their potential career prospects, the “achievability” of objectives, and whether they felt part of a team were other strong determinants of job satisfaction.

Respect, autonomy, trust and achievement motivate managers – four features emerged as very strong motivational drivers for managers: having the respect of your peers; having the ability to decide how to get jobs done yourself (role autonomy); feeling trusted to make decisions; and, the sense of achievement managers got from their job.

Growth firms have more positive management styles – the prevailing management styles were found to be radically different in growing and declining private sector firms with growth firms far more likely to have accessible, empowering, trusting and consensual senior managers.

Highly motivated managers had higher levels of wellbeing – the highly motivated had taken only 1.3 days absence in the last year compared to 11.3 days for those not motivated at all.


The report also paints a vivd picture of the extra difficulties of the conditions in which people are having to work in, and some of the consequences of these…

Managers are working longer hours – in 2007, 38% of managers worked two hours per day over contract – by 2012, this had increased to 46%. The average manager worked around 1.5 hours per day over contract, which equates to roughly 46 working days per year.

Managers were concerned about adverse effects of long hours – 59 per cent were concerned about effects on their stress levels; 56 per cent were concerned about psychological health; and 63 per cent of parents worried that their hours were affecting their relationship with their children.

Most managers do not feel they have good health – only 42% of managers reported being in ‘good’ health, 37% thought their health was satisfactory and 21% felt their health was poor.

Psychological wellbeing has declined – the likelihood of managers reporting ill-health increased on 12 of our 13 measures with stress showing the largest percentage increase. 42% reported suffering from symptoms of stress (up from 35% in 2007) and 18% reported suffering from depression (up from 15% in 2007).

While this report shows a picture of how things were in May 2012, it recognises that it is essential for leaders and organisations to be able to look ahead and begin to make better solutions that can pull them away from these escalating problems and their costs toward a more possible and successful future, and the report lays out a series of recommendations…

Managing Your Own Wellbeing 

Develop better self-awarenessmany managers need to become more aware of the consequences of their actions and inaction. The style in which you manage can have a real impact on the morale, motivation and productivity of those around you. Managers also need to be more aware of the limits of their own resilience and actively manage their health accordingly. Even relatively minor symptoms can affect your performance at work.

Analyse your own value systems– managers need to critically analyse and question their own value systems. Make time to reflect on your work: ask yourself why you take certain actions and be more explicit about the consequences of the choices you make at work on your health, your family and your long-term wellbeing. 

Balance work and home commitments – it is important to recognise that both home life and working life carry with them distinct rewards and responsibilities, and that individuals must create an environment that enables them to balance these demands. Neglecting one over the other will lead to poorer performance across the board, so be flexible and work smart to meet competing demands.

Manage your wellbeing – managers often need to change habits, responses and thought processes that create anxiety, stress and overwork. The evidence of this research suggests that this area is often neglected, but managing yourself – including your wellbeing – is an important foundation for sustaining high levels of performance in your work. 

Managing Team Wellbeing 

 Listen to your people – a particular challenge for Directors is to understand that things can look and feel very different to those outside the senior executive team. Directors need to escape the bubble and move out into their organisations, getting a sense of the working reality in different functions, locations, and levels. Share and communicate your motivations and your commitment to the organisation’s future – but be prepared to recognise the real factors which mean others feel differently.

Aim to become a high-trust organisation – the research identifies the benefits of creating high-trust working relationships. Some managers are expert in building trust and consensus, but this can be particularly difficult for those working in declining organisations where managers are often competing for scarce resources and opportunities. Explore how you can build trust with your staff – but recognise that it takes time and may not be easy in the wake of severe cost-cutting or restructuring.

Motivate your managers – create the conditions which provide strong motivation and engagement for your managers. Give your managers autonomy in their jobs, set clear objectives and offer warm recognition when success is achieved. Presenteeism is still rife in too many organisations: look to provide greater flexibility in working patterns by measuring outcomes rather than inputs.

Reassess the organisation’s dominant management style – do you fully understand the pros and cons of your management style? There may be sound reasons for existing styles – for example, bureaucracies are protective, but they can be wasteful and demotivating. Can your organisation reinvent itself as a high-trust organisation? Examine how you might move from procedural systems to more holistic systems that take greater account of your people.

Managing Change

Understand the implications of change – change has become the norm for many organisations.  All managers, but especially directors and senior managers, need to become more aware of the costs and consequences of their actions, particularly in the implementation of change. It is important to recognise that change is inherently unsettling but the challenge is to understand the potential effects, identify who will be affected – including those indirectly affected – and look to limit any negative effects.

Communication and participation in change – key challenges in the delivery of change include creating a climate of open communication. Senior managers need to be sure that they are regularly connected to what is actually happening at the frontline. Look for real participation, sharing problem-solving and decision-making with those who are responsible for implementing the change.

Developing the skills to manage change – managers at all levels need to be effectively trained in the planning and implementation of change. This demands a greater focus on people skills as well as the technical aspects of change management. 

 Promoting Health

Measure employee engagement and wellbeing in the organisationa more holistic view of how organisations are managed is needed, especially in periods of change. This can be developed by building in more effective employee engagement and wellbeing metrics into management information systems. This will counter the primacy of “monochrome” financial measures and key performance measures in many organisations. Employee metrics can provide a far better indicator of an organisation’s longer-term health and growth potential.

Health and wellbeing initiatives – at a time when cost reduction is a major driver of change in many organisations, it is particularly important for employers to understand the potential benefits of investing in health initiatives in the workplace. There may be a clear business case for health improvement initiatives in order to cut the costs of absence levels, but investment decisions should also be driven by the understanding that improved health and wellbeing can generate significant employee productivity benefits as a result of higher levels of engagement.

You can download for free the Full Report to the Executive Summary at Quality of Working Life 2012

The full findings are published in a 68-page page report, available free of charge online, or priced at just £30 for a hard copy. Visit the CMI website and you can also access a range of free resources aimed at helping you improve the quality of working life in your organisation, including CMI checklists – normally available exclusively to CMI members – plus expert advice from Simplyhealth.