Happiness At Work ~ edition 22: highlights from this week’s collection

Happiness At Work #22 – 30th November 2012

News & New Research

Unblocking female talent pipeline could bring UK business £5bn a year, says recruiter

UK business could potentially benefit by £5 billion a year if companies unblocked the talent pipeline for their 500,000 female middle managers, according to a report published today by talent management and resourcing solutions provider, Alexander Mann.

It also showed that barely half – 52% – of HR leaders think lack of female progression is a problem for organisations.

Study: Humans Aren’t the Only Apes that Have a Midlife Crisis

Withdrawal, frustration, sadness — all are considered hallmarks of the human midlife crisis. Until now, the collection of factors cited as bringing on the angst have included societal and economic pressures that exert psychological forces strong enough to bend our lives into the famous U-shaped curve of happiness.

But research published in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences could drastically alter those assumptions by bringing another no-less-ominous factor to the table: biology.  It seems our cousins the great apes also experience midlife crises, and they don’t need the allure of a new Lexus or hair transplants to get them there.

Happiness may Bring You more Money, Study Says

Young people who express more positive emotions tend to have higher incomes by the time they’re 29, a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study says.

Scientists may have discovered the secret to avoiding the fiscal cliff: Happiness.
Regardless of whether money can buy happiness, being happy may actually make you more money down the road, new research finds.

The Economic Case Against Winning a $500 Million Lottery (Seriously)

You’ll probably find nothing in classical economics that tells you winning $500 million is bad. No sentence, no theory, no lesson. Nada. Money is a pretty good thing. You can use it to buy stuff. Stuff you want. Stuff that will bring happiness to you and the people you love. You don’t need an econometrics class to know that sounds alright.

Here’s the problem. A fuller understanding of motivation and money reveals a different picture of lottery winners. This isn’t your old-fashioned “Money can’t buy happiness” lesson.* This is your slightly newer “Winning the lottery can make you miserable” lesson.

To start, there’s nothing wrong with buying a lottery ticket, so long as you understand what you’re buying. When you buy a ticket in a $500 million lottery, your chances of winning are, roughly, one divided by infinity. You aren’t buying a chance to win, because there is really no probability that you will win. You are buying the right to fantasize about winning. And that’s okay.

It’s winning that can get you in trouble.

Meditation Benefits The Brain Even When You’re Not Actively Meditating

According to a recent study discussed in Waking Times, the benefits of meditation go beyond the peaceful moments of active practice. Meditation can improve various brain functions even when a person is not actively meditating.

Numerous research studies have confirmed the benefits of meditation, including improved cognitive function, decreased stress, and release of endorphins or “feel good hormones.” In addition, published studies have also shown that meditation can positively impact physical health by reducing feelings of chronic pain and even high blood pressure.

This latest study shows that feelings and emotions can be affected and measured when not actively meditating. According to Gaelle Desbordes PhD, a research fellow and coauthor of the report, “This is the first time that meditation training has been shown to affect emotional processing in the brain outside of a meditative state.”


The Benefits of Poetry for Professionals

I’ve written in the past about how business leaders should be readers, but even those of us prone to read avidly often restrict ourselves to contemporary nonfiction or novels. By doing so, we overlook a genre that could be valuable to our personal and professional development: poetry. Here’s why we shouldn’t…

Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories and Good News vs. Bad News

But there’s a reason we recognize Hamlet as a masterpiece: it’s that Shakespeare told us the truth, and people so rarely tell us the truth … The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is.

Daydreaming may offer key to problem solving and enhancing creativity

It is believed that both Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton made their most significant discoveries while daydreaming.

A study conducted by a group of scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, led by Benjamin Baird, concluded that taking a break from a complex task and completing an undemanding task while allowing the mind to daydream improves your ability to solve complex tasks.

Study finds value in teaching creativity

Creativity is not a skill just for writers, painters or musicians, according to a recent survey focused on the value of thinking creatively in careers beyond the arts.

The Adobe study, “Creativity and Education: Why it Matters,” surveyed 1,000 full-time salaried workers, age 25 or older, with at least a four-year college degree. The majority of respondents — 68 percent — said creativity isn’t a personality trait, but a skill that can be learned. And 71 percent said creativity should be taught as a class.

Happiness at Work

Mix: 80 Ideas for a Happy Workplace

The Happy Manifesto sets out a vision of happier workplaces. It is based on what organisations might look like if how they were organised and managed was decided by the people who are managed.  What does this mean in practice? Here is a first draft of 80 or so ideas for people to try out.

How to Make Happiness at Work a Priority

In this difficult job market we can’t always find work that gives us pleasure but we can prevent negative work experiences from causing us unhappiness. We can also look at our lives though a more positive lens and order our goals, aspirations, and values in a way that leads to a sense of fulfillment and joy. It doesn’t take a lifetime to do this and it’s never too early to start.

A Case for Purpose and Meaning at Work

Two recent surveys have revealed that a majority of American workers are not fully engaged in their jobs. As a leader, it’s important for you to strive to keep purpose and meaning in the lives of your staff; otherwise, your business will inevitably suffer.

Making Dreams Matter

Dreams smolder and die unless others own them.

Passion isn’t meaningful until it ignites others.

5 Smart Ways to Use Holiday Downtime

With these five tips, you can make the most of the holidays to prepare you for the coming year.

Whether you are going to cruise the party scene, manage the buying rush, or simply disconnect, there is no reason you have to let the holidays be less than productive for your business and career. I have personally found a combination of engagement and distance works best for me. Here are the five Rs I will follow this year to maximize the potential of my holiday activities.

The Five Drivers of Happiness at Work

by Jessica Pryce-Jones

…imagine a mindset which enables action to maximize performance and achieve potential in these tough times. At the iOpener Institute for People and Performance, we understand that this is another way of describing happiness at work.

Our empirical research, involving 9,000 people from around the world, reveals some astonishing findings. Employees who report being happiest at work:

  • Stay twice as long in their jobs as their least happy colleagues
  • Spend double their time at work focused on what they are paid to do
  • Take ten times less sick leave
  • Believe they are achieving their potential twice as much

And the “science of happiness at work” has big benefits for individuals too.

Ways to Be Happy and Productive at Work

by Jessica Pryce-Jones

…what do we know about employees who are happiest at work? Our research tells us that they are:

  • Twice as productive
  • Stay five times longer in their jobs
  • Six times more energized
  • Take 10 times less sick leave

And we’ve found other benefits.

Happier workers help their colleagues 33% more than their least happy colleagues; raise issues that affect performance 46% more; achieve their goals 31% more and are 36% more motivated.

If there’s a positive effect, they demonstrate it. Every organization needs happy employees because they are the ones who effectively tackle the tough stuff and turn ideas into actions.

So what should organizations, bosses and individuals do?

Quiz: How people-centred is your organisation?

Adopting a people-oriented approach to your organisational culture can help to transform it by making it more efficient and, ultimately, more successful.

Helen Sanderson, who has co-authored a book entitled “Creating person-centred organisations” with Stephen Stirk, believes that going down this route gives staff more control over their lives as it means that they are clear about their role, feel supported and are more engaged because their talents and interests are being used to support others.
As a result, stress levels fall and people generally enjoy their work more. So why not try out our quiz in order to find out how people-centred your organisation is?

Unhappiness at Work

Low job esteem affects wellbeing

Employees with excessive job demands who feel no security in the workplace can be as distressed as someone who is unemployed, a new study that compared data from Australian and the UK found.

“They add to a growing body of research highlighting the need to address the psychosocial aspects of the work environment as part of national government plans to reduce mental illness in the community.

“The improvement of psychosocial work conditions, such as reducing job demands, and increasing job control, security, and esteem can flow on to improvements in employees’ mental health and reduce the burden of illness on public health systems.”


Resilience and resourcefulness in Whitehall women

Could the TEDx Whitehall Women conference play a role in attracting and retaining female talent in the civil service?

TEDxWhitehallWomen will take place in London on Saturday 1 December. Participants will explore the theme of transformational journeys and the seven ages of woman through a series of short talks and performances. This will include personal stories and reflections on the skills women can use to break through barriers and cross thresholds.


Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

When most well-intentioned aid workers hear of a problem they think they can fix, they go to work. This, Ernesto Sirolli suggests, is naïve. In this funny and impassioned talk, he proposes that the first step is to listen to the people you’re trying to help, and tap into their own entrepreneurial spirit. His advice on what works will help any entrepreneur.

Leadership is Seeing in New Ways

As a leader and a coach, people trust me to help them learn how to do things well.

It is easy for me to assume that actions which are comfortable for me are the best ways to do things. Doing things my way is more efficient and effective, especially for me.

It is easy for me to focus on doing things my own way, as though my way were the only way or the best way.

The most important discoveries of my life have taken place because I was able to see things, and people, in new ways.

Leadership is about helping people do things well. One of the keys to effective leadership is recognizing that different people have different ways of getting things done, that my way is not the only way.

Leadership is about finding ways we can work together toward a common vision as we gain deeper insight into our own core values.

12 Things Collaborative Leaders Do

Collaborative leaders create communities where people unite around a common purpose and values, working collaboratively to accomplish a shared vision that makes a powerful and positive impact.

Their job is to champion the vision, provide resources and remove roadblocks. How do they do this? Some of these 12 behaviors could describe any leader. But when you look at them altogether, a pattern emerges that is quite different from traditional leaders…

4 Decision-Making Mistakes to Avoid

Decision making is critical to entrepreneurs. Every day, you have to set out on a course of action, choose tactics, evaluate results, and otherwise choose from arrays of options.

And yet, making decisions can be much trickier than it would seem. Here are four common mistakes that can trip you up.

4 Subtle Ways Leaders Can Lose Control Of An Organisation

I say “subtle” in the title because there are a number of ways leaders can lose control of organizations that are quite dramatic: disastrous financial results, illegal or inappropriate activities, etc.  But while these latter can make headlines and receive considerable attention when they occur, they’re actually a lot less common than more prosaic issues that, over time, subtly undermine authority.

12 Great Leadership and Professional Development Books

In the spirit of the twelve days of Christmas, I made a little shopping list for you.

So in the hopes of saving you time, energy and effort scouring the web for the perfect gift options, I’ve compiled the below list of great gift ideas for those special people.  I’ve also linked to the relevant blog post.  So without further ado, I give to you 12 great gift ideas for the leaders in your life…


Four Things You Will Never Learn in Your Comfort Zone

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. – Henry David Thoreau

Comfort zones have a tendency to lull us into thinking that out fears are justified and average is acceptable. “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point,” said C.S. Lewis. Comfort zones are the testing points of leadership. As a leader, there are four things you will never learn if you remain in your comfort zone…

The Best Business Books Of 2012: Find Fulfillment, Get Productive, And Create Healthy Habits

These 12 books have shaped not only the way we work this year, but how we think and the conversations we’re having. Authored by luminaries like Nate Silver, Clay Christensen, and Susan Cain, these delightful-to-read tomes offer insight into the power of vulnerability, habit, social media, and more.

3 Lessons From Nature On Sustainability, Collaboration, and Growth

In the organizations I work with, employees are encouraged to continually improve and embrace change. Do these employees realize what this role entails? Are leaders enabling the emergence of their team towards a greater sum of individual parts… towards the creation of something that is greater than any one of them can discover alone? Towards the tolerance of making mistakes?

And therein lies innovation.

The Happiness Deferral Chain: Music Versus Test Preparation

I agree in principle that “deferring gratification” and using that “executive function” are worth learning and practicing. But to be surprised that children have trouble seeing rewards decades out, in comparison with the meaningful satisfaction derived from freely chosen activities, is to ignore the nature of humans.

And often our schooling does just that.



Janine Shepherd: A broken body isn’t a broken person

Cross-country skier Janine Shepherd hoped for an Olympic medal — until she was hit by a truck during a training bike ride. She shares a powerful story about the human potential for recovery. Her message: you are not your body, and giving up old dreams can allow new ones to soar.

Neuroscience Tells Us, Being Optimistic Pays

For year’s people have spoken about being a ‘glass half full’ verses a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person. Most people have talked up the benefits of looking on the sunny side of life…but is there such a thing as too optimistic? Are there times when looking through those rose tinted glasses isn’t such a great plan?

Resilience – A new buzzword or a new understanding?

The term resilience has popped up increasingly over the last year or so. Its modern use originates from the climate debate, where it characterises the ability of a system to adapt to the changes brought about by global warming.

In a more general sense resilience is the ability of a system to remain within certain boundaries, despite fluctuations caused by external forces. It is a synonym for the capacity to buffer against outside attack, and a necessary characteristic of any kind of system.

Earth was a wonderfully complex world before humans became the master species. It seems that this master species is in the process of shooting itself in the foot by replacing complexity, which guarantees stability, with simplicity and complication, which result in instability.

Why you should plan for a disaster by underestimating your skills.

Serenity isn’t about freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.

Resilience is the capacity to cope with stress. So while you contemplate your plan to cope, give yourself a second to consider the reality that during a traumatic event you may not have access to your favorite coping skills.

Perhaps the most important aspect of resilience is internal. The work that is done on the inside, those messages we say in our own brain that help us cope. Turns out those messages are pretty darned important.

Personal Happiness

Happiness Policy

The pursuit of happiness is on! Not Jefferson’s version, the one he slipped into the Declaration of Independence in place of property. I mean the stampede to study happiness, create happiness measures for national policy, and publish pop-science and how-to books on the subject.

So what set off the current frenzy? Economists found happiness.

The Negative Path to Happiness

An interview with Oliver Burkeman.

For some reason, trying to be happy often makes us miserable. Knowing this,Guardian writer Oliver Burkeman decided to explore the negative path to happiness. His new book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, explores an alternative route to contentment with insights from sources as varied as Greek philosophers, Buddhist practitioners, experimental psychologists, terrorism experts, and business consultants. The discussion lasts about 25 minutes.

8 Ways That Money Can Buy Happiness

“If money doesn’t make you happy, then you probably aren’t spending it right.”
Eight steps to help you make sure to spend your money in order to to maximise your happiness

YOUTH FIRST: This year, share in the gift of happiness

Welcome to the happiest time of the year! But wait, is it really? Although we’re told that the holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year,” in reality they tend to be the most stressful. Ebenezer Scrooge summed up these sentiments with a “Bah, Humbug!”

At this most stressful time of the year, let’s review some of the positive coping skills that will fill the holidays with fewer “Bah, Humbug” moments and more “a-ha” ones. According to Freedom from Fear, a national mental health advocacy association, these strategies boost mental health wellness in children and adults alike:


Looking for a morning brain boost? Forget coffee – green tea holds the key for men

  • Research has shown it can help improve memory and cognition in men
  • Green tea is full of polyphenols, which widen blood vessels, speeding the supply of blood to the brain

Wellbeing is Contagious (for Better or Worse)

How one employee’s wellbeing affects that of the entire team…

Heart Attack Risk Increased by Unemployment

Researchers from Duke University reported that chronic unemployment is linked to heart damage. Heart attack risk after losing a job was about 22% more than the risk for people who were still employed. After losing a job four times or more, that risk was raised to 63% compared to people that were still employed.

Self-tracking: six ways to manage your health and wellbeing – in pictures

By recording and logging data about their lifestyles by using a smartphone or other gadget, ‘self-trackers’ aim to better understand problems ranging from snoring to depression

Cities can only be made more liveable

Although happiness is always described as the goal people are pursuing in life, people are usually neither happy nor unhappy most of the time. In other words, the fewer factors there are that make people unhappy the less unhappy they will be.

In this sense, “building a happy city” is anything but a concrete promise since the chances ofreducing the degree of people’s unhappiness by doing a few things is greater than thechances of making them happy.

City governments should set the goal of making their cities more livable, rather than happy.

Feel Good Friday celebrates health and wellbeing

A CELEBRATION of everything health and wellbeing took place at stadium:mk last week.

 The Feel Good Friday event saw dozens of public agencies and civil society organisations came together to put on a fun, interactive and educational event.

It was attended by many hundreds of visitors, each of which were encouraged to pledge a change that would boost their health and overall wellbeing.


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

There are the steps I’ve found which work best for creating an amazing habit:

  1. Start so small you “can’t fail” (more on the reality of that later)
  2. Work on the small habit for as long as it becomes a ritual (something you’re pulled towards rather than which requires willpower)
  3. Make a very small addition to the habit, ideally anchored to an existing ritual.

The Six Key Competencies for Career Success in the 21st Century

Dissect America’s corporate strategies and needs throughout the past 12 years, sort through the business-related research and anecdotal material, engage executives and entry-level employees, study the best journals and books, engage the top consulting firms and storied business school faculty and you’ll find a phenomenal consensus on the needed competencies for career success. Though these competencies are oriented to parents and college students, they also provide a relevant perspective on learning and career pathing for those already in the workforce.

Reduced to the most basic elements, here’s the list of key competencies…

Mental Maps Part 2 – How to Upgrade and Redraw Your Mental Map to Find the Best Path to Success

Perhaps the most important and complex mental map we have in our heads is our self-image map: how we see ourselves in our mind’s eye.  Self image can include memories of key life events, what motivates or engages us, and our deeply held beliefs about the traits and characteristics that define who we are. Our self-image, along with other social mental maps, enables us to test out courses of action and predict the likeliest outcomes in our interaction with others.

 You can think of these projections as resembling an endless game of chess that we are constantly playing in our heads every time we step into a meeting, have a discussion with the boss, make a presentation or reprimand someone.  The most important chess piece is you.
Our self-image map can determine success or failure in the world.  But our self-image tends to lag behind when the social environment changes, like when we get a promotion, transition to a new organization or experience some other major life event like getting married or having children.  We are usually unaware of how an outdated self-image map may be wreaking havoc in our internal game of social chess and keeping us stuck in old patterns of behavior.
So how do we nurture and develop a more up to date self-image map when we need to see ourselves in a different way?

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