On Happiness

Happiness is pretty important, right? Even the American Declaration of Independence starts off with these famous words:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Why would anyone in an organization (OD, HR, or a CEO) want to make employees happy? And even if you wanted to do this, could it be done?

And what do we mean by "happy" anyhow?

As a fan of what Herb Kelleher created at Southwest Airlines, I think that "happy" was a by-product of a culture that was built, maintained, and enhanced over the years there.

Some years ago, I visited SA on a benchmarking trip (focusing on their practices in creating a learning organization) and what I beheld there was truly memorable.

Were they "happy?" Yes, it seemed so. But I would describe them as psyched, energized, enthusiastic, proud, and fearless. Herb called it "the warrior spirit."

Now in the post-Kelleher era, that spirit lives on. Check out their blog and especially this entry by Colleen Barrett, formerly the head of HR and now the President.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 06/22/06


Astha said…
"Why would anyone in an organization (OD, HR, or a CEO) want to make employees happy? And even if you wanted to do this, could it be done?"

You have a knack of finding important questions. I ask myself those every day. And there are days when I wonder if I am just a marginal idealist. Trying to find and further happiness in a competitive business world.
Terrence said…
I remember a colleague from several years ago who was wrestling with the nature of OD work. At that time, it had come down to a tug-o-war between helping the organization to be more successful (i.e. more competitive and profitable) vs helping the organization to be more healthful (i.e a better place to work for its employees).

In my mind, it's not an either/or but rather a yes/and.

starbucker said…
Astha is right Terry, you really can cut to the core in your posts. I absolutely believe that happiness and success (in many forms) are solidly linked. Are we all just dreamers? That's what I sometimes ask myself out loud, even to my teammates. But I get more positive responses than blank stares. Yes, it is a "yes/and"!

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