Happiness Coaching in the Workplace: All Fluff, No Substance?

by Aman Singh Das | February 01, 2010

  • My Vault

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported on the phenomenon of "Happiness Coaching." I critiqued it on our Executive Careers blog that is hosted on CNBC's website. Meanwhile, WSJ readers have been commenting on the article and can I say I am heartened to see they agree with me?

For example, here is one comment: "Happiness is not a skill that can be taught, like better time management. To me, happiness at work is a function of having a fulfilling job that I like, working with and for people that I respect, and having the tools to do my job effectively. I find all self-help coaching to always be way too generic and "fluffy" to add any real value<>" and another insightful one, "I read this column earlier ... and it annoyed me. Give me decent pay for the hours and stress, flexibility and the right tools to get my job done. I am miserable due to the heavy work load, never ending problems and huge pay cut. I am grateful to have a job, but a happiness coach or silly programs are not the solution to improving my situation."

Happy Consultants

Now consider these reader comments as you read my objections with the suggested ways of inculcating happiness therapy in the workplace. At a time when layoffs, pay cuts and career disorientation are rampant in the workplace, who will welcome Happiness Coaches knowing that it had to have come out of somebody's budget?

Write emails to your co-workers every day thanking them for something they have done: Would I really enjoy receiving a daily email from my boss thanking me for an accomplishment? Sounds like a template memo to me and a lot of pressure. While an occasional pat on the back never hurt anyone, a daily celebration might become too routine to stay motivated.

Meditate daily to clear your mind: This is a personal approach and while I have no grouches with it, the zen-ness this promises is more personal than professional in nature.

Do something for somebody without expecting anything in return: On the basic personal level, I agree. Besides the fuzzy sense of happiness this gives you, it also teaches us that there is something more meaningful to corporate life than work, work, and work. However, this also conflicts with common business school teaching: It’s a cutthroat world out there and no one else will look out for you besides yourself.

Write in a journal about things you are thankful for; look for traits you admire in people and compliment them. On a personal level, journal writing might help us stay calm and organize our thoughts. But the same principle in the workplace, I'm not so sure. And while complimenting coworkers on their good qualities always goes a long way in building teamwork, it might not raise our personal happiness quotient too high, unless we resolutely focus only on the goodness of people and ignore the rest.

Readers, do you think my approach is wrong? Have you had experience with a happiness coach at your workplace? Leave us a comment or write to us. Or follow In Good Company on Twitter!

Filed Under: CSR

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