Job Happiness

By Hannah Wallace April 30, 2006

Some simple business logic: Outstanding workplaces attract outstanding people. And outstanding people are likely to generate outstanding results. Ergo: Successful companies should create and maintain ideal workplaces.

The great places to work all have something in common that transcends compensation and benefits. They may not pay the most, but the companies with cultures that balance task (getting desired results) with people orientations (promoting harmony, job appreciation and pride) get my top marks. Cultures exist in every company, regardless of whether a corporate philosophy is intended by senior management. And since employees will inherently sense their company's ethos-good or bad-it seems far better for management to shape what it wants its employees to feel than to leave it to chance.

Feeling good about a workplace is usually a function of its people environment. The impact that personal interaction has on our job happiness is highly significant. Bosses, colleagues and subordinates define our daily work environment, physically, cerebrally and emotionally. In fact, we spend more collective time with co-workers than we do with family and friends.

CNN's In the Money recently interviewed Katherine Crowley, co-author of Working With You is Killing Me, a self-help book about escaping emotional traps at work. "I don't want to quit my job; I want to quit my manager or co-worker" is the frustrated sentiment of the target audience for this book. A Harvard-trained psychotherapist, Crowley maintains that the toughest part of any job is dealing with the people around us. Since so many companies employ difficult personalities, the book's theme hits a responsive chord and has the potential to be a best-seller in the business world.

The need to help people overcome stressful workplace relationships could be greatly diminished if more companies took pains to hire the right people-those whose skills include an ability to work well with others. If latent toxic personas make it through the hiring process only to infect at a later date, it's a fundamental obligation of any caring company to weed them out. And certainly they should never be promoted to manage others.

A corporate culture that has had a lasting effect on my own management sensibilities was that of CBS years ago. I distinctly remember the implied, tacit message I was given upon my appointment to VP, general manager of one of the company's broadcasting profit centers. I was indoctrinated to understand that I was being put in charge of some the company's people, and that I was obliged to take good care of them. Concern for its employees paid off for CBS, which not only attracted so many talented media people, but also generated some of the best results in the business.

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