The Single Most Desired Trait Employers Want: Being an Adult!

Don’t buy into the hype! “Oh, just do what you love!” That’s not being an adult, that’s being a moron! Just do what makes you happy! No, that’s what a child does.

“Tim, we just want to hire some ‘adults’!” I hear this statement from a lot of CEOs I talk with currently!

That means most of the people they are hiring, aren’t considered adults by these leaders. Oh, they fit the demographic of being an adult from an age perspective, but they still act like children!

I tell people when I interview them and they ask about our culture I say, “We hire adults”.

That means we hire people into positions where they are responsible for something. Because we hire adults, they take responsibility for what they are responsible for. If I have to tell them to do their jobs, they’re not adults, they’re children. We don’t employ children.

I think about 70% of the positions that are open in the world could have the same title –

“Wanted: Adults”.

Those who read that and got it could instantly be hired and they would be above average employees for you! Those who read it and didn’t understand, are part of the wonder of natural selection.

How do you be an Adult?

You do the stuff you say you’re going to do. Not just the stuff you like, but all the stuff.

You follow the rules that are important to follow for society to run well. Do I drive the speed limit every single time? No. Do I come to work when my employer says I need to be there? Yes.

You assume positive intent on most things. For the most part, people will want to help you, just as you want to help others. Sometimes you run into an asshole.

You understand that the world is more than just you and your desires.

You speak up for what is right when you can. It’s easy to say you can always speak up for what is right, but then you wouldn’t be thinking like an adult.

You try and help those who can’t help themselves. Who can’t, not who won’t.

My parents and grandparents would call this common sense, but I don’t think ‘being an adult’ is common sense anymore. Common sense, to be common, has to be done by most. Being an adult doesn’t seem to be very common lately!

So, you want to hire some adults? I think this starts with us recognizing that being an adult is now a skill in 2021. A very valuable skill. Need to fill a position, maybe we start by first finding adults, then determining do we need these adults to have certain skills, or can we teach adults those skills!

The key to great hiring in today’s world is not about attracting the right skills, it’s about attracting adults who aren’t just willing to work, but understand the value of work and individuals who value being an adult.

I don’t see this as a negative. I see it as an opportunity for organizations that understand this concept. We hire adults first, skills second. Organizations that do this, will be the organizations that win.

The Motley Fool has a great section in their employee handbook that talks about being an adult:

“We are careful to hire amazing people. Our goal is to unleash you to perform at your peak and stay out of your way. We don’t have lots of rules and policies here by design. You are an amazing adult and we trust you to carve your own path, set your own priorities, and ask for help when you need it.”

You are an amazing ‘adult’ and we trust you

If only it was so simple!

What was the hardest manual labor job I’ve ever had?

I was a “Picker” for a large supermarket chain in their warehouse on the second shift. What’s a “Picker”? I Picker was a position that would take an order from one of the grocery stores that used our warehouse, and I would drive around on a pallet jack and physically pick all the cases and items going to that store on a semi-truck.

A pallet jack isn’t a Hi-Lo, it’s more like a “Lo-Lo” it held two wood pallets, just off ground-level and the goal was to build those pallets up to six-eight feet, wrap them tightly in plastic shrink wrap, and then load them onto the truck. Some orders took 15 minutes to fill, some took over an hour, every single one was different.

The warehouse was giant. Like ten football fields with aisle after aisle of products, you would find in a large grocery store. Some heavy, some light, all shapes, and sizes. It was a Union shop, but I was a temp summer worker. So, most of the workers were full-time, long-term Union workers, over 90% men. My Dad was an executive in the offices of this company. A family friend was the Union Steward in the warehouse.

This job taught me that I didn’t want to work manual labor my entire life! 

But, it also taught me to respect the true value of manual labor jobs.

It also taught me so much about life, work, and fitting in on the job:

  • Instantly the union guys knew my Dad was in management, and boy did I catch sh*t for that! I quickly learned to have tough skin and you better give back as well as you were getting in that environment.
  • About a month into this job I came home at 2 am and woke up my Dad crying telling him I was going to college (Yes! Crying. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but it was memorable!). It was physically hard! It was hot. It was dirty. I didn’t want to go back in. I was working next to guys who had been doing that job for twenty-plus years!
  • A Union-shop has formal and informal rules. To survive you must quickly learn the informal rules or you won’t last. I was told specifically to slow down my work pace or all four tires of my car would be slashed. Even though I wasn’t even making rate and all the full-time union guys ran circles around me!
  • After you filled an order you had to go get another. There was one lady who did this, behind a glass window in an air-conditioned office. You could feel the cold air through the hole in the glass. Very quickly you learned there were easy orders and hard orders, and orders you could more easily make “rate” on. The lady was a big girl, normal looking, middle-aged, to see all of us guys sweet up to her like she was a runway model trying to get easy orders, boy that was a site! Always be super nice to the person doling out the work!
  • You need to find your tribe. I wasn’t the only summer temp, college kid, there were a bunch of us and we found early on it best we stick together. We ate lunch together, found each other on breaks, helped each other when we could. The union guys weren’t going to help.
  • Hard-ass manual labor jobs are marathons, not sprints. We worked 8-hour shifts, but almost every night had to do mandatory 2-4 hours of overtime. They wouldn’t tell us if we were working or not, because if you knew you had to work 12 hours that night, you were not working fast!
  • I was 18, the legal drinking age in Michigan was 21. After our shift on payday, all the guys would go to a bowling alley down the street that was open until 2 am. They would cash our checks and let us drink like men. Young guys would be drunk after two beers and the union guys would take the summer guys’ cash when they were in the bathroom and give it to the waitresses! Always keep your cash in your pocket!
  • Second-shit sucks! You go in around 3 pm, if you’re lucky you get out at 11 pm or midnight. Go home, can’t sleep, finally, get down around 3 am, wake up at noon the next day and basically start it all again.
  • Union or Non-Union manual labor shops are really going to test you. The fact is, they want to work with people who are going to work. Really work! If you don’t carry your weight, eventually it will come back to more work on everyone. So, they push you to try and quit because they only want people around them that really want to be there or have to be there, but show up and work!
  • I had so much fun at that job with probably the most diverse workforce I’ve ever been in. We were all in the middle of it and equally giving each other sh*t constantly. All of which would have gotten us all canceled and fired today. It was in many ways a brotherhood. What happened on the floor, stayed on the floor. Very much workers vs. management.

I think every single kid, male and female, right after high school, but for sure before they graduate college should have to work a manual labor job. Too many kids come into the work world with this warped perception of what work is, and too many look down on the millions of workers truly busting their backs doing the work you don’t want to do.

At the very least, I would prefer to hire a kid with a solid degree from a state school who I know worked a manual job or two in their life, then a perfect student from Harvard who never got dirty. Our society has in so many ways devalued ‘real’ hard work, manual labor, no-skill, low-skill.

What was that hardest manual labor job you ever worked?

Hiring for a High Give-a-Damn

Josh Zywien, the CMO of Paradox, made a great hire this past week and I sent him a note telling him so. I like to do that. He knows he made a great hire, but it’s always nice to get a note confirming your belief! If you don’t know Josh, you should give me a follow, he’s one of the good guys in our industry.

Josh responded to my note with a statement I wanted to share because it’s profound:

I like to hire people who have a ‘high give-a-damn’! 

I absolutely love that and told him I was stealing it!

What does hiring for High Give-a-Damn Mean? 

It’s one of those intangibles you know when you see it. Like porn. Hard to explain, but when I see it, I know what it is. High Give-a-Damn (HGD) individuals don’t just care about their job and their company. HGD is pervasive in all aspects of their life. You’ll see it come out in other ways away from their career as well.

The High Give-a-Damn Traits:

  • High attention to detail
  • Live an orderly life
  • Most likely, well-kept house, clean, probably makes their bed every single morning.
  • Classic fashionable dress style not to stand out, but you notice them
  • They say the right things and the right times
  • They can be counted on
  • Follow-through is impeccable
  • They give a shit about stuff that matters
  • Have a habit of taking care of their physical & mental self, more than the average person.

People with HGD don’t drive around in a messy car with a coffee stain on their shirt. They might not have a lot of money, but what they have, they take care of. They do more with less because part of HGD is not to waste resources, both professionally and personally. So, you take care of your stuff. Part of your ‘stuff’ is your personal self.

I’ve written about organizations “Hiring Pretty” in the past. About the scientific research that shows organizations that tend to hire more attractive people actually have higher results. There is a bit of this in HGD. Individuals with HGD most likely get the most out of the attractiveness they have.

It doesn’t mean the person has to be naturally ‘pretty’ but think of the time when you took that one selfie, that one time when you were feeling super cute, had that one hat on, the light was right and now it’s your favorite IG photo. Yeah, that, but now what if you did that every day? That’s HGD. “Felt cute, not ever gonna delete!”

Now, at this point, you might be saying, “Tim, all of this seems superficial. There is nothing here about skill or performance, about actually being able to do the job.” Yeah, I’m not only hiring for HGD and nothing else. This is about, what if I had three people who had similar skill level, education, experience? At that point, my tiebreaker is who has the most HGD?

Who is going to bring the most HGD to the team? Because in the end, when I’m going to war with my team, I want people who give a damn. Yeah, we might be making widgets for crackheads, but I still want people who want to make the best widgets for crackheads. People who want to make sure that crackhead has the best experience with our product and service. (Right now, Josh is like, WTF, how did I get in a Tim Sackett Blog Post with Crackheads!?)

Not enough Hiring Managers are hiring for HGD. In fact, as a society we kind of gone soft on HGD. We have this belief that you can be HGD in your personal life, but not your professional life, or vice versa. The reality is true HGD is always on or never on as a personality trait. You either give a damn about your life, or you don’t. I want to be around and work with people who are HGD.

The Bad Idea Trap!

2020 wasn’t the best year for a lot of people and as such we have so much excitement and anticipation for what 2021 will bring, but we are cautious. Already in 2021, we’ve seen some hangover of 2020!

We believe that 2021 and into the near future will be a bit of a struggle for most organizations. Some character building years ahead of us. We’ve come out of a decade of growth, pandemic hits, and now we have some rebuilding to do.

I truly believe when tough times hit, we see the best in people. As professionals, we work harder than ever to get to the success we want. We come up with all sorts of ideas and things to try to get us back on top. Therein lies the problem.

You see, there is this funny phenomenon that happens, that has now been proven in science. Turns out, during bad times, we come up with more bad ideas than good ideas!

Why do we have more bad ideas than good ideas during hard times?

A great historical example (that might have some context to 2020!) was during the 1920s and 1930s. Extremely hard economic times in Germany led to the rise of the Nazis. I think we can all agree, 100%, the Nazis were a very bad idea. But, because of the awful economy, many folks thought the Nazis were a great alternative.

Turns out, depressions, pandemics, social uprisings, etc. Lead us to more bad ideas than good ideas. We start grasping at straws, believing we are trying to help. We are testing out stuff to see what works when we think nothing is working when in reality, we might actually be starting something worse.

To go along with this, when times are awesome, no matter what you do, you probably are less likely to screw something up. “Hey, we did this crazy thing and our sales were up 3%!” Great, maybe if you didn’t do that crazy thing your sales would have been up 10%, but now you think that crazy idea, that bad idea, actually was positive!

Great times cover up many of our bad ideas. Bad times shine a giant light on our bad ideas.

Why am I talking about Bad Ideas? 

2021 might be a ripe time for bad ideas! We all will be pushed and stressed to make things happen. Leaders are going to look for ideas. It’s our job to come up with ideas. Most of those ideas are going to be bad. Sorry, but that’s just simple math. Most ideas are bad, some are good, very few are great.

In HR and TA we tend to believe that our ideas, our projects, our programs, etc. don’t have a giant impact on organizations. Actually, they have more impact than you think, but it’s mostly long-term impact, not short-term. We want these ideas to have an immediate impact, but people and culture tend to take time.

That is why, in 2021, we have to be very careful about the Bad Idea Trap.

I want you to go out and test and try things but move a bit more cautiously out of the gate. Be willing to shut things down quicker. Be more aware of the timing and how your organization is doing. If your organization is killing it, great! Go have some fun, break some things! If your organization isn’t doing well, slow down, take your time, don’t allow yourself to be in a rush, even though it’s going to feel like you should be.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a large corporate meeting room with a bunch of people and some well-meaning executive starts off with “there are no bad ideas! Let me have them all!” Yes, there are bad ideas and the worse idea is a bad idea that is chosen to move forward!

Maybe our 2021 Slogan in HR and TA should be “Yes, there are Bad Ideas!”

My Momma Don’t Like You…

My Momma don’t like you and she likes everyone…

Do you like that new Justin Bieber song?  Yep, I’m a Belieber! Don’t hate. The kid can entertain!

How does this have anything to do with HR?  Come on, you know I’ll bring you back!

“My Momma don’t like you and she likes everyone.” Do you have someone in your organization that is a walking cultural fit filter?

I do. Her name is Lori. I call her LJ. She has been with us (HRU Tech) for over 20 years! True story we hired her when she was 18 years old, straight out of high school to be a receptionist. Married, mom of three great boys, she is still rocking it at HRU in a much more expanded role! Most days I think I probably report to her.

When we interview a candidate to work in our corporate office, LJ knows if the person will fit or not, without being in the interview! LJ is like Justin Bieber’s mom. She likes almost everyone. Easy to get along with, but most importantly she knows the HRU culture.  If LJ says the person won’t work, the person won’t work.

I think most organizations have someone like this.  No, it’s not you in HR or Recruiting. You think you know, but you fail constantly at choosing. Cultural fit filter people are on the front lines. They hear and see the crap that HR and Recruiting never get to hear and see. They know your true culture.

I’ve worked with organizations, that truly carried about cultural fit, that have added one step into their candidate screening process. It’s a cultural fit interview, with a cross-functional team on non-hiring managers, non-HR, non-Recruiting folks. It’s also a knockout screen. If you don’t make it past them, you don’t move forward.

Organizational fit has always been important, but organizations are beginning to put some real emphasis behind it recently.

I don’t worry about it much. I just ask LJ, she’ll let me know.

 

Your Superpower is Your Authentic Self!

I had someone ask me what my superpower is? I found that a hard question to answer. I mean do you think being able to write a 500-word blog post in 15 minutes a superpower!? Some bloggers probably do, but no one else!

I was told that my true superpower was me just being me. My authentic self. Then I asked this person how much I owed them for the life coaching session! 😉

We are told constantly to be ourselves, or live our true life, find a way to be yourself, etc. The reality is being your authentic self might be your superpower, but like all superpowers, they can be used for good or evil.

Let me give you the best example ever! Donald Trump is his authentic self. It’s his superpower and he rode that superpower right into the White House. His authentic self was a superpower he used for evil, and ultimately it destroyed him and his legacy.

What I find a leader of people is that employees living their authentic self either works wonderfully or awfully and rarely anywhere in between!

Here’s the thing about being your authentic self, you must first know if your “authentic self” something others want to be around or if your authentic self off-putting to others. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be yourself, but if your authentic self is a complete asshole, you might want to work for yourself and not someone else!

Let be really frank here, any gender can be an off-putting authentic self. It doesn’t mean you don’t love who you truly are, but you must also realize who you truly are isn’t what most people want to be around. Your superpower isn’t going to be asked to join the Justice League, you’re going to be asked to join the villain side.

In real life, you actually don’t become a villain, unless you’re DJT. Most likely you become your own boss, or you live a miserable existence trying to fit into a work world that doesn’t want you and you don’t want it. Some of the best and brightest people I know can’t work for others. Their superpower is something that allows them to be awesome, but not when working closely with others on a daily basis.

Why does this matter? 

It matters because if some idiot is trying to sell you the snake oil of “Just be your Authentic Self” you must first determine, is your authentic self something others will embrace and want to be around. If so, great, you’re going to probably have a great career. If it’s not, and you want to work in the corporate world, you’re probably in for a lot of therapy.

Also, let me be very clear, not living your authentic self while you are at work isn’t the worse thing in the world. You can be one thing at work and another thing in your personal life. Is it ideal? No. But, I’ve seen many people in my career be successful in doing this. It’s a little like Clark Kent and Superman. I can be Clark Kent at work and then go home and be Superman in the rest of my life.

The worse thing that can happen is you try and force your authentic self onto others and believe they should “accept” your authentic self. Nope. That’s not how it works. You can’t make anyone accept your authentic self, you can only make yourself accept that. If I don’t like your superpower, you can’t make me like it, and if I’m in a position to determine the trajectory of your career, you’re in trouble.

Superpowers are awesome, but they can be super for good or super for bad. Love who you are, but don’t expect others will necessarily love it.

Are you running out of time to get your nose pierced?

I have three sons, two of whom just graduated from college.  They can do anything right now!  If they wanted, they could fill a backpack and walk the earth. No one is going to stop them, in fact, many will congratulate them for taking this leap while they’re young.

In just a few years, people won’t say that.  They’ll tell them it’s crazy and you’re going to hurt your career, etc.

I’m a few years older than my sons (turns out that’s how it works!).  I have a feeling that I’m getting to an age where I no longer can make a change in my career path.

Before you start commenting with things like, “Tim, age is a state of mind”, or “You can do anything you want”, or “Follow your passion”.  Stop it. I’m a grown-ass man.  I like to think I’m an adult, although my wife and kids question that frequently. I have adult obligations: mortgage, college tuition, kids to raise, health insurance.

I can’t just go off and polish rocks.

We all get to certain points in our life where you can no longer just go do ‘it’. Whatever ‘it’ is for you. I feel like I’m at a point where I can’t change careers, not because I don’t think I could, but because society doesn’t look well upon middle-aged dudes looking to change careers. Something is now wrong with me if I wanted to change careers. BTW, I don’t want to change careers, I actually think what I do is pretty cool. Or hip. Or Hella. Or whatever the kids are saying.

If I decided to go back and become a nurse, right now, at my age, with all of my responsibilities, people would say something is wrong with me. You know what? I would think there was something wrong with me.

My question is more around what is ‘that’ time when if you’re going to do it, you better do it now?

For traveling the world: I think it’s 18-22 yrs old, or after 60.

For completely changing careers: I think you have to do it around 30-35 years old. Later, and you just look like your reaching. (I think most people won’t agree with this, but it comes from my recruiting background and how hiring managers look at older candidates who have made this move)

For having kids: this one has changed a bit, but before 40 seems safe. Otherwise, you’re just tempting science to give you problems. One caveat, if you’re adopting, I’ll push out this age because those kids just need someone who will love them.

For completely your high school or college education: I’m really open on this one. I would say anytime before death! I’m a huge advocate of lifelong learning!

For having grandkids: After 45 years old for sure. If you have grandkids prior to becoming 45, you did something wrong as a parent.

For getting your nose pierced: 17-28 years old. Yeah, I’m looking at you 37-year-old mom with the kid with a mohawk not wearing his seatbelt in the back of your Ford Mustang.

So, hit me in the comments with your age ranges on when you think it’s no longer socially acceptable to change careers or do any of the other things listed. And, yes, I get it, I’m old and you can do any of these things at any time, and why are you judging. Because I can, it’s my blog, go start your own, Karen.

I’m not a Dr. but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express!

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion article regarding incoming First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, using the pre-nominal “Dr.” when she has a doctorate in education, Ed.D, versus a medical doctorate, Ph.D. There is no doubt that Jill Biden did the work and received the degree, from a real, actual university.

The question really comes down to, is there really a difference in calling someone “Dr.”? 

I’m a brain surgeon, call me Dr. I’m a clinical psychologist, call me Dr. I’m a Pharmacist, call me Dr. I’m a Physical Therapist, call me Dr. I’m a Professor of Sport History, call me Dr. I’m a Vaccine Scientist, call me Dr. I teach English 101 at a local community college, call me Dr.

For each of those titles, currently, to obtain that title you have to have a doctorate degree. Well, actually, you don’t have to have a doctorate to teach at a university or community college. To become a medical doctor, Pharmacist, Physical Therapist, today, you must get your doctorate in the U.S. Regardless, many people get a doctorate but do jobs that don’t necessarily need a doctorate to do that job.

As a recruiting professional, I have an opinion. 

I believe we call people Dr. when in normal society those people are called “doctors”. When I go see a Physician, most people, who don’t know them personally, will call them “doctor”. If in a normal work setting, someone doesn’t call you “doctor”, but you call yourself doctor, that comes off really bad.

The worse is when you expect someone else to call you “doctor” but the average person in the world would never expect to call you “doctor”. Then you come across as pompous. “Tim, it’s nice to meet you!” Yes, that’s Dr. Tim, thank you. “No, that’s Dr. Asshole, goodbye!”

This is just good situational awareness if you are on the job market. We deal with many candidates who have their doctorate in various sciences. It’s very rare in a professional work setting they would ever use “Dr.”, and if they corrected a hiring manager during an interview, let’s face it, that wouldn’t end well.

Does any of this really matter? 

Before someone loses their head and puts in a 700-word comment about how I’m a misogynist against Dr. Jill Biden, check yourself. I could care less about what Jill Biden wants to be called. If she wants to call herself Queen, good for her! Dr. Queen, even better!

The reality is, most likely, this Op-Ed wouldn’t have been written if Jill Biden was voted in as President, and her first husband, Joe, has his doctorate in education, and called himself Dr. Joe Biden. So, that’s a problem. It doesn’t make the Op-Ed opinion wrong, just questionable.

If she’s comfortable with calling herself Dr., that’s all that really matters. I have a feeling that if I got an Ed.D or any other kind of doctorate degree, I would force people to call me Dr.! “Hey, Mr. Teddy Starbucks barista, that’s “Dr. Timmy”! Get it right!” I would also expect that people would say bad things behind my back if it wasn’t normal for someone with my degree to be called “Dr.”

What do the “real” doctors think? 

I got feedback from three friends who all have a doctorate degree. All three felt like this was basically bad form on the part of the writer of the Opt-Ed. He comes across as a sexiest, old, out of touch elitest.

There is, though, a background within the doctoral community of hazing between those with doctorates about who has the “better” degree and from the “better” school. Also, MD’s, medical doctors, most likely look down on all other doctorates who don’t save lives.

As my one friend put it, I will definitely give it to my fellow doctorate friends who have an Ed.D versus a Ph.D, or went to a B-level school versus an A-list school. But, let’s not kid ourselves, I could have not gone to my Ph.D class on management, or done poorly, and no one is losing their life!

The fact is, all doctorate recipients did the work. Professionally, they will take being called “Dr.” in that professional setting. Professors might not ask to be called “Dr.” but if a student calls them by “Dr.” it fits the professional setting. If Jill Biden is working on Educational Policy and Strategy, if completely fits her being called Dr. Biden, that is her professional role.

If I’m going out for dinner with Jill and Joe, in a personal setting, of course, it would seem weird for her to want me to call her Dr. Jill Biden at the dinner table, if we were just having a social dinner. But, that’s not what this is about. This is about someone you thinks he knows more than everyone else, and he’s going to mansplain it to us all, especially, a woman.

If Jill wants to be called Dr. Jill Biden, call her that. If you don’t like it, then don’t put yourself in a position to have to use her name. I’m sure she would appreciate that.

3 out of 4 Employees Actually Want to Return to the Office!

I think most HR pros disagree with this number. I didn’t make it up like I do most of the time, but I was having this feeling that way to many HR leaders and pros were feeling that their entire office workforce just wanted to remain remote. The number is from this recent Human Experience study.

Basically, it’s saying 25% of workers want to return full-time to the office, 50% want some kind of hybrid model where they will return, but have additional flexibility to work remotely, and 25% want to stay remote on a permanent basis.

My guess is most HR leaders and pros if asked this question are under the belief that 50%+ of their office workers want to remain remote, full-time. At least, that’s what I hear when I ask that question to them. Much smaller sample, but it’s also what I hear and read.

What the article is really showing is that our workforce has had a taste of flexibility, and most really, really liked what it tasted like! I find that in very large cities, organizations and leaders are much more flexible. It’s just the nature of big city life. Trains don’t always run on time, commutes can be crazy, etc.

As you get out into smaller communities the expectations changed. You can always make it into work because you’re driving your own car. If you were 15 minutes late in Milwaukee, people will question you. If you’re 30 minutes late in New York, no one says a thing. So, having some flexibility to be treated like a real, functioning adult, for most people has been a breath of fresh air.

But, and it’s a big but – we can’t be naive as HR leaders believing everyone just wants remote. They don’t want remote, the vast majority, want flexibility. They want some understanding. I can be a high performer, and  I can meet my goals and exceed them, just treat me like an adult.

The pandemic might change many things about work and life moving forward, but it won’t change our desire as humans, most of us, to want to have live interactions, one-on-one, face-to-face, to congregate, to share ideas, and see your real-life body language, if at all possible.

Don’t be fooled by a loud minority voice saying a remote workplace is the best workplace. It’s “a” workplace, great for some, horrible for many. Just as in-office is great for some, and horrible for others. The best organizations will figure out the balance.

Are you struggling to be happy at work?

In 1942 Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist, was taken to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents.  Three years later, when his camp was liberated, his pregnant wife and parents had already been killed by the Nazis. He survived and in 1946 went on to write the book, “Man’s Search For Meaning“.  In this great book, Frankl writes:

“It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”

What Frankl knew was that you can’t make happiness out of something outside yourself.  Riding the Waverunner doesn’t make you happy. You decide to be happy while doing that activity, but you could as easily decide to be angry or sad while doing this activity (although Daniel Tosh would disagree!).  Frankl also wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I get asked frequently by HR Pros about how they can make their employees or workplace happier.  I want to tell them about Frankl’s research and what he learned in the concentration camps.  I want to tell them that you can’t make your employees happy.  They have to decide they want to be happy, first. But, I don’t, people don’t want to hear the truth.

Coming up with ‘things’ isn’t going to make your employees happy. You might provide free lunch, which some will really like, but it also might make someone struggling with their weight, very depressed.  You might give extra time off and most of your employees will love it, but those who define themselves by their work will find this a burden.

Ultimately, I think people tend to swing a certain way on the emotional scale.  Some are usually happier than others.  Some relish in being angry or depressed, it’s their comfort zone.  They don’t know how to be any other way.  Instead of working to ‘make’ people happy, spend your time selecting happy people to come work for you.

In the middle of a concentration camp, the most horrific experiences imaginable, Frankl witnessed people who made the decision to be happy. Maybe they were happy to have one more day on earth. Maybe they were happy because, like Frankl, they discovered that the Nazis could take everything from them except their mind.

Provide the best work environment that you can.  Continue to try and make it better with the resources you have.  Give meaning to the work and the things you do.  Every organization has this, no matter what you do at your company.  Don’t pursue happiness, it’s a fleeting emotion that is impossible to maintain.  Pursue being the best organization you can be.  It doesn’t mean you have to be someone you’re not.  Just be ‘you’, and find others that like ‘you.’