We all want to be happy.  Of course we do.  And why not start with work?

The theme of ‘how do we make our workplace happier’ has come up a lot recently.
(It may be something to do with that Blue Monday in January casting a longer shadow than necessary).  It is such a well-meaning, worthwhile and valuable ambition: and so fraught with the potential for unintended consequences.

I heard a talk from a bouncy, energetic, open and enthusiastic person responsible in his organization for ‘helping people work better and go home happier’.

It’s a lovely goal, isn’t it?

The content fizzed with, creative, light-hearted, energising ideas, events techniques and beliefs that engendered energy and happiness.

Oddly, I felt panic rising.

There is something especially disquieting about forced-fun, isn’t there?  And later, a clue as to why this open hearted, apparently generous, workplace culture-creation may not be all it purports to be appeared in that serendipitous way that clues sometimes do: A remnant of a poster for King Lear.

The Fool is a key character in the play.

The Fool is responsible for… helping the King work better and go home happier… isn’t he?  And a key ingredient of his persona and role is to tell the truth; to say what no one dares to say; to perceive what might be unpalatable; to reveal through fun and foolishness the hidden things that need to be brought into the light.

It’s dark stuff.

A truly happy workplace doesn’t seek only to move from dull to interesting, from grey to colourful, from serious to light hearted.

By choosing – imposing – only the ‘light’ aspects of our work community cultures, we actually stay in an infantilized place of a ‘new norm’, of being told how things are and how they should be. And how we should be.

A truly happy workplace seeks to move from constrained, compliant, closed to energetic, diverse, open…and sometimes dissenting.

It will feel happy a lot of the time.

And sometimes not.

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