BRIGHTLY COLOURED SALT MINES

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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