mushroom coffee

I’m down with all of this research and science behind happiness at work. I think it’s a good thing. I like it when HR professionals think about happiness, too. Nobody wants you to be miserable from your long commute to your 21st-century factory job where you earn flat wages and can’t keep up.

But in as much as everybody’s awesome and everything is cool when you’re part of a team, some people don’t know how to be happy. While most of us want a well-balanced life with plenty of joy, others choose unhappiness as part of a broader and more informed way of managing the emotional load that comes from understanding complex issues in the world. Happiness feels like an inauthentic industry to many people.

There’s also the sneaky fact that nobody is responsible for your happiness except for you. While your employer should offer a work environment where you can be productive and safe, you get paid to do a job. If you find peace and contentment, great. But if you don’t, you still have a job to do. You still have to treat others with dignity and respect. As long as you help the organization move forward, it’s not anybody’s job–HR, managers, CEOS—to help you reach a state of inner peace. We pay you for work. Get enlightened on your own time.

Finally, I worry that the message of “happiness” is an extension of the maternalism that has plagued HR departments during the past 25 years. HR doles out your paycheck, so get your forms in on time. We are the arbiters of your benefits package, so don’t be fat or we’ll make you go to Weight Watchers and wear a fugly pedometer. Don’t have sex in the conference room or we’ll make everybody sit in an open office environment.

Now your local HR lady is in charge of your happiness, and ultimately, your unhappiness?! No way. Got my own problems, thankyouverymuch. You manage yours.

If you find yourself unhappy—or even just a little flat—there are resources everywhere. There’s the internet, there are religious counselors, and there is your company’s EAP. I always challenge HR professionals to ensure that all workers are treated with dignity; however, I challenge all workers to take control of their own emotional well-being.

HR is not a happiness ambassador. You are your own ambassador. You can be as happy, or as unhappy, as you want to be. It’s your choice.

Why does everyone hate HR? Join the movement to fix that. Download the new e-book, “I Am HR.” 


  1. Much of HR’s workload in some companies is administration. Admin is a Herzberg dissatisfier. This for me explains why great HR policies can remove moaning. But is it rare to hear someone at a cocktail party raving about HR administration or the policy manual – I often share this with HR colleagues. Once they understand that admin is not a satisfier, they often feel happier 🙂

  2. Some people are unfortunately happy when they are unhappy. (Not that they are really happy, of course.)

  3. “I worry that the message of “happiness” is an extension of the maternalism that has plagued HR departments during the past 25 years.”

    ^ This ^ times a million. I’m not your mommy or your babysitter, I’m here to get work done. You should be too.

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