Bob Goldman

It's bad enough that our managers expect us to be productive, submissive and committed. Now, it appears that we also should be happy.

As reported in a recent article in The New York Times, titled "Do Happier People Work Harder?" studies by Harvard Business School professor, Teresa Amabile and independent researcher, Steven Kramer, show that "workers perform better when they are happily engaged in what they do."

I guess a "happy engagement" could be used to describe your endless hours of non-stop complaining and carping, but this is not what the researchers have in mind. Nor do they define happiness like any normal employee, who would be happy to see a manager pelted with water balloons, or a supervisor's Jaguar filled with a ton of cottage cheese.

Apparently, the researchers actually believe there are people who do not simply endure their work, but actually receive "joy and excitement." You could call these people happy, or you could call them delusional. Either way, they're not you. Not even close.

Even if you are not happy in your job, you can feel happy in the knowledge that you are not alone. As cited by the authors, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which has been happily polling 1,000 adults every day since 2008, "shows that Americans now feel worse about their jobs -- and their work environments -- than ever before."

This sorry state of disgruntlement is not limited to battle-worn workforce veterans. "People of all ages, and across income levels, are unhappy with their supervisors, apathetic about their organizations and detached from what they do."

I'm not sure you need three years of survey data to learn just how miserable work can be these days. Forget the overpaid management class, gorging themselves with salaries and perks as they squeeze your salary like an over-ripe grapefruit. Ignore the cadre of middle managers, who work you like sled dogs in the Iditarod. If anything is going to make you feel detached from your job, it's the knowledge that, at any moment, you could be booted out of your position and booted into permanent unemployment. Now that's being detached from a job!

The cost of all this workplace misery is estimated by Gallup to be $300 billion in lost productivity annually. With that kind of bogey, you would expect managers to do everything possible to keep their work force smiling. Fat chance. "Conventional wisdom shows that pressure enhances performance," the authors report. And who could be more conventional than your management team, turning the screws on workers like you in the screwed-up idea that nothing improves performance like a non-stop campaign of bullying and intimidation.

Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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