Management Dysfunction: Measuring Happiness

I recently had a group of employees from one company who said their management was trying to measure and improve people’s happiness. Management did that by sending feedback forms to everyone, once every three months, which people had to fill out and send back.

So I asked them, “How do you feel about that?”

Then somebody answered, “I hate those forms!”

Several people in the room nodded their heads in agreement.

I said, “OK, so the practice which is supposed to measure happiness is actually destroying happiness?”

Again, several people nodded their heads eagerly.

Measurement Dysfunction

It is a common dysfunction of management. The metrics that managers put in place have the opposite effect of what the managers are trying to achieve. There is a severe lack of complexity thinking.

Managers, and their practices, are not objective observers of the system. They are part of the system, and influencing it with everything they do.

Therefore, if your goal is to understand and improve happiness, you should introduce observation practices that have a built-in tendency to improve happiness. Such as the Happiness Door. Granted, the happiness door is far from perfect. But I'd rather have a flawed metric suggesting improved happiness, than a perfect measurement proving destroyed happiness.

If I was an employee confronted with annoying three-monthly feedback forms about happiness, I would collect all those forms and walk out of the building. I would then set those forms on fire, make a video of it, upload the video to YouTube, and then tweet about it. Then I would send a message to management saying, “You should introduce a happiness door right now, because I just made myself very happy.”

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  • Ronian Siew

    After reading through the intros for “Management 3.0” and “How To Change The World”, I’m starting to get a feel for the role of complexity in the workplace. The idea has very solid scientific basis and the more you think about it and reflect upon it and observe, the more it sinks in. I read them at Amazon, and I’m probably going to buy them soon. As I live in Singapore, I’ll likely get the ebook version so it’s cheaper.
    All of the above seems to be consistent with “They are PART of the system, and influencing it with everything they do.” Because if they disregard any part they take in the ‘system’, then they are also practicing “egocentric leadership” I think. For why automatically consider oneself to be outside of an apparently flawed system that one assumes?
    Love the ending of this post! LOL!

  • StefanBilliet

    There’s even a scientific term for the effect Jurgen describes: The observer effect.
    Keeping in mind this is one of the first things you learn in middle school, it’s kind of strange those managers don’t stop to think about their effect as an observer on their surroundings…

  • Ronian Siew

    Hi Stefan,
    Though I don’t recall learning about the role of the observer in “middle school”, I agree that it is strange that the managers don’t stop to think about it. Moreover, to take this a bit further, it is consistent with quantum mechanics and Heisenberg! LOL!

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