“It’s time to claim our right to be happy at work”. In a previous news item, I referenced Annie McKee, (teamed with Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis), who took our understanding of the emotionally intelligent leader to a new level.
This time, in HBR’s Sept/Oct issue, Annie McKee now opens the door on how to avoid or diminish the “happiness traps” that we create for ourselves at work – again through the lens of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). She asks, to what extent do we sabotage ourselves at work?
As a huge fan of the emotional intelligence concept, the notion of sabotaging myself at work was not only intriguing but also exciting, in that, if I’m doing this to myself then it’s surely easy to fix! Think again! In this brilliant article in the HBR (Sept/Oct 2017) we are treated to a mirror holding exercise and forced to face the truth about ourselves.
McKee highlights the three most common traps we fall into and proposes a “break free” strategy that makes perfect sense. She proposes the ambition trap, the “should” trap and the overwork trap. The clues are in the labels and not tricky to relate to.
However, the notable aspect of her article for me was the idea that our levels of self-awareness and emotional intelligence may be impacting our ability to get ourselves out of these traps as and when we need to:
- our emotional self-awareness – do we really understand our feelings and moods sufficiently?
- our emotional self-control – have we created that state of healthy vulnerability?
- our organisational awareness – do we distinguish between what is coming from inside ourselves and what’s coming from others, or our company?
What I like about this link to EQ is that we might begin to see associations between the same things that trip us up as leaders, and people performing roles in an organisation, as trip us up in life.
And so, first we need to recognise that we deserve to be happy at work and decide which of the three traps we are subject to (there may also be others of course…).
Then McKee’s advice is simple (which for most of us will be our life’s work to achieve!)
- Actively seek meaning and purpose for ourselves – increase our sense of fulfilment and be engaged in worthwhile activity
- Foster hope in ourselves and others – work towards a personal and/or organisational vision, one that speaks to our values, desires and beliefs
- Build friendships at work – work with people you like, even love (founded on caring, concern and camaraderie), and create meaningful relationships built on understanding and trust
The article concludes “too many people believe that if they are successful, they’ll be happy. That’s backward”. McKee says it’s the other way around… “happiness comes before success because having positive emotions aroused by being engaged, fulfilled and valued at work have a host of benefits”.
Ref: Happiness Traps – How We Sabotage Ourselves at Work: Annie McKee, Harvard Business Review, Sept/Oct 2017.