Will only perfection make us satisfied?
“Do you know what you should launch next?” My then Plato-coordinator Kevin asked during our conversation. We just had an interview about my then newly released book “BLISS! Regaining pleasure in your life and in your work”, and he was very enthusiastic. “You should handout an award for burn-out free corporations”. I was charmed by the idea, but I didn’t have the guts. After all, corporations were no-one burns out don’t exist. And the corporation is not the only one to blame, this I knew from experience (I had 2 burn-outs myself).
And still it made me think. Because how nice would it be to reward companies if they formally committed to make their employees as happy as they possibly could? That they would try their hardest? After a few weeks of reminiscing, the Bliss at work™-label was born.
We started off with a few companies. There are prerequisites to becoming a Bliss at work company. From research we knew that there are 3 crucial pillars that allow employees to work happily. Their employability has to be sustainable (they need to be able to contribute in a useful way over a long period of time), they need to stay mentally resilient (a much better remedy than dealing with stress is working proactively on your resilience), and they need to organize something to safeguard the physical health of their employees. Because we know that when it comes to burn-outs it all starts and ends with the body. We ran into a lot of resistance when we started talking to companies about this. Because who is brave enough to call themselves full of ‘bliss’? Many questions also arose: if they needed to do an audit or survey for example. They didn’t. That made it for some companies more believable for others apparently less. We know that most companies do an employee satisfaction survey, but we also know that before the results are even processed the next survey is already waiting for them. As an employee that frustrated me: always coloring bullets, nothing ever changing. The results are know upfront: most people are satisfied, some a little less and everybody wants more communications (I’m being a bit cynical right now). And so not many companies dare to say out loud that they are a ‘bliss at work’ company.
The hospital did have the guts!
Last week, after 2 years of sensibilisation and corporation, we witnessed a special moment: we were finally able to award, for the first time, an organization with the ‘Bliss at work’™-label. We got to hand out the beautiful label on a festive employee day to the Regional Hospital Heilig Hart Leuven. That was amazing: the sun came out, there were foodtrucks with great food and the atmosphere was positive. And they really did deserve it. And still I saw 2 sceptical faces in the audience when I announced why they became a ‘Bliss at work™’ company. Apparently not everybody was convinced. So I immediately said in my speech: “we know that not everything is perfect, so does your board of directors, but we expect first and foremost a genuine intention to continue step by step on this path that you started together. Your directors have signed on it.”
It stayed with me, those 2 skeptical faces. You should be happy and proud if your organization receives such a recognition, right? To be a part of that? Do we expect everything to be perfect before we allow ourselves to be proud? Do we expect our employer to make everything perfect before we are allowed to say that they’re doing a good job? That doesn’t seem like a fair deal to me. Because as an organization it’s very hard to know what each individual expects. People don’t always say it. Not even when they are coloring bullets.
Ask not what your country can do for you…
President JFK understood this: it’s not possible for 1 man or woman to make a nation grand and proud. In order to do that, he needed help from all the Americans. The same applies to organizations: it’s not possible for a CEO or even for an entire management team to create a biotope where everyone can be their best self without the help, input and contribution of every member of the organization. So don’t just sit there, go out and have the conversation. Kennedy finished his sentence with ‘ask what we can do for the freedom of humankind”. A pleasant place to work is something you build together.
Rome wasn’t built in a day
Since we are stuck in the big sayings, this one is also very true. Because we also experienced that sometimes it takes 2 years for something to take root, like BLISS at work!™. I’ve repeatedly thought that it wasn’t possible. That companies don’t have the guts. Because there is no way to prove with numbers that you’re actually a “Bliss at work!™” company. What I mean is that there’s no survey you can take, there’s no audit. There are however plenty of other signals and ways to measure. Most awards are handed out when you already are something: you reached the ISO-standard, you became best employer… We find the road to be even more important than the destination. It doesn’t stop after receiving the label, quite the opposite. It’s not just about being a fun place to work right now, it’s about continuously taking steps in the chosen direction. Recognizing that is equally important to us, even if just to keep your employer motivated to keep putting in effort for employee satisfaction.
Do we expect perfection?
Imagine that I would ask a 100 couples if they have a perfect relationship, what percentage would say ‘yes’? Probably not 100. Presumably a small percentage will say ‘yes’, some will ask me what ‘perfect’ means (very good question, you define what it means, not me), and a few of them might tell me afterwards that they are getting divorced. The most part will probably say ‘yes, definitely good enough’. I notice, also in workshop last week, that it’s hard for people to say out oud that things are going well even when they aren’t perfect. Us businessowners are experts in this field. We won’t be quick to say ‘everything is going well’. Do we expect perfection? If that’s the stick we measure ourselves with, then it will be hard to ever be happy and satisfied. I’m giving you a challenge. Finish each day with recounting 3 things you did well. And start every meeting with your team with recounting the successes of last week. You’ll notice that many things are going well and that it will make you happy, despite it being imperfect.