By Mary Ann Faremouth, CPC
I recently learned about a relatively new course Harvard University offers its MBA students: “Leadership and Happiness,” a course on managing happiness for a team and for oneself. First offered in Spring 2020, enrollment in the class has more than doubled from 72 spots to 180, yet the school still can’t accommodate all the students who wish to take the course. The overwhelming popularity of the class and others like it “reflects a demand for soft skills and students’ desire for a more balanced life,” while the existence of such classes reflects “the intention of schools to develop better bosses” in touch with the needs of today’s workplace.
The class focuses on four important aspects that contribute to happiness: friends, family, faith or philosophy, and meaningful work. All four of these can be seen as types of relationships: with others, with a deity, with oneself, and with how one contributes to the world.
The idea that relationships contribute to happiness is considered fundamental by Robert J. Waldinger, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and current director of the Grant Study, one of the longest-running studies of adult life ever conducted. “Our relationships and how happy we are in [them] have a powerful influence on our health,” Waldinger was quoted as saying in a 2017 article in the Harvard Gazette. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too.”
The article goes on to discuss the Grant Study’s findings: “Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives . . . . Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.”
MBA students aren’t the only ones who should benefit from these lessons on managing happiness. With the recent changes in the American workforce, it’s important to consider how best to approach relationships in the New Work World to manifest better life balance and work experiences.
1. Focus on the “We” More Than the “Me”
In the most recent episode of my podcast, Career Can Do, I interviewed a prominent lawyer, Melanie Bragg. Toward the end, she discusses a candidate she interviewed who seemed more interested in what he could get from her law firm than what he could do for the company. Without knowing who he was or how he might fit in—without even the beginnings of a relationship—Melanie had no reason to consider his demands. The service orientation, or “we” mentality, that goes into building and maintaining relationships is important in all areas of life. In the workplace, it can lead you to a deeper understanding of and fulfillment in your work and your connections with coworkers.
2. Purchase Experiences, Not Things
Before the pandemic, I took my family on a week-long cruise to the Caribbean as a Christmas gift, rather than buy things I would traditionally have driven myself crazy over purchasing. That cruise allowed my children and me to break away from the long hours and busy work schedules we normally adhered to so we could relax and have more time together. Such experiences can foster deeper relationships, something to consider in the workplace as much as your personal life.
3. Contribute to Others
In your workplace, grow your relationships with coworkers by helping them even when the actions might not offer you immediate rewards. Perhaps you could spend thirty minutes or an hour each week training a new employee in an area of their new position that you have mastered. Maybe you could offer someone cross-training, in case they need to take over if another employee calls out for illness or family issues. I myself mentor students at various colleges, helping them streamline their choices of classes and internships that offer experiences and skills important for when they enter the workplace. This might take time I could use elsewhere in my recruiting practice, but when these students graduate because of my recommendations, they might be more placeable and make a greater, more in-demand contribution to the New Work World.
4. Acknowledge Small Wins
An applicant told me recently that he had taken an online computer course that helped him increase the proficiency of inputting data in his department. It provided his managers with up-to-date information they could use to make better analyses that might affect the bottom line. He called it “no big deal,” but I insisted he acknowledge the accomplishment and not downplay his efforts. He might have considered it a small win, but learning it on his own time and applying it the way he had could help improve his relationships with coworkers and might pay off in a different way when his performance review came around. Plus, mentioning such endeavors during interviews can help start a relationship with a potential new employer.
As both Harvard’s new MBA class and the Grant Study illustrate, finding balance between our friends, family, faith or philosophy, and meaningful work—the many relationships in our lives—can help us find happiness and may ultimately pay big dividends in our our personal and professional lives.
Mary Ann Faremouth
Mary Ann holds a CPC (Certified Personnel Consultant) credential, was certified by the Board of Regents of the National Association of Personnel Consultants in Washington, D.C., and was awarded an Advanced Communicator Bronze, Advanced Leader Bronze Awards by Toastmasters. She cofounded Jobs: Houston magazine in 1997. Mary Ann maintains affiliations with professional organizations, including oil and gas, financial, construction, IT, and structural, mechanical, and civil engineering. (www.faremouth.com)
Mary Ann’s award-winning first book Revolutionary Recruiting has been listed by Book Authority as Number #1 Best 100 Recruiting Books; #1 Best Seller, Non-Fiction, Amazon (2019); Top 20 Recruiting books, Recruitics; Readers’ Choice finalist (2019), Houston Literary Awards; Best Non-Fiction (2018), Best Cover (2019), and Best Self-Help (2018), Authors Marketing Guild. Her books support individuals and corporations, tap into each candidate’s unrealized potential to find the right person for each job, maximizing both employee satisfaction and the employer’s bottom line. Mary Ann showcases her expertise of the recruiting world on a monthly podcast for The Price of Business and weekly articles for USA Business. Her new workbook, Revolutionary Reinvention, was recently released on Amazon. Mary Ann lives in Houston, Texas.