Work, Data and Happiness

Advocating and believing in a practise isn’t the same as blindly believing in it as a thing. I learned this a long while ago. Mostly I learned this because of religion. Then, as time went on, and I learned how to advocate my practise, I learned that not everyone thought like I did. Well, of course, but you know I was younger in them days. I used to have strong beliefs and extreme views on stuff. Then I grew up and learned all these shades of grey I never thought needed to exist.

I’m a better person for it. These days I know, of myself and of most things in life, that some things are true for some people. Some things are wrong for some people. And some things are just the wrong things. It’s all hazy right? There’s a delicious discomfort in not knowing, if you know how to be comfortable with that as a concept.

There are many a consultant type who will claim things like:

Imagine working on only those things you’re great at doing. Why would you want to do anything else?

If you do only these things, you’ll be protected from bad things!

And other sorts of blithe nonsense.

See, the problem isn’t the intent of what these types are saying. They’re trying to convey things like positivity and good actions and what have you. Of course I’m on board with the intent of those things.

But the thing which is missing from all of those types of messages is reality.

It’s one of the things I’m really careful about when I talk about positive psychology. Yes, you can do a lot of good and positive things, and they can and are likely to help you feel better about yourself, increase your long lasting feelings of happiness, and give you a better outlook on life.

But only if you are prepared to deal with the reality of life and what it throws your way. Sometimes, life really sucks and it can be hard to feel or act positively when all you might be experiencing are hard times. Your personal resilience can be tested really hard and it’s a gift to just get through a day at times.

So I come back to those types of statements above. And I think about working life.

See, I do believe that we can do a job we love doing.

But I also believe we have to acknowledge that you will still have to do things you don’t want to do. Like the filing. Like admin. Like using Excel. Like being creative. Like going out on work socials. Like writing reports. Like following process and policies. Like having a difficult conversation with a colleague. Like coaching someone.

They are working life. Organisations have had these things forever. Why fool ourselves into thinking we can exist without them?

We can tolerate them better, and maybe that’s what we need to advocate better?

Recently I heard two things which made me question the blurred vision we sometimes are presented with.

The first was that in L&D, if we align to the business and deliver results which positively affect performance, we’ll be protected against being cut. That’s the biggest load of nonsense I’ve ever heard. I know of, and have experienced, cuts of the harshest kind to L&D departments, and this was in the midst of great business focused projects, and business results. That’s reality, and no amount of good and positive action was going to mitigate against that.

The second was that working on your passion means never having to deal with data. God, really? Even independent consultants and the likes have to submit their accounts and deal with data to produce reports and the likes. That’s reality talking again.

And a short word on data. We’re in a world now where data is becoming more important than knowledge. App developers and techy types rely on the way we interact with technology in order to make their monies (or that’s their plan anyway). In a world like that, things like happiness and personal fulfilment take on different meanings and different answers arise.

What was true, may remain true, but it may not. Data will continue to drive the things being developed. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but what it does mean is that new questions will be asked about how life is lead, how work gets done, and what the future looks like. No-one can answer those until we’re mired in those realities. And once we’re there, we can define a new happiness, and maybe answer questions about work-life balance along the way.

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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

One thought on “Work, Data and Happiness”

  1. From working in similar roles across different sectors, it has been interesting to see the different values and motivational factors of the companies within those sectors – alongside the people that work within them. Some would hold happiness and staff development within their main values, others efficiency and data, the list goes on.

    A successful organisation will link these values to their primary goals. I am a vocal advocate of the importance and impact of people development of happiness and the positive impact on work, however if you run a business who can operate successfully whilst decreasing that function, and cuts need to be made – that is one of the first places it will happen. And that fact brings into question the way that learning and development departments operate – perhaps we should be thinking about how to integrate our practices more closely to the functions and business objectives – it’s not a new thought – but perhaps time we started looking at it in a different way taking into account for example:
    > values
    > belief systems
    > culture
    > targets
    > key influences / stakeholders…

    I may have gone on somewhat of a tangent there but you got my brain whirring.

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