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    Being happy at work isn’t something most people expect. But today’s guest, Dr. Annie McKee, believes it’s possible. In fact, she wrote a book on it, called “How to be Happy At Work,” published by Harvard Business Review Press. According to Annie, there are three key factors: hope, purpose, friendship, and in this episode, we dive into how to be happy at work.

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    Show Notes

    Why She Wrote the Book

    Annie has spent every day after earning her doctorate studying, teaching, and consulting on leadership, although she never intended to write a book on happiness. But then something happened. She and her team helped so many organizations but she could never shake the feeling that something was missing. She and her team went back to the research, reports, and conversations to discover what it was. Regardless of where a person works, they want, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to be happy at work.

    The Myth About Work

    Annie meets more unhappy people than happy people in her line of work, and to her, it’s unacceptable. So she took a look at why. Annie found that our happiness — or lack thereof — comes from a historic era: the industrial revolution. Bosses then were most concerned with how they could get the most out of every person every day. Annie talks about how this inhumane drive has carried over and how leaders need a new way of thinking.

    The Definition of Happiness at Work

    The attention on happiness, not just in life, but also in work, has exploded recently. Annie isn’t talking about the hedonistic view of happiness, but rather, what the people she worked with were telling her. Here’s Annie’s take on the definition: a sense of fulfillment as a result of purposeful, meaningful work, a hopeful outlook about the future, and good friends in the workplace. In fact, that’s the framework for her book: hope, purpose, and friendship.

    The Happiness-Engagement Link

    As you know, employee engagement is low across the board. While there hasn’t been a lot of research on the link between happiness and engagement, there have been many done on engagement and productivity in the workplace. Annie talks about why the link between happiness and engagement leads to greater productivity. She shares some examples of how leaders can build environments that create happiness, and it all comes back to hope, purpose, and friendship. She and Marcel break down each of those. The core of it all is love.

    Happiness Traps

    A lot of people don’t think they SHOULD be happy in the workplace. It’s beliefs like this, paired with outdated management styles, that stand in the way of happiness, and by extension, productivity. Annie reveals other happiness traps, things that prevent us from being happy like bad managers and toxic cultures. But we also set traps for ourselves, and first among those is the ‘overwork’ trap. Annie talks about how to disarm overwork and other traps.

    Leading Through Fear

    We’ve made it a point to ask all our guests about the phenomenon of leading through fear and why they think it happens. Annie has a very good idea why: insecurity. It’s an odd thing, she points out, that when people are at the top of their game and the top of their organization, why they’d be insecure. Annie knows the answer to the question: we haven’t been prepared to deal with the grain of insecurity we ALL have.

    Quote of the Day

    “We think work should be ugly and hard. And that’s not the case. Why would we condemn ourselves to a lifetime of spending our time doing something that’s hard, ugly, and terrible? That’s just not human nature. Human nature is to seek goodness and to look for hope and to make a contribution. That’s what we really want to do.”

    The Book



    Annie’s Books

    Work is Love Made Visible

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    About Marcel Schwantes

    Marcel Schwantes is the founder and chief human officer of Leadership from the Core, a global leadership training and executive coaching boutique aimed at developing great leaders and great cultures through Servant Leadership.

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