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05/17/2022

Happiness on the job

WD-40’s CEO and others weigh in on work, productivity and morale.

An article on the front page of the New York Times business section this week focused on the relationship between work and happiness, with business leaders and scientists and employees weighing in with opinions.

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ping pong
Can office ping-pong excite workers in a post-pandemic world?

Chief among the voices was Gary Ridge, CEO of  San Diego-based WD-40. The article quotes Ridge quoting the Greek philosopher Aristotle: “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in work.”

Some of the techniques employed at WD-40 to bring pleasure to workers include a no-manager structure (there are “coaches” instead. There are “Mother Teresa” awards given to employees who do good deeds in their communities.

The article made no mention of the company’s use of the phrase “tribe members” to describe its employees. The corporate web site includes this definition: “We define tribe as a group of people who come together to protect and feed each other.”

[Here’s a link to the NYTimes article here.]

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a man standing in front of a building
Hancock Lumber's Kevin Hancock believes in shared leadership.

Other popular examples of morale-boosting techniques throughout corporate America include ping-pong-tables, office gyms, and free snacks. These concepts have diminished in value during the pandemic-induced, work-from-home trend.

As usual, the report made fun of Silicon Valley’s use of office slides and ball pits. It also cast doubt on the effectiveness of planned-happiness techniques in general. The headline reads in part: “Employers like to boost morale —  and let’s face it, productivity —with treats and trinkets, while workers really want flexibility and to have their basic needs met.”

In the hardware and building supply industry, morale-boosting tactics are gaining prominence. The HBSDealer 2022 ProDealer of the Year Hancock Lumber won its eighth straight “Best Places to Work in Maine Award,” and CEO Kevin Hancock credits its success to the concept of shared leadership.

Wendy Scribner, Hancock Lumber’s vice president of human resources, in HBSDealer’s March 2022 cover story, explained Hancock’s award-winning morale this way: “It’s not a top-down company. Everyone is involved. Everyone here is important: the frontline, the drivers, the yard workers. This culture didn’t happen overnight. It took us years to get where we are today. We have opportunities at every juncture of every single person’s job here to include the. Employees in the feedback, decision making, taking responsibility, stepping up. We say everyone has a voice and is to use it. That sounds like a cliché, but it’s really true.”

Share your opinion on workplace happiness at [email protected].

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