Pt.1 A Manager’s thought on keeping her employees happy: Myth or Reality?

13.5 billion years ago, evolution started crawling for the first time at its usual baby pace.
Concepts such as time and gravity came into existence.
2.5 million years ago the first version of ‘’us’’ began its delicate dance throughout the planet Earth.
12 thousand years ago we established our first permanent settlements.
Almost two hundred years ago, the first public steam locomotion in England embarked on its first journey.

Today, we are in the primary phase of finding a vaccine for the deadly COVID-19, while nuclear weapons are threatening our extinction, and human-crafted satellites are orbiting into outer space. Compared to how slowly evolution moulded us, it seems like just minutes ago we transmuted from unintelligent humans into the masters of the entire planet and our closest celestial bodies. We’ve altered entire ecosystems, established empires, grew our concrete jungles and developed inter-subjective social systems.

We gave birth to capitalism, limited liability businesses and in 2015 against all odds, even to a company called Causeway Connect. We engineered ‘’money ’’ with no technological breakthroughs, solely from the figments of our imagination. We learned for the first time to systematically represent the value of ‘’things’’ and poof! Economy established its reign. We combined our differences, genders, races and nationalities and decided to devise a
universal system of trust on exchanging goods, in a very intricate web of social, political and economic relations. And voila we began manipulating financial crisis, political developments and the elusive stock market.

Ever since we found out we can communicate with one another, in a common language, we have been keeping ourselves, as humans, incredibly busy. Jumping from one idea to the next, devising problems, so that we can come up with solutions. We’ve sketched the draft of our own rat race. And when we ask ourselves why we did that, no matter how distinct our backgrounds are, and what religion or nation or profession we come from, we all say the same thing: so that we can be happier.
Typically, it is much easier to figure out what makes yourself happy, based on the calculation of different surrounding stimulants that supply you with pleasant or displeasing brain responses. Nonetheless, what happens when you become responsible for other people’s happiness as well?

What happens, when due to one reason or another you have caught yourself in a position to dictate and direct the happiness of say a hundred employees roaming around the offices of a department you took charge of?
As an HR avid, I have had countless moments of witnessing firsthand discontent from employees. Sometimes it would be due to legitimate reasons….and sometimes I would go into a remote dark corner of the office and try not to scream with rage and puzzlement too loud.
Even after examining, improving, altering and enhancing employees’ conditions, growth and salaries, the complaints would often double or take even more ridiculous shapes and forms (at least in my view). But parallel to lamentations came praises and satisfaction. Employees ecstatically hugging me and deafening me with their screams of joy and content. Again, sometimes it would be due to big bonuses…and sometimes I would have to understand the cause of bliss of installing a new software on an engineer’s laptop. Consequently, I had to wonder, like probably many before me, what makes employees happy?

Is there an equation?

Should I incorporate more hugs per employee in a non ‘’I will sue you for molesting and abusing me at the office’’ type of way)? Or paint the office walls pink (honestly, I know that would do it for me)? Fight for an even higher salary standard? What is the rule? How do we measure happiness in employees? And even more importantly how do we sustain it?
In the quest for my ‘’employees’ happiness equation,’’ I decided to start at the beginning. Waaaaay back at the beginning, before the Internet was a thing, and before ‘’social distancing’’ was trending. But don’t worry this will not be a boring history lesson of some sort. But it will contain lessons that I have grasped over my humble 25 years of existence, in the realms of sociology, politics and psychology (may the real Psychologists of Causeway Connect please refrain from criticism until the very end)

Does Money = Happiness?

In 2017 the total sum of ‘’broad’’ money in the world was about $80 trillion 2500 years ago, the first coin was introduced as a method of payment. If we simplify it to the bare minimum, today we are worth, 79, 999, 999, 999,999 coins more ( I think…math never was my strong suit, to be honest). So, we have come quite a long way.
But have we become happier as we have accumulated more wealth?

If we take out the obvious and unfair distribution of money away, and we look at the global picture, are the humans of 2020 happier than say the humans of the Persian empire in the 5th century BC, just because we have more money circulating?
Please try not to look at that question from a ‘’ white European 21 st century male’’ POV only. Because surely you will say, that living in the 5th century BC Persia without voting rights, credit loans, political involvement, private jets, Phone, 4g, iced lattes and Ferraris would really be tedious. But on the bright side, women there also lacked some fundamental rights so maybe that will compensate for your satisfaction as it does for many males in today’s world (#TearDownThePatriarchy). If you truly were a Persian male living in your mud made hut but you had a tiny farm of your own, maybe life wouldn’t be that bad for you because you wouldn’t know of anything better. Today, in comparison, thanks to the media we have referents of what more money can make you become. Photos and videos of rich celebrities in their ultra-mansions and fancy cars are embedded in our minds as the apex of what wealth brings you.

But can we claim that more money makes you happier? And if so, what is the limit, how
much money equals happiness?

We can argue that money brings happiness because money brings forth technological advancements and healthier ways of life. However, it also creates greed, alienation, and depression. Capitalists argue that only the free market can ensure the greatest happiness wrapped in economic growth and abundance of entrepreneurship yet in movies and books, billionaire tycoons are often time presented as lonely and dissatisfied. If we take into account Adam Smith’s theory on money in “The Wealth of Nations”, we can see that he claims that the increase of private profit is the foundation of collective wealth and hence making capitalism the most moral and political revolution ever started.
On the other hand, Marx and Engels wrote whole volumes about how money demolished states and captured people as prisoners on a hamster wheel, all while chanting ‘’workers of all nations unite’’. So which one is it? Or is there a third alternative? Because frankly the clock is ticking, and I have employees to make happy…

Perhaps, money does bring happiness up to a certain threshold and then its significance
diminishes.

If you are an employee at the bottom of the economic chain, more money might bring you security and that could stimulate your happiness. But if you are a top-notch digital marketing professional in a multinational outsourcing company earning 6 figures, it might just bring you a crumb of more pleasure, like get you that Mercedes you wanted and then take you back to your mundane way of life.
It is therefore impossible to argue that the happiness of the employees can always be achieved by the economic process of enhancement of their salaries.
Although we need to acknowledge the power of money to forge security and urge better lifestyles, we must not fully accredit it with being the source of happiness. If happiness consisted only of objective conditions such as money, it might have been easier to devise an equation for it. So, if it is not money could it be that happiness depends on the link of objective conditions and subjective anticipations?

Shall we examine this next Thursday?

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