Do we need a chief happiness officer to have satisfied employees?

Happiness is a complex feeling that does not only depend on our work. Having a C.H.O could even be perceived as an obligation for us to feel happy. Yet as our companies do not cover all the factors needed to achieve happiness, this might make us even more frustrated.
Why don’t we start first with simple respect? Would it not be better to work on transforming our organisation’s culture for more inclusion?

A few years ago, I attended a presentation of the “Great Place To Work” label in Madrid. I asked them if they included an diversity indicator and if the results of the satisfaction questionnaire were gendered (analysed by sex). The manager replied, “We did look at that a few years ago but we don’t anymore, because the results showed that women were systematically less happy at work than men. Since there was no objective reason for this difference, we didn’t want to highlight the fact that women were more difficult than men. “

This is a classic stereotypical example of women being “too complicated to understand” and thus completely denying reality. I do not know if Great Place to Work still use the same methodology. But how many companies measure their employee engagement nowadays? And how many of them measure the difference between women’s and men’s answers, and take action accordingly?

Why are women systematically less satisfied with their employers?

Why is it that women start with the same (or even bigger) level of ambition as men at the beginning of their career, but after just two years, their aspirations to become a top manager drop and their confidence has plummeted? *

It is because the company culture is not naturally respectful of everyone. Each organisation has its own culture – be it Anglo-Saxon, Dutch-speaking or French-speaking for example; the rational culture of its engineers; an alpha-male geek culture; an upper-class white culture, …; an introverted or extroverted culture; … We can get a first idea of this by looking at the profile of those who lead them. All others who are not aligned with this profile are “outsiders”, who feel they must adapt to fit the mould promoted by the leaders in order to be recognised and valued. In this game, women are almost always losers. They “naturally” don’t have “what it takes”.

This is actually why women are considered part of “diversity” even if they represent half of humanity and 60% of university graduates. In the business world, the norm is always male even if in some companies women largely out-number men. If companies want to become “gender bilingual”**, they must start by understanding their corporate culture and recognising that some people are more likely to be rewarded in this culture than others. This is how a company that wants the benefit from ALL its talents begins its  transformational journey towards a more inclusive culture. Lunchtime yoga classes, organic canteens, company outings and game room with a kicker will not help those who don’t fit the “typical” leadership profile. Sometimes quite the contrary …

Let’s tackle happiness and well-being at work once we are sure that all talent is treated fairly, but not necessarily treated in the same way. Otherwise we might end up discriminating against people despite our good intentions.

Diversity is a fact. It is measuring the number of people who are different. Inclusion is a choice. It is recognising, respecting and valuing differences so that everyone has their place and can give the best of themselves. Diversity is being invited to the ball. Inclusion is being invited to dance***. What would make you the happiest?

* Bain&Company 2014 “The crisis of confidence

** “Gender bilingual” is a concept introduced by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox in her book “Why women mean business

*** Verna Myers