Happy, defined (by the boss)

Wouldn’t YOU pay attention when Scott Adams, brilliant definer of the work world in “Dilbert,” writes about how to be happier?

I would. Last week, Adams penned a front-page piece for The Washington Post‘s week-in-review section. He is tremendously skilled at being reductive, distilling a concept into a three-panel portrait of life at work. In this article Adams reduced a topic we tackle around this time of year — through resolutions we make to improve work and personal lives — into a three-word formula:

Happiness = health + freedom


That idea of freedom — to do what you want when you want — is more and more relevant as work becomes more flexible, portable and pervasive. To a great extent, every worker is responsible for defining and striving toward whatever “freedom” means to him or her. But you bosses, you have a role too. It starts with knowing what freedoms your key managers want. Could you say — right now — what each of your key employees would value as a freedom related to their work? Is it the chance to go work out every day at lunch, or to leave early on Thursdays to have “girl time” with a fast-growing daughter? Shifting the workday to arrive at 10 am and leave at 7 pm? Getting more time out in the field rather than at a desk?

Are there changes you can make right now to begin building happiness for your team?

Adams wrote his piece with the individual in mind. He was not — hardly ever is — looking at it from the side of the pointy-haired boss. If you’re the (non) pointy-haired boss, however, you have the power to confer freedoms that will make your whole team work happier in 2014.

As for the “health” part, Adams had me at this line:

“It’s never a good idea to take health tips from cartoonists, so check with your doctor if anything here sounds iffy to you. I don’t know how many people have died after reading health tips from cartoonists, but it probably isn’t zero. Don’t say you weren’t warned.”

Read the whole thing on the Post‘s site.