Not too long ago a new job title started to make an appearance in German companies: the “Feel Good Manager” – a name that might bring an ironic smile to some native speakers’ faces, as a colleague in New York confirmed. You see, a “Feel Good Doctor” would be someone who prescribes drugs that promote good feelings beyond the actual medical need – and there is a similar ring to “Feel Good Manager”.
But the intention behind the position with this title is to have someone responsible for employees feeling good on the job (in a healthy sense). The idea that people should enjoy being at work is a great one and I am completely behind that. So certainly this is a good new trend. Or is it?
That depends, I would say.
Hiring someone for a topic does not automatically introduce that value into the company environment. In other words, if the company doesn’t really care about how the employees feel about their work, then hiring a “Feel Good Manager” will not change much about how the employees feel.
However, if a company is dedicated to having people enjoy working for them, at some point it might make sense to employ someone in charge of this area.
The road to good feelings
What makes people feel good at work?
Does good feeling come from a “great location”, dry cleaning services, video games and a napping area? How about great food? Massages? Parties? Team-building events?
Those things can certainly contribute to a nice atmosphere, but isn’t it really about the work?
And if I don’t enjoy my work, will a place to sleep or play in the office make me happy?
Feeling good at work has several parts. One of them is balance – work-life-balance, as it is often called. As a human being I desire to “enjoy” my work, but I need to balance that with a private life that also involves not only enjoyment but duties. A company that takes care of my cleaning so I can work more, is ignoring a need that is basic. There is a time for work and there is a time … well, for time away from work.
The most fundamental aspect of work enjoyment, however, comes from inside the “workers” themselves: intrinsic motivation. Such a motivation only comes about, when someone has a goal that they agree with, and is working toward it with autonomy. So that means there have to be defined goals. There has to be something that the company believes in, which the employees can buy into, which they are allowed to define for themselves, because they are not lackeys but individuals agreeing to work together for a common goal.
Intrinsically motivated people will automatically want to do a good job and will enjoy the process. That is, if you allow them to, by giving them the tools for it, and by keeping distractions minimal, and by providing the freedom to define how they do it.
Fortunately, we were able to learn a lot while still very small. We understood about intrinsically motivated people, freedom and trust. We also knew about work-life-balance. But knowing about it wasn’t enough. In order to allow people to have this balance, we had to find out what was keeping them from it. We realized that many projects were badly organised and chaotic. So the place to start was to find adequate processes for our projects. It took some time, but through practicing improved processes lead to overtime becoming seldom and weekend work practically disappearing.
So it wasn’t enough to say it and it wasn’t enough to believe in it. We had to actively change things.
This so far, though, was only a recognition of our employees – that we value them and their time. We hadn’t provided a real reason for their work. This far they are providing their own motivation somehow.
How much better to find a vision that the employees will believe in.
Two years ago, the management of MINISTRY went off for a couple of days for the first of their annual strategy workshops. We had a new office and we were growing and everything felt fresh and full of potential. To formulate our mission, vision and values we decided to start with “why” and were quite surprised and extremely pleased by what came out of it.
We realized that we do what we do, because we believe in the personal development of everyone in the team and that we believe in having fun at work and in being proud of what we do.
Having formulated that, we had something to work toward. We set goals for client and employee satisfaction that could be measured and shared these principles with all of our employees. We made them transparent so that they can be tested and criticized.
Just saying we want to enjoy our work and be proud of what we do is also not enough. We need to show that we mean it. Sometimes that means not continuing projects that refuse to meet these goals.
But there is a lot to do and there will always be more to learn. Hiring someone to manage “good feelings” at the office will not change that, but it is likely that someday, a “Feel Good Manager” could be helping us in some aspects of this job.
So if you are thinking of hiring a “Feel Good Manager” my suggestion to you is:
find out what motivates your employees. Find the “why” of the company and then bring them together. Also let people do their jobs and let them have a life at work and outside of it – in equal balance. Encourage them to take advantage of free time. Engender an atmosphere of health, pride and work enjoyment and then by all means hire a “Feel Good Manager” to help you.