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Management Dysfunction: Measuring Happiness

I recently had a group of employees from one company who said their management was trying to measure and improve people’s happiness. Management did that by sending feedback forms to everyone, once every three months, which people had to fill out and send back.

So I asked them, “How do you feel about that?”

Then somebody answered, “I hate those forms!”

Several people in the room nodded their heads in agreement.

I said, “OK, so the practice which is supposed to measure happiness is actually destroying happiness?”

Again, several people nodded their heads eagerly.

Measurement Dysfunction


It is a common dysfunction of management. The metrics that managers put in place have the opposite effect of what the managers are trying to achieve. There is a severe lack of complexity thinking.

Managers, and their practices, are not objective observers of the system. They are part of the system, and influencing it with everything they do.

Therefore, if your goal is to understand and improve happiness, you should introduce observation practices that have a built-in tendency to improve happiness. Such as the Happiness Door. Granted, the happiness door is far from perfect. But I'd rather have a flawed metric suggesting improved happiness, than a perfect measurement proving destroyed happiness.

If I was an employee confronted with annoying three-monthly feedback forms about happiness, I would collect all those forms and walk out of the building. I would then set those forms on fire, make a video of it, upload the video to YouTube, and then tweet about it. Then I would send a message to management saying, “You should introduce a happiness door right now, because I just made myself very happy.”

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