Does happiness matter?

PB-logoHere is my April Management Matters column in Prairie Business Magazine

I have been to two conferences lately where people-based management techniques were targeted as the root of all evil. There seemed to be growing consensus that the secret to leadership success in the new millennium might be a move to the scientific theory of management. The proponents argued, rather persuasively, that leaders must focus on labor productivity.

I watched in amazement as audiences became wowed, perhaps even convinced, that Frederick Winslow Taylor’s ideas of 100 years ago might be the wave of the future. The Taylorists went on to suggest that managers needed to stop worrying about whether workers were happy. After all, they suggested, with high unemployment in the U.S., there were many workers available to replace those who are more worried about being happy than productive.

I hope the readers of Prairie Business are not tempted by such shallow promises of increased productivity by commodifying people. Despite what some draconian thinkers might suggest, people, and their happiness, do matter. Arguably the best route to increased productivity, if that is the goal, is through a focus on your people. The old adage “a happy worker is a productive worker” is as true today as it ever was.

Not convinced? Take a look at the 2013 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ( in which North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota rank in the top four states in the country. Prairie leaders understand that liking what you do each day, having supportive relationships and liking where you live all lead to high well-being scores.

I wonder if those conference speakers I mentioned hailed from West Virginia (number 50 on the list).