Seligman refers to it as “flourishing”. Ackoff as “fun and meaningfulness”. Deming (originally) as “pride”. And Rosenberg builds the whole of Nonviolent Communication on the cornerstone of “joy”.

“Management’s job is to create an environment where everybody may take joy in his work.”

~ WE Deming

“If there isn’t joy in in work, you won’t get productivity, and you won’t get quality.”

~ Russell L. Ackoff

I don’t see joy being the explicit focus of much attention in the world of software and product development (or in many other theatres of work either, for that matter). This in itself makes me feel sad, for I have a need to see folks living a full and flourishing life. And I see work – for good or ill – as a major part of life in today’s world.

“I believe that the most joyful and intrinsic motivation human beings have for taking any action is the desire to meet our needs and the needs of others.”

~ Marshall B. Rosenberg

I feel even more sad when so many of the folks I ask seem to think that joy at work is not part of the equation or of the implicit “contract” of working for an employer. Although many folks do seem to have an interest in the subject, once it’s brought to their attention.

Even Dan Pink (Drive) has little to say about joy, directly.

I believe, as did Deming, that joy in work “unleashes the power of human resource contained in intrinsic motivation”, and that doing “quality” work is the source of much of that joy.

And as a practising Organisational Therapist with an keen interest in Positive Psychology, I’d rather devote my efforts to spreading joy than to e.g. correcting deficiencies and dealing with the inevitable consequences of a lack of joy.

I’ve given this post the title “hyper-joyful” in reaction to the concept of “hyper-productivity” which I’ve seen bandied-about more and more often recently. I can’t help but feel scornful and dismissive – and yes, sad, too – every time I hear or see the term “hyper-productive”. It’s not like Agile often lives up to that aspiration, in any case. Who, in fact, can get a feel-good feeling about hyper-productivity?

“The 14 Points all have one aim: to make it possible for people to work with joy.”

~ WE Deming

Personally, I’d feel much happier if more folks talked a bit more about hyper-joyfulness – and a bit less about hyper-productivity.

How about you? Would you be willing to raise the topic of joy and joyfulness in your workplace, and with your peers?

Semper mirabilis!

– Bob

Further Reading

Dr. Deming’s Joy at Work, Happiness, & the High Performance Organization ~ Lawrence M. Miller
Nonviolent Communication ~  Marshall B. Rosenberg
Drive ~ Dan Pink
What the heck is arbejdsglaede!?

  1. What about those things that can be painful in the short term but are appreciated in the long term.

    Receiving criticism is never easy. Those with passion invest heavily in what they create and find it difficult to accept that improvement is needed.

    Despite this those who gain mastery are always grateful for the feedback and high standards they received from their mentors.

    Are there “non violent” ways to deliver criticism?

    Perhaps immediate discomfort part of joy, just as hunger can be the best ingredient.

  2. Criticism is only uncomfortable when we are uneasy about our work or our reviewer. If we trust the reviewer implicitly and have a recognition that our work is never perfect, the feedback we receive doesn’t diminish us.

  3. Is there no discomfort while that trust is being built? Is it possible to reach a point of implicit trust while avoiding all friction?

    • I suppose it depends on the people involved. Some will assume trustworthiness until given evidence to the contrary while others will distrust until a period of trust-building has passed.

      There is a different perspective, for the reviewed, that can apply. I’ve heard this attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

  4. Hi Justin,

    My main concern is with what it means to be “Joyful.” If the pursuit of “joy” the same as the pursuit of “happiness?” Does utility theory cover joyfulness?

    Would I be willing to raise the topic of joy and joyfulness in my workplace? No, because I’d be worried that somebody might ask me what it actually is.

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