Are we meant to be happy at work?

So read the headline of the Globe and Mail's "Globe Careers" article dated Saturday, September 17th.

Happiness seems to be on everyone's radar, from country rankings right down to the personal level. It may even steer us - according to organizational gurus - into choosing what we keep and what we let go in an exercise of purging the unnecessary. (Apparently you should hold each item in your hands and ask if it brings you joy ... if not, out it goes!)

We're rather obsessed with happiness, it seems.

The article makes a strong case for a workplace shift in culture towards happy employees.  "[Happiness] has penetrated the citadel of global economic management," writes William Davies, author of The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being.

I'm a rose-coloured glasses kind of person; I call myself a realistic optimist. But I feel rather disconnected from this message, and I have to admit, a tad cynical at government involvement in a forced happiness factor!

I still have plenty of clients who come to me as they put into action their plan to escape a bad employment situation - undelivered career or salary promises, micro-managing, ineffective, or toxic managers, bullying colleagues, and the like.

It seems to me that employers are still super-focused, laser-consumed with the bottom line, money, at the expense of whatever gets in the way, be that ill employees, unproductive staff, or teams that cannot get along. Sacrificial lambs are not rare in the workplace.

The article wrapped up with a nod to the flip side. There is a downside to expecting happiness on the job. Apparently, "... it can have a negative impact on your relationships with your boss as well as at home," according to Andre Spicer and Carl Cederstrom, co-authors of The Wellness Syndrome.

Asking employees - or demanding - a positive work environment may just be too much, as is expecting your employer to make you happy! In fact, this premise was recently upheld by a ruling by the U.S. National Labor relations Board, which determined that one party cannot force another to be happy (can't argue that one!).

The article ends that it's quite okay to not be super happy at work. Truth is, each person seeks out different experiences and trying to force a happiness factor across a broad swath of personalities is as impossible as trying to please everyone.