Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Work and Happiness

The reliable Arthur Brooks has an article about what it takes to be happy: Faith, family, community, and work. Much of the article is devoted to the surprising presence of work on the list.

Brooks observed:
one survey recently made headlines by reporting that fewer than a third of American workers felt engaged; that is praised, encouraged, cared for and several other gauges seemingly aimed at measuring how transcendently fulfilled one is at work. 
His observation reminds me a recurrent theme in Elder Maxwell's writings, perhaps most fully explained in A More Excellent Way (1967), 91-92:
Superficial commendations generally leave the receiver flat, because he is not sure what is meant, if anything. A general or superficial compliment given in a ritualistic way not only may fail to help the receiver, but it also may hinder him or her, since general compliments may convey false reassurance as to the adequacy of the receiver's performance. General compliments may even be heard as a negative reaction to a performance—simply because they are not specific, leaving the receiver with the feeling that nothing specific was said, only because there was nothing worth specific praise. A performance or act sometimes deserves no praise, and the individual often knows in his heart that what he has said or done does not really deserve any praise. Phony or general praise can cause the receiver to lower his regard for the giver of such praise and perhaps lessen later receptivity when a deserved compliment is forthcoming. Most individuals—even though at first it is painful—would rather have honest relationships with other individuals. Most followers ultimately like a leader who makes reasonable demands of them, who expects performance and who praises and reproves accordingly. Of course, all of this must be done in the spirit of real love. Paul prescribed ours as the task of "speaking the truth in love." Jesus praised and reproved specifically as well as regularly.