Who Said That?

Disrupt HR is an event made up of short form Ignite talks, and while the talk format is very popular and increasingly common, yesterday’s session was the first time a series of talks like this were offered under the Disrupt HR banner in London. I couldn’t make it to the event, and when time permitted, I was keeping an eye on the Twitter feed. One of the talks was titled HappyOrNot and the constant pulse of employee satisfaction. During the talk, the speaker stated that real time continuous measurement and feedback of your employees pulse is essential in our changing world, and for this feedback to be effective it needs to be:

  • Easy
  • Effortless
  • Anonymous

Putting aside a nagging concern I have about the somewhat Orwellian nature of continuous measurement and feedback, it feels right that the process of gathering data should be easy. I’m less convinced about the idea that feedback should be effortless. I may have misunderstood where the speaker is coming from here, and I’d like to think that some effort has gone into the feedback I exchange with you, colleagues, and customers.

Next on the list is anonymity – and my feedback alarm bells are ringing off the hook. I do not understand why our default option is to insist on hiding our feedback behind a veil of anonymity. I accept that this is the way we’ve always done it, and I believe this needs to change. I wrote about enforced anonymity in a little more detail back at the beginning of 2015, and in essence my point at that time was:

If I have ideas about how we might work differently and you really want my opinion, then you need to know who I am so we can act together. In these circumstances, anonymity is completely disempowering. What your enforced anonymity says to me is that you don’t really want to work coactively with me and with others; you are just using the opportunity to survey our feelings and attitudes as a means of satisfying yourself.

Throughout my work – two things people frequently ask for in their working relationships are openness, and honesty. Look around and you will find these two qualities among many sets of company values too. Often – when I dig deeper, people tell me that in reality – they feel a need to be anonymous in order to be honest. There’s not a lack of feedback issue here, this is about a lack of trust. Anonymity should be an option, not the norm, not enforced.

At last week’s PPMA seminar, one of the conversations which arose in the Reflect and Connect session Meg Peppin and I facilitated was around how HR can loosen off control, in pursuit of more adult, human relationships. The feeling was that currently, we manage and control to mitigate the rogue element, the spanner in the works, when it would be more satisfying, if we could trust more, control less, and accept that anomalies will occur (just like they do already) and work with them as they arise. Challenging? Sure. Worth pursuing? I think so, to do otherwise simply risks reinforcing the perception of HR as the employer’s police/enforcement, and here we are back to Orwell again.

One last observation – this discussion percolated on Twitter, a place where trolling is rife. What facilitates that trolling? What makes it easy, effortless? Anonymity.

When I challenge the view that enforced anonymity is a good thing, and ask for any data or research to support this assertion – I don’t receive any. It may be out there, and I cannot find it. Please help if you can, I’d love to understand more about why we cling so tightly to this belief.


Trish McFarlane got in touch to share this article written by Ben Eubanks on why confidential is better than anonymous.



100 Happy Days – An Exploration of Happiness

A friend recently shared a link to the 100 Happy Days website. I curiously clicked on through and learned that 100 Happy Days is simply a voluntary challenge to share a photo every day for (you guessed it) 100 days. The photo has to connect with something that made you feel happy on that day. Simple enough – though the website says that 71% of people who embark on this journey don’t make it to the finish. I’ve been looking for a couple of new, regular habits to explore – so I signed up.

For the record, I have mixed feelings about happiness. I often find it occurs unexpectedly, and that chasing it is a bit like the just out of reach impossibility of trying to recapture that first heroin high, probably. I’ve not tried heroin so I can’t be sure about that, but I do know that like a lot of people – I’m fond of being grumpy from time to time too. Will I be able to cope with 100 Happy Days? According to the website, people successfully completing the challenge claimed to:

– Start noticing what makes them happy every day;
– Be in a better mood every day;
– Start receiving more compliments from other people;
– Realize how lucky they are to have the life they have;
– Become more optimistic;
– Fall in love during the challenge.

What’s not to like about that lot?

I’ve just completed day thirteen of this experiment and when I started, I thought I’d wait for some of that grumpiness I mentioned earlier to hit me before sharing my initial thoughts. Having experienced a wobble on my happiness perch during Day Thirteen, what am I noticing so far?

  • Happiness is indeed elusive, and when found, best left to purr quietly in the background. Don’t make a fuss or it’s likely to move on again.
  • Experiences trump things.
  • Family and friends – when they’re happy, you are more likely to be too.
  • Belgian Beer is lovely, but on a Monday night, maybe not so much.

When I started this experiment I did so unsure that I would even make it this far. Day Fourteen is here and so am I. If any of the pictures intrigue you enough for you to want to know more – let me know. And if you are looking for something little to do for the next 100 days, maybe you’d like to try this too?


Update: I successfully completed the 100HappyDays experiment.

I’m So Happy!

The radio sparked into life at 7am on Sunday. We’re awake early because Keira is off to take part in the annual UK Swimathon. She is hoping to swim around 100 lengths of the pool, and with Carole as her instructor and motivator, I think she’ll get there. Keira and Carole make me happy.

The story I woke up to on the radio was about the Independent on Sunday which has today published its 2013 Happy List. The list is compiled of ‘100 inspiring people who have selflessly enriched the lives of others in the past year’. My initial thought (pre-coffee and breakfast) was along the lines of ‘yeah….whatever’, but now I take the time to look at the list in detail, I feel differently.

I don’t know anyone on the list personally, although I have met and talked with Esther Sutton who made the list and runs the wonderful Green Dragon pub in Croydon. However if you flick through the list, and having done so I encourage you to do the same, only the most cold hearted cynic would fail to be moved and cheered by at least some of the people who made the cut.

I’m reminded a little of my Dad, a quiet type who just got on and did stuff for and with other people. It was only after his death that I realised how much of an impact he made in his immediate local area. I met many people at his funeral who referred to him as ‘Mister Selsdon’, a name he would have been extremely uncomfortable with – but it was meant kindly, and as a statement of his contribution to his locality.

So – if you have a few minutes, please scan the 2013 Happy List. You might spot someone on there you know, and I’m almost certain you will be reminded of people who reach out beyond their immediate family and friends to thread your community together. Most importantly it has reminded me that a few people can make a big difference, when they choose to.

Who makes you happy?

Update: Keira and Carole have just come home to tell me Keira completed her 100 length, 2,500 metre swim. As someone who swims like a brick – I’m impressed.