Sunday, October 23, 2011

Want your employees (and you) to be happier?

Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness did a study "Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions" and he mentioned two proven ways to increase happiness:


"...the gratitude visit, caused large positive changes (in happiness) for one month."
Two exercises guaranteed to work . . .

Gratitude visit - Participants were given one week to write and then deliver a letter of gratitude in person to someone who had been especially kind to them but had never been properly thanked.

2). Three good things

"...three good things—increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms for six months."

Three good things in life - Participants were asked to write down three things that went well each day and their causes every night for one week. In addition they were asked to provide a causal explanation for each good thing.

Courtesy of:


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Which Is More Important to Happiness? Having More or Having More Than Your Neighbors?

In "Why Work Isn't Working Anymore," Fritz and I went into some detail about the relationship between money and happiness. Studies since our book continue to confirm our observations and should act as a guide to employers on overcoming the "Myth of More."

People with the highest income are less likely to be in the highest happiness bracket.

This study theorizes that a good part of this may be because once you're very happy, becoming even happier may be a function of how you're doing compared to others:

"The relationship between income and subjective well-being (SWB) is investigated using eight waves of the British Household Panel Survey and an estimation strategy that allows us to relax some assumptions typically made in the literature. First, we use a random effects generalised ordered probit model to investigate whether income effects are heterogeneous across SWB categories, and, second, we discretise (absolute and relative) income variables to allow for the income effects to vary across income groups. We find that higher absolute income increases SWB but up to a certain level, while low income is significantly correlated with low scores in the SWB ladder. Our results are consistent with the Easterlin Paradox that has been reported in the literature. We find that high-income groups are less likely to belong in the highest SWB level, which could be partly explained by the fact that the relative income status (rather than the absolute one) is more important in determining (the highest level of) SWB."

Source: "The poor, the rich and the happy: Exploring the link between income and subjective well-being" from The Journal of Socio-Economics.

Courtesy of


Saturday, October 08, 2011

Best Reads of The Week: Labor, Employment, Economics and Politics

In this week's "Best Reads" I have included summaries of each as well as two articles I rate "Best of the Best." Special thanks to Alan Kostel, Bernie Koehne and Ken Karger for their contributions this week. Always interested in your contributions, thoughts and comments. To that end, let me know if you find this weekly addition worthy of continuation. It takes several hours a week and I am happy to continue if you find it valuable. Best, -Jim

Best of the Best

"The Fascist Threat"

"Fascism is the system of government that cartelizes the private sector, centrally plans the economy to subsidize producers, exalts the police state as the source of order, denies fundamental rights and liberties to individuals, and makes the executive state the unlimited master of society." Sound familiar? This brilliant piece comes from The Mises Institute, is highly recommended and can be found here:

"What This Country Needs Now Is Hope"

"The dialogue above occurred at the end of the dystopian movie V for Vendetta. It is a tale of revenge and restoring hope among citizens who had chosen safety and security over freedom and liberty. Even though this movie was fictional and adapted from a comic strip, its message and warnings should be heeded. Millions of middle class citizens in the U.S. sink deeper into despair every day. Day by day hope is being lost that the future for our children will be better than our past. The political, financial, and corporate leaders of our country are intellectually and morally bankrupt. The major Wall Street banks are bankrupt. Social Security is bankrupt. Medicare is bankrupt. The whole damned world is bankrupt. Anyone with an unbiased view of our planet would conclude that we are in unfathomable danger. The list of impending catastrophic issues that will blow up the world for millions in the U.S. and across the globe is virtually endless," and you will find them here:

Politics and Government

Secret Panel Can Now Put American Citizens On An Assassination List

Apparently, the Bill of Rights are now just "suggestions." Truly horrifying.

The American Empire: A Tragic Comedy in Three Acts

Do the Swiss get to send out drones to kill people they don’t know in countries they’ve never been? No! The poor yodelers go around with long faces and visit their shrinks. Americans have troops in 170 countries. Where are the Swiss? Only in Switzerland and the Vatican. Alas, they will never know the joys of nation building and people murdering.

Government Mandates GPS In Every Cell Phone

Under the auspices of needing to find you if you make a 911 call from your cell phone, the government can track you 24/7.

Our World Is Now Ruled By Finance

A glaring problem is hiding in plain sight. Although it towers over us all, the financial industry doesn't actually make anything. You can't eat a mutual fund or build a house with derivatives, and the glossy brochures don't burn very well. The sudden explosion of finance has displaced real value in the economy. It's arguably itself a kind of massive stock market bubble. Now we have continuous economic volatility and stock markets like casinos because at the very core of Western economies, there's just a glossy brochure.

So when we see the spectacle of people in streets of New York screaming "we have to stop being a debt economy and go back to being a production economy," they have a point.

This is a pretty short read... and it encapsulates all that is wrong with our world today. The short positions that the banks hold in commodities that I talked about at length above, is one of the more visible aspects of the problem. (Courtesy of the Doug Casey organization, this comes from the Montreal Gazette).

Solyndra Paper Trail Surfaces - Obama "Telling The Truth Slowly"

The White House has released its emails surrounding the Solyndra scandal, and they reveal new connections between the Obama administration and Solyndra—adding more questions to the heated political battle over the failed energy company. An Obama administration appointee, Steven Spinner, at the Department of Energy had pressured the White House for the $533 million loan for Solyndra—even as his wife, Allison Spinner, worked as a partner at the law firm that represented the company. The White House's fumbling response to the revelations has marred the image of a team that once promised to bring change to Washington, writes The Daily Beast's John Solomon.

Labor and Employment

Worker Confidence In Employers Plunges

U.S. workers are much less optimistic about their companies’ outlook than they were three months ago, according to a quarterly survey by, a website dedicated to workplace issues.

The Employment Report (Post Spin)

On Friday morning, the press was buzzing about the unexpectedly good employment number. By mid-day the market had parser it and found it's weaknesses, such as this one: "The number of workers only able to find part time jobs (or have had their hours cut for economic reasons) increased to 9.27 million in September from 8.826 million in August. This is the high for the year.". The real story is here:

CEO Pay: Still Skyrocketing - Still Undeserved

If you don't understand why people are marching in the streets, read this.

Say On Pay and What To Expect in 2012

Will shareholders start saying "no" to excessive executive compensation? Here's four reasons they will.

Cozy Relationships And 'Peer Benchmarking' Sends CEO Pay Skyrocketing

Makes me want to puke . . .

It Will Take 5 Years To Return To 2007 Unemployment Rate At 261,200 Jobs. A Month

"261,200. This means that unless that number of jobs is created each month for the next 5 years, America will have a higher unemployment rate in October 2016 than it did in December 2007. How realistic is it that the US economy can create 16.2 million jobs in the next 62 months? We leave that answer up to the US electorate."

Average Duration of Unemployment Rises to New All Time High

Over 40 weeks, enough said.

Layoffs In September Explode 126%

So much for the recovery . . .

Salary vs. Sleep - Which Would You Choose?

Which would you prefer: An $80,000 job with reasonable work hours and seven and a half hours of sleep each night, or a $140,000 job with long work hours and just six hours of sleep? A new study from researchers at Cornell, to be published in the American Economic Review, found that most people would pick the higher-paying job with more hours and less sleep.

Worker Quits And Wins After Boss Begins The "Guess Who Will Be Fired Next" Contest

Would be such fun to fire this guy . . .,0,2222631.story

12 Attributes Of A Truly Great Place To Work

Other than not having a "whose going to be fired next contest," more than 100 studies have now found that the most engaged employees--those who report they're fully invested in their jobs and committed to their employers--are significantly more productive, drive higher customer satisfaction and outperform those who are less engaged. What does these workplaces have that yours doesn't?


Greek Austerity Breeds A New Generation of Homeless

Two years into Greece’s devastating financial crisis, joblessness and homelessness are rife. For the first time, the middle class is having trouble making ends meet. More and more Greeks are finding themselves out of work, unable to pay their way, sleeping in their cars or even on the streets.

Resembling a youth centre or backpackers hostel, the independent Klimaka homeless centre is a rarity in Greece, where most non-state assistance is dominated by the church. Funded entirely by donations, even down to the soap and televisions, the centre is today busier than ever. People who have spent their adult lives employed and self-sufficient are now seeking refuge, food, and medication.

Is The US Monetary System On The Verge Of Collapse?

While the world’s many financial experts and economists sit around arguing about the direction of the ship of state, most are missing the point that the ship has already hit an iceberg and is taking on water fast.

California and Bust

A longish read, if you are interested in which States are going bust first, this is an essential read. The smart money says the U.S. economy will splinter, with some states thriving, some states not, and all eyes are on California as the nightmare scenario. After a hair-raising visit with former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who explains why the Golden State has cratered, Michael Lewis goes where the buck literally stops—the local level, where the likes of San Jose mayor Chuck Reed and Vallejo chief Paige Meyer are trying to avert even worse catastrophes and rethink what it means to be a society.

Study: Income Inequality Kills Economic Growth

Corporate chieftains often claim that fixing the US economy requires signing new free trade deals, lowering government debt, and attracting lots of foreign investment. But a major new study has found that those things matter less than an economic driver that CEOs hate talking about: equality.

Nearly Half Of Americans Live In Household Receiving Government Benefits

To all the neo-cons out there sucking the hind tit of Social Security, you are one of these.

Little Businesses Trying to Tough It Out

These are the hopes for America because this is where people are hired, or better said, not hired. Though many big companies have bounced back from the worst recession since the Great Depression, many small businesses—lacking the deep pockets of their larger peers—are still struggling.

12 Shocking Quotes From Insiders About the Impending Economic Crisis

The global financial system is a sea or red ink, and when we get to the point where there are hundreds of ships going under how is it going to be possible to bail all of them out?  The quotes that you are about to read show that quite a few top financial and political insiders know that things cannot hold together much longer and that a horrific economic crisis is coming.  We built the global financial system on a foundation of debt, leverage and risk and now this house of cards that we have created is about to come tumbling down.

Here's What Is Wrong With the Economy -- And How To Fix It

The 25-year debt-fueled boom of 1982-2007 has ended, and it has left the country with a stagnant economy, massive debts, high unemployment, huge wealth inequality, an enormous budget deficit, and a sense of entitlement engendered by a half-century of prosperity. What can be done?

The Economics Of Happiness

We live in a time of high anxiety. Despite the world’s unprecedented total wealth, there is vast insecurity, unrest, and dissatisfaction. In the United States, a large majority of Americans believe that the country is “on the wrong track.” Pessimism has soared. The same is true in many other places. Against this backdrop, the time has come to reconsider the basic sources of happiness in our economic life. The relentless pursuit of higher income is leading to unprecedented inequality and anxiety, rather than to greater happiness and life satisfaction. Economic progress is important and can greatly improve the quality of life, but only if it is pursued in line with other goals.

Obama's Millionaire Tax Collected Over Next 10 Years Will Plug 4 Months of Deficit

In order to keep the ongoing class warfare waged by the administration in perspective, today the CBO was kind enough to score the revenue impact of the proposed and much debated Buffett Tax, now appearing in non-populist literature as "Surtax on Millionaires."

How To Rescue The Economy

The economy doesn’t need anyone to fix it. It’s all that fixing for the last 40 years that is the problem. Unmolested, the economy will right itself. The only thing needed is for the Great Molester, the government, to surrender to a serious regimen of behavior modification and let the economy operate without suffocating interference. Then it would be able to shed its problems – not painlessly but quickly and with a minimum of pain. Here’s the protocol in an article by Terry Coxson.


Friday, October 07, 2011

Does Spending Money Make Us More Happy?

The Myth of More discussed in "Why Work Isn't Working Anymore," is alive and well. Unfortunately, those who contine to chase the monetary version of the electric rabbit are doomed to chasing for the rest of their lives and the inability to make more become enough is responsible for much of the unhappiness an dissatisfaction most feel in their lives.

Not surprisingly then an interesting study finds that as a general rule spending money does not make us more happy, but for one circumstance.

"We examine the association between various components of consumption expenditure and happiness in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative sample of older Americans. We find that only one component of consumption is positively related to happiness—leisure consumption. In contrast, consumption of durables, charity, personal care, food, health care, vehicles, and housing are not significantly associated with happiness. Second, we find that leisure consumption is associated with higher levels of happiness partially through its effect on social connectedness, as indexed by measures of loneliness and embeddedness in social networks. On one hand, these results counter the conventional wisdom that “material goods can’t buy happiness.” One the other hand, they underscore the importance of social goods and social connectedness in the production of happiness."

Source: "Does consumption buy happiness? Evidence from the United States" from International Review of Economics, Volume 57, Number 2, 163-176

From: Barking Up The Wrong Tree,


Sunday, October 02, 2011

Corporate Culture: The Bottom Line

"Corporate culture is often thought of as a hard-to-define, or soft concept in management circles. Soft not in the sense that it isn't important—most CEOs will tell you that their ability to inculcate values and mission into the DNA of a firm is among the most important work they do.

"No, the problem arises because little research has been targeted at trying to quantify its importance on performance. In his new book, The Culture Cycle: How to Shape the Unseen Force that Transforms Performance, HBS Professor Emeritus James L. Heskett attempts just that. "Organization culture is not a soft concept," he says. "Its impact on profit can be measured and quantified."

"Heskett finds that as much as half of the difference in operating profit between organizations can be attributed to effective cultures. Why? "We know, for example, that engaged managers and employees are much more likely to remain in an organization, leading directly to fewer hires from outside the organization," Heskett writes in the book. "This, in turn, results in lower wage costs for talent; lower recruiting, hiring, and training costs; and higher productivity (fewer lost sales and higher sales per employee). Higher employee continuity leads to better customer relationships that contribute to greater customer loyalty, lower marketing costs, and enhanced sales."

via Harvard Business School and Barking Up The Wrong Tree (


Saturday, October 01, 2011

Best Reads Of The Week (9/29/2011)

Several excellent articles this week in the areas of the economy, the workplace and on privacy, all commended to your review.  Best for the weekend.  Jim


"US Drops to Fifth In Global Competitiveness"

"This Economic Collapse Is A Crisis Of Bigness"

"The Consumer Taps Out:  Savings Rate Falls"

"20 Reasons Millions of Young Americans Are Furious About the Economy"

"Poverty Affects 46 Million Americans"

"Shilling Sees Deflation, China's Hard Landing and 800 on the S&P"

"What Are We Spending Our Money On?"

"Americans Spending Smaller Share Of Income Paying Debt"


"Outsized Severance Continues For Executives Even In The Face of Failure"

"If Your Boss Is A Psychopath, Leave"

"CEO Survey Finds Less Confidence In Hiring"

"When Your Job Makes You Sick:  Employees Find Little Leverage In Today's Workplace"

"Cost of Family Health Coverage Doubled In Last Decade"

"Health Insurers Push Premiums Sharply Higher"

"It Is Man vs. Machine And Man Is Losing"

"Inside The Workplace:  A View From The Top And The Bottom"

"Plaintiff's Lawyers Full Employment Act:  Obama Proposes Prohibiting Discrimination Against the Jobless"

"Why Do Companies Hire"

"A Challenge For Unions In Public Opinion"

Privacy (Or Better Said The Lack Thereof)

Facebook:  "We Didn't Mean To Track You . . . But We Did"

"GM Is Watching You - The OnStar System"