Work and Employee Happiness


Most organizations, these days, are speaking the language of happiness. For some entities it’s just talk, for others a striving everyday.

Employee happiness and engagement are connected. Maybe it’s obvious for you. I come from a view that says your company is not responsible for your happiness. Only you can own that. Whether it’s changing roles, transferring geographically or firing your boss with your feet, it still comes back to you.

Why are so many employees unhappy?

My answers:

Employees make choices that lead to unhappiness. On the whole, we live unbalanced and incongruent lives. The unbalance is found in our willingness to pour mind, body and soul into one area of life, while ignoring another. See the work versus family civil war, many are fighting right now. As someone who used to value my work over my family, it is a civil war. The incongruent part is the BS we tell the world. For example, “family is number one for me.” Nobody is perfect, but if you know you haven’t lived this out in over two years, you’re living incongruently. These are the recipes for unhappiness.

Employers foster unhappiness by the conditions their employees work under. Here’s the deal, if you are a CEO and you expect an employee to get excited about the stock price or last quarter’s earnings, you need a straight-jacket. Happiness and engagement happen when there is a great mission to achieve, something beautiful to create or a dangerous problem to solve. Without those, most will leave, or worse, die and stay.

Employees have defined happiness incorrectly. For me, happiness is fluid. It’s not a genie to be captured in a bottle. If you would have looked at my life yesterday, I would have been 90% happy and 10% unhappy. Those numbers don’t make me special, I just chose to be happy 90% of the day. I chose to be unhappy too. I think many are too fixated on happiness. Like life, happiness is not an arrival point. If we look at happiness as fluid, we’ll be better able to handle the stuff of life. Maybe we’ll find that moments of unhappiness are not the end of the world.

Employers are living in the past. Organizing your company like the industrial revolution happened last year is a disaster. Most employees live life in and around the 21st century. It frustrates the hell out of them when they’re treated like an assembly line worker or treated as if they’re a 4th grader.

In the end, every employer has an agenda. It may be a fit for you, or not. Either way happiness is your animal to wrestle with.

5 Questions with Dirk Knemeyer of Facio

Dirk Knemeyer 12


A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with Dirk Knemeyer, founder of Facio. Always love the conversations I have with Dirk. So happy to finally share one of those with you. Enjoy!


What trends are you seeing in how organizations and employees are engaging via mobile and desktop technology?

The shift from “company phones” to allowing employees to use their personal phones for company business has been a big one. That was largely driven by the iPhone, where executives sort of strong-armed IT into allowing it and has trickled down through companies in the years since. Also, the rapid adoption of iPads and other tablets has been a bit of a surprise. The result of both these things is a surprisingly rapid shift toward major enterprise apps behaving with mobiles and tablets either in a truly native way or with experiences that are “as-if” native. This opens up rich possibilities for people to work differently. So many of us, for decades now, have sat behind a desk at a computer. Now that it is no longer structurally necessary we are also learning about how bad sitting all day is on our bodies, especially our hearts. So this is a moment where technology enables companies to re-think how knowledge workers actually work at a time where the physical damage our work does to us is being scientifically understood. So I think the workplace proliferation of alternative computing technologies will accelerate a trend toward non-traditional work environments such as from home and shared spaces. It should be fun to see.

 Can an individual, inside or outside of work, use your technology to measure and track their personal growth?

Yes. We designed Facio for both personal and professional use. On the personal side, each day you can record your happiness, effectiveness, and how well you are getting on with others. It is like a “quantified self for behavior”. Professionally, we have a wider range of 360 tools where both yourself and those you work with can report on your behaviors, skills and natural preferences. Viewing your data over time is an important part of the story, to help you understand yourself and those important to you. It is all web-based so, unlike other similar tools you may have taken now-and-then, this lets you and anyone you give permission to view really nice graphics showing a slice of who you are.

 What’s the biggest obstacle in using technology to improve performance in life and work?

Commitment. Using software to improve performance shares a lot psychologically in common with things such as a workout regiment or diet. If it becomes a habit and you are committed to that it is fantastic. But it is easy for people to forget, or miss some time, and just not get back fully into it. For those that do, though, the impact on their lives is profound.

What inspired you to start Facio?

I’ve never fit in. I was a high school drop out, sent to reform school. I became an entrepreneur because after a couple of years at a company I simply didn’t fit any more, quitting or getting fired out of restlessness, essentially. I was married at 18 and divorced at 25. All of this happened because I didn’t understand who I was. The culture, the education system…forget that it is not designed for someone like me. It did not even give me knowledge as to who I was, why I didn’t fit in, and where perhaps I could fit.

I’m an extreme example, but look at the work world. More than 70% of people are not engaged in their jobs. That is real research, from Gallup. Engaged employees work harder, work better, and are generally happier in their personal lives as well. The fact that less than 30% of us are engaged is literally a tragedy. It is lives that could and should be happier. It is companies that are getting far less from the people they are paying. This is not rocket science; it is solvable. I want to solve it.

You’re an entrepreneur who has succeeded on more than one venture, what’s been your greatest lesson learned?

“Greatest” is always a hard one. I think it is the importance and value of business partners. I’ve had at least one co-founder in every venture I’ve ever done. The ones that have been least successful are those where one of the principals is less involved. The times I’ve had my greatest success is when it is two or three people who are “all in” and working together as a team toward the shared goal. For me, at least, it is simply essential.


Beginning with his university training and culminating in 18 months of extensive research building up to the launch Facio, founder Dirk Knemeyer is certified in the MBTI®, Hogan Assessments®, Everything DiSC® and the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument®, and has made understanding the human condition his personal passion. In addition, Dirk has worked at the vanguard of the software industry. He is the co-founder of Involution Studios, which has carved out a reputation as a best-of-breed choice for companies who aspire to offer the best apps in the world. 

How Long Will It Last?



When you consider where you and your options for a great life are at, how long do think you have to get things in order?  In other words, how long before you move forward with looking at your life as the thing you manage and not just your career, your money or your spiritual?

You wouldn't need to ask many people to find out that the majority feels out of balance.  Many have made a deal with themselves to pick and choose what they will pay attention to.  A game of pretend where you believe that ignoring will make everything okay.  A warning may have been given, from a doctor or counselor, that was designed to shake the slumber.  But fear or insecurity continues its dominance.

This all makes sense in so many ways.  Where do you go?  Who do you turn to?  What's the right pathway back or out?

For better or worse we have a trust issue running through our modern day world.  It almost feels like you need the CIA to find out who really cares-in business and out.  I can't solve this, but I can be a source of consistent truth and encouragement.  My contribution to you and your journey.  The bottom line is you need help in making sense of your whole life.  Any successful life warrior I've ever met always had help.  It is this help that is truly a difference-maker.  A way to a breakthrough.

But what if you look away?  What if you tell yourself that it's too big of a mountain to change?  What if you believe the promises of your employer?  I would ask that you consider remembering the following:

    All of the disease, dysfunction, stress, and unhappiness would not be such a big deal if ignoring your whole life was a viable solution.  Employers wouldn't still be grappling with engagement and performance if relying on half-a-person to do the work that only a full person could do, was a viable solution.

Defining A Blue Sky Experience

 March 28 2011 002

How do you define a blue sky experience? Is it some place over yonder? Is it a person? I see it as a moment. Just one moment.

Even in a business like mine where you work hard to get people engaged, I always take a step back and consider those who claim they have no time, shrink back in fear or laugh off the thought of what a blue sky experience might mean.  I guess you can't escape all of the things that get in the way of blue skies.

Since we began our partnership with Take Time for Your Life, it has become very clear about what's at stake.  Think of the premise of the words "take time for your life."  The urgency is great here, we actually are in the business of helping people put their life first.  Not their career, not a degree, but their life.  A life that includes career, education and more.

So the blue sky experience requires you to put your life first.  It requires you to understand that you only have so many times to see it feel it, embrace it.  It requires you to understand that the blue sky experience was given to you as a gift of sorts.  A wonderful gift.

I am an experiential writer and guide, so you need to know that I'm not just poking around here.  The picture in this post was taken in a moment today.  A moment I almost passed up because I thought I had so much work to finish, and I did.  But I turned around.  About an hour after I took the shot, I had to remind my mom that theattorney needed my dad's death certificate to finish her estate plans.  Admittedly, my blues increased substantially.

Enjoy your blue skies when you see them.  

Houston, We Have a Problem-Updated 2011

Corporate boardroom 
The following post was written almost 4 years ago.  Ironically, the problem still persists inside of my friend's organization.  I know you may be wondering how this organization manages to stay in the game.  I won't wast precious space on all of the reasons, but one reason is they're in a hot market.  Sadly, hot markets can be like ether to organizations and they come and go.  Regardless, it was sobering to read and update this post.

I talked to a friend this week about how her company is facing a crisis of identity.  Their crisis is not a marketing one, but an internal sales vs. operations one.  Ever heard of it?

Many companies deal with the following:

  • What area is most important sales or ops.
  • Areas (sales, ops., customer service, etc.) that create their own fiefdoms.
  • Top management that is unable or unwilling to be clear.
  • Conflict avoidance.
  • No programs for people development.

The above is not an exhaustive list, but covers some key areas of stress.  In many cases the organization has allowed the weeds to overtake the garden.  Meaning; there is one vision and all must serve that vision.  Anything less results in a culture full of dysfunction.

I recommend the following:

  • Change the culture or change the culture.


See this article on how Apple values their culture.  As you may have guessed, taking responsibility for your culture is paramount.

So Many Masks, So Little Time

I've written and taught about wearing masks before, but this post (The Joy of Quitting) from Seth got me thinking.  What if we burned our masks (the type that suck away our authenticity) in some great fire?

Politicians tend to be prone to mask wearing.  Ironic as that may be, since they really are supposed to be servants of the citizenry.  This is soberly played out in the video clip link of President Nixon in Seth's post.  The pre-speech interaction and honesty is worth the view.

When you wear masks to "project" or to deceive, you are taking a poison pill.  A pill that takes life very slowly…over time.  Most would agree that it's not worth the cost. 

Have you come to that conclusion?

Here are a some stakeholders who stand to benefit when the masks are discarded:

  1. Your family.  Believe me, they are longing for you to show up.
  2. Your career.  Are you really doing what is consistent with your wiring?
  3. Your next entrepreneur venture.  The potential benefactors of your ideas are worn out from empty ideas by mask-wearers.
  4. Your customers.  Too much coming at them-everyday-for you to be anything less than authentic.
  5. Your organization.  They may see potential in you that you're afraid to face.

How Social Media Can Save Customer Service Training

Was doing some research for a friend/client on customer service training materials this week.  I decided to use Twitter (my top choice for social media portals) as a tool to do some research on the matter.  A simple search on the term "customer service training" is all it took to create a hmmm moment.  And though my research was not very scientific, it did reveal some things I knew instinctively.

First, customer service is a very popular discipline for a number of companies/consultants.  Must mean that bad customer service is more the norm than the exception.  I agree with that on its face.

Second, I don't think the customers (organizations) of the customer service training product are fully aware of what's going on inside their own walls. 

Here's what brought me to the above conclusions:

  1. My typed search "customer service training" revealed that for every two consultants offering training, there were an equal number of employees who were referring to customer service training as a boring event, a cure for insomnia, or a pain in the rear.  Again, this wasn't a scientific result, but it seems that many employees are nodding yes, but thinking and feeling no.
  2. Employees, especially those in larger entities, feel like their targets for cost cutting and lay-offs.  Creates a jaded, if not callused view of things.  Wonder how these folks treat customers who have legitimate needs/issues?
  3. Why the disconnect?  Leadership.  Some managers may think they're leading well, but have yet to look behind them to find no one following.
  4. Fixing conclusion #3 creates a bridge for change.
  5. Employers are missing out on the power of social media.  See this article for more on that.  But I'm speaking of finding out what's REALLY going on with the employee base.  Might save them some money and go a long way in reinventing how they serve-employees and customers.