Men at work

Really, I just want you to be happy. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

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This one is for the men in my audience. Are you happy?

I mean, the women can read this too, of course. But I came across a study a while back that says there's one single, somewhat surprising factor that predicts whether men will describe themselves as "happy" (and rank highly on a gauge called the Positive Mindset Index).

The research was led by John Barry, a University College London psychologist. Here's the survey, the results, and what it tells us about American men today.

"Satisfaction at work"

Barry and his team presented 5,000 U.S. men from all walks of life with a "comprehensive, intimate survey," according to an official summary, asking them "about their happiness, confidence, sense of being in control, emotional stability, motivation, and optimism." 

They were also asked questions meant to gauge the health and positivity of various areas of their lives. There were two really big takeaways. 

First, the good news: Overall, American men are pretty happy.

And the characteristics they most respect and aspire to are quite positive: "honesty, reliability, dependability, being respectful of others, and loyalty."

Second, and this is the surprising one: The number-one thing that matters most in men's lives, far more than whether they're healthy, or have good relationships with family or friends, is whether they find satisfaction at work.

As the official summary put it:

Men at work are men at peace: Everything else flows down from satisfying employment. Men who have high job satisfaction are more likely to feel optimistic, happy, motivated, emotionally stable, in control, and confident.

Job satisfaction is by far the strongest predictor of positivity, being around three times higher than the next strongest predictor in every region and across the U.S. overall.

Having an impact

The study also worked backward, offering an insight into what factors actually predicted job satisfaction, and in turn what men were doing to make those factors more likely.

It wasn't money; it was the sense that men had about whether they thought they made an impact on their employer's ultimate success. That perception was largely influenced (as summarized in a report about all of this in Quartz) by factors including:

  • whether men feel they are using their own unique talents at work,

  • whether they are surrounded by a diverse set of perspectives,

  • how easily and often they can chat with co-workers,

  • whether they feel their opinions are valued, and

  • whether they're inspired by the people they work with.

Now, I was drawn to this study because:

(a) I’m a man,

(b) I like to be happy, and

(c) because it actually contradicts the results of a longer, more famous study that I’ve gotten a lot of mileage writing about over the years, called the Harvard Grant Study. (Like here, here, here, here, and here, for example.)

The Grant Study’s big takeaway: “The lessons aren't about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

Do these conclusions apply to women as well? I have no idea.

The survey was sponsored by the men's grooming company, Harry's, and Dr. Barry is co-founder of the male psychology section of the British Psychological Society. They just weren’t studying women.

But just yesterday I linked to an article saying that fully a quarter of high-paid U.S. workers have thought about leaving their jobs during the pandemic.

Maybe it’s not just the money, or the virus. Maybe it’s about happiness—at least for the men.


There are 13 days until the U.S. presidential election. As of last night, 37,121,520 Americans had already cast their ballots. Have you voted yet?


7 other things worth your time

  • The U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google. As someone noted, the suit comes 22 years after Google was founded. Guess how old Microsoft was when the DOJ filed its antitrust suit against that company? Same age, 22. (Business Insider)

  • I know I have some Irish readers, so I apologize for linking yesterday to an article about how Wales is going on a two-week lockdown, without mentioning that Ireland is apparently going on an six-week lockdown, which officials anticipate will cause 150,000 people to lose their jobs. I was emailing with a reader yesterday about whether I truly think there will be another big wave in the U.S. What do I possibly know, but this chart showing that more than 50 percent of Covid tests in Iowa are coming back positive is eye-opening. (NPR, Axios)

  • My Inc.com colleague Geoffrey James called out Bill Gates and other billionaires who say they’re giving away their wealth, for donating to their own charitable foundations. I don’t agree with his reasoning 100 percent, but it’s an interesting take. (Inc.com)

  • It’s not just Cape Cod: lots of sharks off the coast of Southern California, apparently. (KCTV 5)

  • Related bummer news from SoCal: You will not being going to Disneyland or other southern California theme parks anytime soon, according to new Covid-related opening rules. (CNBC)

  • Want to know who’s cleaning up during the pandemic? Companies that make products that you use to clean up (like say, P&G and Reckitt, maker of Lysol). (WSJ, $)

  • Twitter is making a small change to its user experience, to try to slow down people who mindlessly retweet other things without really reading or understanding them. (The Verge)

I’m probably going to have Down Under in my head all day since I went with Men at Work for a subject line. In case you’re there with me (or want to be), here’s their extremely literal-minded and low-budget music video—nearly 40 years old, almost older than MTV!

I explored this study on Inc.com a bit ago. If you liked this post, and you’re not yet a subscriber, what are you waiting for? Please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter, with thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers. You can also just send an email to signup@understandably.com. And now, you can also get it by text at (718) 866-1753.

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