Low power mode continues today. Thanks for reading!
Forty years ago (not to the day, but close), the #1 most popular song in America was "Down Under," by the Australian band "Men at Work."
The subject line today is the strange first line from the song; I mention it because today’s newsletter is about (lower case): "men at work."
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 would guess yes, but I have no empirical 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.
But, if there’s been a single trend that I see everyone writing about over the last two years or so, it’s people reassessing what they want to do for work, and why—and whether, perhaps, they’d rather spend a little time traveling around like the Aussie vagabond Colin
Day Hay described 40 years ago.
I suppose it’s all about happiness. Only—maybe next issue—define, “happiness.”
Thanks for reading! Photo by Evan Demicoli on Unsplash. I wrote about some of this before at Inc.com. During low power mode we usually skip the 7 other things section. I plan to be back at it shortly!
And so what happens to men’s happiness when they retire ?
Bill, I don’t think the studies contradict each other at all. Relationships are not defined just by people. We have relationships with nature, with faith, with ourselves, and many other things - including and perhaps most importantly, work. One common denominator of a relationship that makes us happy and nurtures us, is one where we feel of service to another, and that we are able to be ourselves (and feel valued). Given that we spend a large part of our life at work, being with the right employer, in the right job, and possibly with the right co-workers, would be a HUGE contributor to our happiness it would seem. Our relationship with work might be one of the most important relationships we have.