The Right Kind of Happy for the Right Fit

By Karla Porter
We all experience certain milestone events in life that cause extraordinary joy and others of paralleled grief and sadness. When we are mentally healthy we express ourselves accordingly.

Is that right? Does every one feel and express happiness and sadness in the same way? Do these emotions affect everyone the same?

Vector abstract internet iconsGianni is a Senior Account Executive at Eudaimonic Creative, an ad agency that employs 25 others and where the creative juice is proportionate to the amount of coffee consumed. Everyone that works there is truly talented, as their portfolios and resumes demonstrated when they were interviewed and hired. He has a collection of Life is Good t-shirts and generally walks around with a look of contentment on his face. He gets above average performance reviews and hits or supersedes his goals. Life is good.

In fact, there’s a kind of Zen going on in the office. Everyone is able to bounce ideas off one another, they socialize after hours once in a while, and they work very well independently and as a team. It’s a great place to work and no one is looking to walk.

Max has a similar position at Hedonic Inc., a competitor agency on the other side of town. They pump out some mean ass campaigns. A few weeks ago Max landed a much sought after account, partied for 3 days without sleep, called off when he needed to recuperate and now the client’s demands are consuming him. He’s not smiling. No one wants to get too close to him for fear the cloud he walks underneath will start to dump a torrential downpour at any moment.

It seems there are a lot of characters like Max at the agency. There’s either jubilation or devastation going on in more than one office on any given day. They all cover for each other but it’s like a soap opera over there and it gets hairy sometimes. In fact, it gets draining after a while. The agency has had some difficulty retaining key associates and some accounts have been jeopardized because of this.

If you were looking for a job which agency would have more allure? As an employer or manager what kind of culture do you wish to establish and be known for?

There is no right or wrong answer. It’s about preferences and the culture you wish to work in, or establish if you are the boss. Both personality types contribute equally to the rich tapestry of life.

Gianni has a Eudaimonic personality – the eudaimonic or psychological well-being tradition (PWB) emphasizes positive psychological functioning and human development. Eudaimonic theories of well-being assert the importance of achieving one’s full potential through engaging in inherently meaningful endeavors. This creates a sustaining feeling of well-being, satisfaction and fulfillment. Eudaimonics do not exhibit ”roller coaster” emotions. It’s not to say they do not exhibit emotion, on the contrary. It’s simply that their emotion is sustained.

Max has a hedonic personality – the hedonic or subjective well-being (SWB) tradition emphasizes constructs such as happiness, positive affect, low negative affect, and satisfaction with life. With hedonia, happiness is the goal sought and the greater extent of pleasured experienced by the person the better. There is no consideration given to the source or depth of happiness a person is encountering. Hedonia involves feeling excited, relaxed, and content, losing track of time, and forgetting personal problems. The hedonic “treadmill” or roller coaster is inevitable for people like Max. He craves feeling good and flinches away from pain in very visible ways.

Understanding eudaimonic and hedonic aspects of personality help in the selection process in terms of fit. As you can see, the executives at Gianni’s company overtly hired a crew of eudaimonics. It has resulted in their Zen like culture. Max’s company primarily hired candidates with hedonic personalities and the result is a roller coaster culture in the office.

Awareness of these personality attributes is essential in the selection process when considering teams, strengths and weaknesses. While a balance is favorable, a team of all hedonic personalities is chaotic. It’s also important to be aware of our own eudaimonic or hedonic tendencies since it assists in the prevention of hiring everyone in our own likeness. Unless that’s what we consciously choose to do.

When selecting a vendor and products for psychometric personality assessments ask if this aspect is evaluated. If you do not utilize this type of assessment consider doing so. Even with the use of these assessments, behavioral interview questions formulated to evaluate the eudaimonic and hedonic tendencies of candidates is essential to a successful selection, the performance and harmonious culture of your organization, and retention.

Give me an example of a time you achieved a much desired goal. What was the day after like?

Tell me a time you experienced a major professional disappointment. What method did you use to move on?

For the record, I’m eudaimonic…. I love life and I’m happy 99.9% of the time.

Reference: Beyond Self-Report in the Study of Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being: Correlations with Acquaintance Reports, Clinician Judgments and Directly Observed Social Behavior – Christopher S. Nave, Ryne A. Sherman, and David C. Funder

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