Happy Employees or Happy Citizens?
“Am I a happy employee?” is what I ask myself while writing this blog post. Last September I started working for the municipality Borne, a village in wonderful Twente. After a two year traineeship at another governmental institute, I decided that I wanted to work here. Why?
This post is written by Anouk Mannessen. Check out her bio below the article.
Municipality Borne has a clear vision on its role in a network society, has a director that provides space for development and trust, and has an informal culture with short lines of communication. Change, renewal, initiative, connection are essential future values of the municipality, and that’s where I see my added value.
I get opportunities and trust, I’m able to experiment and I’m allowed to fail. Yes, I’m a happy employee.
Pieter is my colleague and he’s happy as well at municipality Borne. He has been working for the municipality for 35 years in various roles. He is an expert in the field and seamlessly executes the tasks that are assigned to him by his supervisor. Back in the days Pieter applied to a municipality which mostly dictated and controlled and which consisted of clear hierarchical structures.
He considers most of the changes to be hypes, they will come and go. The uncertainty about the possible displacement of his work from the municipality to one of its network partners makes him anxious. It might even make him unhappy. He wants clarity, certainty and he wants to continue doing his job as he always did.
Right or wrong?
“Before, things just happened that way”, Pieter tells me. “You married, got yourself a house and started working for the municipality”. “Today, you guys have a lot more opportunities”, he adds. “Sometimes I’m jealous of you or my son”, he continues. We talk about generations, changes, and the positive and the negative sides. Pieter can’t identify himself with the freedom I embody and he doesn’t see the opportunities that arise from all those changes.
But Pieter didn’t suffer from a burn-out when he was 26 – like me – and he doesn’t become restless after working 3 years for the same organization. I find myself sometimes judging Pieter’s happiness, both consciously and unconsciously. Outdated and obsolete. But is that true?
Recently I read an interesting article in a Dutch magazine entitled ‘long live routine’. A plea for a quiet life without the abundance of choice and ambition. Not a hectic life where we constantly chase for more while we strive for perfection and self-assertion. But a life based on satisfaction and happiness derived from the ordinary, boring stuff of everyday life.
In Borne we don’t change in order to make all our employees happy. In Borne we specifically focus on the ‘why’. And the why of the municipality Borne is happiness for our citizens. That’s the only legitimacy of a municipality. Nowadays, citizens ask for different things than they did years ago and this requires another kind of civil servants.
This is where that happiness comes in again. You are in the right place once your motivations and talents fit the vision of the organization. I’ve noticed this myself and I witness it all around me. For Borne this should not only be Anouk’s, neither should there only be Pieter’s. Who then?
This is a search I started together with my colleagues. I want to post about my experiences in the upcoming months and I want to learn from the experiences of others. Experimenting and learning, discovering and trying. And see, at the end of the day, that’s what makes me happy.
Anouk Mannessen is working for the municipality Borne. She deals with the organizational development of the municipality Borne towards a directing network society. Besides that she focuses on the improvement of services, information policies and new ways of working at the Twente government. As guest blogger she updates us regularly on the development of Borne.
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How are work outcomes affected by the treatment of those who do it? I have been exploring this question for ~50 years. In that time, one comment stuck with me more than any other. It was made in 1998 when I interviewed a group of men in Indianapolis who had redesigned most of the US city’s waste collection and disposal operations. “We are no longer expected to park our brains at the door when we come to work.”