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Book Review of “Well-Being”

January 3, 2011

This is another book from authors from Gallup. The Gallup organization is highly involved in workplace development through the foundation of high volume, broad based analysis of management and employees satisfactions in the workplace.

I have read previous Gallup-related books from the authors. Tam Rath co-authored “How Full is Your Bucket?” with Gallup founder Donald Clifton and “Strengthfinders 2.0”, a major business best seller in 2008 as a follow up to “Now, Discover Your Strengths” (2001).

Harter is the author of “12: The Elements of Great Managing.” This book, published in 2006, is an in-depth look at the Gallup Q12. These are the key distinguishing questions (and staff rankings) that demonstrate the most distinctive elements for success within a work team and larger organization.

This new books shifts gears. It is focused on the individual, but with the view from an overall life health standpoint. The book focuses on helping the reader better understand the how to strike an interdependent balance in five areas:

Career
Social
Financial
Physical
Community

The effort is to design “the best possible future” for aligning a thriving life.

Being Gallup, their positions are heavily research based rather than philosophical. That is one reason I like their work. They provide thorough backing to the points they make.

They make the obvious point upfront that well-being starts with the individual and is ultimately their responsibility. Thus, the biggest threat we have to well-being is from are own decisions and actions.

The key point is that the individual has to eliminate the disconnect between the stated desire (ex: lose weight) and the action (too much calorie in-take). Thinking has to shift so that short term incentives are aligned with long term interests. You have to get to the point of constantly changing behavior in the moment of choice.

How you get there is through different aspects of character and strengths, which are at the foundation of individual Gallup analysis. For example, someone may be motiviated to take action through spiritual motivation while someone else may be more motiviated by a sense of mission to, for example, protect the environment.

Some distinguishing or simply interesting points from the book include:

Only 7% off all people surveyed indicate they are thriving in all five areas. Shortfalls in individual areas also, to no surprise, brings down the rankings in other areas.

The areas measured, noted above, are listed in the relative order of ranking or influence for the “average” respondent. Career satisfaction is most important. In fact, research indicates people happy in their career segment are more than twice as likely to be happy in their overall life.

The average person needs six hours of social interaction to maintain a healthy social outlook. This can shift on a given day but as a negative example, isolated contact-like through long term unemployment or, for some, working from home in a satellite environment-make it harder for many people to maintain healthy social interaction. The interaction does not have to come just from work, of course, but because career satisfaction is the #1 area of well-being measurement for most people, Gallup very much values the seemingly insignificant conversation that may take place between coworkers-within reason of course.

When examining the effects of potential negative interaction in life, there were some distinguishing results. When measuring different people a person does not like being around, there are some sexual differences:

For who do not likely being around the boss, it is 30% for women but 45% for men

For parents, 28% for women but only 7% for men

Spouse, each sex was even at 15%

Women were higher than men in dislike for all other measured people including coworkers, friends, children and even being alone with self.

Unpleasant was defined as feeling depressed, angry or frustrated when with the boss, coworkers, etc.

Positive as defined as happy and enjoy myself with boss, coworkers, self, etc.

In the area of personal finance the research notes satisfaction is not directly related to income but is correlated to postive rankings in career and social well-being. Also, the most effective people reduce the “comparison dilemma” by having their own clear ideas of how they want to use their financial resources, at whatever level they are at, rather than comparing to the Jones.

The most satisfied are those who save most effectively with a strategy rather than those who simply make more money but are unclear on how they spend it.

This is an outlook very much demonstrated by my parents (and in-laws too) and, admittedley, needed a lot more by me and most people I know.

The book does have a small portion dedicated to the role of leaders or managers in work environment to understand the five areas and their relationships but it is secondary to the individual emphasis of the book.

While this book is fine, I would definitely recommend starting with the earlier books by these authors.

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