Joy at Work; There’s something in it for all of us

With Joy At Work, Dennis Bakke got me with the first two sentences of his Preface:

Principles are the bottom line.

My passion is to make work exciting, rewarding, stimulating, and enjoyable.

Frequent readers know his words would have sounded only slightly different if coming from me in Managing with Aloha. Something like,

Values lived are the bottom line.

My passion is reinventing the workplace as we know it, by making work worthwhile, fulfilling, and gratifying.

Bakke continues:

Most books on organizational life and work focus on top executives and the strategies they use to guide their organizations to success, which is usually defined by financial results. This book is aimed primarily at the working life of the other 90 to 95 percent of people in large organizations ” for them, the crucial measure of success is the quality of their work lives.

With Managing with Aloha, I was aiming for a different, and more specific audience; managers. I see that managers have a responsibility for leadership, and MWA was written in my mission to help managers understand that they can, and should do more to effect the change we need in today’s workplaces.

That said, I do think of myself as one of the biggest advocates managers can have. I’m always cheering for them and encouraging them to strive higher. While I can see the shortcomings they may demonstrate, I prefer to look deeper to the potential managers possess to improve and do better; to be better.

I see that managers sell themselves short, and that they are capable of getting more done than they think. A large part of my coaching efforts have to do with stripping away and knocking down the self-imposed barriers and obstacles many managers have assumed are standing in their way, so that they will charge ahead and go for it. I freely admit I have counseled many of them to seize their opportunities, act with a far greater sense of urgency, and then ask forgiveness instead of permission should it become necessary.

Therefore, while I loved much about Bakke’s book, throughout my reading I often found I asked myself, what’s in this for managers?

Generally, the answer was, ‘the same things.’ The benefits of Joy At Work should be for everyone, just as those from Managing with Aloha should. For instance,

—a place where people love coming to work and are highly productive on a daily basis

—a place where leaders and top executives obliterate labor-management divisions and push decision-making ownership down to every level

—a place in which everyone maximizes his or her God-given potential and serves the community and society at the same time

—a place where ordinary people gain freedom, independence, and a feeling of control over their own destiny

—a place which is joyful and immensely satisfying

What Joy At Work also made me realize however, was that managers—and more so those higher up the ranks—will be the ones standing in the way of Bakke’s proposed formula, for he explains why “the greatest obstacle to worker satisfaction is management’s craving for status and power.” He proposes that the key to Joy At Work, is when “some 99% of all important decisions are made by nonleaders at the lowest practicable organizational level.” The present reality for most leaders however, is that they’ve had to pay some significant dues to gain that ‘right and privilege’ and relinquishing that control is not going to be easy.

This is what Bakke sees as the role of Leaders and Managers in the Joy At Work approach:

  • Leaders see their role as serving other employees.
  • Leaders are mentors, coaches, teachers, helpers, and cheerleaders.
  • Leaders allow subordinates to manage resources and make decisions. Leaders oversee a rigorous advice process and fire people who do not use it appropriately.
  • Leaders advocate self-accountability, self-initiative, self-control, and individual responsibility among employees.

If you are a manager, is that enough for you to have Joy At Work too? Or have we narrowed the ‘perks of the calling’”

Bakke tells an interesting story of his own plant managers’ negative reactions to what they perceived to be a breakdown of structure and order in the Joy At Work formula. If you believe in the benefits of Joy At Work, and you believe that such changes are in fact inevitable, his story raises the transition question of how to respectfully honor, re-cast, and help existing managers buy in to relinquishing the power and authority they’ve worked so hard to earn.

There is much more to explore in Joy At Work, and I am happy that others in our Ho‘ohana Community are taking the journey. Click in to:

Redefining our Joy At Work by Christopher Bailey

All You Need is Love in the Workplace by Christopher Bailey

The Half-Full Book Review of Joy At Work by Starbucker

”and my first mention: Reinvented Work, So many possibilities.


  1. says

    I think it’s so true that managers underestimate their ability to lead – they are too focused on the perception of what “managing” is (i.e. too much “head”) rather than using their human instinct to care and nurture (i.e. not enough “heart”). So simple to explain, but yet very difficult to get a management group to embrace and practice. That’s why coaching and encouragement(especially your kind of coaching Rosa) is important. We have to make the time to do it – otherwise that joy among ALL our teammates will remain elusive. Thanks Rosa.

  2. says

    Thank you for your comment Starbucker. Just yesterday I conducted a class for 70 managers in which we talked about the Calling of Management, and why being a manager is a job we should only hold for the right reasons. At one point we came up with a word-association list for the Hawaiian value of Kuleana (responsibility), and specifically about the responsibility one holds when a manager. I was very proud of them and some of the things which were said. For instance,
    “Within Kuleana, we will;
    Accept our own responsibility for leadership.
    Grant full authority to empower full accountability.
    Delegate well and not thoughtlessly task-dump.
    Look for more opportunity to give the gift of ownership.
    Understand how delegating what is important respects a person’s intelligence.
    Set the best possible example by honoring our own responsibilities.
    Love our staff; for ultimately they are the ones we are responsible for.”
    I see management as hope for a better future.

  3. says

    I’m the publisher of Dennis Bakke’s JOY AT WORK and I have enjoyed reading your comments. As you’ve discovered, it’s a book to be read several times and digested. It’s very encouraging to see other people out there with similar views. If you’re interested in learning more, we have put a great deal of info online at

  4. says

    Aloha Mark, thank you for sharing the link; there’s some great writing in those Journal Archives of the site to be explored.

  5. says

    Decisions in waiting

    I was listening to Seth Godin’s Survival is Not Enough while driving enroute to a coaching class today, and this stuck with me: (I may have missed transcribing a word or three or four ” but this is the gist