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Friday, November 2, 2018

Happiness at Work by Srikumar Rao (Book Summary)

Professor Srikumar Rao is a well-known professor in Business and Leadership. He is acclaimed for work on what makes successful leaders and also the author of Are You Ready to Succeed. It’s also boasted that one of his courses has started the practice of alumni group of its own! In this blogpost, we will review one of his book – Happiness At Work. I am sure the title is very catchy especially those who are dreading to go to work every morning!

About Author

An IIM Ahmedabad graduate, Prof. Rao did he PhD in Marketing from Columbia Business School. Later he has taught at Columbia Business School, London Business School, Kellogg School of Management and Haas School of Management. Presently, he is and independent consultant and runs Rao Institute.

The Mystery of Happiness at Work

This is an interesting topic. It concerns not only the employees; but also the employer. And I think apart from those who are working as per their true calling – most would have witnessed unhappiness at least one day in the professional life. HR team of organizations try to make their employees feel happy and comfortable in all ways possible. The book aims to help you in achieving happiness in work life no matter how bad it is
Professor starts with big boasting like in his previous book, Are You Ready to Succeed. Also, some of the topics are borrowed from the previous book. Happiness At Work consists of thirty five short chapters and close to 230 pages. Each chapter introduces a key topic, discusses about it and ends with the key learning. Author also suggest not to read the book like a novel and instead read it at short spans and try to apply the concepts before moving to the next chapter.

Importance of Empathy

The book starts with a chapter on paradigm shifts. This closely aligns with the concept introduced by Steven Covey in his book titled Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; in fact the example used by Professor is similar to the one given by Covey!
At a high level, first few chapters discusses about empathy and associated topics. Professor suggests not to be too hard on yourself or others or situations. Key suggestion to break this challenge is to avoid labelling situations as bad things (aka starting a negative mental chatter). Later on Professor Rao concentrates on aspects like how to make affirmations work, how not to fall into ambitions-spiral. Final part of the book goes deeper philosophically.

Key Learning

Some of the key learning I took away while reading this book are
  • Don’t try to stereotype. This is equally applicable to people as well as outcomes. It’s key not to associate ‘it’s a good thing; that’s a bad thing’ connotation to everything
  • Cultivating resilience as a habit. This is a key trait every self-help and leadership coaches put thrust on. We have discussed this previously in the post Three ingredients to personal success
  • Cultivating the habit of ‘letting go’. The author suggests to make this habit an integral part irrespective of how many times you have to do it
  • Invest in the process to achieve something rather than focusing a sharp eye on its outcome

Happiness Book or Happiness @ Work?

I felt the title is misleading. Prof.Rao rarely talks specifically about happiness from work context. Instead most of the content is focussed on happiness in general and as a self-help book. Few pointers specific were things like to find a larger meaning to what you do rather than get confined to your role.
Similarly some of the thoughts that doesn’t gel with me were
  • Author argues that problems of today may go away on its on in future. I disagree; at max, we may learn to live with them!
  • In a chapter on loses, Professor Rao takes a very blunt route that we create lot’s of drama around losses – be it your loved ones or things. He suggests that consider – life to be a play and we are just actors in it. Often we tend to associate ourselves with characters and not actors. While this makes sense, I felt it a bit hard to accept 🙂
Finally, some of the chapters are repetitive if you are an ardent self-help books reader. For example, concepts such as as ‘what-would-like-people-to-remember-when-you-are-in-death-bed’, time management principles, moving away from me-centreness and so on. Also, many thoughts shared by the author are driven from eastern philosophy and his earlier book – Are you ready to succeed?
Overall a good read; especially his writing style based on stories for each concept discussed; but you may be disappointed if you were expecting a book specifically on work related issues.
If you are interested, you can read the book summary of Are you Ready to Succeed? here.


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