Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The happy organisation – a deontological theory of happiness

By Pierre Winkler

January 22nd, 2005

Section one -Happiness and responsibilities

TNT and the “moving the world”-campagne

In a recent interview Peter Bakker, CEO of TNT – a company providing mail and logistics services in over 200 countries, income of over a billion euros per year – explained why the company started its long-term “Moving the world”-campagne in 2003. In this campagne the company cooperates with the UN’s World Food Program, providing logistic expertise and facilities and financial support of about 5 million euros yearly.

To summarise this interview very briefly, Bakker states that he feels it to be the company’s responsibility to do something against the huge difference between rich and poor in and between the countries in which the company operates and to improve the living conditions of poor people in the so called third world. The second reason, he says, is that this project strengthens the motivation and commitment of employees. “People don’t work for money alone anymore, they want to be proud of what they are doing, proud of the company’s achievements, they want to see that the company, and thereby their work for the company, makes a difference, makes the world a little better. So, if you want your employees to keep motivated, if you want them to work harder, cooperate better and be more creative, and if you want to make the company attractive for new talented people to work for, simply being a financially sound and responsible company isn’t enough anymore. You have to be socially sound and responsible as well.”

To some readers Bakker’s words about the company’s responsibility to make the world better may seem to come right out of church, out of a world of high moral values and standards, upon which it is good to reflect now and then, or maybe every sunday, but which are still values and standards belonging to a world different and separated from the world of business. But the fact is that Bakker is no priest or vicar. He is a successful businessman, realising that the world of doing business has changed considerably in the last century.

About my grandfather, and how the world has changed
I sometimes give my students the example of my grandfather. Born in 1890, as the youngest of 23 children, living in a small apartment in Amsterdam, his father drinking spirit to escape from his daily misery. My grandfather started working at eight and the first thirty years of his life the only thing he was focused on was survival. He didn’t care about working conditions or about the world around him, let alone about personal fulfilment or giving true meaning to ones life. His only care was earning enough money to survive, just as it was for most of the labourers at that time.

Luckily, for most people in the western world this situation has changed enormously. We generally have an income that allows us not to worry anymore about our physical survival. Furthermore, we have houses that are far more comfortable, we have fridges, washing machines and vacuum cleaners to make householding a lot easier, working weeks of five days, holidays and so on. And we have television and internet, which have made us far more aware of the world around us and how this globalised world affects our own lives. Also, these media have strengthened our belief in the value of our own opinions and the need to express them.

In short, all kinds of economical and technological developments in the last century have changed not only the world but our consciousness as well profoundly. We now want our personal opinions to be heard, in daily life and in our working environment as well, we don’t simply want a reasonable wage, but also personal fulfilment, we want to do something with our lives, give meaning to it, express our concerns, be a world citizen, for the simple fact is that, in this globalised world, we indeed all are world citizens.

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