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 Happy

Is there anything more annoying than being told to cheer up when you're feeling down? Actually, there is one thing more annoying: this 'Keep Calm And Eat A Cupcake' tote bag, which is the most irritating thing ever created by a human. But 'cheer up' comes close, owing chiefly to its pointlessness: if you could cheer up by choice, you'd already have done so. It's especially unhelpful when directed at the seriously depressed, which is why there's always so much outrage whenever the Daily Mail publishes another of those trollumns arguing that depressed people should just pull themselves together. (Which, in turn, of course, is why they run them in the first place.) It's also exceptionally obnoxious when used to harrass women in public places. But a new Canadian study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, lends weight to the idea that telling others to look on the bright side is unwelcome and counterproductive even when it's done with the best of intentions. The researchers, led by the psychologistDenise Marigold of the University of Waterloo, found no evidence that 'positive reframing' is helpful for people with low self-esteem – the very people, in other words, most likely to be targeted for the 'cheer up!' treatment.

 What on earth is holocracy?

Every so often a company emerges from the herd to be lauded as the embodiment of leading-edge management thinking. Think of Toyota and its lean manufacturing system, or GE and Six Sigma excellence. The latest candidate for apotheosis is Zappos, an online vendor of shoes and clothes (owned by Amazon), which believes that happy workers breed happy customers. Tony Hsieh, its boss, said last year that he will turn the firm into a “holacracy”, replacing its hierarchy with a more democratic system of overlapping, self-organising teams. Until Zappos embraced it, no big company had taken holacracy seriously. Indeed, not all of Zappos’ 1,500-strong workforce are convinced that it can work. The idea was invented in 2007 by Brian Robertson, a software engineer then in his late twenties. Holacracy’s “constitution” is now on version 4.0, having been adjusted after feedback from the 200 or so mostly small firms that have adopted it. Mr Robertson was inspired in part by a description of holarchy in a 1967 book, “The Ghost in the Machine”, by Arthur Koestler, a Hungarian-British intellectual.

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