There's an unwritten rule inside corporations called "The Law of Inverse Relevance," which is: "the less you plan to do about something, the more you must talk about doing it." While this seems counterintuitive, it's actually standard PR practice.
Take "corporate diversity," for instance. Tech firms are notoriously homogeneous but making them more diverse would mean quotas and demoting the currently powerful. Rather than doing this, tech firms visibly tout diversity in their mission statements, hold frequent diversity training, and may even have a "Chief Diversity Officer."
All of that talk and tokenism doesn't make a company more diverse, but it does provides cover when tech firms fail to address the problem which--let's be honest here--their top managers secretly don't believe to be a real problem, anyway.
Once you understand the Law of Inverse Relevance, corporate mission statement become both more interesting and unintentionally hilarious. For example, a company whose mission statement includes "the creation of highly innovative products" is probably coasting on a cash cow it acquired in 2005. Similarly, a company that promises to "provide the highest level of customer service" usually has a skeleton-crew support staff, few of whom can speak understandable English.
A particularly egregious example of the Law of Inverse Relevance recently emerged earlier this week when the in-door fitness equipment company Peloton filed to go public. In the filing, the company's founder, John Foley, claimed the company is "selling happiness." (eye roll)
Look, any CEO who spouts about "happiness" is not making anybody happy. WeWork--another company that touts "happiness"--is a case in point. The company is helping to popularize a management fad--the open plan office--that makes employees miserable. Zappos is another example. CEO Tony Hsieh made everyone so happy that 18% of the company left in disgust.
It gets worse, though. According to the New York Times, many companies are so committed to "happiness" in the workforce that they're mandating that employees smile while at work. Those unable to keep a rictus grin permanently affixed risk losing their jobs. What could be less conducive to real happiness than being forced to constantly simulate it?
Which leads us back to Peloton. Look, exercise equipment may be necessary but, let's face it, it's is a necessary evil, not something that makes anyone happy. Yeah, I know all about endorphins, but who wouldn't trade a runner's high for a pill you could pop in your mouth, if exercise weren't required to keep you alive and kicking?
Seriously, CEOs should stop talking about happiness because the more they talk about it, the less likely they are to actually create it. Hey, provide great products and services that people really want and treat your employees well. The "happiness"will take care of itself.