Happiness at Work (Can You Generate Happiness for the Unhappy Few?)

If I’m to believe a lot of what crosses my computer screen these days, we (in HR and rewards) are on the hook not only to improve employee productivity and engagement, but also happiness at work.

No problem, right?

With that in mind then, I appreciate what artist, performer, author and tinker Carr Hagerman has to say on the topic in a post on his blog The Takeaway.

We all want happiness, man, that’s the scope of our lives, to be joyful, connected and just happy, man. But as most of us know, organizations have limited resources to generate happy happy for the unhappy few. What I mean is, if you’re already a whiner, or a belly aching windbag of toxic energy, no program, article, foosball table or casual Friday is going unlock your misery. Happiness at work is entirely different than happiness from our workplace. Sure, having free soda, bonus checks and a great health plan can generate momentary happiness, but if you’re prone to harshing everyone’s mellow none of this is going to matter, you’re just going to continue to rain on everyone’s parade.

If you want happiness in the workplace, hire people that are happy for crying out loud, and give them some freedom. Avoid weaponizing toxic people by giving them power over others, making them the overlords of the good and happy people.”

Can we impact employee happiness in the workplace? To what extent is happiness something we hire for? Or is it on us to ensure the conditions for happiness are in place – and, if so, what are they?

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What’s your take?

This was originally published on Ann Bares’ Compensation Force blog.

Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. She has over 20 years of experience consulting in compensation and performance management and has worked with a variety of organizations in auditing, designing and implementing executive compensation plans, base salary structures, variable and incentive compensation programs, sales compensation programs, and performance management systems.

Her clients have included public and privately held businesses, both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, early stage entrepreneurial organizations and larger established companies. Ann also teaches at the University of Minnesota and Concordia University.

Contact her at abares@alturaconsultinggroup.com.


2 Comments on “Happiness at Work (Can You Generate Happiness for the Unhappy Few?)

  1. Ann, in my 20+ years in the workforce I have come to conclude that while the “work environment” can influence a person and thus their happiness, it is the person him/herself that determines happiness at work.

    I just finished reading a new book, The Employee Engagement Mindset, that sheds new light on who’s responsible for employee engagement. The book is based on five years of research and suggests that while many leaders say they are responsible, all highly engaged employees took responsibility for their own engagement.

    The author, Dr. Timothy R. Clark, suggest six key drivers to high engagement. They reaffirm my own experience.

    Although in today’s world we like to point fingers and attach blame to others, including organizations, I found it refreshing to find research showing that I am responsible for my own happiness.

    This book is a good read and helped me take a look at several things in considering whom to hire and how I respond to a variety of “things” at work. I even tried to put together a “failure resume” as Clark suggested to see what I could learn from my “spectacular failures” and my eyes opened even further.


  2. Employees’ personal happiness can’t be changed – whether they just got a new car and are ecstatic or just got a divorce and are devastated – and they shouldn’t be expected to change their mood regarding things in their lives outside the office. However, their attitude about the office itself is what’s important here. If they are unsure about their strengths or performance or dislike other employees, office policies, or anything else that causes negative feelings, changes should be made, because it can really impact the entire business. Raising employee morale should be a priority and can be accomplished slowly but surely, in simple steps. Thanking employees for their work, and especially highlighting good performance and letting them know when they’ve done a good job, is one way, although that should already be common sense. Other ways are by offering incentives for good work, and then complimenting and rewarding that good work, which will boost morale – offering a free lunch, a day off, whatever it may be. Also, it’s good to adjust to their personal strengths – if they work better in groups or better alone, allow them, to some extent, to work how they work best.

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