What Came First — Happiness or Employee Engagement?

Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage takes an in-depth look at the way happiness impacts people in the workplace.

Much of his research and suggestions have a direct connection with employee engagement, raising an interesting discussion: whether happiness is a component of employee engagement, or vice versa.

Happiness

Many psychologists define happiness as a positive mood and an optimistic outlook for the future.

The pioneer of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, defines happiness as a combination of pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Achor summarizes happiness as “the joy we feel striving after our potential.”

Engagement

Employee engagement can be defined in terms of both a feeling (state) and by behaviors (outcomes, results).

People who feel engaged in their work and life experience a sense of energy and excitement about what they do. They genuinely like their work and look forward to accomplishing the tasks before them.

These feelings lead to outcomes such as active participation in work, higher levels of contribution, and giving their best effort.

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The chicken or the egg?

So which comes first, happiness or engagement? Do employees have to be happy before they can be engaged, or do employees become happy when they are engaged?

Perhaps it can work either way, depending on the employee.

Those who develop a sense of happiness will also find that they are more engaged in their work. Employees who are more engaged in their work will also find greater happiness in their lives.

This was originally published on the DecisionWise blog.

Charles Rogel is Director of Products and Marketing at DecisionWise, a management consulting firm specializing in leadership and organization development using assessments, feedback, coaching, and training. He has an extensive background in international sales and consulting.

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