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Does Happiness Matter?

Satisfaction matters.  Satisfied employees are less likely to quit, saving the organization money from reduced recruitment, selection, and training costs (the average cost for turnover with a non-managerial employee is roughly half that employee’s yearly salary). Linkage research has also shown that satisfaction can have a positive effect on customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. With decades of research, the merits of job satisfaction are fairly clear, but what about happiness? Do happy employees perform better than their morose counterparts? If so how can you encourage and promote well-being in the workplace? This blog seeks to answer both questions.

The traditional view of worker happiness is that success is a precursor to happiness.  In other words, getting that promotion is what causes an employee to be happy. However, recent studies have shown quite a different picture- it’s not that happiness is just an outcome of success but that happiness is also a strong predictor of future success and performance. In fact, being happy and having a positive mindset in the workplace is strongly related to a number of positive outcomes (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005).  These are described below:

  • Greater productivity (happy employees have 31% higher productivity)
  • Greater success in creative endeavors
  • Higher sales figures
  • Better networking and social support
  • Less absenteeism

What can you do?

One of the more surprising findings from happiness research is that happiness is much more malleable than we previously thought. Although genetics and environment do play a part in determining happiness, there are a number of things that people can do to make themselves happier and more likely to experience the positive outcomes associated with happiness (Achor, 2012):

  • Help out your Coworkers: Lending a helping hand to your peers at the workplace (also known as Organizational Citizenship Behavior) is one of the most effective ways to foster social support and improve working relationships. For example, employees that help their overwhelmed peers, organize or coordinate during projects, or even extend casual lunch invitations are not only building their social network but they’re also providing support. And research shows that when we support others, they will almost always reciprocate that support back to us, so pay it forward!
  • Develop Positive Habits: Old dogs can be taught new tricks, and even adults can practice habits that can significantly increase their well-being. These include the following daily behaviors, each of which has been shown to have a strong positive effect on happiness:
    • Writing 3 things you are grateful for
    • Take 5 minutes to write down the most meaningful event of each day
    • 10 minutes of exercise
    • Meditate at your desk for 2-5 minutes

While these are things that individuals can do to increase their own well-being, what can leaders and organizations do to create more positive workplaces?  Leaders can take the following behaviors to encourage their employees to thrive:

  • Engage Employees in Decision-Making:  Allow employees to contribute to the decision-making process. This provides them with developmental opportunities and encourages feelings of control and ownership towards their work. Also, organizations benefit from the flood of great new ideas they might have otherwise never benefitted from. This can be done during the employee survey process through open-ended questions that ask employees to provide their ideas that will make the company great.  For more information on employee involvement, go here
  • Give Regular Performance Feedback:  Provide employees with informal performance feedback on a regular basis that is specific and timely. This will provide them with opportunities to learn and grow while helping removing the negative stigma often associated with the annual performance reviews. Getting into the habit of providing regular feedback is a great way for managers to support both employee development and performance. For more information on giving feedback, go here

While the research suggests that happiness can have a strong effect on performance and productivity, organizations should not start firing their sad employees. Happiness is only one of many factors that have an impact on success and performance. But more than anything, it is important to realize that happiness is something that can be promoted through organizational and personal practices.


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2 Responses to “Does Happiness Matter?”

  1. Jevi rehna September 11, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    Lovely post i agree with your last three points and i need some details of this post,
    Thank you for sharing with us

  2. Robert Bullock September 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    Hi Jevi,
    Thanks for your comment! What details would you like? I’ll do my best to get those to you.

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