The Pursuit of Happiness…in the workplace
I recently found myself dreading the fact that I had agreed to facilitate a retreat for “Organization A” because 20% of their staff was going to be laid off the following week. I expected their morale to be in the dumps, but when I surveyed the staff on how they felt about the organization, 90% responded “very good to terrific” and the remaining 10% responded “fair.” No one responded poorly. When I asked for further comment, the general response was “Sure we’re going through some very tough times, but I have always been treated with honesty, fairness, kindness and respect.”
Contrast that to “Organization B” that has experienced a 60% staff turnover rate for the past five years. They attained this distinction despite their great salary, and in spite of a state-of-the-art facility. On paper, they had a stellar mission statement. People left for one main reason; they were unhappy. When asked about the organization’s culture, one vice- president said, “It’s amazing how time flies when you’re miserable.”
How much does happiness matter in the workplace? While it has been traditionally seen as a by-product rather than a goal in itself, studies have shown that happiness can be a primary indicator for productivity and success. A recent Gallup study found that disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy an estimated $416 billion in 2009, primarily through lost productivity. I am often called to work with organizations where there is a good degree of unhappiness, and have found four consistent themes arise.
Alignment – Establishing alignment between your organization and your employees is a great way to determine whether there is a good fit in the first place. This comes about by having solid mission, vision and values statements as well as sound hiring practices. If a new employee knows that there is alignment between his own purpose and values and that of his workplace, the odds increase that he will cause less conflict and be more productive.
Engagement – Employees always want to know that their contributions and opinions matter, and that they can connect the dots from their work to the greater purpose of the organization. Studies show that the happiest employees see their work as a calling and not just a job, even if their tasks are considered menial or basic by others. Engaged employees feel a profound connection to their workplace, drive innovation and move the organization forward.
Walking the Talk – The values of Organization A are trust, honesty, respect, integrity, accountability, empathy, and hard work. And it was evident from the behavior of the senior leadership that these values are clearly and consistently demonstrated through their daily actions, which contributed to a 90% approval rating from the staff. In contrast, Organization B does not have a values statement. When leaders establish and embrace their organization’s values, it sets the example of right behavior and wins the loyalty and respect of the employees.
Kindness Matters– It may seem simple, but saying hello, good morning, please and thank you are very important in creating a tone of acknowledgement and respect in the workplace. When the CEO of Organization B began to say “thank you,” the reported stress level of the staff immediately dropped and she began to see favorable results in the quality of their work. Even if one has to convey a critique, it can be delivered with kindness and respect. A simple investment of valuing others through common courtesy can lead to large returns.
By building and maintaining an organizational culture of happiness and kindness, you will get more productive and loyal employees who will more likely lead healthier and more fulfilled lives. Try it for yourself. Conduct the following two-question poll of your staff to assess the happiness quotient in your organization -
On a scale of 1-5, rate your happiness quotient at work.
What changes can we make in the organization to make you happier?
Let me know your results. If you, like me, see a connection between the results you seek and the happiness and well being of your staff, I’m here to help.
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