Workplace Happiness

February 2005

February, despite being the month for Valentine’s Day (and Groundhog Day!), is a tough month for many of us. It is cold, with short days and precious little sunshine. Our New Year’s resolutions are wearing thin, and the year might not be off to quite the stellar start we had hoped. Or, it may be off to such a fantastic start that we feel like we are on a run-away rocket, with things like work/life balance fading into a distant memory. The folks at Time magazine must have wanted to encourage us when they put together an issue a couple of weeks ago on “the science of happiness.”

Of particular interest to me was the observation that researchers are entering the field of “positive organizational scholarship,” where they are studying such concepts as meaningfulness of work, authentic leadership, and emotional competence in examining the connection between happy employees and happy businesses. It is probably not a news flash to anyone that a company is better off with happy employees than ones who are unhappy. Some studies show that employee happiness has a direct impact on job performance, which translates into bottom line results. In a country where only about a third of surveyed workers say they are “engaged” with their work, this seems to be a worthwhile area to seek improvements, given these emerging findings.

People who love their jobs, according to the Time article, feel challenged by their work yet in control of it. They find meaning in whatever they do. A boss who makes them feel appreciated is a key ingredient to employee happiness, along with a strong relationship with co-workers. I would add that a happy employee (or happy boss) is self-aware, and knows what their strengths and weaknesses are and how those are reflected at work. Happy employees are able to forgive themselves and others for mistakes, learn from their mistakes, and move on. They take care of themselves and set healthy boundaries around work and play. It is my observation that happy employees have at least some alignment with the company’s values (articulated or not). They have good tools for handling job-related stress in appropriate and effective ways.

Are your employees happy? Are you happy in your work? What role does happiness play in your company and in your own work? If I can serve you in exploring these questions, please ask. Have a great month.

Sharon Keys Seal

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