Happy International Happiness Day! The U.N. designated March 20 as a celebration of happiness back in 2012, to bring attention to “the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world.” Today we’re looking at how happiness fits in the workplace. Happiness ultimately derives from an individual’s attitude — unfortunately you can’t force someone to be happy — but there are ways you can help boost employee happiness by creating a culture in which happiness is valued and shared.
Here are six simple steps to get you started today in boosting employee happiness.
1. Let your employees know you support their friendships.
Working with friends breeds happiness, a 2010 study found, but many employees surveyed mistakenly assume their managers disapprove of such relationships. Of the managers surveyed, 49 percent said they support or encourage the development of friendships in the workplace. Meanwhile, only 29 percent of non-managers felt their workplace supported these relationships. See the disconnect? By encouraging employees to form friendships, you may very well be changing false perceptions or stopping employees from feeling the need to “hide” their behavior. The result: you help build overall employee happiness.
2. Challenge “positive thinking.”
Srikumar Rao, author of the book “Happiness At Work: Be Resilient, Motivated and Successful — No Matter What,” tells Forbes writer Jacquelyn Smith that “positive thinking” doesn’t always lead to happiness. Instead, he advises employing a neutral attitude that challenges the status quo. Companies are better off encouraging a culture in which there are no “bad” or “good” events, Rao says: “‘When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade’ assumes that you have been given a lemon and that a lemon is bad for you. I’m saying, first of all, if you’ve been given a lemon, is that a bad thing? You can train yourself to say, ‘OK, this happened,’ rather than label it as bad.”
3. Banish the “If/Then” model of ambition in your workplace.
Don’t hinge your happiness on a specific result, Rao says. We get ourselves in trouble with the “if/then” model of ambition: “If I get the promotion, then I will be happy.” (And if you don’t get the promotion?) Instead, Rao proposes that a healthier and happier perspective is to think, “‘I have a grand vision and I will try my best to make it work. If I succeed, wonderful. If not, wonderful. My purpose is to give it the best I’ve got.'” In other words, help colleagues and employees understand the joy is in the journey (together), and not necessarily the destination.
4. Build a sense of ownership.
Employees who feel they have a stake in their company care more and work harder. Leonard J. Glick, professor of management and organizational development at Boston’s Northeastern University, tells Forbes’ Karsten Strauss that building that sense of ownership begins with increased employee involvement: “One way to inspire that feeling is to have each member of a team become familiar with what other team members are doing, allowing them to bring their ideas for improvement to the table and have input in the whole process. If the roles are not too specialized, have your people rotate responsibilities from time to time.” By encouraging involvement, you’re also building trust, deepening engagement and making employees feel valued.
5. Don’t emulate “The Apprentice.”
Donald Trump’s TV show may be wildly popular, but its cut-throat portrayal of workplace culture is neither realistic nor a successful model for business leaders. Research proves this through “numerous psychological studies,” according to Ray B. Williams’ Psychology Today article “How Workplace Happiness Can Boost Productivity.” The show “is a prime example of how the media portrays workplace culture and the behavior of those in it, emphasizing that business is a tough game to play and getting ahead requires putting your interests above others and capitalizing on the misfortune of fellow workers.” In actuality, positive relationships do matter. Experts have found that “personal feelings toward an individual are more significant in the formation of productive collective work than is a person’s competence.”
6. Play mind games (the good kind!).
This can be as simple as five minutes daily to consider and write down what you’re grateful for, or taking 10 minutes to meditate over lunch, or making a promise to each morning email a different employee a “thank you” note. Shawn Achor, author of “The Happiness Advantage” and “Before Happiness,” discusses his research in a Harvard Business Review blog post on the transformative ways that small steps toward happiness pay “great dividends.” It’s a mind game, literally: the steps he describes are intended to “change the pattern through which your brain views work.” Take the step to train managers and colleagues to do the same and your collective impact on worker happiness will be powerful.
Looking for more inspiration? Take a few minutes today to enjoy singer Pharrell Williams’ collaboration with the U.N., 24 Hours of Happy, a website where people around the world share videos of themselves dancing to his song “Happy.”
To learn more about increasing employee happiness in your workplace by building a culture of gratitude, download our free guide to “Workplace Gratitude” and start sharing your gratitude today!
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