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I recently read a number of research articles on happiness and its implications for society at large and within the workplace. The authors make the argument that, in general, employee happiness is important to organizational leaders. Why might that be so? 


First, it is important to define happiness. In terms of the academic research, happiness is a broad concept that encompasses more specific concepts such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, job involvement, engagement, thriving and vigor, intrinsic motivation, and emotions and moods (affect) at work. From an organizational standpoint, the three concepts that get the most attention, or should get the most attention, are job satisfaction, engagement, and affect.


Whey do we care if employees are happy at work? There are a number of reasons. For example, research links job satisfaction to improved performance. Individuals in positive moods are generally more creative and solve problems in more flexible ways. On the other hand, individuals in negative moods tend to engage in more workplace deviance (theft, sabotage, etc.) and withdrawal behaviors (tardiness, absenteeism, turnover). Personal happiness is also linked to stronger immune systems and reduced susceptibility to illness (lowering missed time at work and possibly health care costs). And lastly, people in positive moods are more helpful to others, suggesting that people in positive moods at work are more likely to engage in citizenship behaviors and other helpful activities. Not to mention that happy people are just more pleasant to be around! I think it is safe to say that having happy employees is a good thing, and something organizational leaders should make a conscious effort to facilitate.


But how can an organizational leader actually facilitate happy employees? Cynthia Fisher*, of Bond University in Australia, did a thorough review of the workplace happiness literature, and framed 10 recommendations organizational leaders can use to guide their efforts to improve happiness in the workplace:

  1. Create a healthy, respectful, and supportive organizational culture.
  2. Supply competent leadership at all levels.
  3. Provide fair treatment, security, and recognition.
  4. Design jobs to be interesting, challenging, autonomous, and rich in feedback.
  5. Facilitate skill development to improve competence and allow growth.
  6. Select for person-organization and person-job fit.
  7. Enhance fit through the use of realistic job previews and socialization practices.
  8. Reduce minor hassles and increase daily uplifts.
  9. Persuade employees to reframe a current less-than-ideal work environment as acceptable.
  10. Adopt high-performance work practices.

While broad in nature, these recommendations represent a solid framework to helping employees be happier in the workplace. In turn, happy employees tend to be more productive, healthier, and more helpful. That sounds like a win-win for both the organization and the employee.




*Cynthia Fisher. (2009) "Happiness at work" International journal of management reviews, Online, .


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Comment by David Hicks on March 28, 2011 at 11:31am

Great post, Brian. I guess it all boils down to building trust. The 10 items in the list should help, resulting in a happier (and more productive & engaged) workforce.


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