A silent and deadly virus

There could be a dangerous malaise spreading silently through your business. Take steps now, or there will be consequences. TIM SHARP

Timothy Sharp Happiness Institute

By Tim Sharp

If you discovered that a damaging virus was spreading through your organisation’s IT system, causing immeasurable and irreparable damage to your files, leading to lost productivity and wasted resources, what would you do?

What if you discovered that this potent and contagious virus was spreading throughout the people in your organisation, leading to increased absenteeism and ultimately contributing to higher than normal turnover?

If it became apparent that this virus was significantly and negatively affecting not just on the health and wellbeing of your employees and colleagues, but also their productivity and efficiency, and subsequently the morale and engagement of your staff and colleagues, what would you do?

I’m hoping you’d act… and I’m hoping you’d act quickly and aggressively.

Why then, do so many organisations ignore the “virus” that is workplace unhappiness? Why then, do so many employers and managers downplay the significance of employee dissatisfaction when we know that it contributes to poor retention and increased turnover, to low morale and to disengagement, to problems with productivity and ultimately to lower levels of profitability than could otherwise be achieved?

To be honest, I’m not 100% sure of the answer to this question but I think it lies somewhere in the following:

Most employers and managers have simply not had any training in the area of workplace or organisational psychology, and hence consider it to be either incomprehensible or “too hard”.

Many people in the “corporate world” believe these issues to be too “soft” and “fuzzy” and, therefore, not as “real” or as “serious” as some other variables about which they learned in university or read in business books and magazines.

But both these beliefs are incorrect and, I would argue, unhelpful – unhelpful because they lead to avoidance and inaction, which as noted above leads to significant problems with the business!

I just this week spoke with a senior executive within a medium sized business who’d asked me to work with one of his colleagues not just because he has concerns about this person’s health and well being but also because this person has started to offend and turn-off valuable clients.

The scientific study of happiness, more formally known as positive psychology, has lead to the development of tools that can measure each and every one of the aforementioned constructs (including happiness, engagement, morale etc) with a high degree of validity and reliability. In turn, these variables have been shown to be highly correlated with various measures of performance.

Further, there are now a number of means whereby managers can learn about these concepts, and notably how they are relevant and how they can be applied within their specific industry and/or business.

So if you wouldn’t ignore some other type of virus don’t ignore the dangerous and infectious virus that is unhappiness – if you do, you’ll eventually pay for it!


Dr. Sharp’s latest book (published August 2008) is “100 Ways to Happiness: a Guide for Busy People” (Penguin). You can find out more about corporate programs, presentations, and coaching services at www.drhappy.com.au and www.thehappinessinstitute.com. You can also ask him questions using the Comments panel below.

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