Happiness at work – the top 3 issues

There’s no secret to what can boost productivity at work. In fact, it’s fairly consistent. TIM SHARP

Timothy Sharp Happiness Institute

By Tim Sharp

I recently surveyed the people on one of my databases (those who have specifically expressed an interested in applying the principles of positive psychology within the workplace and I asked them, quite simply, what they considered to be the top three contributors to happiness at work.

Interestingly, their responses were remarkably consistent. Although they each used slightly different words and phrases, the core issues can be summarised under just five or so headings.

First, it was very apparent that employees (at all levels and across a range of different industries) see leadership as being important for happiness at work. Respondents to my survey repeatedly noted how important they thought it was for the organisation as a whole to have clear values and for all who work within the organisation to have respect for these values.

One respondent highlighted this by emphasising her desire that all employees, especially those in positions of authority and leadership, “walked the talk” and she provided a telling example suggesting that if an employer or organisation is ostensibly encouraging staff to seek a balance between work and life that it’s not necessarily consistent to send emails at 2am!

Leadership, therefore, seemed to involve everything from clarity of purpose, structure, consistency of behaviour, and even better and more positive induction programs.

Following on from this, but separate enough to warrant its own heading, was the theme of effective and clear communication, especially from management. Although this was indubitably considered an important variable by many, if not most of those who responded to the survey, it was also very clear that the theme of communication extended far beyond just the basics of assertiveness.

Related themes and suggestions touched upon the issue of employees not just being valued as important members of the team and of the organisation but also to being told, frequently and appropriately, that they’re valued.

In addition, when people talked about communication they also referred to a desire to have one’s opinions listened to and taken seriously. For example, one respondent referred to the importance of “listening to staff, really hearing what they say, even if it is not what the manager wants to hear”. This point seemed to me to go towards issues of trust and respect.

Moving along, one of the other dominant themes was that which touched on the importance of “being thanked and appreciated”. Many respondents referred to this in one way or other with specific comments, including a desire to more often see or hear about managers and colleagues openly congratulating and/or “sending emails around about wins or efforts by people” as well as the potential benefits that could be associated with “more frequently acknowledging the little achievements that everyone does each day”.

The fourth theme to emerge from the survey, and I should note these findings are not necessarily presented in order of importance, indirectly and sometimes very directly revealed the number of people who’re increasingly becoming aware of the importance of, and benefits associated, with identifying and more fully utilising the strengths of each and every employee.

Responses referred to the desire to have one’s “skills used more” and the desire to receive more “adequate training leading to the prospect of advancement within the organisation”.

This is entirely consistent with one of the most exciting areas of positive psychology in which problems and deficits are not ignored but – and this is an important but – strengths and qualities and attributes receive a far greater proportion of our attention.

There’s no doubt that the return on investment is far greater when individuals and organisations focus more on utilising strengths, as opposed to just fixing weaknesses.

And finally, there was general agreement that most workplaces would benefit from encouraging and fostering and reinforcing a “more fun and light atmosphere”, one in which there was more “regular use of humour”.

Every respondent, in one way or other, seemed to recognise the relationship between happiness at work and productivity; so this wasn’t a group of people who just wanted to “muck around”. In contrast, those who responded seemed very ambitious and hard working but they also seemed to inherently understand that when employees are having fun, they’re also more energised; when people are happy and enjoying themselves (at least some or most of the time) then they’re more productive and nicer to be around.

So that’s it… the results of my survey are, quite interestingly, remarkably consistent with the findings from science of positive psychology, and reassuringly they’re also very consistent with what we, here at The Happiness Institute, teach people to do each and every day.

Some people out there are already doing it, and that’s great; for others, there’s no reason you can’t aim towards doing more of these things and I can guarantee that if you do… you’ll reap the rewards.

 

Dr. Sharp’s latest book (out now) 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.

For more Dr Happy blogs, click here.

 

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