Beyond Happiness at Work
In a recent post I mention the need for employee happiness in the workplace. The post prompted two insightful, yet separate conversations about the steadiness and the place of happiness at work.
The steadiness referred to the plausibility of feeling or having a sense happiness all the time throughout the organization. The other conversation centered on those who claim to be happy yet avoid negative people, feelings, conflict or challenges to their happiness. In a sense, the happiness is a façade.
Both people raise important points. When I or any other person talk about happiness at work, it’s important to distinguish what we mean. Admittedly, I’ve not made it clear.
What Is Happiness at Work?
Let’s toss out the word happiness. Yes, I want to take back my use of employee happiness. As Barb Fredrickson explains in Positivity, “It’s murky and overused,” and can be better described.
I want to take back my use of employee happiness
Like Fredrickson, I use joy or optimism as a way to describe what the work environment can be. From here on out, I’ll be more specific and use joy or optimism.
Can employees be joyful or optimistic? Absolutely. I advocate that managers today need to learn how to elicit such employee ways of being. It is, however, an individual choice. Still, given the unsatisfying mood in our organizations, talent issues, and a host of other organizational problems, managers can learn to counter the dismal mood hovering over companies through their leadership and create an optimistic work environment.
I advocate that managers today need to learn how to elicit such joy and optimism at work
Still, what is this belief of joy, or optimism at work?
Any of the positive attributions like joy or optimism doesn’t alone concern individuals – although they can certainly experience either at any given moment. Rather, when I mention joy or optimism I refer to what can be achieved at the group, team, or organizational level. It’s the mood of the immediate work environment.
Any of the following positive attributes are reasons for cultivating joy or optimism in the workplace:
- Stronger solutions to problems
- Availability of people with whom to partner
- Efficiencies found and quality sustained or improved or better ways found to achieve them
- Willingness to help each other
- Increased creativity
To read more reasons, I recommend reading Sonja Lyubomirsky’s “The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?” Though it’s a scholarly paper, it’s a worthy read if you like this topic or positive psychology.
In short, joy or optimism is a factor of the team or organization’s culture. Regardless of how an employee feels – happy, joyful, optimistic or not – the culture promotes it. And it’s contagious. And it’s not: it can be fleeting. It can be throughout the organization. It can be found in pockets.
It is up to the manager to take on the leadership challenge of creating optimism in the workplace.
I do want employees to feel optimistic about their workplace, and the possibilities they can create from their work. I also want employees to experience joy with the opportunity to do meaningful work.
The chances of optimism or joy to manifest within employees do not predicated on the larger culture. Managers, in partnership with their teams, can create a micro-culture even if the larger culture doesn’t promote optimism.