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Come on, get happy! How to enhance employees' happiness

The best insights are supported by scholarly, evidence-backed work (at least in Hidden Squirrel Consulting's opinion). As such, our first blog post is going to discuss how to enhance happiness in the workplace, based on the work of Cynthia D. Fisher.

You can access her academic journal article here:

In the meantime, we thought it best if we were to summarize the key findings and takeaways (because who really has the time to muddle through academic-speak)?

If you're inspired by the article and want to discuss how we at Hidden Squirrel Consulting can assist you with creating a conducive environment for 'happiness at work', please reach out.

Article: Happiness at Work

Published in: International Journal of Management Reviews, 12 (2010), 384-412.

Access fee: US$ 39.55

The bulk of the Fisher's article, geared toward an academic audience, discusses the content validity of the ‘happiness’ construct; however, for the purposes of simplicity, we won’t get into the nitty gritty of whether such a thing exists and what the construct means for academic research. We’ll just note that ‘work-related happiness’ can include lots of things, such as positive affect (i.e., feeling good), job satisfaction, work engagement, and organizational commitment.

Now, onto the good stuff…

What causes a person to feel happy at work? Well, it’s a combination of a) personality, b) disposition, and C) environmental factors. Keeping in mind that while a) and b) are important determinants of happiness, we’re going to discuss things you can do to improve your employees’ levels of happiness and enjoyment at work.

Why is it important to try to help people be and feel happy in your company? Beyond the obvious, research supports the existence of something called ‘emotional contagion“. If you and I work together and I’m unhappy, then chances are that I’ll negatively influence your feelings of happiness. I'll pull you down into my 'Debbie Downer' hole. Luckily, the reverse applies as well; if you’re happy, then I’m more likely to be happy too!

So, here are some things that you (or your company) can do to improve employees’ work-related happiness:

1) Establish trust – The Great Place to Work Institute suggests that employees are happiest when they ‘trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with’ (Fisher, 2010, p. 394).

Trust is only possible when employees feel that their employer acts in a fair manner and treats them with dignity and respect.

In order to maintain perceptions of fairness, as a leader, try to ensure that the reasoning behind difficult decisions (such as promotions, reorganization, resource distribution) is as transparent possible. If you don't share such key information - employees will assume the worst (which can breed resentment).

2) Implement high-performance work practices (also known as high involvement or high commitment practices). High performance work practices include providing employees with more autonomy, investing in employee training and educational opportunities, flattening hierarchical structures, and encouraging the sharing of information and power.

Research demonstrates implementing these work practices reduces employee turnover, increases employee motivation and organizational commitment, and contributes to organizational financial ($$$$$$$) success.

3) Hire and train charismatic leaders – a plethora of research links leader behaviour to employee satisfaction. Charismatic leaders have happier employees, and good leader-member relations (built on trust and respect) have a huge impact on employees’ organizational commitment.

Further reading: Check out Business Week’s Article, “Five Secrets of Charismatic Leadership

4) Encourage friendly and positive relationships within the workplace – Employees are much happier when they have positive relationships in the workplace, and feel comfortable with their coworkers and their supervisors. One massive factor influencing job dissatisfaction, turnover, depression, and anxiety is incivility. So, encourage workers to treat others with respect, and establish a culture where workers feel comfortable chatting with their peers.

5) Provide employees with opportunities to feel successful within the workplace. In terms of short-term happiness (often called ‘positive affect’), goal achievement is one way to help people feel good. When people feel like they’re meeting their goals, or progressing toward them at a steady pace, they feel satisfied and energized. To improve your own work-related happiness, break down your work tasks into small, manageable goals. Also, encourage your employees to a) set out goals for themselves, and b) celebrate their achievements! Make sure to provide lots of positive feedback and encouragement; it’s a win-win situation!

In her article, Fisher makes the following specific recommendations. Some of these are covered above. If you have any questions (or would like to see further discussion on any of the topics covered here today), then just post some feedback in the comments section.

Fisher’s specific recommendations on how to improve ‘Happiness at Work’:

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

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