Over the past decade or so, happiness has become a much sought-after commodity in the corporate world. Countless reports have shown that employees who don’t start every morning dreading the day ahead are (understandably) more likely to work harder, and this revelation has seen employers bending over backwards in their attempts to up contentment quotas in their organizations.
Workplace happiness has become a billion-dollar industry, and employers now chase after this elusive concept as vociferously as they do clients, pouring countless resources into conjuring up new perks and strategies designed to plant smiles firmly on all employees’ faces.
But how happy is too happy? As the pursuit of all things positive reaches fever pitch, new research is starting to emerge, which indicates that too much of a good thing can in fact be bad for business. A 2013 study conducted by Leadership IQ found that in over 40% of workplaces surveyed, the worst performers were also the happiest and most engaged. Surely that can’t be right?
Yep, it turns out happiness is only useful up until a certain point. Dial up the smiles too high, and employees stop feeling motivated, inured by the cushy perks and benefits, and lulled into a sense of complacency by the constant positivity propaganda being flung their way. After all, if everything were SO terrific, what reason would you have to improve?
The bottom line is that the workplace, just like any other environment, is full of ups and downs, and can actually be made better by the occasional helping of stress and angst. No person or business ever rose to greatness without overcoming challenges – after all, they’re what make us stronger and help us to grow. Remove these factors from any situation and you’re left treading water, trapped in a spiral of mediocrity from which it can be difficult to escape.
If you’re one of the many employers who have embarked on the pursuit of workplace happiness, you’re probably wringing your hands in frustration right now. But don’t panic – employee happiness IS still a good thing. The challenge is simply to establish a healthy level of contentment – one that drives employees to improve rather than discourages progress.
So how do you find that happy balance? Here are three tips to get you started:
DON’T FORCE FRIVOLITY
The constant, relentless quest for contentment can be exhausting, and is ultimately impossible to achieve. People are going to have bad days. Employees are going to resent their bosses from time to time. You simply can’t control that. So stop trying so hard. Setting the happiness benchmark too high is only going to result in disappointment across the board, and leave your employees feeling inadequate when they’re unable to achieve it.
DON’T AVOID CONFLICT
Conflict and contentment aren’t the most traditional of bedfellows, but neither can exist without the other. Many of us tend to avoid confrontation for fear of creating an unpleasant atmosphere, but in so doing, we only sweep issues under the carpet, letting them grow and fester until they one day explode. If you really want your employees to be happy, don’t be afraid to take them on when their performance levels drop. Sure it might result in temporary ill will, but ultimately, it’ll help to keep them motivated, and leave them secure in the knowledge that they know where they stand at all times.
SHIFT YOUR FOCUS
‘Happiness’ is a vague and murky concept, and one that ultimately means something different to each of your employees. Certain perks might delight Jane in accounting, but have little positive effect on Ahmed in marketing. Ultimately, the best way to achieve happiness across the board is to give your employees a sense of meaning in what they do, and to promote a feeling of connection to the company’s greater purpose. By ensuring that your employees all understand the valuable role they play in achieving your broader business goals, and demonstrating appreciation for these efforts, you’ll promote a healthy sense of satisfaction within your ranks, and allow happiness to develop organically as a result.