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How workplace happiness can boost productivity

How workplace happiness can boost productivity

The pursuit of true happiness has become an important issue for psychologists, economists, and sometimes, politicians. Far from assuming that happiness is a personal matter, executives and employers too are directing their attention to happiness as a workplace issue and management strategy.

According to Richard Reeves, author of Happy Mondays: Putting the Pleasure Back Into Work,  Ed Denier, author of Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, and Sonja Lybomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, long-term happiness and life satisfaction is measured by economists and psychologists, and should no longer be seen as an abstract concept. John Helliwell, Professor Emeritus and an economist from The University of British Columbia presented research on happiness and well-being, based on surveys of more than 100,000 people in Canada and around the world. Among his findings, which have significant implications for the workplace, is that a slight positive increase in a worker's relationship with the boss may translate into a substantial increase in compensation or productivity.

The Apprentice TV show hosted by Donald Trump is a prime example of how the media portrays workplace culture and the behavior of those in it, emphasizing that business is a tough game to play and getting ahead requires putting your interests above others and capitalizing on the misfortune of fellow workers.

Shows like The Apprentice, intimate that good guys finish last and that being happy and having positive relationships don't matter. This view is contrary to numerous psychological studies of the workplace that found personal feelings toward an individual are more significant in the formation of productive collective work than is a person's competence.

Why should we be concerned about whether people are happy at work? Aren't there more important issues such as sales, marketing, finance and operations? The truth is all of these issues are better met by employees who are happy and who enjoy their work. The business case for happiness in the workplace is simple and based on solid evidence.

Psychologist Martin Seligman, in his book, Authentic Happiness, cites his research on positive emotions among 272 employees during a study of their job performance for 18 months. He concluded hat happier people got better performance evaluations and high pay. Along these lines, a large study of Australian youths, conducted over 15 years, concluded that happiness made gainful employment and higher income more likely. D. G. Myers, in The Pursuit of Happiness, says that compared to employees who are depressed or unhappy, happy employees have lower medical costs, work fmroe efficiently and have less absenteeism.

J.M. George in his research article published in Human Relations, and P. Totterdell and his colleagues, in their article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, claim that a negative mood moves people into an entirely different way of thinking and acting. When people are feeling negative they become critics of each other, and this engenders a warrior mode of thinking, and win-lose approach to problems. Negative people concentrate on what is wrong and attempt to correct it. Conversely, a positive mood stimulates people to be creative, tolerant, constructive, generous and non-defensive. The focus is not on what is wrong, but on what is right.

Other research studies show that happiness can undo some of the adverse physiological effects of negative emotions. Seligman points out that happier people are more altruistic than their unhappy counterparts, being more likely to give not just their money, but also their time and energy.

With companies struggling to survive in a competitive economy, and engaged in a war for talent, the problems of recruitment, retention and employee engagement of productive employees are critical. no less critical is the recognition that a happy workplace can have a significant impact on business results and success.

 

 

Ray Williams is the author of Breaking Bad Habits and The Leadership Edge.

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