Happiness is not all Your employees don’t have to love their work but you can help them feel better about it
TO be happy at work, or not; there is nothing wrong with either, although no-one wants to work with a sad sack. Forcing people to be happy at work through unrealistic expectations has been shown to contribute to mental illness. A Gallup study of sites in 142 countries in 2013 – taking in roughly 230,000 workers – found 63 per cent were not engaged or were unhappy at work. A further 24 per cent hated their jobs, were emotionally disconnected and frustrated with their position. The converse is that only 13 per cent were happy and liked their jobs. The happiest were in Panama, of all places.
Gallup found those who rated themselves as happy were 36 per cent more motivated, six times more energised, and twice as productive as unhappy workers.
In Australia it may be difficult to sustain the happiness ideal despite the growing incidence of employee-wellbeing programs being implemented to ensure staff are engaged, less likely to leave and are more productive.
We can't force people to be happy. For many, work is a means to an end; they would rather be at home with their family or friends, travelling, or sunning themselves on a beach.
University of New South Wales psychologist Brock Bastian says expecting workers to feel happy places pressure on people not to feel negative emotions, or to hide emotions inconsistent with a cheerful exterior. When people try to hide negative emotions their mood tends to deteriorate and they can become stuck in a rut, or struggle with how they are expected to feel. Bastian says those who feel negative emotions suffer the worst at work because they feel their underlying needs are not accepted by colleagues.
The answer is to not impose happiness at work. It is OK not to love your job – not everyone does. Talk to colleagues about how they feel and what they think could be improved. Ask if they understand the company’s expectations, whether they have the best conditions to do their best, whether they get along with their workmates, and if they feel good about the work they are doing. Allow some flexible work hours or locations.
Let them be, ensure they are coping. They are more likely to stay if they are happy.