A Guide for Leaders to Workplace Happiness

Given the many changes our society has experienced since the start of 2020, a lot of people are thinking about the future of work.

To me, that means thinking about how to make workplaces happier.

This is work I love to do: Help leaders build happier workplaces, with lower levels of conflict, great meetings, and a sense of purpose at work. 

Why do I focus on happiness at work?

I have never liked being the person who stresses out over work to the point where I lose sleep over it. (And I have absolutely been that person!)

If that's ever been you, you understand how essential having a reason to feel happier at work is to your whole life. 

The thing is, happiness at work is not just about individual actions or stress management. Research points to many ways leaders can help their employees to achieve a happier outlook related to work. It's not just engagement or purpose; it's not just finding ways to be nice to each other; it's not just managing conflict well....

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Purpose: A Unique-to-You Aspect of Workplace Happiness

happy workplace purpose Feb 11, 2020

Purpose is one of my favorite topics in the field of positive psychology as it applies to working and the workplace. I’ve always felt that whatever my occupation is, it should put some good into the world in addition to pay in my pocket. So it made intuitive sense when I learned that purpose is a key ingredient in happiness, generally, and specifically workplace happiness. 

Psychologists generally define happiness as the mix of positive feelings with a sense of purpose or meaning. Happiness at work, therefore, is not simply that someone tends to feel more positive than negative* emotions at work. Happiness at work is the mix of feeling positively at work while also finding a meaning in your work that has nothing to do with a paycheck or profits. 

What that meaning is can vary widely. Nonprofit or government jobs are often considered meaningful: profit is taken out of the equation (usually - revenue is actually really important for most), so we assume that these jobs...

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End Workplace Conflict with These 4 Steps

As a mediator, and a former community/political organizer, I’ve learned a lot about conflict. I founded Chantilly Mediation and Facilitation because Americans spend more time working than doing anything else - and we deserve to be happy at work. Conflict, while inevitable among humans, can be handled in ways that actually increase happiness.

There are four keys to building a happier workplace, and every one of them will help your employees deal with conflict more productively.

 
  • Curiosity

  • Kindness

  • Engagement

  • Shared Purpose

Curiosity

Your mindset is always a choice: When you can, choose curiosity. Someone at work is in your face, or didn’t do something they’re supposed to, or did do something they are not supposed to do. Instead of focusing on blame or disappointment or the person, start asking questions: Why did they behave that way? What might make them do that? What might they be thinking or feeling that would lead them to do or say...

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Kindness Is Awesome

Yesterday was World Kindness Day. Kindness at work is a key to building a happier workforce. What I love about this idea is that it is both intuitive AND supported by tons of research.

Kindness Builds High-Quality Connections 

Jane Dutton researches Positive Organizational Scholarship and cofounded the Center for Positive Organizations in 2002. She talks about high-quality connections on this podcast. A high-quality connection is a short-term interaction with someone that leaves you feeling positive and energized.

It’s those moments you share with a colleague (or whoever) that maybe you don’t know very well, but you exchange a look or share a few comments that leave you feeling that this is a kindred spirit – that this person gets it – that this person gets you.

Hopefully, you share moments like this with friends and loved ones; Dutton’s research focuses on the idea that we all can share these moments with people who are just acquaintances and that...

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Mediator Tips: Mitigate Conflict with Collaboration

I’m psyched to bring my Resolve Conflict Now training to BBG’s audience of HR professionals on September 18, 2019, in the comfort of their own offices - not BBG’s offices; this is a webinar anyone can join. It’s also free! Register here.

Part of the 101-level, one-hour webinar will focus on how to build a collaborative workforce. I sum it all up with four keys:

  • Curiosity

  • Kindness

  • Engagement

  • Shared purpose

Let’s take them, briefly, one by one.

Curiosity

Your mindset is always a choice: When you can, choose curiosity. Someone at work is in your face, or didn’t do something they’re supposed to, or did do something they are not supposed to do. Instead of focusing on blame or disappointment, choose to get curious - Why did they behave that way? What might be happening that’s motivating them to do that thing that’s completely awful, in your opinion? Why exactly do you think it is completely awful?

Have a conversation with...

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PERK Up Your Workplace

Updated 9/16/2021

Someone asked me recently what the key is to happiness at work. I follow the PERK formula: Purpose, Engagement, Resilience, and Kindness.

EDIT: I now have a 44-minute webinar that goes into more detail and provides 4 practical tips for everyday use for $40. Check it out!

 Purpose

Feeling happy at work requires knowing your purpose. Purpose has nothing to do with money. It’s not about a paycheck or profits. It’s knowing that what you do makes a difference in the world. Purpose is not necessarily about doing good; the difference may be about social status or power or something relatively insignificant - like - I make things people can store stuff in. Those who can easily connect their purpose to dearly-held personal values are even happier.

If you show up to work just for the paycheck, it’s not necessarily time to find a new job - spend some time thinking about your personal values, about everything you do in your job, and consider ways an...

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Prioritize the Positive: Summer Hours

Recently I spoke with a colleague about something that sounded eerily familiar: Her company had just instituted summer hours, but the information required by HR for managers to share with employees informing them of the new benefit sounded strangely punitive.

This had happened to me at another workplace, several years ago, in a different industry altogether.

 

Summer Hours Offer Flexibility & Autonomy

Summer hours are lovely: Put in a little extra time four days a week (usually a half hour added to the beginning or end of the day), and leave at lunchtime on Friday. Or, use the same small addition of extra time, and get every other Friday off. Summer hours are a form of flexibility that recognizes that many people, no matter what phase of life you may be in, like to spend summer weekends traveling or relaxing - so much so that they may be distracted and less productive at work even when they’re at the office! This policy is a nice way to keep productivity levels...

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What Listening Has to Do with Retention

This morning I had the pleasure of hearing Danny Nelms, President of the Work Institute, present about the real reasons employees leave their jobs. There are 50 different reasons employees choose to leave their workplace.

50!

The Work Institute is an HR consulting firm that treats exit interviews like academic research studies, and every year they create a report that summarizes – with anonymized data – what they have learned about why employees left their companies in the prior year.

Apparently the truism that “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers,” is sort of, kind of, not really true. Here are the top three reasons people choose to leave their jobs:

  1. Lack of career development

  2. Work-life balance

  3. Managers

Yup, managers are number 3! But look at those first two things - they are absolutely aspects of work that managers have a lot of control over. Yes, company-wide policies set limits on career development, promotion, flexibility, and paid...

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Happiness and Conflict at Work

Often when we are faced with a conflict, happiness is not what we feel. We may feel angry, frustrated, sad, disappointed, upset, furious, or other negative emotions, or some combination of many negative emotions. Perhaps the “best” emotion we experience in the midst of an argument is something along the lines of,

“Hah! I’m winning!”

…Well, that’s a kind of satisfaction, but it is probably not the same happy, contented feeling you get when you are laughing with loved ones, for example, or even while collaborating in a positive, team atmosphere at work, school, or while volunteering.

Yet conflict and happiness are not necessarily polar opposites.

Scientists have spent decades studying what happiness is, the effects of happiness and pro-social emotions and actions, and how we can have happier lives. According to researchers Emiliana Simon-Thomas and Dacher Keltner, what happiness looks like at work will include moments of laughter and joy,...

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