Put on a Happy Face – Pile on the Profits

The pursuit of true happiness has become a burning issue for politicians, economists and psychologists, and far from assuming that happiness is a personal matter, executives and employers too are directing their attention to this issue.

According to Richard Reeves, author of Happy Mondays, long-term happiness and life satisfaction is measurable 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 B.C. recently 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 impact on the workplace, he says that a 1% positive increase in a worker’s relationship with the boss is equal to a 30% increase in salary.

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 a Harvard Business Review study that found personal feelings toward an individual are more significant in the formation of productive work relationships 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 productivity, market share, and customer relations? The truth is all of these challenges 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 concludes that happier people tended to get better performance evaluations and higher pay. In a large study of Australian youths, conducted over 15 years, happiness made gainful employment and higher income more likely. D.G. Myers, in The Pursuit of Happiness, says compared to employees who are depressed or unhappy, happy employees have lower medical costs, work more efficiently and have less absenteeism.

J.M. George in his research article published in Human Relations, and P. Totterdell et al, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, claim 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.

Research studies also 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 significant impact on business results and success.

Ray Williams is Co-Founder of Success IQ University, a company based in Phoenix Arizona, providing products and services for professionals, entrepreneurs, companies in the area of personal growth and leadership development, through an innovative approach to improve your success IQ. Ray is also President of Ray Williams Associates, a company providing executive coaching services in Vancouver, Canada. http://www.successiqu.com

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