Make Employees Happy by Nurturing Their Social Networks

Motivate employees, Happiness

Nurture employees social networks

When the prestigious Harvard Business Review devotes most of an issue to happiness, you know that happiness is a serious topic. The magazine cover is entitled “The Value of Happiness: How Employee Well-Being Drives Profits.”

I particularly enjoyed the interview of Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert in an article entitled The Science Behind the Smile. He’s the author of the international best seller Stumbling on Happiness. The study of happiness has devolved into a science whereby you can measure a person’s happiness at a moment in time. Science is in. Intuition about someone’s happiness is out.

What Makes Employees Happy?

Dr. Gilbert is quite clear about what makes employees happy. He says that people are happiest when they are appropriately challenged, “when they’re trying to achieve goals that are difficult but not out of reach.” He adds, “Challenge and threat are not the same thing. People blossom when challenged and wither when threatened.”

When threatened, an employee will get the work done, he says, but thereafter do his best to undermine you, will feel no loyalty to the organization and never do  more than he must. But employees will flourish when rewarded, based on a century of psychologists studying reward and punishment.

“Social” is the Biggest Driver of Happiness

Dr. Gilbert is clear on this point: “If I had to summarize all the scientific literature on the causes of human happiness in one word, that word would be social.” He continued, “If I wanted to predict your happiness, and know only one thing about you, I wouldn’t want to know your gender, religion, health, or income. I’d want to know about your social network — about your friends and family, and the strength of your bonds with them.”

Attention all companies out there. If you haven’t already, allow your employees to engage with internal and external audiences on social networks. They can be your company’s most important brand ambassadors. They are already on social networks. And scientific study shows that humans crave interaction with other people.

So nourish these relationships to the benefit of your employees and your company. It only makes good business sense.

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  1. Here here! Great post Jeannette. I feel like at times I have to hit people over the head with a 2 x 4 to get them to pay attention to this subject.

    The Psychology of Happiness is a course that a LOT of colleges are offering now, and it is one of the most preferred classes of college students. And yes…their social networks (both online and offline) are VERY important to their happiness quotient. Employers who ban things like Facebook and Twitter are making a BIG mistake and they are losing out on a big opportunity to have their younger employees talk positively about their companies while on the networks. AND…what they don’t know is this: If a company bans Facebook or Twitter in the workplace, there will be backfire. This generation will turn around and tell ALL their friends about the company and this banning of the use of social networks.

    Having said this, I do think that there should be guidelines. Many companies are hiring social networking gurus to draw up policies about what can and cannot be said about the company online and “hours of operation”. I think this is a good idea, because it still gives employees some time during the day to check their Facebook wall and Twitter posts. If you give everyone free reign to be on the sites all day, it could turn into a problem with too much multi-tasking and very little efficient, effective work being done.

    • Bea, Thanks for your thoughts. It makes common sense that happy employees will be more productive. But it’s good to know the science of happiness proves it. I’ll be speaking at an webinar, “Empower Employees as Brand Ambassadors on Social Media to Promote Your Products, Services and Brand” on March 2nd, at 12:30 pm EST, to discuss this in more depth. Hope you can join the conversation.

  2. Absolutely, I think of people that work over at Google or Pixar. They’re constantly sharing pics and tidbits about life in their jobs through facebook and twitter. It makes you a little jealous of all the fun they’re having. I want to go out on a limb and say that one thing that makes people happy is being able to feel like a kid. We lose that more quickly these days, and when you’re forced to be uptight and monotonous it can severely affect work flow. The combination of keeping a fun atmosphere and letting your employees be your social media ambassadors is the way to go.

    • Dennis — thanks for reminding us that all of us need to have fun in our jobs. For so many, work has been something to be endured because they need the job and money. Companies could make their employees so much happier if they found ways to enrich the work people do, especially those whose jobs are not creative but involve more repetitive tasks.