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.