• Research connects happiness and productivity
  • Happiness can be influenced by supervisors and the organization
  • Happier employees are more successful
  • To make your employees happier:
    • Show employees how they are making progress in meaningful work
    • Manage success instead of failure
    • Recognize and Appreciate


Several studies connect happiness and productivity:

Amibile and Kramer, whose research focuses on creativity, productivity, and the psychology of everyday work life concluded: “…the evidence is clear: People perform better when they’re happier.”

  • They found that no matter what size company, being happier today made employees more productive today and tomorrow.
  • They followed up with “…if you pay careful attention to the data, rather than anecdotes and intuition, you’ll find it’s clear that happiness boosts performance.”
  • Their data showed “…people are more productive, creative, committed and collegial when they have positive emotions and thoughts about the work and when they are motivated by intrinsic interest in the work itself.”


To provide even better news, conclusions from their research included that concept that companies, and specifically supervisors, can improve employee happiness levels:

  • “…actions of managers and colleagues could and did affect happiness above or below people’s baseline levels… (by implementing a) fair, collaborative, open, innovative culture.”


Some other research that supports the connection between happiness and productivity:

  • “Your happiest employees are 47% more productive than their least happy colleagues. They are contributing a day and a quarter more per week than their least happy colleagues.” Jessica Pryce-Jones (iOpener Institute of People and Performance)
  • “We’ve been able to conclusively link employee satisfaction and engagement to customer satisfaction and business performance.” Wiley and Kowske
  • “Studies at a number of organizations, including leading academic institutions, have shown a clear relationship between high levels of employee engagement and improved financial and operational results.” Towers and Watson


Taking a reverse angle on the research, if we are comfortable assuming that successful employees are more productive than unsuccessful employees, the amount of supporting research increases significantly. Boehm and Lyubomirsky pointed out that “…compared with their less happy peers, happy people earn more money, display superior performance, and perform more helpful acts” and “…happiness is a source of why particular employees are more successful than others.”


It is unusual to find a company that measures employee happiness. Most focus on employee engagement. Engagement is a function of employee happiness and is easier to measure and link directly to organizational actions. The links between engagement and performance have been proven by several companies. Towers and Watson takes it to another level by modeling sustainable engagement. Sustainable engagement adds the concepts of enablement and energy to employee engagement. Enablement includes providing employees with the support they need to do their work efficiently and effectively. Energy refers to employers creating a Healthful work environment which includes supporting their physical, social, and emotional well-being.


Gallup found that employee disengagement costs as much as $300 billion annually in the US. James Harter, a Gallup researcher found that you can predict future increases or decreases in sales and profits by measuring employees’ feelings about their organization.

“Beyond the significant differences engaged workgroups show in productivity, profitability, safety incidents, and absenteeism versus disengaged workgroups, we have proven that engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in their same industry.” Gallup

The Boston Consulting Group, in association with World Federation of People Management Associations did a study that showed companies that have made the “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for three or more years outperform the S&P 500 by 99 percentage points over a 10 year period between 2001 and 2011.


So how do you help your employees be happier?

Once again pulling from the work of Amibile and Kramer, whose summary conclusion was that workers would be happier if they were “making progress in meaningful work.” They explain that supervisors and executives can listen to employees and remove obstacles so the employees get that feeling of being able to influence the outcome and make meaningful progress. Employees want to be successful and see accomplishment. Supervisors’, who add to and support their success rather than pointing out their failures, will nurture happier more productive employees. Finally, create an environment of recognition and appreciation. It is not necessary or even recommended that all rewards to be financial. The strongest form of motivation is intrinsic. Research has shown that some of the biggest boosts in happiness come from employees having their hard work acknowledged and appreciated, especially in front of their peers.


  1. Being happier at work – for individuals looking for ways to apply the Science of Happiness to their work life.
  2. Building happier teams and employees – For leaders or executives who have embraced the idea of building a happier working environment for their employees.



Additional Supporting Research

  1. “Happiness is a good predictor of job performance.” Wright & Cropanzano, 2000, Hom & Arbuckle, 1988
  2. “Happier employees receive more positive evaluations from superiors.” Cropanzano & Wright, 1999; Wright & Staw, 1999
  3. “Happier people set higher goals for themselves.” Baron, 1990; Hom & Arbuckle, 1988
  4. “Happiest employees are 47percent more productive than their least happy colleagues. They are contributing a day and a quarter more per week than their least happy colleagues.” Jessica Pryce-Jones (iOpener Institute of People and Performance)
  5. “Happier employees are 25% more effective and efficient than least happy ones.” Jessica Pryce-Jones (iOpener)
  6. “Happier people …go the extra mile, beyond what is expected of their role.” Baron et al., 1992



Abuhamdeh, S., Csikszentmihalyi, M. Istanbul The importance of challenge for the enjoyment of intrinsically motivated, goal-directed activities. Sehir University, Istanbul, Turkey. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2012 March;38(3):317-30.


Amabile, T.M. & Kramer, S.J. (2012) How leaders kill meaning at work. McKinsey Quarterly, January 2012.


Amabile, T. M. & Kramer, S. J. (2011). The power of small wins. Harvard Business Review, 89 (5), 70-80.


Amabile, Teresa; Kramer Steven. “Bring on the Smiles, Count the Profits”, The Progress Principle

Amabile, T. M. & Kramer, S. J. (2010) What really motivates workers (#1 in breakthrough ideas for 2010). Harvard Business Review, 88:1, 44-45


Amabile, T.M., Schatzel, E.A., Moneta, G.B., and Kramer, S.J. (2004). Leader behaviors and the work environment for creativity: Perceived leader support. The Leadership Quarterly, 15:1, 5-32.
Amabile, T.M., and Kramer, S.J. (2007). Inner work life: Understanding the subtext of business performance. Harvard Business Review, 85:5, 72-83.
Amabile, T.M., Barsade, S.G., Mueller, J.S., and Staw, B.M (2005). Affect and creativity at work. Administrative Science Quarterly, 50:3, 367-403.


Amabile, T.M. (1997). Motivating creativity in organizations: On doing what you love and loving what you do. California Management Review, 40, 39-58.

Bargh, J.A., Shalev, I. The substitutability of physical and social warmth in every day life. Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT. Emotion, 2012 Feb;12(1):154-62.

Boehm, Julia, K.; Lyubomirsky, Sonja. “Does Happiness Promote Career Success?” University of California, Riverside

Boehm, J., Kubzansky, L. (2012), The Heart’s Content: The Association Between Positive Psychological Well-Being and Cardiovascular Health, Psychological Bulletin

Boston Consulting Group. “From Capability to Profitability; Realizing the Value of People Management.” 2012

Brueller, Daphna, Carmeli, Abraham, Dutton, Jane, E. (2009) Learning Behaviours in the Workplace: The Role of High-quality Interpersonal Relationships and Psychological Safety. Systems Research and Behavioral Science.

Cohen, S et al (2006), Positive Emotional Style Predicts Resistance to Illness After Experimental Exposure to Rhinovirus or Influenza, Psychosomatic Medicine

Deci, E., Ryan, R. (2008), Self-Determination Theory: A Macrotheory of Human Motivation, Development, and Health, Canadian Psychology

Diener, E., Chan, M.Y. (2011), Happy People Live Longer: Subjective Well-Being Contributes to Health and Longevity, Applied Psychology: Health and Wellbeing

Edmans, A (2011), Does the stock market fully value intangibles? Employee satisfaction and equity prices, Journal of Financial Economics

Evans, G.W., Johnson, D. Stress and open-office noise. Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Journal of Applied Psychology. 2000 Oct;85(5):779-83.

Forcier, K., Stroud, L.R., Papandonatos, G.D., et al. Links between physical fitness and cardiovascular reactivity and recovery to psychological stressors: A meta-analysis. Centers for Behavioral and Preventitive Medicine, Brown Medical School, Providence, RI. Health Psychology. 2006 November;25(6):723-39.

Heathfield, Susan M..”Are Your Employees Happy at Work?” About.com Guide August 5, 2012

J.H. Fowler and N.A. Christakis, Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years, British Medical Journal, December 2008

Judge, T.A., Heller, D., Mount, M.K. Five-factor model of personality and job satisfaction: a meta-analysis. Department of Management, Warrington College of Business, University of Florida, Gainesville. Journal of Applied Psychology. 2002 Jun;87(3):530-41.

Mercer (2011), “What’s Working” survey

Oswald, A.J., Proto, E., Sgroi, D (2009), Happiness and Productivity, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Pink, D. (2009), Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Riverhead.

Toekr, S., Biron, M. Job burnout and depression: unraveling their temporal relationship and considering the role of physical activity. Faculty of Management, Tel Aviv University, Israel. Journal of Applied Psychology. 2012 May;97(3):699-710.

Towers and Watson. “The Power of Three; Taking Engagement to New Heights.” Perspectives. 2012