Should You Ask Your Employees if they are Happy?

Research shows that happier people are more productive, more creative, work better on teams, have stronger relationships, and make better managers. Who would you rather have talking to your clients, grumpy people or happy people? Given that the research shows that happier people are more successful and help companies become more successful, why don’t more companies measure and influence employee happiness?

The answer is in the question.  Companies know they can’t manage or control employee happiness, they can only influence it.

  1. People have varying levels of happiness that is influenced by a multitude of scenarios going on in their lives so a company can’t provide a one size fits all or one correct solution.
  2. Measuring happiness is imprecise at best and companies have been taught to look for clear objective measurements.
  3. Most scarily, when companies ask employees if they are happy or why they are not happy, what do they do with that information? It will require hard work from creative authentic leaders to address the real issues people and companies face, but have so far ignored.


 Happiness is the Next Step in Well-Being Management

Happiness is known more scientifically as Emotional Well-being and the measurements and challenges are very similar to the corporate push for influencing physical well-being. In the early 2000’s a proliferation of scientific studies began to convince corporations that blood pressure, cholesterol levels, weight, and habits like smoking were indicators that their employees were not physically healthy.  Additionally, these studies showed that unhealthy employees were expensive because of insurance costs, productivity lost to sick days and hospital visits. To be fair, the leaders in most of the organizations also cared about their employees’ well-being and put programs in place to help improve well-being.  Happiness is the next natural step in this well-being process.

Manage Their Minds, not Butts in Seats

Our current day management practices were created in the 40’s for manufacturing businesses. Companies were focused on whether employees showed up, held their position on the line, and how many nuts they attached to the bolts. Today we are managing knowledgeable workers in a totally different environment and our management practices have to evolve.  We can no longer focus on butts in seats. We have to focus on managing the psychology of our people. Positive, excited, and motivated minds are going to be significantly more productive than depressed negatives ones.

Today’s technology enables our teams to work from anywhere. Instead of focusing on where they are working or when they are working, we should focus on whether they are in the best mindset to produce for their teams and the company.  Manage positive minds rather than butts in seats.

 Happiness Measurement is Proliferating

Happiness is being recognized by more and more people, organizations, and even governments.  In 2011 the United Nations created Resolution 65/309 and placed happiness on the global development agenda and they released a World Happiness Report. The National Institute of Management created the GNH – or Gross National Happiness Index.  The UK, India, Canada, Bhutan, and many other countries, as well as US cities have already made happiness measurement a part of their infrastructure. Since 2009, Gallup has been conducting an annual happiness survey. There is a push to measure happiness and engagement on a daily and weekly basis now, instead of an annual basis and companies are springing up all over the world to fill that void. Happiness measurement is here.  It is not a matter of if your company will adopt it but when.

A recent report by Deloitte, titled Trends in Global Human Capital identified culture and engagement as top issues that need to be addressed by organizations. An organization’s ability to create an atmosphere that highlights opportunities for happiness is quickly becoming a differentiator in their ability to attract top talent so they can win in the marketplace rather than falling behind.

Q: Should you ask your employees if they are happy?

A: Only if you care about them and the future success of your organization.


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My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Happier employees are more productive and more successful

How to Manage Happiness and Productivity

Last week we discussed 4 Reasons to Invest in Your Employee’s Happiness. To quickly summarize, the same actions that lead to happier employees also lead to more productive and successful employees. So what stops employers and supervisors from investing in happiness?

1. The most common refrain is that we can’t control our employee’s happiness. This assumption is 100% correct; we can’t control someone else’s happiness. But our goal is not to control happiness; it is to provide opportunities for happiness. Those opportunities for happiness lead to more productivity no matter what level of happiness the employee is feeling overall.
2. Managers confuse presence with productivity. One of the simplest forms of employee measurement is; are they at their desk. If we can physically see them, they are probably being productive. Today, in the age of the knowledge worker, the internet, and social media, employees can sit at their desk for hours and not get anything done. To improve productivity we need to inspire their minds rather than manage their butts in seats. Productive employees are passionate, focused, and excited to solve the company’s or customers problems. Providing opportunities for happiness inspires their productivity.
3. Managers confuse coffee breaks, group lunches, and in-office birthday celebrations with wasted and un-productive time. The research shows that many employees enjoy their work because of the friendships and connections. Also, employees with many friends throughout the company are more productive and successful at completing projects because they have more resources to pull from. Encourage interactions that bring employees together. Those connections will help your employees be happier and more productive.
4. Managers confuse accountability with controllability. In order to hold employees accountable we attempt to control exactly how they do a task or a project rather than measuring the results of their efforts. Often our intention is to make it simpler and easier for them, but in doing so, we take away their autonomy. Shift to telling them the goal and why it is important and then let them control as much of the how as they can. The amount of autonomy you can provide will vary from employee to employee based on experience and skill level, but giving them a little more than they can handle and letting them stretch will make them happier and more productive in the future.
5. Managers confuse perfection with performance. We get so focused on our employees getting it 100% correct that we stop appreciating 95%. We assume they should know how to get it to 100% and nothing less is acceptable. Employees worked hard to get the project to 95% and we should show appreciation for that work. Then we can show them how to achieve that next 5% that will make them successful. When they feel appreciated for the first 95%, the employees will be eager and open to learning how they can improve their performance to 100%.
6. Managers and employees confuse career development with career elevation. Career conversations are often focused on how can to get a promotion and a raise. In today’s flat organizations and tough economic times, both are hard to promise and harder to get. But research has shown that career development is more impactful on employee happiness and productivity than career elevation. How can we help our employees grow? What opportunities exist for training, new projects, new responsibilities, and new skill sets. What is in your control as a manager that will help your employee grow and be challenged in their job? Growth and challenge will lead to added value which will create opportunities for raises and promotions in the long term.

Happier employees are more productive and more successful. In an effort to squeeze out more productivity, we often resort to tactics that make our employees less happy. This creates a downward spiral where more constraints lead to less productivity which leads to more constraints. Instead of managing butts in seats, how can we inspire focus, energy, and passion?

Provide opportunities for happiness and productivity and business results will increase now and in the long run.


My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

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