Happiness in the US workplace, well, basically stinks. According to the findings of Gallup’s 2010-2012 “State of the American Workplace” report, 70 percent of American workers are disengaged from their jobs; and within this 70 percent of disengaged workers, 52 percent are “not engaged,” meaning that they put in time but no emotional investment or strong effort into their work. The remaining 18 percent of disengaged workers are “actively disengaged,” meaning that they work against the interests of their company, potentially driving clients away or discouraging their fellow employees.
The responsibility for change rests with two distinct groups:
- The Employers
- The Workers
Employee morale – the responsibility of the Organization
How best can employers improve their employees’ motivation? Two key factors are these:
- Help employees develop a sense of organizational purpose. Finding ways to inspire workers to answer yes to the following questions will help that immeasurably:
- Do you believe our work to be meaningful?
- Are you excited about the future of our company?
- Are you committed to a job well done?
A great way to do that is to ask and listen to employees when you pose those questions to them. Then the hard part comes: believe them and implement their suggestions. Or give them more of what they want. Find ways of eliminating the challenges they face. Once you include employees in being part of the answer, they find that not only rewarding, but actually want to help! This brings a whole new level of communal allegiance to your mission, and results in not only much higher motivation, but innovation and productivity as well.
- Nonmonetary recognition is equally as important for employee motivation. According to a 2013 survey by, In a 2013 survey of 1,200 workers by Make Their Day revealed that 71 percent of employees found the most meaningful and motivating recognition they ever received to be nonmonetary, in the form of appreciative words from managers, supervisors or a team.
Worker Morale – the responsibility of the Individual
Rather than look for outside circumstances to be the impetus for being happy, employees need to shift their thinking to “I am the only one who is truly responsible for my own happiness. It comes from inside me.”
Here are some key recommendations for individuals to create a happier and more self-empowered life:
- Relinquish the “if/then” model: The belief that “If I only obtained a promotion/better job/higher salary, then I would be happy” places your happiness in the hands of external circumstances beyond your control. Rather, invest in and get excited about what is within your control, namely your personal commitment to your work and your professional relationships.
- Reframe your daily thoughts to be more positive. Rather than focus on the negative, ask yourself ‘Is it really that bad?’ Look for and acknowledge one thing that is good about your situation, (an affirmation of gratitude). Maybe even remind yourself that you don’t work in a sweat shop in China for $2.00/day.
- Shift from “personal ambition” to “greater vision” ambition. Example, personal ambition is ‘I want to make $100,000’. Greater vision ambition is, ‘I want to contribute my energy to doing my job with excellence so that consumers get the best product possible’.
- Structuring your goals, not around personal gain, but around positively impacting others’ lives, is one of the most important elements in creating a fulfilling and happy life. This is called “other-centric” rather than “personal-centric” thinking. Connect to and remind yourself of your higher purpose – giving away or contribution your gifts to others where there is a need. Once you discover and combine your strengths, passions, and calling into and act out of your Life Purpose, that is, finding ways of making a difference in the world, this becomes the most joy producing and fulfilling way of living your life.
If you are a manager or an employee, the answer to the question of ‘who is responsible for happiness in and at work?’ is “I am. Period.”
The problem we all face in this society and current culture of “I’ll let the other guy do it,” is pervasive. When you see trash on the ground, do you pick it up and throw it away yourself, or think “Oh, someone else will do it?” Life begins right now, with you and me, taking responsibility for ourselves, our neighbors, our community, our country, our world, our planet. If we don’t start making a difference, than who will? And if not now, when?
It’s up to you. It’s up to me. And the clock is ticking.