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August 8, 2017

Creating a Happy Workplace – #MTtalk

Yolande Conradie


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Happy at Work? Spot the Difference

Are you happy at work? Thinking about this question brought to mind three of my regular contacts.

I work closely with a certain organization, and I usually deal with Jenna, Anita and Bella.

Jenna, who holds a master's degree, has worked there for five years. She often tells me how much she enjoys it, and how much she loves being part of the organization. Also, she respects and likes her manager.

Her colleague Anita feels much the same way. She describes her workplace as one of her happy places in life. Although the red tape sometimes frustrates her, she loves the challenges of the job, and enjoys being part of the team. She reports to the same manager as Jenna, and describes him as a very easy-going person with lots of empathy and a great sense of humor.

Then there's Bella. She describes a very different workplace experience. Although she's been there fewer than 18 months, she isn't happy and says she only does her job for the money. She thinks that other people are out to "get her," and she blames her boss for this. She says that he undermines her, and sets the example for others to do the same.

Here comes the surprise: she reports to the same manager as Jenna and Anita.

Seeing that I've got to know Jenna, Anita and Bella really well over the past year, I'm fairly certain why they experience their workplace so differently.

Both Anita and Jenna start the day with optimism, positivity and a "can do" attitude. When they encounter obstacles they'll make a plan, ask for help and tackle the issue. They make it look as if they never have bad days, but they simply don't allow challenges to negatively influence their attitude.

Bella, on the other hand, is a different story. She flouts regulations and believes that rules "hold her back." She thinks the boss is being unfair and unsupportive when he addresses these issues. By her own admission, she's never liked any employer she's worked for, and doesn't know what a happy workplace feels like.

Bella is a real "glass half empty" person. Although she has a post-graduate qualification, earns a good salary, and has plenty of freedom in her job, she believes she is one of life's victims. So, although we work together on projects, sometimes I even avoid having a meal with her because her habit of negativity drains me.

Creating a Happy Workplace

Any employer and its leaders play a big role in creating a happy workplace, but part of the responsibility falls on us. How we choose to think and what we choose to believe are major factors in how happy we find our workplaces are.

We talked about creating a happy workplace during our #MTtalk Twitter chat on Friday. One of our regular participants, Akilah Elison (@OrganicLeaderVB), suggested the topic.

Here are the questions we asked and some of your responses.

Q1. How would you define a "happy" workplace?

@JKatzaman A happy workplace has minimal conflicts (no place is perfect) in an overall congenial, respectful atmosphere.

@harrisonia A happy workplace is one where people are enthusiastic about being there, feel valued, and don't mind what they contribute.

@L_M_Landry A place where people are so inspired that they go above and beyond because they truly believe in their purpose of their work.

Q2. Why is a happy workplace important? What benefits does it bring to the culture and business performance?

@GilchristGeorge When work places are not happy, all you get is surface level compliance and low levels of commitment.

@KrisGiere When in a positive mindset, we are more productive, receptive to new ideas, & more creative.

Q3. Is it realistic to expect to be happy at work?

@SanabriaJav Yes, so as long as individuals are given the opportunity for growth. A stagnant environment breeds resentment & contentiousness.

@ShereesePubHlth It's not only realistic, it should be expected. Organizations now know that disengaged workforces are costly.

@HirePowerHR YES, YES, YES!! Should be the goal of business leaders. You can have fun, be happy and be highly productive. Direct correlation.

Q4. Who is accountable for happiness in the workplace?

@Singh_Vandana Everyone is, but it is the leadership of the senior management team that creates a conducive environment and accentuates positivity.

@SnowinRI Happiness is a team sport dependent upon it's overall collaborative chemistry. Everyone is responsible for everyone.

Q5. What are some barriers to a happy workplace?

@AdamBrownEDU The naysayers. Have to limit them by inspiring others and make it the cool thing to be happy.

@NBlairHRDigital A lack of communication, recognition and reward. No clear road map or strategy. Self-interest and negativity.

Q6. What are the limitations and pitfalls of workplace programs designed to increase happiness?

@cathern2 The problem with programs is that not everyone needs the same thing to be happy. It's personal. You need to offer individualization.

@BernieMixon Short-term fixes to institutional culture problems can come off as not being authentic.

@GiveWP Misattributing reasons for happiness/unhappiness is a major blindness risk for any organization.

Q7. How might you engage with an employee who is openly opposed, cynical or negative towards initiatives to create a happier workplace?

@OrganicLeaderVB One positive and intentional word and action at a time. An employee with a fixed mindset needs boundaries and time to see benefits.

@BrainBlenderTec Find out why, as it may be something they have some insight into. Maybe they aren't being heard.

Q8. You just got your dream job, then find out that the culture is negative. How do you respond?

@famutsvene I might be the positiveness which the organisation was waiting for.

@PG_pmp Start cautiously and try to bring change gradually. Practically, it may be a difficult task but one has to stay positive to face the negative.

Q9. What steps can employees take to increase their own happiness at work?

@SaifuRizvi Be positive. Do your best. Learn to learn from everybody. Keep arrogance at bay. Be accommodating. Stay humble and use humor.

@ZalkaB Bring your whole self to work. Speak up about your expectations and needs and be mindful of others. Be the example you wish to see.

Q10. How can you contribute to making your workplace a happy space for your colleagues?

Creating a happy workplace can be found in small things too...

@ChrisQuinn64 Remain positive, find joy in small successes and share, spend some time socializing with colleagues.

@mGeMi_i Trying to help; always make others feel that I am happy for their success and not hateful or jealous of it.

@manavlalotra  Small gestures of appreciation and care bring out great happy moments - do that as often as possible; treat people with empathy.

Next time, on #MTtalk...

"Leaders who serve" play an important role in creating happy workplaces. Why do you think that is the case? Please cast your vote in our poll, here.

In our next #MTtalk on Friday, August 18, our topic is "Leaders Serve First." To share your thoughts and ideas, please join us at 1pm EDT/ 6pm BST/ 10:30pm IST.

To participate in our chat about creating a happy workplace, type #MTtalk in the Twitter search function. Then, click on "All Tweets" and you’ll be able to follow the live chat feed. To join the conversation, simply include #MTtalk in your tweet and it will show up in the chat feed.


In the meantime, here are some resources that will help you to learn more about creating a happy workplace:

Creating a Healthy Workplace

Random Acts of Kindness

Giving Praise

Helping Your People Find Purpose in Their Work

Helping People Flourish at Work

How to Make "High Quality Connections"

Building a Positive Team

Workplaces That Help People Thrive

Ben-Shahar's Happiness Model

Herzberg's Motivators and Hygiene Factors

And exclusively for our Club members, an interview podcast with Judith E. Glaser:

Conversational Intelligence

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