Organizational Behaviour

Happiness at Work

The snow has finally melted and the temperature edged into warm today. I was walking down the main street of my town when I noticed that people were everywhere enjoying the sunshine. People running, walking, biking, strolling, boarding and generally moving. You could just feel the energy in the air.  I walked into my second office, Starbucks, to read the business section of Canada’s national purveyor of doom and gloom, the Globe and Mail. The economic news caused an immediate nosedive in my level of joy.

Which got me to thinking. The standard belief at many organizations is that if you have happy employees, you will have a successful business. Both West Jet and Johnson & Johnson are great examples of this philosophy. But what if the relationship is the other way around? What if successful companies make people happy, rather than happy people make companies successful? What if the context of the situation influences people’s beliefs and behaviours? Certainly the economic context explains a lot of workplace pessimism. If you are afraid of losing your job, it’s kinda hard to be happy. If the sun is shining, we’re happy; if it’s raining, we’re not. (Unless you live in Vancouver where it perpetually rains.  My friends from Van tell me that they love the rain. I don’t believe them).

Maybe organizations should be more focused on achieving success than trying to make employees happy by offering juice bars and free massage services. Meaningful work makes people happy. Achieving our goals is satisfying.  I think Seth Godin put it best when he says that mission is what make people happy, even when it seems impossible.


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