Monday, January 21, 2013

Do managers need to *make* their employees happy?

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I used to tell management students that they don't need happy employees. I was wrong. Read here for why:

However, I stand by my underlying assumption that managers cannot make their employees happy and that should not be their first goal with employees. Managers create the conditions for happiness; employees choose to be happy.

Happiness at work, while unique to each individual, is often the product of:
  • Challenging, engaging work. Bored people are not happy.
  • Seeing the work as valuable and important.
  • Being immersed in a psychologically safe environment, where each person is free to, and expected to, speak his mind even when disagreeing, and where each person's speech and behavior are respectful of others.
  • perceiving pay, hiring, and promotion systems as fair
Managers are responsible for creating and maintaining these -- they delegate tasks, they demonstrate appreciation and link their employees' work with the organization's goals, and they set the tone of respect and candor. Beyond that, employees must take responsibility for their own happiness.

For some people, working with people with whom they have an affinity is also a necessary ingredient for happiness. If you are one of these folks, I recommend choosing your job carefully: be sure to meet as many coworkers as possible before taking a job and if possible, attend a meeting and/or a lunch with them.

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