The Surprising Path to Happiness at Work
Image source by Petr Kratochvil
You enjoy work but hate the paperwork. If paperwork isn’t sapping your joy, it’s the people.
Jamie Naughton, Speaker of the House for Zappos, told me she used to think, “Happiness at work was more in your job duties.”
We wrongly believe happiness at work is exclusively about what we do.
Doing your duty isn’t enough.
The path to happiness at work:
Jamie said, “People are really, really bad at predicting what will bring them sustained happiness.” She said we wrongly believe a new job, promotion, or getting a new boss will make us happy.
The Zappos path to happiness at work includes:
- What you do.
- How you do it.
- Who you do it with.
- How the environment supports your work.
My experience shows, who you work with has greater impact on job happiness than what you do. You enjoy ho-hum work if you love the people. On the other hand, you hate your job if the people drive you crazy.
Core ingredient to happiness at work:
“[Happiness at work is about a number of things] and one of them is connectedness.”
“Having best friends at work is really important. And having an environment where you feel like people support you and they’re more like family will make you happier.” Jamie Naughton
I asked Jamie how leaders create environments where people feel connected. She explained that it’s about knowing people beyond their jobs.
- Know your team outside of the work they do.
- Treat co-workers like family.
- What’s important to them has to be important to me.
Successful leaders create environments
where people connect.
Jamie Naughton works directly with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. She lives the connection message when she says, “Tony is my friend.”
Four minutes with Jamie on happiness at work.
Connect with Jamie:
Related: How the CEO of Zappos Solves Problems
How are you connecting?
How are you helping people connect?
Successful employees enjoy their work more than unsuccessful employees. Therefore, if we hire employees who will be successful we are hiring people who are more apt to enjoy their jobs, i.e., be happy at work. Job success creates happiness on the job.
Thank you Bob.
My experience shows that happiness at work has more to do with the people around us than I first believed.
It’s true, achieving objectives, getting a raise, etc. makes us happy. But that happiness wains if the person down the hall drive us nuts every day.
It reminds me that people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers. When a manager drives someone crazy, people leave.
Hi Dan, employees to find job success need at least three things:
1. Competence; they can do the job.
2. Cultural fit; they work well with coworkers.
3. Job fit; they have the talent for job success.
An employee who lacks any one of the three things will be less than a successful, long-term employee who enjoys the job.
Great add, Bob!
I absolutely agree that successful leaders create environment. Environment inject and instil a sense of purpose and togetherness among employees. Recently during my data collection for PhD, I interviewed one CEO of public sector bank in India. He emphasized that he is concerned about creating environment where employees can see management as a transparent and concerned about employees.I do believe so, environment plays greater role in the actual job. No job is uncomfortable to handle, but environment can make it uncomfortable. Similarly rationality and logic behind goal largely influenced by environment. Two factors theory talks about motivation and hygiene factors. And motivational factors like recognition, respect, opportunity to grow, higher responsibility are greater motivators than salary, administration, policies and supervision.
I strongly believe that intangible factors play crucial role in connecting people with purpose. And leaders can connect with others by instiling a sense of collective purpose and togetherness. Along with trust in management capability is encouraging factor.
Thank you Ajay.
The leaders greatest power is the power to create an environment where people thrive.
Two things hit me … “recognition and respect” We connect with those who appreciate and respect us.
Leaders have the power to give recognition and show respect. More importantly, the example of leaders gives permission to others to act.
Hello Ajay, Your reference to transparent management reminded me of the Evolving Excellence blog on their trip to a Japanese Cosmetics firm, Saishunkan. The management is not from above, but right in the middle of the factory floor…here’s the link in case you haven’t seen it…http://www.evolvingexcellence.com/blog/2008/10/jke-day-2-saishunken-cosmetics—customer-care-trumps-a-factory.html
Thanks for adding value, Doc.
Thank you. I read the full story of the company. I am really amazed as how they have grown over years. How they bounced back from bankruptcy. Their way of working is truly incredible, unique and different. There is lot to learn from this cosmetic company.
Imagine a healthcare organization morphing something like that!!! Yipes!
The level of “cultural” happiness is determined by the leader’s tolerance for an occasional burst of laughter. Good leaders view it as a sign of good health and comfort. Bad leaders view it as disruptive behavior by those who are not working and goofing off.
Thank you Anonymous.
I’ve seen what you’re talking about. OPpressive environments stifle connection… even discourage it. And then we wonder why people aren’t happy at work when the environment feels like a funeral.
In a parallel universe of work happiness, I have been posting up on the issues of the workplace with 4 generations of workers right now and a fifth one soon to be employed. HOW do we build teams, generate alignment to shared goals and objectives, and generate communications with such diversity?
Since I focus on issues of team building and innovation and engagement, I am seeing things continue to get more complex in many ways. At the same time, there are really great opportunities for pulling things forward and building highly effective workplaces.
It is a challenge of leadership. It is a process of alignment and engagement. It is about meeting both individual expectations as well as organizational ones.
Your thoughts appreciated:
Lastly, I see connectedness as important. But I see little mention of fun. Work does not have to be dreadful — it should be engaging and make one feel that one’s skills and ideas are appreciated. It is more than simple connectedness, IMHO.
The workplace of tomorrow may not have a lot of worker-to-worker interactions as many things get more and more automated and computerized. But the workplace needs to meet a lot more goals and provide more than subsistance pay for people to feel happy.
How do we generate the intrinsic motivation that will drive us forward? How do we improve engagement and participative involvement? I think those things are important for happiness.
Thank you Dr. Scott.
Dang, how could I leave the word “fun” out of this post. Especially when thinking about Zappos.
Now I’m not happy… 😉
thanks for adding to the conversation
I think that the RESEARCH may indicate that FUN is not a requirement for workplace happiness to occur, or that happiness even relates to issues of productivity or quality, but it sure FEELS like fun and engagement and all that are important factors in making things work.
I asked my colleagues in Japan — company name is WorkHappiness — to possibly respond to this thread. There is a need for people who are DOING this to share some realities. And one would stereotype the Japanese workplace as “not so much fun,” one would think.
Marc’s comments are quite good and specific. Mine are less structured. SO, one can infer different thinking patterns, which are another issue in the workplace.
For the FUN of It!
Thanks again for trying to extend the conversation. I sure hope your colleagues join in!
Buhahahaha, glad Scott beat you to it!!!
If you are not having fun at work, why are you there? If it is a paycheck, meh. Life is too short to not have fun. Oops, just got shorter…
Thanks for rubbing it in… I’m off to have fun!
Seriously, the opportunity to add value to people is great fun.
Happiness at work includes:
1) Being aligned with mission and values of the organization.
2) Feeling we contribute to the organization’s goals, i.e. that we are able to make a difference.
3) Being respected and even loved for who we are.
4) Work/outside of work life balance.
5) Believing that we are in control of our career (to the extent that is possible), rather than “stuck in a rut”.
6) Lots of other things….
The leader can help to promote happiness at work in the above by:
1) Being aligned personally with the mission and values of the organization, and showing his/her engagement in word and deed.
2) Structuring jobs so people feel they make a difference, and thanking them constantly for their contribution.
3) Showing respect, personal concern for the well-being of people.
4) Allowing flexibility in work schedules when possible, not demanding more of others than they do of themselves, and not imposing on people’s family time for work functions.
5) Facilitating continuous development and career moves, within the organization if possible.
Thank you Marc.
Just reading your contribution increased my happiness. 🙂
I particularly love the “feeling in control of your career” comment. Great add.
I absolutely agree that the “who” is critically important to happiness on the job .. or off. Dull, tedious jobs can be fun when surrounded by people who bring smiles, who share values and recognize and appreciate contribution.
Thank you Laurie.
“Dull, tedious jobs can be fun…” As I read your comment, it reminded me that I have seen people doing “dull” work but having a great time.
Also, Zappos is basically a call-center. Turnover is normally huge. They are at about 10%. Why? One big reason is working there is fun.
When leaders encourage people to use their expertise to make a difference and positively affect the work environment, they empower them with the happiness and motivation to achieve the mission of the organization. The relationships that exist among people are critical in promoting positive change in the work environment. Leaders are instrumental in developing those relationships.
Thank you Tagrid.
Don’t we all love to use our strengths to make a difference. It’s so much more fun than struggling with our weaknesses and working hard to deliver what ends up being mediocre results.
The threads of connection, powerful stuff and the more layers you weave, the stronger the tapestry, the more connected you get…with those you work with and those you work for, and as important, for connecting you to yourself. While you and Jamie identified key elements of making those connections with those you work with, finding passion in the connections of those you work for and in the work you do connects you and gives you a reason to get up (eagerly?) in the morning to do it all again.
Definitely dull, stinky, repetitive, monotonous, hard-labored work sucks…but can it be fun? Check out the fishmongers at Pike’s Market in Seattle…amazing! They made a choice….fun.
Thank you Doc.
Fun IS a choice. I think many of us prefer misery. I’ve been down that path many times.
I come from the old school where the boss keeps their distance. They don’t connect. I think most of that is about power and control.
Fun and Funny. You mention “boss” as in “keeping their distance.”
Nah, it is Much Worse than That.
In my way of thinking, BOSS spelled backwards is self-explanatory, so when someone might say, “I’m the boss around here!”, my thought is generally, “You most certainly are!”
I think that the whole concept of boss is non-productive, since a leader might think of his role as involving and engaging and supporting while a boss simply thinks of themselves in charge. Not much fun there, ya think?
Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and just annoys the pig.
Oh, and I read this today:
“3 out of 4 Americans make up 75% of the population, and, including ties, almost 70% of them may be below average.”
I just bought a microwave fireplace. You can lay in front of it all day in 15 minutes…
I’m running out for a microwave fireplace!! Thank Dr. Scott!
And over 50% of them think they are in the top 10%…. 😉
Hi there, from my experience it is difficult to have real friends at work; but I do agree that the more you lead the way in a mindful way, connecting people and facilitating collaboration, the happier your collaborators are. This is what really makes the difference between an empathic leader and other ones! Thanks for your post and have a great weekend! Jenny
Thank you Jenny.
My experience validates yours. I’ve never worked at a place where relationships at work was part of the culture. I can see where it’s freaky. However, I totally believe Jamie when she talks about hanging with people from work.
Many just want to get away from those work people. Which, I think reflects the fact that they aren’t that happy at work in the first place..
Maybe the idea that work is work and work isn’t fun hangs on…
Guess I got to rambling…
😉 very valid comment! I had to experience that people I always thought were my ‘friends’ at work suddenly stabbed me in the back at the first occasion when it came to promotions or else. Well, then I learned that it is not a good idea to have ‘friends’ at work.
I hear you Jenny. Sad but true.
I’ve written a few times on backstabbers. In the end, leaders who allow this kind of behavior deserve the low performance they get from the team.
It’s happened to me on a few occasions. One prof. from a highly regarded university told me brain research shows that backstabbers have no guilt from stabbing you in the back. ugh!
Lets rise above, Jenny…
On backstabbers — Dan, there is a whole big bunch of literature on sociopaths and their path to leadership in a LOT of organizations. Many of the behaviors and attitudes they have make them really promotable to senior manager positions.
They are well represented in senior management positions, from what a lot of people report. There are lists of behavioral traits and they read like job qualifications for Congress, I think.
Not a pretty picture.
One aspect of my work leadership role that I relish THE most is helping people make connections . . . not only with each other, but with the right projects and assignments. As a manager, nothing is more satsifying that seeing one of my direct reports connect with a project assignment and get truly excited about it — and reap the recognition from doing a quality job.
One of your introductory quotes, Dan, that talks about having “best friends at work” poses a real dichotomy to me. Those in leadership (supervisory, managerial) roles have to be careful, careful, careful to know where that shifting, gray line is between “work” friendship and personal friendship. And in the case of direct-reports, it may be wiser to avoid it entirely.
I am “friendly” with everyone I work with — AT work. They know that I have their backs and that they have my full support. But best friends? No. Best friends are something for outside of work — that’s a whole separate group. And I think that is an important distinction to recognize and make.
I couldn’t agree more, Dan! But the real question here is how do bosses make it realistic enough for team members to connect? By being the first to open towards staff themselves instead hiding behind delegating duties each time they try to have light conversation with them. Thanks for making it possible for us to connect on your blog, Dan!
Inspiring post as well always!
Although I agree that leaders have a significant responsibility for a, what I like to call ‘socio-hygienic’ workplace, there is the risk of over-analysis in this approach. We cannot all be psychologists and I don’t think it should be a leader’s ambition to become one. Evidently, personal values play a huge role in the workplace and how people perceive their job and coworkers around them. I don’t think however that the solution is (trying) to become best friends with everyone. Understanding ‘where people are coming from’ helps understanding what motivates or demotivates them. But one has to be realistic that there is only so much you can do to influence that. Finding a balance is the key.
Then again, it couldn’t hurt either if leaders would approach their staff with more openess.