Why Happiness At Work Is Vital – And What Employers Can Do

Happiness at work - People Development Network
Happiness at work - People Development Network
Christina Lattimer
I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance. I collaborate with leadership experts, managers and HR professionals to help them get their own message and unique services and products to a wide audience.
Christina Lattimer


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Christina Lattimer
Christina Lattimer

Happiness at work has many great benefits

Happiness at work seems like one of the holy grails of management objectives.  Wouldn’t it be great if all the team showed happiness at work to be one of their greatest attributes?

One of the most frustrating problems I found when I led and managed teams was my inability to make all of my team members happy, despite my best efforts.  Of course, the frustration was misguided because in those early days I didn’t actually realise happiness was an internal choice and that no matter what I did if someone chose to be unhappy then I was quite frankly stymied in my futile attempts.

In my first management role at age 22, I didn’t realise why having a happy team was important, except that it felt much better to work in a happy environment, the understanding came much later on.   It was a no-brainer really from an experiential point of view.   Members of my team, who were happy, were engaged, motivated, purposeful and optimistic.  They were prepared to go the extra mile, were more authentic and open, and simply recognised the importance of team cohesion.

So does that mean everyone who is happy is a good team player?  Well no, but it seemed to increase the odds.   Also what comes first?  Does a motivated team lead to happier employees?  Or do happy employees lead to a motivated team?

Shaun Achor author of The Happiness Advantage” contends that happiness does indeed come first, and it is happiness which fuels success and not the other way around.  Shaun is one of my favourite researchers and business psychologists and so when I found his conclusions I was relieved because somehow, my intuition was always telling me that happiness was indeed a choice, and it was being happy which created my world of happiness, not the other way around.

More and more studies are showing that employee happiness is important in the workplace.  At Warwick University, research showed a definite causal link between human happiness and productivity at work.   Professor Satya Paul or the University of Western Australia conducted research where he concluded that “happy people are more active, more productive and get less upset by the work,’’.   Significantly he found happy people also earned more.

So what are employers to do?  If they can’t make employees happy, and happiness is, in fact, an individual choice, yet the success of their business relies on people being happy with all the benefits the business derives from that positive state?  Furthermore, even the most optimistic, happy people go through periods of unhappiness when life throws a curve ball at them.

Every leader or manager worth their salt understands that motivated and engaged teams are crucial to the success of their business.  It’s becoming clear that they will more likely succeed at achieving such teams if their employees are those who choose to be happy.

Although an employer can’t literally make someone choose to be happy, they can help them to make that choice, and here are some ways they can help.

  1. Right at the outset, hire people who demonstrate “can do” attitudes and have displayed resilience in adverse circumstances.  Find out about attitude and if they can turn seemingly negative situations into positive successes.
  2. Encourage people to talk about what helps them maintain a happy state at work and do what you can to create that environment.
  3. Help people develop self-awareness; self-responsibility and an understanding they do have the ability to choose happiness or not.
  4. Where life’s trials befall them, have the right kind of support, counselling, therapy or team support, with the focus being on helping people to get back into a happy state.
  5. Where they suffer ill-health, take measures to support them back to well-being and, therefore, a happier state.
  6. Where negativity exists, then don’t ignore, or condemn, but help employees realise there are other ways to look at situations which are more productive.


  • Stuart Young says:

    Excellent post Christina, there certainly doesn’t seem to be enough of #3 Help people develop self awareness; in understanding why we are thinking the thoughts we are having we can then decide to change that. An unhappy employee may be ‘choosing’ that state of mind without realising there is a choice. Of course getting the right employees for the company at the outset is favourable, but an ongoing program of employee development is key to moving a company forwards.

    • Stuart, sorry it’s taken me a little while to catch up with your comment! Thanks so much for the postitive feedback, appreciated. I couldn’t agree more with your suggestion that an ongoing programme of employee development is needed moving forward. Thanks for commenting, and your input!

  • Bob Mason says:

    I still think it’s a chicken and egg question. You can have the happiest team member in the world and a bad team will bring them down. Likewise, even the most positive and successful team will not turn around an employee who is unhappy with the a significant problem elsewhere.

    That said, keeping employees happy should be a primary goal of leadership.

    • Hi Bob, I think in reality some people don’t realise happiness is actually an internal choice and so will look to external conditions to “assess” whether they should be happy or not. So I think you’re right it is still a chicken and egg question at that level. I think your second observation is at any level because you’re right if someone chooses to be unhappy no matter what, then the leader is not going to change that. (It is very frustrating at times!) .

      Thanks so much for your insight and comments Bob, and sorry it’s taken me a while to reply!

  • Chris Thomas says:

    One more thing – I remember a workshop in London, where the workshop leader exhorted everyone to light a candle for peace and happiness. A voice behind me growled “Don’t light a candle – be the f****** candle!”

    I didn’t turn around, so I don’t know who this man was, maybe it was one of you – but I suspect he was a born leader.

    Happy new year, you candles.

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