Written by Sharri Margraves, Director for Organization and Professional Development
Am I happy?
How do I know if someone is happy?
What can I do to influence the happiness of others?
Happiness is subjective — each of us has our own vision of what happiness means to us. The many definitions of happiness and the different topics connected to it can lead us to more questions than answers. As such, is it worth your time as a leader to consider whether your employees are happy and take action to increase happiness within your team?
Happiness and Well-Being
Let’s consider the relationship between happiness and well-being. Happiness is a component of well-being; it can exist without well-being, but well-being can’t exist without happiness.
Happiness contributes toward health and longevity, which can be measured with a number of physiological tests including immune system strength, plaque build-up, and healthier behaviors such as a propensity toward physical activity or wearing a seatbelt.
As a supervisor, this is worth noting as happy employees can lead to lower healthcare costs, fewer sick days, lower turnover, and greater productivity and creativity.
Happiness and Psychological Wealth
Dr. Ed Diener, recognized as an expert on Subjective Well-Being (SWB), posits that being happy provides psychological wealth, stating, “Psychological wealth is your true total net worth, and includes your attitudes toward life, social support, spiritual development, material resources, health, and the activities in which you engage.”
SWB is good for work, families and society as a whole, but it’s important to note SWB doesn’t replace workplace basics: flexibility, respect, having the right tools, knowing the goals…these are all still contributors toward one’s psychological wealth.
Happiness in the Workplace
What brings someone happiness may change over time. Fulfillment in your early 20s often looks different than in your retirement years. What was most critical such as family and employment may eventually transition to health and leisure.
Regardless of where your employees are in their professional and personal journeys, there are key ways you can create an environment that supports their happiness and well-being.
- Empower employees to craft their jobs. Provide training and build relationships that are connected to a purpose. Do your employees know how what they do serves the greater good? Can you honor flexibility in working conditions? Research has shown flexibility can contribute to reduced turnover and physical and mental health improvements.
- Honor core organizational values and encourage employees to define their own personal core values. While we each have our own core values, organizational values that are practiced, observed, and honored foster happier employees.
- Ask employees for help in problem solving workplace issues — then actually implement the improvements to reduce stress and help retain employees.
- Foster social belonging. Each work environment has its own microcultures but recognizing each other should be a regular feature. Leading with kudos — both internal and external — can foster happiness and well-being by building positive relationships.
- Think positive. Self-sabotaging a positive mindset affects you personally, but as a leader, it also has the added impact of influencing others. You are worthy of success and adequate. You can do hard things. When you feel the need to lament on something — and let’s face it, we all have our moments — be sure you are reaching out to a neutral party to vent or process.
- Build healthy habits. From stretch breaks to healthy snack choices, lean into fostering a healthy environment by engaging with Health4U and other resources for MSU staff and faculty. Below are a few ideas to help you get started.
Diener, E., Diener-Biswas, R., Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (Blackwell, 2008). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdxbmVbr3NY
Kelly, L., Berkman, L., Kubzanksky, L., Lovejoy, M. (2021). 7 Strategies to improve your employees’ health and well-being. https://hbr.org/2021/10/7-strategies-to-improve-your-employees-health-and-well-being