Wisdom Wednesday – Do Happier People Work Harder?

The idea of a connection between happiness and productivity is a discussion I’ve had with a few people at work over the past couple years – some who are in agreement with the idea, some who feel there’s no link between happiness and productivity and some who are uncertain (or haven’t given it much thought when I catch myself talking to unsuspecting victims in the lunch room!)

The New York Times has just published yet another in a growing number of articles (and books and papers and web sites) saying there is indeed a correlation.  This particular article features the work of an author and a professor from the Harvard School of Business who present the results of a study of 12 000 diary entries from 238 professionals across a number of different companies.

Gallup estimates the cost of America’s disengagement crisis at a staggering $300 billion in lost productivity annually. When people don’t care about their jobs or their employers, they don’t show up consistently, they produce less, or their work quality suffers.

So stepping back, what factors need to be in place to create the ideal conditions for a happy workplace?  Daniel Pink, author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” has done four decades of research into human motivation and identified three factors that lead to increased employee engagement which leads to increased productivity which has direct correlation to employee happiness.

To use my standard line, “you don’t need clowns and trampolines in the hallways to create a happy workplace” (maybe if you work at Google?) but just give your employees three simple things:

1. Autonomy

2. Mastery

3. Purpose

Pink’s TED talk (the 10th Most Viewed TED talk on YouTube showing the reach of this idea) does a great job of summarizing his findings:

PS – this post features the debut of a new tag – “orgdevl” – which I hope to use as I write more about the type of things I think about in my day-to-day work at RPL but also as I contemplate what works in terms of my personal life, how other organizations operate, my increasing involvement with politics and in various other arenas.

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