Monday, August 12, 2013

Want Happy Employees? Yeah, Okay

Unless you’re a creative genius suffering for your art, Ghandi, or Dr. Gregory House, it would seem that people expect you to be happy all the time.

What is this obsession human beings have with happiness? I don’t get it. Happiness is not the end all/be all, as far as I’m concerned. There are other things besides feeling good with which to concern oneself, and sometimes feeling bad is downright necessary to deal with what needs dealing with, rather than “putting on a happy face” and “faking it till you make it.” Damn it, you fake it. I’m pondering a problem here.

And guess what? It turns out that at least one learned professional sees things my way (sort of).

In "4 Dark Sides to the Pursuit of Happiness," readers are introduced to the work of Yale professor Dr. June Gruber who says that the search for happiness can go wrong when we chase too much happiness of the wrong type, in the wrong way, and at the wrong time. Yup, that’s what her research indicates.

So here’s another thought.

Forget about Employee Happiness

Let’s eighty-six our preoccupation with employee happiness, hmmm?

"Randi reporting for duty, Sir! Man, I'm so happy to be here!"

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for functional workplaces. In fact, I’ve practically rendered myself unemployable ranting about jacked-up workplaces here on my blog. And I’m all for treating employees like actual human beings with thoughts, feelings, motivations, and agendas that are (gasp!) separate from their employers,’ even while advocating that said employees be held accountable for performing to standard.

But dang, articles like this one, and this one,  and this one  just make me nuts.

Perhaps I’m too stuck on semantics. I get the gist of the articles, after all. Miserable employees are not a good thing. But I, for one, have no desire to be responsible for someone else’s happiness. Happiness is subjective. Who can even define it?

And here’s the bottom line. A happy employee does not always equal a productive employee. Hell no. I’ve worked with employees so darn happy they practically floated across the room, but their work product was …. well, let’s just say it was wanting, okay?

Happiness Is a State of Mind

See, happiness is a state of mind that an employer can’t really control. So I say, phooey on that and instead let the HR pros and other leaders focus on creating the best darn environment we can—one that is respectful, safe, and facilitates communication, collaboration, learning, and innovation. Of course, people need fair compensation, so let’s get our wage policies and programs in order, too. But as for whether employees are happy? That’s for employees to decide.

Maybe I’m just wrong, but I firmly believe that my happiness is my problem. You, employer, need to pay me, not violate my rights, and treat me like an actual person. After that, the rest is on me. 


  1. This really hits home with me Crystal, love you input and ideas about this. It is hard to figure out now a days what is proper in the workplace. You might just have a lot on your mind and then all of a sudden you are perceived to have a Bad Attitude when in reality it has nothing to do with it. We are humans and each day is different but perception plays such a big role in today's marketplace. Thank you for sharing this. Bruce Corkhill

    1. I understand, Bruce. Being a more serious-minded person, there were times (back in the old days, when I worked in a regular office) that I definitely felt the disapproval of those who expected me to be outwardly "happy," or THEY couldn't feel good. How ridiculous is that? Walking around with a perpetual scowl and being so grumpy nobody wants to approach you is one thing--not being in a position to entertain you 24/7 is something else. Goodness gracious.