The Declaration of Independence says we have an inalienable right to pursue it.
Pharrell Williams says it makes you feel “like a room without a roof.”
Most parents will tell you that all they really want for their kids is to have it.
If happiness is so important, why are so few of us truly happy, especially in our work? A survey completed in 2012 by Right Management showed that only 19% of workers in the U.S. and Canada were satisfied with their jobs. In Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workforce Report, a little more than half of workers (52%) “have a perpetual case of the Mondays — they’re present, but not particularly excited about their job.” The remaining 18% are actively disengaged or, as Gallup CEO Jim Clifton put it in the report, “roam the halls spreading discontent.”
Okay, so a lot of people are unhappy at work. Do organizations care one way or another? Should they?
The fact is, leaders and organizations don’t have to care about happiness—unless they want to be able to sustain their organization into the future.
The Reid Group created the Sustainable Future Audit tool to help organizations assess their ability to sustain themselves into the future. Many organizations measure sustainability solely by the yardstick of financial viability: for for-profit organizations, are we making money? for non-profit organizations, do we have the resources to do our work?
But there are other elements in an organization that affect sustainability and the satisfaction—happiness—of staff is an important one. Simply put, the happier people are, the more productive and engaged they will be. And the likelier to stay.
What’s it going to cost me?
What contributes to happiness in the workplace? Surprisingly, various studies have shown that, while higher pay is an important factor, it is not the overriding one. The intangibles can have as great an effect:
- Fostering a collaborative rather than competitive culture among teams and in the organization as a whole
- Managing conflict directly and openly
- Soliciting and valuing input from everyone in the organization
- Developing and rewarding effective teams
- Offering training and leadership development opportunities
- Demonstrating transparency through open, honest and direct communication at all levels
Even organizations that focus solely on the bottom line in terms of measuring sustainability—and therefore balk at spending money investing in the happiness of its staff—might be persuaded by this statistic: according to the 2013 Gallup report, those “actively disengaged employees roaming the halls spreading discontent” cost the U.S. up to $550 billion annually in lost productivity.
It seems that happiness does in fact matter. So leaders in organizations that want to ensure a sustainable future might want to spend some time listening to their staff answer this question: