Happiness: The Output Not the Input

All of us want to be happy particularly at work where over a lifetime we spend more time with our colleagues than our families.

Happiness is an important core workplace value of millennials who want meaningful work as soon as they walk into our agencies as they fast track their way to being an executive in 6 months. Like many of us they equate workplace happiness as the journey as opposed to the ultimate destination.

I like the way Doug Baldwin, the Seattle Seahawks receiver frames happiness: “You’re really not trying to keep everyone happy—When we’re happy, it’s Because we’ve won…That’s where The bottom line is.”

Happiness is when everyone does their job. Where differences are recognized and embraced but not necessarily agreed upon. Where employees find alignment and not necessarily agreement. Where colleagues find identities, empathies and understandings that move them toward group centered membership, not group centered happiness.

The notion of happiness as output as opposed to input is particularly significant to inclusion. You hear people throw terms around the workplace when describing their interactions with people who do not act like them, talk like them or look like them:

• Can we just get along?
• You are OK and I am OK?
• Live and let live.
• Let’s call it a truce.

The bottom line for happiness in our diverse workplaces is not “can we get along” but how “can we be more productive.” How can we find singularity in mission, diversity of perspective and inclusion in practice?

The literature is unanimous that diverse organizations are not happy associations with high levels of satisfaction. However, they are the most productive, profitable and efficient establishments who instead of trying to eliminate their differences, figure out a way to be successful by keeping the differences intact. These kinds of groups find a way to connect with each other without having to change one another.

Such an understanding of happiness leads to workplaces that build social capital. Where everyone does not have to be chummy and best friends. Where disagreement does not feel dangerous. Where opinions are not agreed upon but built upon. And finally, where disagreement, vigorous debate, and heated discussion mean getting better and even happier.

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Mark Hammer

This has traditionally been the basic misunderstanding of the “employee engagement” frenzy: that “engagement” needs to be established *first*, in order to achieve the desired business outcome. In reality, it works the other way: there are few things that will get one engaged in one’s work nearly as much as a feeling of accomplishment and/or effectively serving those who appreciate one’s efforts.

Happiness and engagement are both products of feeling justified in everything one has done in the workplace and for the project or task, whether it involves applying specific job-related skills, or even simple organizational citizenship behaviours (“Hey, thanks for fixing my stapler”).