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Happiness at Work

Why Happiness at Work Trumps Engagement Every Time

By Chris Cook, Capiche

What is happiness at work? Why is it more important than engagement and satisfaction?

As defined, happiness at work is a mindset that allows you to maximize your performance and achieve your potential. You feel happy when you’re achieving your potential.

The concepts of happiness, engagement, and satisfaction are related, yet very different different. One thing is certain: happiness is a stronger predictor of performance than engagement or satisfaction. And that’s important because performance is what you really want on the job. Here’s the paradox: people who report high levels of happiness at work also report high job satisfaction and high engagement. But people with high engagement or job satisfaction are not always happy.

How can that be? You might be strongly self-motivated and power through the challenges at work (high engagement), but you may not be happy. Nor will you be satisfied with your job. (In fact, this is often the situation with executives. And this is a good predictor of intention to quit.) This suggests that happiness at work is a bigger and more important concept than employee engagement or job satisfaction. We know the drivers of happiness at work, and we can measure them quite accurately for individuals and teams. Job satisfaction and engagement don’t lend themselves to such definitive measurement. These two concepts are more closely tied to organizational attitudes that are extremely hard to interpret or influence. These typical questions illustrate this point:

  • Rate your level of agreement with this statement: “My manager helps me engage with my work.”
  • As an employee, how satisfied are you with your work?

Engagement and job satisfaction are typically seen as driven by the top down. I believe that happiness at work is a joint responsibility of managers and employees.

Keep in mind that job satisfaction and engagement are older concepts that were developed in the ’60s and ’70s when the workplace was very different. They are based on research that occurred inside organizations whose structures were more hierarchical and had more of a command-and-control approach. This doesn’t jibe in today’s flatter, lean-and-mean organizations that rely more on knowledge work.

Happiness at work takes the traditional measures of employee engagement and job satisfaction to a deeper and more practical place, with outcomes of greater performance, leading to higher levels of productivity and profits.

See how happy you are by taking the free iOpeners People and Performance Questionnaire.

For a different measure of your happiness at work, take the Delivering Happiness at Work survey, also free.

Let me know how it goes: Email me, visit my website, or call 541.601.0114.