“But, are they Happy?”

Guest post from T.J. Jones:

Does happiness
at work matter?

Is there value
in a fun workplace?


In a
twenty-year career, I had eighteen different bosses. Do that math, please. I
experienced eight acquisitions (and thus, culture) changes in that timeframe.
Cheerleading each time for the “new reality” through all the uncertainty, when
I too had fears and uncertainties, was exhausting—like lost sleep you never
catch up on.

We all know
that change is the real world of today’s work-life, but it feels personal. As I
see it, all change is personal. We want to feel safe. We want to be

“Let’s talk
about culture,” said the new VP at our first leadership meeting after
acquisition number eight.

Great, I thought. We’ll talk about people
and a positive future.
Next slide please. He spent 45 minutes telling us how
things would be
and how lucky the people are, including several of us in
the room, who were not laid off. Not valued and worthy. Lucky.

Energy and
effort are discretionary

I raised my
hand and said, “I’m on board with a high-performance culture. People have been
worried about the status of their jobs for months. Many of their teammates and
friends lost their jobs. They’re still anxious even though they were asked to
stay. It’s going to be hard to get them focused until we can redirect how they
think and feel. We can’t underestimate their happiness. Since we’re talking
about culture, is there something as a leadership team that we can do to
excite, reengage, and empower them? Can we do something fun?”

Everyone looked at me like I was from another planet. Or maybe they were
speechless imagining me as a carcass being eaten for breakfast by a leopard on
the savannah? Crickets. Awkwardness. Sweaty brow. Horror. If a can of gasoline
had been within reach, I would have lit myself on fire.  Of course, many
of my colleagues patted me on the back afterward extolling my bravery (albeit
risky) and truth-telling.

Who cares if
they’re happy? What does that have to do with anything?
Everything. On life’s battleground of culture,
leadership influence and environment affect others’ livelihoods, family-life,
stress, and general health. Human beings live in the continuum of pain and
pleasure.  Happy people perform better. Ask our friends at the Gallup
organization. Have a look at Fortune’s top companies to work for.

Roughly 7 out of 10 people are disengaged at work – 6 out of 10 managers are

81% of workers in the top Companies to work for rated their workplace as “Fun”

Fun (short-term “happiness” shocks) is best delivered in short and consistent

Extrinsic and intrinsic happiness are indicative of productivity.

Happiness at work leads to 300% more innovation, 44% higher retention, and a
37% increase in sales (references below).

I guess the VP
missed the opportunity to set the right tone for culture. Within 12 months,
there was approximately 35% turn-over including me, my team, and several other
“lucky ones.”

From the start:

Appreciate that people are humans first, and workers (“employees”) second –
they remember how they feel more than they remember specific projects, details,
and data.

Know that workplace happiness is not only “the right thing to do,” but that it
has an impact on your bottom-line.

Engage and connect people with more fun. Get creative. Have a little fun

Who ever said work wasn’t supposed to be fun? Or that happiness isn’t a

Fun need not be
an expensive scavenger hunt in Times Square, 36 holes of golf, or a paint-ball
extravaganza in the woods. A little fun at work bonds people, enhances happiness
neurochemical release, and positively impacts your bottom line. So ask
yourself, “Are they happy?”

Fun is
underrated. Happiness is everything.


TJ Jones is
an author, speaker, coach and leadership crusader. He works with organizations,
teams, individual experienced and emerging leaders to enhance their
effectiveness and fulfillment. He is the author of the forthcoming book, “The
Caring Warrior: Awaken Your Power to Lead, Influence and Inspire,” available
November 2016.