People make your business tick, and having the right workers on board your ship will mean that your organisation can work to its optimum. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that there’s mileage in the proposition that that happy employees are more likely to = happy customers = better profits.
Although a simple equation, it’s not that easy to achieve in reality. According to a Conference Board Survey, employees are the unhappiest they’ve been in 22 years. That’s even after the UK was recently ranked as the sixth happiest country in the world. Statistics like that are enough to make anyone depressed.
I do think we tend to talk ourselves into a negative state of mind here and often over not-very-much. It’s almost a race to be stressed sometimes. A few years ago I was sitting chatting to a GP, a very beautiful young woman, married to a hunk and with the most gorgeous baby son. She worked in a lovely little town (Stony Stratford!),in an interesting well-paid role. And she was talking about unhappiness, stress and how usual it is and how stressed she is. When I said “I’m happy” she gazed at me curiously as though I’d sprouted another head. “Well, I am” I said. And I am. I’m content with my lot. Sometimes things are hard, sometimes I don’t feel good, sometimes (often) stupid, frustrating things happen. I still have to work 70+hours a week (yup, every week – that’s what it takes to make small businesses work). There’s still loads of stuff I want to achieve. But do you know what? I’m alive, I have made choices in my life which give me the freedom I want and I have refused to compromise on the things and people around me (which sometimes gives me grief, but actually for me is right); the overall result is that I am really happy. And happiness is a state of mind. You choose your response to life and to some extent you choose the life you lead. It frustrates the heck out of me to see people deliberately choose misery every day.
It can be difficult to pin-down exactly what makes your workers happy when there are so many influencing factors affecting people. What happens at home has a major impact on somebody’s mental well-being, and to a large extent you can’t influence that. What many managers fail to overlook however, is the effect that your attitude has on your workers. Happiness is infectious. Unfortunately, so is negativity.
At some point in life, you will have come across someone who is an “energy vampire”. Anybody who has spent too much time in the presence of this type of personality will know what I mean when I say that you can feel your life being sucked out of you by their negativity. By the time you walk away, any happiness you had has been physically drained from you (they’re a bit like Dementors from Harry Potter). Unsurprisingly, these types of people are not the most popular to be around, which is particularly troublesome if you’re a manager who practices this type of style. While you might not intend to do so, if you only focus on the negative things about an employee, even when that person has many positives, you’ll soon ground them down, causing a detrimental effect on your workplace.
Happiness at work increases sales by 37%, productivity by 31% and improves health and quality of life. People are happiest at work when they feel valued and appreciated. When managers constantly scan for the negative at work, without stopping to appreciate what’s been done well, stress levels, motivation and productivity suffers.
So what can you do to control this?
- Before making a negative comment, take a second to think about whether it’s really necessary.
- If you need to pick up on something that’s been done badly do so, set it out in objective terms, giving evidence to support what you’re saying. Recognise what people do well.
- Try to avoid the word “but” in these circumstances – you know: “You’re really nice, but ….”.
- Be balanced. Say nice things when you can and make a point of praising each employee for something they have done well.
- Change your language from negative expression to positive e.g. from feeling “Not too bad” to feeling “Good!”
- Unless you’re a funeral director by profession, try to smile a bit more (though not necessarily in the middle of a disciplinary hearing where it may look a bit odd if you’re beaming away). Trite but nevertheless true, just smiling re-programmes your mind and starts to change the mind-set.
- Be conscious of your negative thoughts and reframe them to positive thoughts. You can choose to re-programme your brain and you’ll be much happier if you think in positives. A good way to practice thinking positively is to think about all the good things in your life – from the way your children smile at you, to the fact you’re having beans on toast for tea (or whatever). These small things help us cope with big things in life.
Of course, employees need to be told when they are doing things wrong, and I’m not suggesting that you should avoid doing that. However, finding the right balance between praise and criticism is key to maximum productivity.
Nobody can deny that we live in a tough world; it’s the ups and downs that make us who we are at the end of the day. Bad things happen to all of us and it’s how you deal with them that makes all the difference. The most successful organisations are the ones that are run by happy managers who embrace life and who work hard to transcend the same positivity onto their workers. When you smile, the world smiles with you, snarl and you’ll get a metaphorical smack in the chops. :)
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