Thousands of missives speak to us of the relationship between the behavior of front-line employees and organizational success. These front-line souls are your customer contact representatives, those (often lower-paid) workers who personify everything good about your organization (at least this is your hope). Front line employees are possibly the most important competitive and productive advantage your organization has. That’s why you want these employees to be pleasant, content, and helpful, otherwise there’s a good chance their behavior is damaging your organization’s good name.
Daunting, indeed, but instead of worrying about all the damage your front line employees could bring to your company’s good name, how about, instead, focusing on all the good they can do when they happily go about their business.
Only recently have longitudinal studies concluded what we’ve always thought to be true that happy employees are good for business. Seminal studies on happiness as a factor for productivity began in the early 1980s. Before then, researchers focused on the effects of good and bad attitudes on business, but happiness was thought to be one of those fluffy, unidentifiable emotions left to the social psychologists to figure out.
Fast forward to today. Now we know, for sure, that happy workers are more productive. Happiness in the workplace is defined as outward manifestation of behavior related to job satisfaction, life satisfaction, workload perception, feelings of personal control/freedom, and positive affect. Humans who are generally happy with positive feelings of well being are more likely to accept change, deal with controversy and contrary opinions, and embrace diversity than the not so happy pockets of society (and some of those pockets are huge). In most cases, the effect of unhappy emotions is destructive.
Happiness is not (necessarily) the same thing as pleasure. Happiness for research purposes is defined by feelings of well-being. If pleasure were the indicator of happiness, every millionaire on earth would be rolling in ecstasy, but that’s definitely not the case. Well-being is that general sense of contentedness in a worry-free outlook on this thing we call life.
Well-Being and the Effect on Business
Now that we know a bit more of what happiness is and isn’t, let’s return to the discussion of its effect on business. I know, I warned to stay away from discussions on the negative side of things, but allow me to break my own rule for a moment. Studies on the relationship of positive perceived boss behavior as related to productivity should be convincing enough. But, the over the top proof is found in studies on negatively perceived boss behavior. Negative (unhappy) boss behavior directly correlates to lower employee productivity. Simply put, no one wants to work with, next to, around, or for a sour puss. That negativity can just drag down the entire work force.
So, how can you ensure positive behavior proliferates throughout the organization? Well, it’s up to you, the leaders. Leader behavior is directly correlated to employee attitude toward the job. When leaders think and focus on petty little things to the point of being annoying, employees feel the pain of that small thinking and react in destructive ways.
Sorry, bosses, but your behavior is what sets organizational mood. If you’re grumpy, nitpicky, or dark, your mood will impact your employees. It’s up to you to reduce stress levels to increase happiness and so boost engagement and productivity. High stress negatively correlates to happiness, a proven theory in research.
Euphoria is Hard Work
Important to note is there’s no such thing as perpetual happiness. You have to work at it. Some longitudinal studies suggest that happiness fades with age. But, the good news is if the general feeling about aging is positive, the actual happiness factor during aging is significantly more optimistic. In other words, it’s easier to keep happy people happy than to convert the not so happy to more elated attitudes.
So if you hire workers with great attitudes (along with all those other important skills to do the job), your part in the production process will be a lot easier because, chances are, those more upbeat employees will keep those attitudes for life. Conversely, if you hire workers with questionable attitudes, there’s a good chance things will only get worse over time.
There’s That Word Again: Ethics
In the end, it’s all about personal outlook. Employees feel comfortable and free to do their jobs when bosses behave ethically as measured by attitudes of loyalty, honesty, and responsibility. It’s not difficult to do. In essence, just be nice. Quit picking on people. Forgive. Don’t bully. Remain positive. Reward others. Say good things. Recognize good work. Learn people’s names. Learn the things they like. Think and lead outwardly.
Each of us is the master of his or her own destiny, so we can choose how we want to live. It’s our attitude that gets us through our human induced problems. I’d venture to say, those who feel generally secure in their emotions and life outside of work project that same confidence within corporate walls. Sure, would I rather be spending my secure emotional days sailing the seas or hiking the Sierras? You bet! But, alas, I have to put food on my table and shelter over my head, so work I must. Might as well make the most of it with my great attitude, perspective, and outward approach.
“Security is having a drawer full of warm socks.” Charles Schultz.