In 2009, Australian psychologist Timothy Sharp conducted an informal survey that asked a simple question, What do you consider to be the top three keys to happiness at work? The responses he received “were remarkably consistent.”
His study led to a short piece for Greater Good magazine, in which he shares “five key steps to workplace happiness” (link here):
“One: Provide leadership and values”
“Two: Communicate clearly and effectively”
“Three: Give thanks”
“Four: Focus on strengths”
“Five: Have fun”
Is that all there is to it?
This list is a good start — and the full article supplies more of the deeper meaning for each item — but I think there’s more. Sharp casts his lot with the school of positive psychology. In fact, according to the article he is known in Australia as “Dr. Happy.” As such, I think his general orientation may gloss over the darker sides of work and how organizations handle issues that implicate fairness, inclusion, and ethics.
Organizational justice is a term used to capture employee perceptions of fair treatment. A difficult situation at work can be a test of organizational justice. Workers who believe their employer acts with fairness and integrity are more likely to be satisfied and loyal and to feel safe, and those who do not are prone to think the opposite.
Signs of growing worker discontent
In any event, employers are advised to take worker happiness and satisfaction seriously, for it appears that pent up worker frustrations are emerging. Tim Gould, in a piece for HR Morning (link here), reports that “(m)ore than eight in 10 (84%) of the employees polled said they plan to look for a new job in 2011, according to staffing consultant Right Management.” The reasons include:
- the prolonged recession and layoffs
- increased workloads, small or no raises
- companies’ reticence to add staff, even as business conditions have improved, and
- a lack of trust in company leaders.