Everyone’s Always Happy in a Great Workplace! Aren’t they?

Published: 11:42 AM on November 22, 2016


by Carla Williams

Commentary on 5 Myths of Great Workplaces HBR Article

The following commentary is in relation to Myth 1: Everyone is incessantly happy.

As this article alludes to, the notion of the happy employee may be inextricably tied to and intertwined with organisational deliverables of high job morale, employee engagement, job satisfaction, better product and service quality and ultimately competitive advantage.

It is a pragmatic view to acknowledge that no employee, (indeed no individual) can be happy at all times, but affective concerns (emotions) do in fact influence work outcomes, thus regular measures of this should be put in place by the organisation, (such as through job satisfaction surveys), coupled with performance and other support services to the employee, inclusive of clear, transparent and equitable policies and procedures, well designed and mutually agreed upon SMART Goals, an effective Performance Management System such as the timeless and very simple but also still very effective, Management by Objectives (where the principle of mutual goal agreement and ongoing collaboration establishes trust, respect and participation from the outset) and Employee Assistance and Wellness Programmes.

This establishment of expectations regarding Key Performance Indicators, (KPIs) inclusive of the display of desired behaviours for success and ongoing monitoring, measurement and relevant reinforcement of employee behaviour and outcomes, will definitely curb any tendency by individual employees or teams to be “less careful, more gullible and more tolerant of risks”. The work system also regulates itself through peer interface. It would take an entire cultural shift to support and institutionalise the above behaviours as if they occur in isolation, or random spurts, and can harm the organisation, they will be managed out of the work system.

While there can also be learning from the “so called negative emotions, like anger, embarrassment and shame”, the writer does not advocate the repression of these but certainly not the conscious courting of them as a means to balance the would-be euphoria and positive emotions mentioned above. Well-developed and effective organisational communication machinery such as is gained through regular meetings, briefings, communities of practice, quality circles and cross functional team-working, and a fully functional grievance handling policy and process, should also regulate negative behaviours, as if left unchecked, they become contagious and can poison overall personal and work-related attitudes and morale among employees, which militates against productivity.

The organisation should also discourage negative practices arising in the organisational culture such as the inadvertent celebration of infighting and empire building among departments and employees, as if strategic objectives are to be attained, synchronicity and collaboration are needed among departments, rather than actions that may run counter to these objectives.

Thus establishment and judicious use of employee surveys mentioned earlier in the commentary, which regularly assess the organisational climate in terms of job satisfaction (which includes positive as well as negative emotions), the sharing of these results with employees and the use of participation and involvement to elicit from them ways that areas flagged for concern/action can be resolved, will help to provide affective balance in the workplace.



Ms. Carla Williams is an SBCS EBS MBA lecturer with over twenty (20) years’ lecturing experience, and has worked with adult learners with multiple learning styles over these years to create and customise learning solutions for their academic success. Carla has amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience in the airline, media retail and manufacturing industries, finding balance between organisational needs and the needs of the employees in organisations, which led to the attainment of the strategic goals and operational deliverables of these organisations.

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