15 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagement

Teamwork

As a leader of people you need to encourage happiness in every facet of your business. I’ve created 10 techniques that will help your company be happy and successful.

These are concepts that are easy to understand, but may be hard to apply to your company’s culture. I’ll break them down so you can use them in your company.

1. Be Happy Yourself

Being happy yourself can sometimes be more difficult than making someone else happy. If you don’t know how to make yourself happy, it will be very difficult to help the people you manage to be happier. That’s why I believe your passions should guide many of your choices.

You have to find what makes you happy at work and try to do more of it. If you are a manager and miss a certain aspect of your old job (i.e. more customer interaction), then try to do more of the customer interaction projects and give a part of your job that you dislike to an employee who enjoys the type of work that you don’t.

I struggled with my own work happiness because I didn’t take responsibility for my own emotions. I would let my emotions run rampant, causing me much more pain than I needed to endure. Read my What Do I Do If I’m Unhappy at Work? to get a better idea of how to be happier at your job.

2. Help People See Their Progress

People want to see that their hard work is making a difference in people’s lives. It’s why janitors enjoy their work. They know what is expected of them and how to deliver on those expectations.

That’s what most people need out of their work. They want know that at the end of their day that their hard work mattered. Why do you think teachers are paid more for all their hard work. Most of them don’t do it for the money. They do it because they see their students daily growth and believe in their purpose.

You can show people their own progress by recognizing their hard work. When you notice they know their work matters.

I’m in the process of creating a happiness at work beta program at a reduced rate. It will be a weekly program to grow a happier culture and build stronger teams at work. If you are a CEO, team leader, manager, HR then reach out to me and ask me about how you can encourage more fun and be happier at work.

3. Make Time for Your People

Are you taking the time to listen to their problems and helping them come up with solutions? I know most of my superiors never did this for me.

At most of my jobs, I felt like I was on the outside looking in. I know a lot of people feel this way. They feel like they are the last to know what is going on with in a company.

Every leader needs to make time for his or her people.

You can do this by:

  • Talking to employees about decisions.
  • Asking them about their own issues.
  • Hanging out with them outside of work.
  • Asking them for their opinions.
  • Chatting with them about their personal lives.

Making time for your people might sometimes feel like a time suck, but it’s worth your effort. They will show more loyalty and become more engaged. Zappos, the employee happiness juggernauts, encourage their managers to spend roughly 15% of their day with their staff. They know that it works.

4. Show People the Autonomy That They Already Have

People want more freedom. The freedom to do what they feel is right. This allows them to live their core values and enjoy their work.

What many employees don’t realize is that they do have autonomy.

You need to let your employees know about the perks that they might not be using. Make them aware of the breaks that they can take because it will help them reduce stress and increase productivity. Inform them about anything the company provides that could make them happier.

If the company is too strict then make some changes. We live in a different world compared to just ten years ago. If you want to retain great employees, then you should consider allowing them more freedom and flexibility as long as they get results.

5. Help Them Find Meaning in Their Work

People need to believe that the work they do is worth doing. Otherwise they see no point in putting in extra effort.

A great way to help your employees find meaning is to tell stories that they can connect with. A good story can show a perspective that the employee hadn’t yet seen.

My father is an electrician and has owned Staib Electrical for 40 years. I worked with him through high school and college. I was always baffled by his need to form the wires so perfectly. My dad made sure his electrical panels were like little pieces of engineering art work. One day, after he fixed my work (again), I asked him why it was so important to him to make the wires look perfect.

He explained how he recently received two phone calls from potential clients. They had both heard from a previous customer about the great work he did. He asked them who referred him, and they both named a neighbor of theirs, Mr. Hanken. My father told me about Mr. Hanken’s delighted expression when he showed him his work. Mr. Hanken then bragged to his neighbors, and they too wanted an electrician that cared as much as my father does.

I understood why my dad’s presentation was so important. If he didn’t apply a bit of art to his craft, everyone would think he was just like every other electrician. It separated him from the crowd and as a result people talked him up to people they knew. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising.

From that point on, I applied a little art to every wire I formed.

6. Listen and Respond to Their Emotions, Not Just Their Problems

People often complain just so they will be heard. They don’t necessarily want solutions; they want empathy.

The next time an employee comes to talk to you about another employee, give them what they need emotionally. Let them know that it can be tough work with (fill in difficult coworker here). Allow them to vent.

If they ask for a solution then you can try to find one together, but most of the time they just need an emotional boost, rather than a fix to their problem.

7. Stop Letting Assholes Dictate the Company Culture

One asshole can wreak havoc on a whole department or organization. They are miserable and they want everyone else to be miserable too.

The job of any leader is to stop these people from bringing everyone else down. That may mean helping this person recognize their issues and figuring out a way to become happy. If that doesn’t work, you may need to let them go.

The only way the company culture will support great work is if everyone treats each other with respect.

* #7 was based on the book. The No Asshole Rule (Amazon affiliate link).

8. Encourage Friendships

People need to have friends at work. If they don’t, they are much less likely to stay at a job, feel happy, and be creative.

“Among the 3 in 10 workers who strongly agree that they have a best friend at work, 56% are engaged, 33% are not engaged and 11% are actively disengaged to the point of poisoning the atmosphere with their negativity. Those who don’t have a best friend have slim 1-in-12 odds of being among the engaged. Worse, the best-friendless stand a one in three chance of being actively disengaged. That means they may threaten sabotage or otherwise become a serious drag on the company’s success.” – Del Jones of USA Today Best friends good for business

A manager should encourage his or her staff to hang out with each other. The more people hang out with each other, the more likely they are to find ways to like each other.

It’s helpful if you create opportunities for people to gather outside of work so they can bond. If you are their superior then they may not be able to relax when you’re there, so gather them and take off. Yes, they may complain about you after you leave, but it’s important that they find common ground, even if it’s making jokes at your expense.

Believe me, they will be more supportive, happier and a stronger team as a result.

9. Recognize Hard Work

A boss who appreciates hard work, not just the end result is a better boss. The psychology behind it is simple. If you show people that you are grateful when they work hard they are more likely to enjoy the process.

Many bosses only appreciate the end result. If the end result is bad, then the employee confidence and morale takes a hit.

Show people that you care about their effort, not just the results, and you’ll see an improvement in productivity.

10. Find Out Why People Leave

People usually leave a company because they aren’t happy. Try to find out why they are leaving and what you can do to solve the issue.

I’ve never had an exit interview, but I had a friend who did. They kept asking the question “why” until they got to the heart of the problem. They didn’t want some patsy answer that wouldn’t help them.

Most employees will just want to get out of there, but if you take the time to listen, you may be able to figure out a solution that will help future employees. You may have lost this employee, but you can improve other employees’ happiness so they stick around and do great work.

11. Know Your People

You must know your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. If you keep giving PR work to an employee who hates it, they won’t be sticking around very long.

When you assign work to an employee who enjoys the task, they respect and appreciate you. The happier you make them, the higher quality their output will be. It’s a simple concept, but one many managers ignore.

You must spend time with your employees in order to understand them. Do you know what they do in their spare time? What type of food do they like?

The more you know about the people you manage, the easier it will be to lead them.

12. Have More Fun

Work should be fun. If it’s not, I guarantee your turnover will be high. People don’t want to feel to constricted. They want to know that they can be themselves without fear of being frowned at by managers and other co-workers. The more fun you can encourage people to have, the more creative your company will become.

There are lots of ways to have fun.

“There is good evidence that if you allow employees to engage in something they want to do, (which) is playful, there are better outcomes in terms of productivity and motivation.” – Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play

You have to decide within your company’s culture what is appropriate because Naked Friday might not be a good idea. Just saying.

13. Good Managers are Aware of their Limitations as Well as Strengths.

If they know they don’t handle conflict well and lean toward avoidance, then hopefully they have the integrity and courage to recognize their limitations and make dealing with their stuff a priority by learning conflict resolution and healthy communications skills as part of their professional development. Better yet, they might organize a department wide workshop on positive/assertive communications skills (preferably non-violent communications)so everyone can be empowered by learning those skills. Workshops on understanding how different personality/temperament types function at work would also be great ways of increasing understanding and reducing  frustrations.

14. Follow Through Promptly on Policy Issues

Nothing kills a department morale faster than neglecting to attend to comfort factors like temperature control, air quality, ergonomics or anything else that might lead to health problems that could have been avoided), promotion and performance considerations right away.

Procrastinating on getting back to employees about possible promotions, pay raises or performance evaluations in a timely manner does not do much for the respect or trust factor. Good managers, don’t cop out with the “I’ve been too busy with other stuff”, nor do they dump the responsibility for being “proactive” about the issue back onto the employee: they recognize it is THEIR responsibility as the person with the power to hire, fire or promote their people–not the employees’–to have the professionalism and courtesy to respond in a timely manner, whether it’s good news or bad news or otherwise.

15. Set the Example and the Tone

Your passion matters. If you care about them and appreciate their hard work then they will respond with more effort.

Managers who are really interested in fostering and maintaining an environment that is happy, productive and where employees conduct themselves professionally do this by setting the example and the tone–especially in how they handle stress and frustrations.

Managers who consistently back bite other employees in the company, express frustration at others using violent imagery* or other inappropriate language/stress management techniques create a really toxic environment in one of two ways. First, by modeling such behavior, managers are indicating that they approve of such behavior, and many of their employees will adopt the same attitudes to “fit in” or earn brownie points with the boss. (It’s really scary to see this in action!) Second, such behavior does absolutely nothing to earn the loyalty or respect of one’s employees (except maybe to their face) and everything to create an atmosphere of distrust and fear.

*While “imaginary” violence may not actually physically harm a person, the malice/intent to harm is still there even though the action hasn’t actually occurred. It’s both a little scary and traumatizing for employees to be subjected to these kinds of behaviors on a regular basis. Recent social psychology researchhas shown that blowing off steam this way actually leads to more anger and a tendency to depersonalize/dehumanize the object of one’s imaginary violence.

Wrap-Up

The environment at work doesn’t need to be boring or strict. In fact, Southwest, Google, and Zappos are proof that happy employees improve the bottom line.

Bosses, managers, or supervisors have so many tools at their disposal. The research in Inc. Magazine, Psychology Today, and WorldBlu (to list just a few) proves that people who are happy at work are more productive and engaged.

Start by implementing these concepts, but don’t stop there. There are many ways to encourage happiness. Just remember that every organization and group of people are different. Sometimes it takes a few tries to see some progress.

If you are a CEO, manager, or leader at work and want to create a happier and more engaged workplace then reach out to me and ask me about my new beta program to help build stronger culture and teams at work.

Are you a leader at work? What would you add to the list?

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101 Tips to Make Work More Fun

Tip to make work more fun Too often we forget this simple rule:

Fun is a necessary part of life.

When work is fun, you are doing great work and, you don’t dread work, you look forward to it. You look forward to laughing, sharing, and growing. Now that’s motivating! So let’s look at a lot of different ways to make your work more fun.

  1. Blast your favorite song. (Put on your headphones first if you need to be considerate of others.)
  2. Make a game out of doing a tedious task. (Make it a race against the clock or someone else, or the fewest mistakes and the winner gets a free lunch.)
  3. Find one super small reason to be excited about a boring project.
  4. Write in your gratitude journal.
  5. Invite a new co-worker out to lunch.
  6. Bring a dessert for your boss or a co-worker.
  7. Go out and buy a perfectly ripened piece of fruit and eat it at lunch.
  8. Give a small gift to all your co-workers.
  9. Write an email to a co-worker explaining how awesome they are and why you think they are the greatest person in the company.
  10. Come up with a wild idea for the advertising department even if you aren’t in their department.
  11. Buy donuts for everyone.
  12. Share your favorite moment from childhood with a friend.
  13. Bring in apple juice for everyone.
  14. Find an awesome joke online, memorize it and tell it to everyone.
  15. Don’t wear any underwear.
  16. Offer to help organize your boss’ or a co-worker’s office.
  17. Bring in freshly brewed sun tea.
  18. Make 10 people a copy of your favorite music.
  19. Have a paper airplane contest. Whoever’s plane goes the farthest gets an extra 15 minute break.
  20. Make today the day where you say “yes” to everything.
  21. Find one project you truly love working on and do it for at least an hour a day (even if you have to create a new project).
  22. Take 10 deep breaths.
  23. Pick a day where you won’t complain.
  24. Wear two different colored socks and see if anyone notices (step farther – different shoes).
  25. Give a friendly wave to someone that you like.
  26. Bake cupcakes for the office.
  27. Improve the recycling program.
  28. Go above and beyond everyone’s expectations.
  29. Set-up a happy hour to allow people to relax and connect with each other (alcohol usually helps).
  30. Offer a co-worker help on a project that fits your strengths.
  31. Write a poem during lunch and print out a copy for everyone.
  32. Ask someone what they enjoy about their job.
  33. Make everyone gather for a group photo.
  34. Compliment the first person you talk to today.
  35. Ask five people how they are feeling. Then ask them how they are “really” feeling (and just listen).
  36. Bring in a plant for your desk or workspace.
  37. Bring in stickers that a third grade teacher would have e.g. “You are Great,” and pass them out when someone does something good.
Need a fun speaker who can give your audience the tools to be happier and more productive at work? Then let’s work together to take your event’s happiness up a few notches.
  1. Ask all your co-workers for their best joke. The best one gets a cup of coffee on you.
  2. Find 10 simple things to be thankful for (your soft chair, your computer turning on and working, your co-worker who helped you avoid a mistake, your lunch, your desk holding everything up, your breath for keeping you alive, etc.)
  3. Do something kid like and create a “show and tell” Friday.
  4. Answer the question, “Why do I enjoy this job?”
  5. Start a book club that meets once a month.
  6. Take a 5 minute break to move around every hour.
  7. Have a child paint a picture to take into the office.
  8. Ask your boss for positive feedback.
  9. Stretch at your desk for five minutes.
  10. Bring in your old magazines and put them in the lunchroom for someone else to read.
  11. Laugh at yourself.
  12. Give a copy of your favorite book to the employee who annoys you the most.
  13. Celebrate everyone’s birthday – tailor it to their likes.
  14. Dress up like it’s a special day.
  15. Celebrate a big contract or completion of a project by having music, dancing and a prize of a dinner for two.
  16. Announce to your team/office that you are giving away a prize to the most creative solution to a specific problem that you are having. (Prize could be a giftcard, lunch, or your favorite book.)
  17. Move a friend’s objects around on their desk as a fun little joke. (Make sure that you are good friends, so they don’t see it as mean-spirited.)
  18. Wash a co-worker’s car during your lunch.
  19. Have a dress-up day on a random day (besides Halloween).
  20. Switch jobs with someone in your department for a day.
  21. Have a 15 minute exercise break for the whole office.
  22. Write a letter to the most famous person in your industry asking for one piece of advice.
  23. Do a 1 minute relaxation exercise that makes you look weird (like yoga nostril breathing), but you don’t care because you’re relieving stress.
  24. Have a coloring contest – it brings back the “kid in school” feeling.
  25. Make a cup of hot tea for a co-worker.
  26. Offer to let someone else borrow your lucky “object” for the day (figurine, photo, etc.).
  27. Bring in a carved design in a piece of fruit (what type of fruit depends on the season).
  28. Ask to switch desks with someone for a day.
  29. Set-up a team meeting with donuts to share ideas.
  30. Wear all white.
  31. Watch a YouTube video on “Office Pranks”.
  32. Give every co-worker a special rock or flower that you picked for them and tell them why they got the rock that you gave them.
  33. Bring in a board game and play it during lunch.
  34. Write a “thank you” note to your favorite client, customer, or business.
  35. Ask someone if you can decorate their desk.
  36. Do your boss’s or co-worker’s most hated task.
  37. Throw a party for everyone in the office. Give one reason why you appreciate each person and that’s why you are throwing a party for everyone.
  38. Decorate your desk with things you care about.
  39. Bring in face paints and paint employees’ and customers’ faces.
  40. Bring in a cool piece of original art from home and display it in the office.
  41. Create a company song.
  42. Ask one person what their favorite animal is and why.
  43. Bring in Trivial Pursuit cards and ask people questions. If they get it right, they win a piece of candy.
  44. Do a 2 minute meditation in a quiet spot.
  45. Walk up to your nearest co-worker and give them an honest compliment.
  46. On your way home, plan a route that will take you by your favorite local landmark.
  47. Ask a co-worker to teach you a skill of theirs that you’ve admired.
  48. Make a list of 10 things that make you happy at work.
  49. Allow yourself to start fresh at this moment. Nothing that happened earlier in the day matters any more.
  50. Ask a co-worker who has admired your skill if they want you to teach them how to do it themselves.
  51. Use the phrase “I choose…” whenever you catch yourself saying “I need…”
  52. Make your tomorrow’s “to do” list at the end of today.
  53. Ask yourself, “How would my favorite person in all of history handle this situation and go do it.”
  54. Ask someone to share a story about their favorite career moment.
  55. Ask someone to be your mentor for the month. (Extend it if you both enjoy the experience.)
  56. Show up to work 10 minutes early so you can ease into your day.
  57. Admit to a co-worker that you made a mistake and that you were sorry. A clear conscious can do wonders for your happiness.
  58. Organize your desk.
  59. Draw a silly picture for a co-worker just for fun.
  60. Bring in a ten pack of bubbles to the office and give them away.
  61. Ask someone if they could be a part of any moment in history, what would it be.
  62. Smile at everyone and keep doing it for the whole day.
  63. Create an email meme that compliments 3 of your co-workers and/or customers and ask them to compliment 3 people.
  64. Just be in this moment and realize how lucky you are to be alive, breathing, helping, sharing, eating, drinking, laughing, crying, screaming, loving, and being you.

What would you add to make this list even better? 102 tips would be awesome. Just leave your tip in the comments below, either something you’ve been wanting to try or have tried in the past.

If you would like to be happier and more productive at work, you probably should check out the Unlock Your Passions free e-course. It takes you step by step through what you need to bring more passion into your career.

Top Reasons to Provide a Catered Lunch for Your Employees

IMG_3047I know what you’re thinking! With the economy as bad as it is you’re probably asking yourself, “It’s an employer’s market, so why would I spend the extra money to give my employees a free lunch when I can pocket it instead?” and you know, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that. But you may also be costing yourself money in ways unseen.

Give a Boost to Employee Morale

When employee’s love their job and morale is high, employees feel the most loyal to the company they work for. This means the grass doesn’t look quite as green on the other side of the fence, and they stop looking for a job with better benefits or higher pay. This results in a lower turnover of your core workforce. When employees are good at what they do, they make you money, when they’re not, they cost you. If providing lunch everyday can boost employee morale and build company loyalty it may end up saving you money in the long run.
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Hire Happy People and Teach Them the Rest

happy-employeesWhen I first started this blog in 2008, I was  prone to depression. I literally felt like I had those huge ankle weights holding me down. Those days don’t happen very much any more. Over the years of studying work happiness, I’ve learned about life happiness, too.

I still feel sad like everyone else. No one can avoid sadness, but my sadness doesn’t last as long as it used to.

Core Happiness

The more work I’ve put into my core happiness, the more resilient I feel. When I fail, I don’t take it as hard as I used to. I shake it off and try something else. It’s this trait that all happy people seem to possess. They never let things bring them so far down that they just give up.

Just so we are clear, I’m not talking about hiring people who aren’t phased by failure. I’m talking about hiring the resilient people who can get knocked down and find a way to see a positive and build on it.
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