Cultivating Joy in the Workplace

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Traditionally, employers approached benefits, programs and even initiatives to improve company culture as a zero-sum game.  The assumption was that for employees to gain something meant that the employer had to lose something.  And usually, that “something” was measured in dollars in their mind. 

But the workplace today is rapidly changing and a more progressive view of work, and the happiness and engagement of employees is emerging.  Employers are beginning to realize that not only are happy and engaged employees not a zero-sum game, that quite the opposite is true.  Increasingly, employers, managers and HR departments see employee engagement and happiness as the opposite of zero-sum and view it as a genuine investment in business profitability.  And as they do, they are willing to look for ways to create and foster joy in the workplace.

Is Your Communication a Funnel or Freeway?

Before a company can seek joy in the workplace, they must first change their linear, one-way communication into a constantly fluid back and forth exchange of ideas.  In short, they must turn their funnel into a freeway where, instead of a narrow, one-way flow of information from the employees to the manager, that information exchange becomes a two-way, multi-lane freeway of communication, ideas and transparent business practices.  Now, the question is how do you get there from here?

There is no set road map to make this happen and often it will vary from employer to employer due to the nature of the business.  However, there are some basic guidelines that may help point the way to a joyous workplace.

Leading the way

To create joy in the workplace, here are a few things to consider:

Leadership - As with any part of a company’s culture, the attitude of leadership is key to the success of the program.  They must be willing to cultivate joy not just at work, but in their own lives as well.  They must “walk the walk” as an example for employees to buy into joy as a part of the culture.  The setting must be appealing and comfortable, as well as motivating- everything from the wall color, artwork and furnishings must be considered.

Open Up – In addition to advocating and creating the right infrastructure, leaders should “open up” as well.  If others see what makes their boss joyful, they will be more likely to do the same, and that positive influence can be contagious.  Photos, mementos and personal items that connect employees to the things in their life are healthy to have and can open up discussions that lets them talk about things that are important to them and give them joy.

Personalized Incentives - Since employees differ from one another, it may also be time to look at the type of incentives given for a job well done.  The time of “one size fits all” may need to be retired and rewards based on the individual and what motivates them take the forefront of any recognition program.  By personalizing the incentive, the manager and the company is telling the employee that it knows them as an individual and that they have different needs and desires than other employees. 

Avoid Burnout - Employee burnout is a morale killer, and managers must constantly be on the lookout.  To help avoid burnout as an issue, leadership needs to be comfortable in demonstrating and promoting emotional skills that nurture joy, empathy, generosity and humility. 

Tailor Recognition -  It is important to note that while recognition is a great thing for employee morale, it may be best to keep it to a private conversation between the manager and the employee.  While publicly announcing a big “way to go” in front of peers sounds like a great idea, a slippery slope may be created if someone else involved in the project was unintentionally overlooked and doesn’t get the same recognition by the boss. 

Building the Right Team - But what happens when someone isn’t a “fit” or is a negative influence and is causing the joy to leave the office?  This is bound to happen on occasion as not everyone is going to be the perfect person for the job or fit for the company.  Sometimes an employee can turn it around and bounce back, but not always.  When this does happen, it will need to be dealt with as quickly as possible while leaving the person’s dignity and honor intact.  Nothing is a greater morale buster than an employee that has a cloud of negativity following them around and affecting others.

Hiring for Joy - On the front end, it is better to take the time to hire the right person for the job and to look for someone who wants to help cultivate joy and expects it as part of the job description.  There is a saying that goes along the lines of “employees don’t leave companies, companies leave people”.

Happy employees are more productive, more creative and less likely to leave.  If joy is made a primary focus of the workplace, the reward is a stable work force with less turnover; for any opening(s) that do occur (hopefully from growth), current staff will be happy to recommend people for the jobs or people will flock to apply by word of mouth.

Transform your communication from funnel to freeway with Five to Nine. Request a demo and learn about how the platform can help your organization gather feedback.

Pedro Suarez