When it comes to assessing employee engagement or “contentment,” every consultancy offers a different measure.
One claims it’s about having a best friend (among other factors). Some point to the amount of discretionary effort workers exert – willingly. “It’s all about the manager-employee relationship, in part, how well your boss supports you,” say a number of other experts. At its extreme, happiness can be translated, simply, into higher pay and company-sponsored outings. [That was the solution for Foxconn, the Taiwanese contract manufacturer that experienced worker suicides not so long ago.]
Then there’s the constant dialogue about the differences between generations – surveyed Millennials, for example, rated their managers more highly than Boomers did – among diverse populations, and in different geographies.
It’s no wonder that work happiness is under discussion.
Our point of view (and you know we have one): Friend after friend, story upon story tells us that meaningful and self-empowered work makes the difference in productivity and engagement. No, it’s not a statistically significant study. On the other hand, these anecdotes are very personal and very powerful. Listen to the comments:
“I quit my job because life is too short; I wasn’t making a difference.”
“My boss was a micromanager. In the end, I couldn’t please her – and when a recruiter called, I hurried.”
“The work was boring. I’d spend hours surfing. And no one cared.”
Even in this challenged economy, workers, whenever they can, are opting out – to join other companies, to do their own thing, even to take sabbaticals. It’s about the purpose of, the meaning behind, and the contribution to work. Twenty-first century trend-seers have already pegged the issue, from Daniel Pink to Stephen Covey. And a handful of corporations are experiencing true engagement – and worker happiness, like Southwest Airlines, W.L. Gore, Zappos.
Happiness, in short, is no longer a warm puppy.