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Make Work a Happy Place

Make Work

A recent study revealed that the key to human happiness is the ability to live in the moment and place less emphasis on the future and the past. Our obsessive preoccupation with the past or future is a significant burden that limits our happiness during life. The study indicates that our stress over past events and our worry about the future harm our current satisfaction. Furthermore, the ability to live in the current moment and search for the contentment of the present is a critical key to deliberate joy and happiness.

In business, these extremes become more amplified. Our need to learn from historical trends or undesirable events has made managers more preoccupied with blame than perspective. We have difficulty confronting the truth honestly for our organizations. Communication has become more filtered, and unfiltered honesty is exceedingly rare. Accountability is confused with blame, and trust is scarce among employees and organizational leaders.

Additionally, the over speculation about the future can be equally demoralizing for the team. The emotional strain created by the economic fluctuations can significantly kill morale and impact current productivity. The corporate fear of recession becomes lost productivity on the front lines. Wasted organizational energy over possibilities that may or may not occur becomes the "boat anchor" to productivity and profitability.

Though simple in concept, the answer is more challenging in the application. Emphasizing employee morale to derive enhanced productivity is not revolutionary as a concept. Yet, many companies create an environment that rewards managers for activities that inhibit individual productivity. Simply put, most organizations do not consider the collection of personal morale as the cumulative output for the organization. These corporate policies have an incredibly significant and detrimental impact on the collective happiness of the team. The most demoralizing of all policies is the "blanket" or "zero-tolerance" policies designed to punish everyone for the negative actions of the few. Fear of corporate litigation (future) and precedent actions (past) lead to an unhappy workforce and workplace.

Again, too many companies focus on the output rather than creating an environment that promotes work. Modern managers have not learned to nurture a fertile climate for better productivity. These supervisors emphasize results instead of activities that lead to results. This misguided emphasis rewards the lucky and can severely punish the committed people on the team.

Teaching corporate managers to emphasize the moment without neglecting the future or the business plan is analogous to focusing on today's game "first" as the path to winning the season. Winning at business is about performance in the present moment. Neglecting the now to win later has no logical basis. The old cliché still rings true that a happy employee is a productive employee, yet so many businesses fail to get the fact that there are no shortcuts or quick fixes on the path to success. Your team's happiness holds the key to the success of your business.

The leader's role is to direct the team's attention toward something. The first step in finding happiness in business is to turn off/tune out distractions to focus on the task at hand. By doing so, leaders promote the state of flow more often with people doing the work. Flow describes moments of total absorption when you become so focused on the task that everything else falls away. I use training devices (like puzzles) to get people into this mental state during my leadership training.

The following method to achieving a happy workplace is changing the daily routine. It may sound counter-intuitive since humans love a pattern; however, doing the same thing day in and day out is a straightforward way to make your brain rebel against you and prevent living in the moment. Changing mental schemas at work will keep the brain engaged. I teach supervisors to create a state of positive discomfort with teams. This state happens to be just outside of a person's comfort zone. A standard method to achieve this is to assign people with mundane jobs to essential projects or initiatives.

Another method to improve happiness at work is decompression time. Simple activities like an unexpected pizza party for lunch are beautiful methods to decompress during stressful times. Guest speakers about relevant topics help distract people from stress and allow decompression simultaneously. One of my favorite examples is a humorous magician. It is up to the leader to be aware of the need to decompress, just like a coach calls time out when the game needs a pause.

It is up to the supervisor (hopefully a leader) to set the tone in the "thoughtmosphere." What people think becomes influenced by the information the leader provides. Nature resists a vacuum. If positive messaging by the leader does not happen, the negative information will take its place in people's minds. Simply put, leaders control the narrative. A preshift huddle with a positive message creates good thoughts for your people.

Antifragility means you benefit from stressors. When challenging circumstances occur on the job, it is up to the leaders to message the response. Blame and victimization are opposite to getting benefits from stress. Look for the good in failure. When a leader emphasizes the positive in a negative situation, the team becomes redirected toward opportunity.

Finally, leaders control the framing of reality. I remind people of the euphoria that often accompanies getting selected for a new job. Remember that moment when your brain rewarded you chemically for being desired as a new employee with a company. You were the chosen one, and you still are. Counting our blessings is a choice we all get to make. Leaders remind us to do so from time to time.