February 25, 2011
Is "happy employee" a myth?
Being healthy does not mean that one has never been sick. It means that one has had many more healthy days than the days in which one has been sick. Similarly, a happy employee does not mean one has never had any problems at work. It means their chances of having a fulfilling work day are higher.
Happiness is an emotion and hence it’s a very personal thing. It is a state of mind. Different people will be happy (or otherwise) in different situations. Some of them are induced by the workplace and some by their personal circumstances.
Therefore it is very difficult to generalize it for anyone – be it an employee or an entrepreneur.
So, how an employee can be happy?
1) By not working!
2) By adapting to organization and people
3) By aligning needs with goals
Let us try to understand them in a little but more detail:
Everyone has a desire to achieve something in the given profession. They want to make a difference in a given way and want to make a living out of that. This is a great approach for a perfectly happy work life. Most people use the word “work” to specify something that one has to do for making a living. But, when you do something you are passionate about, you are not working! You are doing it because it makes you happy.
Unfortunately, on several occasions, the immediate need overpowers passion and the dream is lost. The fulfillment of immediate needs, which is mostly derived due to peer comparison, is a great feeling. This mostly revolves around money, benefits, quality of life, position and power. They look so attractive that most people are forced to believe it to be the goal of their career. People end up choosing a job which they are not particularly happy with but it pays well. Does the story of engineers doing MBAs sound familiar to you?
The by-product of a career becomes the end purpose of the career and the desire is killed. And, in doing so, play is transformed to work.
If people do not let these forces of immediate needs drive them, they can surely have a happy career.
P.S.: To make sure that employees really make the difference, it is most important that the goals of the organization and that of the employee align with each other. Else, it will end up in work, work and more work!
Adapting to organization and people
It is common to see that when someone joins an organization, they shower all praises for the same and its management team. Then gradually he becomes indifferent to the same and takes it for granted. And finally he starts hating it. It is time to look for a new job!
So the question is: Has the person changed? Has the company changed?
Neither of them may have changed.
What has changed? – Perception.
Every organization and human being looks great at the first instance, simply because everyone wants to present their best self. However, as the relationship grows, both learn more about each other. When the person is unable to take the new found perception of the organization in stride, dissatisfaction grows.
No organization is perfect. No human being is perfect. It is critical to adapt.
Similarly, to be happy at work, one needs to see things holistically. When we look at things by stepping in someone else’s shoe, we understand things better and are able to adapt to the members of the organization. Heartaches and frustration can be avoided, and meaningful discussions can be made by doing so.
Aligning goals with needs
A good organization can manage the hierarchy of needs in the workplace. But how can we manage the same beyond that, i.e. in personal life?
This question is more crucial as the demarcation between work life and personal life is rapidly fading in most organization. I do not see this as a problem, because for a happy employee, work and personal life cannot be separated because they pursue work to satisfy their personal goals.
Therefore it is not necessary to demarcate work and personal life. But it is critical that personal goals and needs are well aligned to the work life.
It needs major functional change (and scalability) in the human resource management framework of companies. And the employee needs to have clear unbiased focus on personal and professional priorities.
This is easier said than done!
So, the happy employee is a possibility. There are happy employees, but less in numbers. Even if companies desire, they cannot scale and customize the human resource framework to make majority of the employees happy. Also, it may not be possible for every employee to follow passion and adapt. Both factors put together make “happy employee” a rare phenomenon, thus raising the question – “Is the happy employee a myth?”