Annie McKee: Who is responsible for happiness at work?

Annie McKee

Life is too short to be unhappy at work, but is it a manager’s responsibility to ensure that employees are fulfilled, excited and passionate about what they do, or is happiness something they must tend to on their own?

Happiness at work starts with the individual. True, colleagues can be difficult, and the pressure of today’s 24/7 work takes a toll, but when it comes to finding meaning, feeling hopeful and creating great relationships, it is up to each person to build self-awareness, monitor their mindset and take action to improve their own and others’ experiences.

Still, the best leaders know that their employees’ happiness, not to mention their own, has a direct relationship with productivity and collective success. Managers, therefore, should support employees on the path to happiness.

Great leaders take personal responsibility for shaping the emotional tone of the team or organisation. Emotions spread like wildfire, and a climate that is defined by passion, caring and commitment to excellence brings out the best in people.

Resonant leaders ensure that employees know their efforts make a difference, and that they are contributing to goals that are important and meaningful. To do this, managers take the time to explicitly appreciate team members’ work. They know that a simple, heartfelt ‘thank you’ goes a long way to making employees feel valued.

Leaders who encourage happiness at work build commitment to rules of engagement that are founded on emotional intelligence. Through modelling and reward, these outstanding leaders create a culture where each person’s viewpoints and feelings matter, where respect for one another is a given and where great relationships are seen as a must, not a nice-to-have.

While it is true that, in the end, each person can and must take actions to be happier at work, leaders can have a tremendous impact on their employees’ happiness and productivity. Understanding this, and making happiness a priority, is how great leaders get great results.

Annie McKee, PhD, is a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and author of How to be happy at work: the power of purpose, hope and friendships