Does aiming for employee happiness undermine engagement?

Many studies over the years have proven that satisfied/happy employees are more profitable.

The result has been the increase of entitlements and entitlement programs with tangible results.

What if this evidence leads us to short term gains that are unsustainable?

Happy Happy People

Happy Happy People

Here is my theory – when we use incentive based leadership, we can measure a short term impact that can be quantified into a ROI. This encourages a focus on satisfaction and externalities.

A sustainable approach would involve creating an intrinsic motivation that is self determined by employees. They would have a sense of belonging to something bigger. They attach themselves to the mission of the organization and to the people they work with.

Our practices of short term ‘happy measures’ may in fact work against the sustainable leadership approach.

Sears started this when they demonstrated a ratio of profitability correlated to employee satisfaction. Does this foundation of evidence lead us to bad practices?

I am definitely not the first to consider this:
Paul Kearns is Director of PWL



Filed under Employee Surveys, Leadership

5 responses to “Does aiming for employee happiness undermine engagement?

  1. The trouble is the definition of happiness! Feeling a part of something bigger, having the possibility of contributing, being listened to all create happiness and engagement in collaborators and clientes alike!

    One of my clients, a pharmaceutical competing with the giants offered doctors an opportunity to join medical teams travelling to remote places to offer services in communities with no access to medicine (in place of glamorous travel and high-end gift they could not compete with), they were overbooked in no time and the workforce was so proud of being a part of this paradigm shift!

  2. Great example. Thanks Monica!

  3. Pingback: 2010 in review | ListenTo Lead

  4. Joe

    Based on my reading, Seth Godin thinks being part of a tribe is the most important factor to happiness in the work place. The real trick is how to generate a tribal community in a work place.

    I have been learning about Leverage Software… a company that offers white labeled enterprise social media solutions (kind of like Yammer, but better and less expensive). That kind of tool could be the ticket to generating the feeling of connectedness that companies are looking for.

  5. Hi Joseph,

    Community would correlate strongly with sense of belonging, security and identity. The trick is how do you make that tribe/community/team purposeful. The culture and collective direction of the team can turn that connectedness into corporate performance.

    Other sofware/tools that can help build community Social Text and Thought Farmer. Both very good at what they do!

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