Profiting From Happiness

An acquaintance asked me many years ago, “Which do you prefer, Sundays or Mondays?”

At the time, the answer was obvious: Sunday’s activities were much better than Monday’s toil. And my interrogator’s preference for the workweek simply confirmed my impression of him as an overly materialistic boor who neglected his family.

Fifteen years and two jobs later, my perspective has changed. I still cherish my weekends and family, but Mondays are better than ever. My shift in attitude didn’t happen by accident; my bosses and my colleagues had a lot to do with it. When you work in a place with a positive, team atmosphere, it is fun to come to work. When you work with supportive supervisors and colleagues, you want to succeed. In simple terms, you are happier.

But some bosses might say that they aren’t in the happiness business. Their argument might be: “I pay people for productivity. If they are unhappy, I’ll show them the door.” Well, that attitude is perfect — for the 20th Century.

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Those who haven’t been living on the dark side of the moon have heard the overwhelming evidence that happy workers are more productive and creative than unhappy ones, less likely to call in sick, steal from the company or dynamite your mission statement. When morale is high, employees are less likely to quit, saving you the time and expense of recruiting and training good replacements.

“But happiness is too expensive,” the 20th Century Boss might argue. “I’d go out of business if I caved to every whim of every employee.”

Absolutely true. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, you can please some of your workers all of the time, and all of your workers some of the time, but you can’t please all of your workers all of the time. And a lot of what makes employees happy – higher pay, better benefits and luxurious workplaces – cost big bucks.

But some things that boost morale are free or pay for themselves, such as compliments, listening to and acting upon workers’ worthwhile suggestions, giving your best employees more control over their jobs, flex hours, telecommuting when possible, and much more. These things are not a miracle cure, but they work a lot better in a recession than a couple of aspirin. Or doing nothing.

Hawaii Business’ bestseller every year is our April issue on Hawaii’s Best Places to Work. I’m pretty sure that’s because many people are desperate to find a decent and flexible workplace where they are respected and valued.

Talented people know they have a choice about where to work, and they see our Best Places issue as an excellent guide to finding first-class local companies and nonprofits. Participating companies see the Best Places survey as a valuable way to learn what their employees are thinking – and it’s free. A nominal fee will get you an even more comprehensive report. The intelligence helps those companies fix personnel problems before they become disasters, and it helps them understand how to retain their effective employees.

You’ve got nothing to lose and plenty to gain by signing up at for a free workplace analysis. We do the heavy lifting by surveying your employees and compiling the results. With what you learn, you might get a new title: Best Boss.

Categories: Editor’s Note