Three Trends in Happiness at Work in 2016
Listen to Episode 63:
Episode 63 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of success, on the web at www.BusinessAdvance.com − and now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and with me is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi, Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. It’s great to be here with you again for yet another episode of Growth Igniters Radio, and if this is your first time listening, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves and their companies to their next level of success. So Pam, what are we talking about today?
Pam Harper: A look at trends on happiness in the workplace in 2016. We’re seeing some really exciting trends that more companies across every industry are increasingly focusing on happiness and how it impacts attracting and retaining top talent, innovation, and momentum for accelerating growth.
Scott Harper: Okay. This is happening in companies of every size across a whole wide range of industries.
Pam Harper: That’s the first trend.
Scott Harper: That’s right, and in fact, we just read a front page article in The Wall Street Journal about this.. It says “Millennial Employees Confound Wall Street. To stem departures, big investment banks are tweaking delayed-gratification models.”
Pam Harper: So now, you can look at that as a negative, but…
Scott Harper: Well, yeah.
Pam Harper: … We see it as something a little different.
Scott Harper: The title does have a bit negative slant, but there’s good news if you read between the lines. A few years ago, happiness in the workplace on Wall Street wasn’t being addressed in the same way.
Pam Harper: Not in the same way. No.
Scott Harper: Not in the same way. They did incentives and perks and all that, but when companies like Goldman Sachs are starting to reexamine decades old workplace practices, this just really says something about profound changes in society, in the workplace and how happiness is being fact more and more into this is a top line and a bottom line thing.
Pam Harper: Absolutely. This is a huge issue. We see it as a good trend − that it’s optimistic, even if it’s phrased in as a “this is a problem” way. Of course, there’s always going to be a continuation of this, so we’ll be interested in looking at this next year to see where things are at [regarding taking happiness at work into account].
Scott Harper: That’s right.
Pam Harper: A second trend that we’re seeing is greater flexibility in how work is getting done, and a much more individualized approach to shaping jobs that are giving more meaning and purpose to the work. This is a very important thing.
Scott Harper: If people have impact on shaping their jobs and making them fit their own style, it just gives them a sense of more control, more autonomy, and a lot of research has shown that that really has profound impact on satisfaction and happiness.
Pam Harper: Focusing on roles and accountabilities as opposed to the tasks, how we get things done, the responsibilities − this is a very good trend, and we expect that we’ll see much more of that, especially as we look at it next year.
Scott Harper: The third trend that we’re seeing is a growing emphasis on collaboration and co-creation. It’s been happening for a long time; we’ve have teams and so on, [but this is different].
Pam Harper: The twist I think that’s really interesting here is the partnering with stakeholders that are outside the formal organization.
Now people may be saying, “Wait a moment. I thought you were talking about happiness…”
Scott Harper: That’s right, but if I have − as a worker at any level − have an ability to have a real role in creating the work, working with other people − because relationships are a big part of happiness − not just doing the work, but shaping the work we do − that does create happiness. It creates engagement. It creates commitment, and again, big impacts on top and bottom line. Speed, momentum − it’s all there.
Pam Harper: So, if we know that happiness is so important for companies to be successful, what makes happiness so difficult?
Scott Harper: Ah-hah. That’s the question. We use the word “happiness” an awful lot…
Pam Harper: I went to the dictionary and I saw that it’s associated with joy and contentment and well-being, so you can see that these things are really pretty subjective. I mean, what is joyful to me may not be joyful to you, and to a certain extent, these kinds of situations are defined by society and trends and culture, which is constantly shifting. It brings up a paradox, which is the need for happiness is universal, but each person’s journey to happiness is completely unique.
Scott Harper: That’s right. You have a universal thing that’s not universal at all in some ways, and that’s why parties and perks of various types − free food, etc. − that could make some people at some companies happy, sure, but other people go, “Eh, so what.” They’re not happy at all about that.
Pam Harper: Exactly. It’s as individual as the person, which is a real dilemma. What do you do about this?
Scott Harper: Yeah. If you’re a leader trying to increase happiness, what levers can you pull?
Pam Harper: You can’t pull any levers. That’s for sure. But − there are some factors that we’ve seen that make a huge difference for almost everybody − and that’s how people perceive relationships in the workplace, and also their sense of personal control. For as long as I’ve ever been doing this work, I will say that when people have left their jobs or they’ve been looking for a new one, more often than not, people would tell me it was about the relationship or something that had to do with their sense of personal control.
For example, a while back, one of our clients was being acquired by another company, and everyone in that company was going to lose their jobs when the company closed its doors. It was a very interesting challenge for the leadership, which, of course, needed a very smooth transition. They had to make some go big or go home kinds of decisions about how they were going to keep people in place. They didn’t know exactly when the doors were going to close. They could not say.
Scott Harper: It wasn’t immediate.
Pam Harper: It wasn’t immediate. What they decided to do was to address head on the fact that people were going to have to deal with a lot of uncertainty, but in return for that uncertainty because they wanted them to stay, they gave them a chance to process some of what was going on. We worked with them to go throughout the company in multiple ways to help these people at different levels to process what was happening and reframe the situation, so that they could make some new decisions about how they were going to personally move forward, each and every person, which was over 100 people.
Scott Harper: Yeah. That gets back to the sense of autonomy and some control. “Even though I’m going to lose my job, at least I’m starting to get some control over this process.”
Pam Harper: The company didn’t close their doors in that location for 9 months, and they only lost 1 person during that time, so everybody stayed on. We’re talking like 100 people.
Scott Harper: Wow. Big impact.
Pam Harper: A big impact, and the level of productivity and the performance of the people at that location was very high.
Scott Harper: So involving people, giving them some control − increasing happiness even in a difficult situation has a huge impact.
Pam Harper: Right. We’re not talking about people going around with grins on their faces, but we are talking about a certain amount of centeredness and a certain level of contentment that things are going to be okay. These kinds of things happen and can happen regardless of what the latest trends are.
Scott Harper: Sure.
Pam Harper: In fact, about a year ago, we spoke with our friend, Gayle Lantz, about some more universal factors that influence happiness at work, and what leaders and individuals can do to increase their happiness no matter what the situation is. We thought it would be appropriate to bring back a portion of that conversation, which was in Episode 8, so she could talk again to all of us about some things that I think are very important.
Gayle is founder of Work Matters Incorporated, and is a leadership expert who helps executives, teams, and organizations improve performance. She’s also author of the book, Take the Bull by the Horns, and co-author of a best selling book on Amazon called The Happiness Recipe. Her articles and insights have been featured in a variety of major media and business publications, including Harvard Management Update, Business Week, Wall Street Journal Online, and Fastcompany.com.
So let’s take a break for a moment, and then we’ll pick up with excerpts from our conversation with Gayle Lantz about the roots of happiness and how to tap into sources of happiness for a richer life at work and in the world at large. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You are listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, on the web at www.BusinessAdvance.com.
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Pam Harper: Yes, yes.
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Pam Harper: Yes. Thanks.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio, with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re talking with Gayle Lantz, founder of Work Matters, about workplace happiness and why it has such an important impact on business success. Gayle, how can people find you?
Gayle Lantz: The best way to find me is simply going to the website www.workmatters.com.
Pam Harper: It’s filled with all kinds of resources; it’s a great website.
Let’s get to the heart of the issue here. Why aren’t more people happy at work? There are plenty of companies, as we said, that give parties, they offer good salaries, they offer all kinds of perks, all in the interest of making people happy − and it’s well intentioned − and yet people can still be unhappy, even under these conditions.
Gayle Lantz: That’s right. I think some people are just unhappy anywhere, so you have to rule out the few that probably have made up their mind that that’s just how they’re going to be regardless of the situation.
Pam Harper: So in a way it sounds like you’re saying that for some people, it’s their internal thermostat in a sense. Is that right?
Gayle Lantz: I think it is. There are some people, I think, who are a little more naturally wired to be optimistic. You have to be really cautious about getting people into your workplace who really don’t have that spirit and attitude that you’re looking for, because that can permeate the rest of the organization, affect the culture. I think you have a mix of different kinds of people in the workplace and you do have to just pay attention to the natural attitude, to how they’re wired, is how I like to capture that.
Scott Harper: You’re looking for the glass half full people as opposed to the glass half empty people…
Gayle Lantz: Yes, for their own sake, because they’ll typically rise to the occasion and perform well, but they can also be such a positive influence across the organization.
Scott Harper: What about people who do see the glass as half empty, or “it’s completely full, but half of it is air, and I can’t drink that”? What can leaders do, what can the individual do, if they have that propensity or if they feel stressed or uncertain, [and] they’re not satisfied? Are we just saying, “no hope”?
Gayle Lantz: Not necessarily. I think one of the best things that you can do is to try to bring them into the conversation and to talk openly about the issues. A lot of times I see people, or leaders in particular who really don’t want to or don’t know how to address the negativity. They just hope it will go away. “Can we just shuffle it under the rug,” or they’ll wait another week because things are so busy right now − they’ll focus on it later. I think one of the best things that you can do is address it head on. Don’t let it fester, because it will become more poisonous the longer you let that attitude permeate the organization.
I do a lot of one-on-one executive coaching; and so [for example] one executive who was dealing with a difficult person was able to have a heart-to-heart conversation and identify exactly what it was that was creating some of the stress and the negativity in the office. For one thing, they stated it as a behavior that they noticed, which is a good tip for leaders. You always want to talk about the behavior, not the person. Once the leader pointed that out, the other person opened up and started explaining why they felt that way. Anytime you can have a person articulate what’s going on in their mind, understand how they’re thinking, you have a better shot as a leader at being able to impact them in a positive way.
They were essentially able to air a lot of the information out in the open. Wrapping it around the intent of wanting the best for everyone involved is another theme that I often preach to clients that I’m working with. Some of these conversations are so sensitive, and leaders are afraid to get into that territory; but if you lead the conversation in a way that says “Hey I just want to make sure that we’re focused on what’s best for everyone involved here − for you, for us. Let’s talk about some issues so that we can work together on helping us get where we need to be.” That way it’s pulling them in as a team, as opposed to “I can’t handle your attitude.”
Pam Harper: It’s interesting that sometimes we think as leaders that we know what the answer is going to be. You’re talking about opening up; every once in a while I’ve seen leaders be very surprised by the response. I remember one time when leaders were particularly mystified by something that was going on. There was one company, and they couldn’t understand why people were so upset. They thought they knew what was happening. But it turned out that when they started talking as you’re describing, that the people were actually seeing things happening that were going on, because the company was growing, [and] people misinterpreted − thought that company was going out of business − because they could not figure what was happening. The leaders were absolutely dumbfounded; “how could this possibly be that they would think that,” and yet that happens a lot. We think we know what somebody thinks, and then we have to hear what they tell us in order to really get behind it and address it effectively.
Gayle Lantz: That’s right. There’s a lot of room for misinterpretation.
Scott Harper: Being aware of behaviors that might signal unhappiness − being empathetic and asking the question in a neutral nonjudgmental way − can really free up that information and give you some options. Is that what you’re saying?
Gayle Lantz: That’s exactly what I’m saying. And another radical thought is to view it as an opportunity. When you see those signals, instead of thinking “oh my goodness, I’m going to have to have this difficult confrontation,” to think “this is an opportunity where I’m going to learn something, and I will actually be able to help someone.” That can actually help the overall business. Viewing it as an opportunity to help is a paradigm shift for many leaders that are stressed about having to confront a difficult situation.
Pam Harper: But so important. And I think another thing − and this goes back to your whole basic belief about “work matters” that I love − you talk about how people view their work as maybe the beginning of thinking about how to get out of the unhappiness.
Gayle Lantz: Yes. I think that especially, younger generations are committed to doing work that has meaning to them, compared to some other generations that see work as work − “it’s just something that you do and then you get paid for it and then you go home.” More and more, people − it just happens to be more common I think, in some of the younger generations, but it’s even sometimes as you are approaching your later years though, in your career − they decide “I want to do something that has more meaning and purpose, and I see the value in doing that.” They’re more willing to make changes. They are more willing to stand up for what they believe in and move in a direction that makes sense simply because they’re committed to aligning themselves with that sense of meaning and purpose.
Pam Harper: Good points. It sounds like what we’re saying is that it’s a really important to understand what’s behind the unhappiness in the workplace before you can really address it. You have to understand some of these things can be very surprising − and we can’t make assumptions about them − but there are actually things that we can do. And that’s what we’re going to talk more about in the next segment.
We’re going to take a quick break right now, and when we come back we’ll speak more with Gayle Lantz, founder of Work Matters, about some concrete things that you can do to increase happiness in the workplace − now. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − on the web at www.BusinessAdvance.com. Pam, as we’re talking about happiness, one of the constants we observe is how important open, authentic conversations are to happiness and satisfaction at work, and to life in general. The thing is, though, that sometimes the conversations that really need to happen just don’t happen, for a variety of reasons.
Pam Harper: That’s right. You and I just spoke about this often, and we’ve also written a Harper report titled How To Take Control Of The Elephants In The Room.
Scott Harper: Yes – we talk about how to spot these elephants at a much earlier stage.
Pam Harper: And we give steps you can take to create the conversations that are critical to get back on track and accelerate momentum.
Scott Harper: So go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, select Episode 63, and request your complimentary copy of How to Take Control of the Elephants in the Room.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last 2 segments we’ve been talking with Gayle Lantz, founder of Work Matters Incorporated, about the top and bottom line impact that happiness has on company performance. Also, we’ve been talking in the last segment about the need to understand why people aren’t happier before you just go out and do something. Now we’re ready to talk about the 3 steps to increase happiness in the workplace. But before we do − Gayle, how can people find you and your books?
Gayle Lantz: They can find me at www.workmatters.com, and there you’ll find links to different resources on the site.
Pam Harper: Now that we’ve been talking about some of the background about happiness, the need for it, and all of that, let’s talk about what we can actually do about it so that the listeners − when all of you get off − are going to be able to do something. I want to clarify that the steps that you’re going to be talking about, Gayle, could apply to anybody at any level of a company, correct? Could be a board member, CEO, executive…
Gayle Lantz: Yes. General tips; suggestions.
Pam Harper: Let’s go. What’s the first step?
Gayle Lantz: The first step is to play to your natural strengths and interests. So many times, I’m working with individuals at any level and they may not have clarity about what they do well. If I were to say, “what are the 3 things that you do really well, better than everyone else? Go − off the top of your head,” would you be able to answer that question? A lot of people can’t. They’ll tell me, “Oh well, here’s what I have to do in my job,” and they’ll regurgitate a job description. What they’re not well versed on is articulating who it is that they are, what they really enjoy doing, and what some of their core strengths are. Being able to be aware of what your strengths are so that you can leverage them is one of the first steps. There’s lots of ways to go about gaining more insight about your strengths that we can discuss.
Pam Harper: OK; let’s discuss it.
Gayle Lantz: [One way] might be to take some assessments. There are all kinds of online assessments. Anything from Myers Briggs, Strength Finders, DISC; there are a lot of different popular tools out there, and the whole purpose of engaging with those kinds of tools or assessments is to help you validate or confirm that there’s some key things about yourself that stand out, and to give you some clues about ways in which you can leverage those gifts.
Another way to know what your strengths is simply to have deliberate conversations with people in your network to get feedback from them, and to say “I’ve been thinking about how I’m going about my work, or thinking about next steps. Tell me how you see my work or how you view me.” Your close friends and colleagues would be glad to give you feedback to help you gain more clarity around that.
There are often patterns in our life that we don’t see. One of the exercises that I often have clients go through is to talk about experiences, very specific stories of when they have accomplished something that they’re proud of, or where they felt like they’ve really been in the moment. To dissect those experiences so that they can then draw out those themes and patterns to give them more clarity, so that they can take that into account in their thinking process.
Pam Harper: I like what you’re saying Gayle, and I think that the idea to use maybe a combination of these things sounds like a wonderful way to really get a balanced perspective.
Gayle Lantz: I think so. I think that assessments are simply a tool and a process, [however,] and note that they can be misused too, depending on where you get them or how it’s being administered. They’re simply a tool. They’re just one tool, and there’s a lot of different ways. The whole point, though, is to take some time; it usually does take at least a little thinking time apart from the job to reflect on when you’ve been at your best and to understand why is that, what are the themes, what are the skills, what was in that experience that stands out − that is helping me in gaining more insight about myself.
Pam Harper: That sounds good. Anything else on this, or we ready to go on to the second key?
Gayle Lantz: The second step is to keep your focus on what you can control and influence.
I can’t tell you how many people I meet with where a lot of our conversation is about what they worry about. It might look like this: “I don’t know if I am still in this position a year from now, and I haven’t been promoted, or I’m not at the next level. I’m not sure what I will do, or I’m not sure if there are changes happening. I can’t control them.”
There’s just a lot of uncertainty that’s reflected, and people are so focused on what they don’t know about and they don’t have control over. The more you can focus on what you can do, how you can respond, the better outcome you’ll get. It just doesn’t serve any purpose to continue to worry about those things. If you flip the focus to what you really want to do and make happen, and have a clear vision, then you can actually accelerate your progress toward whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve.
I was just going to add on to that that one of the most common examples I hear are people who can’t control other people. You can talk to some people; you can try to influence, but at the end of the day there are some people who will just be who they are. You have to get to a point where you either accept that or you decide how you will deal with it so that you can accomplish what’s the most important to you. Stay focused on those things that you can control and influence. A lot of times those “other people” are beyond what you can influence.
Pam Harper: That’s true.
Scott Harper: But if we take accountability for our own happiness outside of “those people,” however “those people” are, there are things that we can focus on and do no matter how much or how little control we have, right? That’s what you’re saying.
Gayle Lantz: That’s right. That starts with the decision, the commitment to be happy. I know it’s not as easy as it sounds, but certainly a starting point is recognizing that if you’re not in that place where you want to be, saying “I’m making a decisions that this is something that I’m either working toward or that I’m claiming now,” and that you won’t settle for anything less.
Scott Harper: If you have a personal vision, as you say: “This is what I want to do with my life. This is what satisfies me. How can I get more of that?”
Gayle Lantz: It should actually become easier or less arduous, because you’re moving towards something that makes sense to you, that you want to see happen. So it makes a lot of the other stuff in the periphery fall away that has been bothering you or eating a lot of your brain power.
Pam Harper: What that’s third key?
Gayle Lantz: The third key is to make small improvements over time.
It’s hard to make a radical shift overnight if you’re trying to make or affect major change in your life or your work. Decide what those specific small steps would be. For example, if you’re in a position and you would like to move into a higher level, you can say “For now I’m going to work on this specific skill.” Maybe it’s public speaking; maybe it’s team building; maybe it’s strategic thinking; but to say “I’m just going to focus on strengthening that skill because I know that will help me achieve what I want in the long run,” To go about it as a process instead of having an expectation that things will change overnight is really a key to success.
Anything that’s ever worth getting take some time and persistence, so breaking it in into smaller pieces so that you have a sense of accomplishment along the way will be critical.
Pam Harper: I would agree with you.
One of the things that you’ve launched that’s so clever is My Daily Coach. Can you tell people about that, because it applies to some of what we’re talking about.
Gayle Lantz: Yes, I produce that new app called My Daily Coach, which is a very simple thought or question of the day to just provoke good thinking. It’s designed for leaders and managers who want to be more deliberate about how they’re going about their work in their life. So yes that’s a perfect example of something very small.
Pam Harper: Taking control.
Gayle Lantz: Yes, to me, it all goes back to “take the bull by the horns.” Take control. You can do it. Just small steps.
Pam Harper: That’s right − and it’s free.
Gayle Lantz: Yes, is free.
Pam Harper: Anyway, believe it or not, our time is ending here. I just wanted to ask you − do you have any last thought for now?
Gayle Lantz: I think my last thought would be to view this, as I said, as a process, too know that it’s okay if you’re not sustaining happiness all the time. I think it is good to have as a goal, but to not be too hard on yourself. If you feel like you’re going through some periods where things are just difficult, to view those as stepping stones, as growth opportunities that will help you in the bigger picture. I hope that anyone listening to this will continue to have the motivation to keep moving forward, and not be concerned if they fall into some gaps every now and then, or some slumps, because that’s just part of being human.
Pam Harper: Gayle, thank you again for being our guest; we will definitely have you come back.
Gayle Lantz: Thank you for having me.
Scott Harper: Thanks for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to discuss:
Scott Harper: What’s one thing you can do that could increase happiness at work for yourself, and others?