Breaking News: Happy Outperforms Grumpy

Mark Sagor


While we do not have access to the performance appraisals Snow White might have completed for Happy and Grumpy , the business research consistently demonstrates that happy employees produce more, miss less work, are less likely to quit and make a greater commitment to their jobs than grumpy employees.

In their recent review of this research in the Harvard Business Review, Gretchen Speitzer and Christine Porath suggest that the term for being highly productive, energized and happy in your job should be thriving which reflects vitality rather than the term content which connotes complacency. Thriving employees are anything but complacent – they may even have a bit of an edge to their high energy personas – but they do know how to avoid stress and burnout.

The research has shown that there are four key measures that organizations can take to help employees thrive at work:

1. Let employees make decisions. Employees at all levels are energized by the sense of empowerment and control that comes from being able to make decisions that affect their work and how they get it done. Feeling trapped and micro-managed contributes significantly to stress and burnout.

2. Have an information sharing strategy. Employees appreciate getting ongoing information about how their work fits with the larger organization’s mission and strategy. People work harder when they understand their role in the company’s success. Keeping employees out of the loop is a form of disrespect that breeds stress and resentment.

3. Give feedback. Then give more feedback. Feedback is not only a crucial channel for employee learning but also a channel for reducing uncertainty about company goals, priorities and business performance. Uncertainty contributes to stress and dissatisfaction.

4. Have a zero tolerance policy on incivility. Ask any EAP and they will tell you that employees who are the targets of incivility will often reduce effort and work quality suffers. A target of incivility may become a perpetrator and increase the damage caused. Incivility leads to stress and can contribute to the development of depression.

The relationship between stress, happiness and productivity is no fairy tale. Do your organization a favor by promoting a culture that gives Happy the respect he deserves.