Being happy in our jobs is often regarded as an accidental bonus: great if it happens, but not a goal in itself. For some managers, fostering employee happiness may take a back seat to productivity, hitting targets, and other practical metrics.
Data shows that happy workers are much more productive and motivated. They engage more with their colleagues and take fewer sick days. Yet, how to make their people happy can be a challenge for even the most well-intentioned leaders.
In its second season, the #ChamberBreakers podcast series is focusing on corporate social responsibility, education, and the workforce at a time of global crisis.
In the fourth episode of this season, Lianna Brinded, head of Yahoo Finance UK, and Xavier White, CSR and innovation marketing manager for Verizon Business, speak to Mo Gawdat, the former chief business officer at Google X, author of international bestseller "Solve for Happy," and host of hit podcast "Slo Mo.”
Gawdat debunks the belief that happiness is a complex science, calling it “highly predictable” and “very straightforward.”
“It's events minus expectations. At the very simplest level, happiness is equal to or greater than the difference between the events of your life and your expectations of how life should be,” Gawdat says. “Happiness at work is that the events of work meet my expectation of work.”
He says the reason we fail to find happiness is because we don’t prioritise it.
“We tell ourselves we want to be happy, but we constantly make decisions that are targeting other things,” he explains. “At work we say ‘happiness doesn't matter.’ If we achieve the target, we will make the bonus, and the bonus will make us happy. How often did that happen?”
“Business growth is actually highly dependent on happiness,” Gawdat adds. “I think most leaders completely ignore that,” he says.
“In today's business, where so much of our success depends on innovation, engagement, interaction with customers and clients and colleagues, happiness is of paramount importance.”
Gawdat’s success at Google “wasn't that I was the clever one,” rather that he created a happy environment, where people could thrive and contribute.
“Happiness at work, in my view, is the ultimate leadership quality,” he says, noting that the biggest challenge in business today is the “massive mix-up” between leadership and management.
“Management leads from behind. It holds a whip and pushes people forward. Leaders, on the other hand, are those that can get people to aspire to make the dream of the leader come true.”
To achieve that, it is vital to embrace people’s core humanity, and “expect that no human is perfect.”
“The best way for a human to perform at work is to bring their whole human self to work with all of its upsides and all of its downsides,” he says. “If we're not able as leaders to create that environment, then what are we scared of? Maybe because we are insecure.”
The COVID-19 crisis is one of the biggest leadership challenges that has happened in Gawdat’s lifetime, he says. His advice?
“Stop playing God. Anyone who's been in business long enough would understand this is the most unpredictable, difficult, challenging time for businesses we've ever come through,” he said. “Your responsibility is to do the best that you can within this current environment.”
The eight-part video series is also a podcast and is out every Thursday. Next week’s episode features Ronan Dunne, CEO, Verizon Consumer Group.