We tend to think that organizations with happy employees are more likely to be successful. Happier employees tend to have better performance and are less likely to leave their companies. However, when asked what happy employees are like or what it means to be a happy employee, chances are people would not give consistent answers. Are happy employees those who receive higher salaries or those who enjoy higher job and life satisfaction? If both types of employees are considered happy, which type is actually beneficial to organizations?
A recent review by Wright (2014) uses existing research to provide insight on the definition of happiness and on which type of happy employee benefits organizations. The article reviews four dimensions of happiness and suggests that the emotion-based dimension plays the most important role in predicting favorable organizational variables such as job performance and employee retention.
FOUR DIMENSIONS OF HAPPINESS
The author adopted the happiness model from Cropanzano and Wright (2014), which says that there are at least four dimensions of happiness. The first one is called objective life conditions. This dimension suggests that happiness is based on objective facts regarding quality of life, including wealth, health, clean and safe living environment.
The second is called eudaimonic well-being. This dimension originates from Aristotle’s view of happiness and it suggests that happiness comes from whether a person sees meaning and a sense of purpose in life.
The third dimension is life satisfaction. Happiness in this dimension is based on a person’s overall satisfaction about life or satisfaction about a specific domain such as job satisfaction or relationship satisfaction.
EFFECT OF HAPPINESS ON INDIVIDUAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL OUTCOMES
According to the author, despite the increasing interest in employee happiness, there has been limited research examining the effects of the first three dimensions of happiness on organizational outcomes. Therefore, the question of whether there are direct relationships between the first three categories of happiness and organizational outcomes such as performance and retention rates is still unclear.
However, the fourth dimension – emotion-based happiness – has been found by many studies to positively affect favorable individual and organizational outcomes. At the individual level, these outcomes include being more outgoing, having higher self-esteem, higher motivation, better job performance, less likely to be depressed or pessimistic, less likely to turnover, and less likely to suffer from drug or alcohol addiction. At the organizational level, these outcomes include higher performance and retention rate.
IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
So what type of happy employees benefit organizations? This article answers that employees who are emotionally happy or those with more positive than negative feelings are the ones who can benefit organizations. Because, as the author suggests, results from existing research have shown that emotionally happy employees have a direct positive effect on organizations, it is organizations’ best bet to focus on enhancing employees’ positive feelings and emotions and trying to lower their negative feelings and emotions. Possible ways to foster employees’ positive feelings and emotions at work include promoting smiling and praising, having regular happy hours, and encouraging managers to care about each employee on a personal level. Additionally, certain types of flexibility in working arrangements may also be effective.
Wright, T. A. (2014). Putting your best “face” forward: The role of emotion-based well-being in organizational research. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 35(8), 1047-1184.