Avoiding The Pitfalls of Workplace Happiness

The idea of happiness at work has become more of ‘a thing’ now days.  This is wonderful as for years I’ve been talking about it with the mission to raise awareness – mission accomplished!  Woo-hooo!

However, with the raising awareness of happiness science in the workplace, there are also concerns about the application (or misapplication) of happiness science at work.  A few are:

  • Dr. John Sullivan has posted 12 Good Reasons You Should Be Cautious About Employee Happiness – part 1 and part 2.  I have a lot of respect for Dr. Sullivan and have followed him since the way back days when ERE first started.  The view from both pieces seems to point towards issues around mislabeling and measures.  Also, it seems as if the view of workplace happiness is that it is just fluffy stuff that is not tied to the bottom line with fringe benefits being an example. Also, Dr. John posits that productivity drives happiness. This point is debatable as Shawn Achor and Nic Marc have pointed out.
  • Against Happiness |Economist provides a lopsided view of forced happiness which, to no great surprise, is not really a sustainable or a worthy endeavor.

Luckily, these views are addressable if we keep a few basic guidelines in mind according to 5 Pitfalls of Employee Happiness Initiatives by Dr. Aymee Coget:

  1. Avoid ‘happiness pressure’ and ensure employee buy-in.
  2. Avoid stressed out leaders by ensuring leaders are positive and helping to pull the effort forward.
  3. Avoid using surface level techniques and instead use sustainable happiness strategies.
  4. Implementation must be done properly with a clear thought out plan that delivers as designed.
  5. Avoid making happiness superfluous by using rigorous measures of success aimed at the most meaningful needs.

I can say that I have used very similar points in framing up Happywork as a science-based, metrics driven approach with the leaders I work with and they are very helpful.  The most powerful piece from Dr. Aymee’s list to avoid happiness pressure that we use is what we call the opt-in approach.  I am sure to give ample opportunities to opt-out as we go through each phase of the program.  Participants are exposed to program elements in a methodic way over a period of time and invited to participate in the next of four phases.  From every group, there are always a few that opt-out as they are plenty happy already or the approach just isn’t for them or whatever.  Happywork does not seek to be a fix all or one-size-fits-all.  Our approach is customized like a bottom-up engagement program akin to executive coaching made available to everyone.  Not everyone is motivated to do something about their workplace happiness and so coaching would not be helpful.  Putting the employee or worker in the driver’s seat to be able to chose to participate is the key.


Our Workplace Happiness Workgroup Meetup now has a new Bellevue location!

Redmond Happiness Workgroup

We are very pleased that The Legacy Group Capital LLC has agreed to be our location sponsor for our free Bellevue Workplace Happiness Workgroup. We will get together to work on happiness on the 1st Wednesday of each month at 400 112th Ave NE Street, Suite 300 in down town Bellevue just off I-405.  The first meeting will be December 2nd from 6:00-7:30 pm.

Can’t make the 1st Wednesday workgroup? We still have our Redmond and Down Town Seattle locations on the 2nd and 3rd Wednesday of the month. Click here to see all our upcoming Meetups.  Not familiar with Meetups or don’t want to sign up with Meetup?  Send us an email at happyworkteam@gmail.com and we’ll get you on our participant list.

See you there!

Is the taboo of love in the workplace dead?

If your workplace is like many others, the mention of love between co-workers is grounds to go and get HR. Having spent almost 20 years in HR leadership, this would often mean coming to see me. Normally this was due to corporate policies regarding romance in the workplace and an opportunity to make a bit of a joke. None of these instances ever amounted to anything.

Having said this, I find it quite common for co-workers to get a bit uncomfortable when talking openly about love at work. This is an absolute shame because as a workplace happiness consultant, I am acutely aware of how powerful positive emotions can be on the dynamic of successful teams.

So, maybe there is a better way to frame up what love is?

Well, one of my favorite thought leaders in the field of positive psychology, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, has done just that in her talk: ‘Love – a new lens on the science of thriving’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxoPLtRnxZs.

Dr. Fredrickson puts forward some great science that stretches the boundaries of how love is viewed. She defines “micro-moments of love” where we have positive emotions, maintain good eye contact, engage in dialogue, and then…wait for it…our brain’s sync!

Brain scan images of two people visiting together reveal a perfect match “There is one pattern being experienced across two brains.” This is fascinating enough as it is, but it gets even better. Those who brain-sync more thrive more by benefiting from things like mutual oxytocin release and improved heart regulation and function.

I have been a part of sessions at Happywork where ‘micro-moments love’ produced a real breakthrough. This is one of the most energizing and positive work environments I have been a part of and it motivates me to create them again and again. Dr. Fredrickson points out how these brain sync moments are so critical for our survival.

I wonder if the world is ready for ‘micro moments of love’ or if it is fine just calling it collaboration?

What do you think?
Are workplaces ready for love?

Dr Barbara Fredrickson

Redmond Happiness Meetup Workgroup Starts!

Redmond Happiness WorkgroupWe are very excited to have WDS, A Xerox Company as the location sponsor for a new Redmond Happiness Workgroup.  If you’d like to attend, please RSVP. The first meeting will be October 14th from 6 pm to 7:30 at 12034 134th Ct. NE, Suite 301, Redmond, WA. We will meet the 2nd Wednesday each month and follow a workshop format with research review, video discussions and best practices sharing.  If you are in the Seattle area, we hope to see you there!

Workplace Happiness is Big Business: Happiness leads to Success

One of my mentors, Nic Marks, has such a good Ted talk from May this year.  He nails it when describing how we are wired to think that success will deliver happiness…but it is the other way around!  Happiness actually drives success!  This message is so true to the core of what we are doing at Happywork.

Workplace happiness delivers:

  • 54% better staff retention rates
  • 30% better productivity
  • 3X times more creativity


Happiness is RIGHT and everything else is left!

After my daily morning routine, I was struck by a phrase: Happiness is RIGHT and everything else is left!  This captures the happiness decision moment by moment to intentionally steer thoughts, words and actions.  I also love the double-meaning of right (as in correct) and left (as in what is remaining).

Laugh and Smile (:

Want to feel better?  Who have you looked in the eye and shared a smile with today?  Really need a lift? Maybe try encouraging a stranger to laugh?

People are 30 times more likely to laugh and be happy when around others. “Laughter was 30 times more frequent in social than solitary situations” according to Psychology Today.  Everyone knows laughter is good medicine.  Boosts of endorphins and other good stuff helps humans flourish.

Many people know smiling also releases chemicals that make us feel good.  But it even works if you don’t feel like smiling!  In short, “…slight distortion in their [face muscle] shape leads to an increase in blood flow into the frontal lobes of the brain and increases in the release of dopamine” also from Psychology Today. So, even ‘fake’ smiles trick your brain into to thinking they are real smiles and it makes us feel good anyway!  Fascinating.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone had a goal to look someone in the eye and smile and then helped them to also smile or even got them to laugh at least 3 times every day?

Shawn Achor: my hero and role model!

If you have not watched the Ted Talk from 2011 from Shawn Achor yet, spend the 12 minutes to tune in and check it out as soon as possible:

Shawn Achor Ted Talk play vid graphic

Beyond funny and entertaining, he so clearly demonstrates why the “the happiness advantage, which is your brain in positive, performs significantly better than when in negative, neutral or stressed.”  What is a significantly better?  There are many benefits, but the big ones are:

  • 31% better performance
  • 37% better at sales
  • 19% better doctor diagnosis

Shawn Achor Benefits of Happiness Advantage graphic

How do we get our brain in positive?  Showing gratitude, meditation, acts of kindness, exercise and journaling about all this good stuff with discipline for at least 21 days.  These rock solid recommendations have proven to help across studies conducted since 2000.

Shawn Achor Moving Our Brain to Positive graphic