Happiness in the Work Place

The January-February 2012 issue of the Harvard Business Review explored the effects of happiness on employee productivity and profits. 

"People aren't very good at predicting what will make them happy." Most people, for example, think that achieving a goal will make them happy; it does, but only for a short while. Surprisingly, people who are happy have an easier time achieving goals. "Happy people are more creative and more productive," says Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology at Harvard. 

It's not the big successes that make us happy. The frequency of good things is more important than the intensity of good things. "Happiness is the sum of hundreds of small [everyday] things" that matter most. "This also suggests that happiness on the job may depend more on our routine interactions with coworkers, the projects we're invoved in, our daily contributions," says Matthew Killingsworth, a doctoral student at Harvard. 

"Happy employees produce more than unhappy ones," says Spreitzer and Christine Porath. And they are more likely to get promoted. "Most people believe that success precedes happiness," says Shawn Achor, but happiness, in fact, preceeds success. 

If happiness is so important to productivity, profits and promotion, why do we so often consider it frivolous, silly and a waste of time? This is one of the lunacies of modern business. 

There are many ways to increase happiness in daily life, but one of the simplest ways is to develop a sense of humor. How do comedians find the humor in even the darkest of events? They ask themselves a few simple questions:

  • What's funny about this?
  • If this were happening to someone else (e.g., your favorite comedian) would it be funny?
  • What's it like? (What's something similar that would be funny?)

Kids laugh hundreds of times a day; adults laugh almost zero. Increase the frequency of happy events in your life. To learn more about how to think like a comedian, order:

Your Seventh Sense-How to think like a comedian

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