By: Hanlie van Wyk
In a previous post, we divided happiness into three easy to remember concepts: Pleasure, People, and Prosperity.
- “Pleasure” refers to maximizing pleasurable moments (such as comfort, entertainment, and enjoyment) that lead to the satisfaction of a person’s wants and needs. This might contribute to a level of life satisfaction.
- “People” is about having positive relationships with others. As social animals, we crave social acceptance, strive for social contribution and seek integration with a community.
- “Prosperity” is more than what money can buy. It’s about flourishing and living authentically; actualizing one’s inherent potentials as the way to well-being.
Where should you focus your time and energy? Which happiness habit would have the greatest impact on an individual’s and organization’s productivity?
Researchers believe that about 40% of your happiness is within your control. Essentially, this means that happiness can be “generated”, and we could practice “happiness habits” for maximum beneficial impact in life and at work. The Behavioral Research and Applied Technology Laboratory researched nine happiness habits that could improve productivity and divided them into three categories: Foster, Focus and Savor. In this series, we will look at each of the nine happiness habits and explore the value that each one can bring.
Let’s start with Foster, and in particular, the importance of building positive relationships at work.
Building Positive Relationships
Happiness at work doesn’t come from raises, bonuses or perks. It comes from two things: results and relationships, i.e. doing great work together with great people. It comes from the things that you and I do, here and now. When we have healthy connections with the people we work with, we are more likely to show up fully engaged and productive at work. According to Gallup, people who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. And it doesn’t have to be a best friend: just having a good friend in the workplace makes it more likely to be satisfying. This shows how important it is to build healthy relationships at work, and the value of feeling a sense of connection and relatedness.
Making the Change: Habits for Fostering Positive Relationships
1. Be civil
Rudeness in the workplace isn’t just harmful, it’s also contagious. “You might go your whole career and not experience abuse or aggression in the workplace, but rudeness also has a negative effect on performance,” says Trevor Foulk from the University of Florida. Trevor and his research team noticed that common negative behaviors could spread easily, just like the flu, and have significant consequences for people in organizations.
2. Smile and say “hello”
Saying hello is quick and free! Researchers at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts tell about the power of a smile, and have shown it’s the little things that make a big difference in social interaction. Combine saying “hello” with a smile and it humanizes the workplace. Employees who smile more have customers who report higher satisfaction. Kathy Savitt, Managing Director at Perch Partners, a consulting firm, warns, “I think it’s easy for people at many companies to become cynical, which then leads to politics, which can create a cancer that can topple even the greatest companies.”
3. Don’t pair
Pairing occurs when two or more people engage in a “side conversation” about issues and concerns, without bringing those issues to the table to be discussed openly. Exclusionary behavior like this is likely to aggravate an already difficult situation. Failure to address the issue openly could lead to dissension, resentment, reduced productivity, and ultimately, the loss of high performers that become alienated by the toxic culture. If anger and rejection is allowed to brood, there is an increased risk of office aggression and violence. According to Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder, while it is part of human nature to associate with peers that have similar traits and personalities, pairing and cliques can be harmful and counterproductive.
4. Arrange voluntary small group meetings
Change Craft’s research on the impact of fostering positive relationships on productivity found that holding small, voluntary group meetings once a week increased informal sharing of ideas and suggestions. This in turn lead to improved production efficiency (9%) and overall productivity (17%).
Higher connectivity among team members is linked to a team’s performance. By increasing connectedness, psychological well-being is enhanced. Any organization looking to evaluate the impact of investing in these changes or wanting to understand more about how to create happy, healthy, and change-ready cultures should contact Change Craft at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lead the Change for Healthy Behavior
In collaboration with the National Wellness Institute, Change Craft offers a set of self-paced eLearning courses, you will engage in a process of learning about what it takes to create a culture for healthy change. The Change Compass series begins with a free introductory course that provides the basic framework you will need for future learning. There is then a practical course on how to “Become a Change Agent,” with optional follow-up courses offering a deeper dive into how to create “healthy habit prescriptions,” as well as a more detailed review of some of the influence methods you can deploy. The courses are completed entirely online, although the “Become a Change Agent” course will require you to undertake practical exercises with a “buddy.” Plus, NWI members receive 15% off registration! Learn more about each course here.
About the Author:
Hanlie is a behavioral change expert, systems strategist, author, and PhD candidate for Hate Crime Studies. Her fascination with human behavior started while growing up in South Africa. From working to prevent hate crime to humanizing the workplace, her career spans three decades and four continents researching and applying behavioral change strategies to some of the most challenging behavioral problems. As Director of Change for Change Craft (powered by Behavioral Research and Applied Technology Laboratory) she studies, develops, and applies agnostic systems and practices that make change sticky, and results in high performing individuals and cultures.
Foulk, T., Woolum, A., & Erez, A. (2016). Catching rudeness is like catching a cold: The contagion effects of low-intensity negative behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(1), 50–67. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000037
Sommers, S. (2011). Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World. Riverhead Books (Penguin).