What happy organizations know

On the flight home yesterday I listened to the podcast of the HBI Idea Cast on Why a Happy Brain Performs Better.

In this guest Guest: Shawn Achor, CEO of Aspirant and author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work talks about the principles of thanking people,

It's back to the field of positive psychology that I've talked about in previous posts. The book information tells us that

"Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn't just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe."

So like the questions I asked on how many organizations want a culture of gratitude How many want a culture of happiness? A similar question was raised in a recent article in the Economist – The Joyless or the Jobless which asked: Should governments pursue happiness rather than economic growth?

The article notes that in the UK right now: The jobless now outnumber the joyless-there is nothing like a drop in GDP to remind everyone how much this much-maligned metric matters. But despite the economic gloom, economists and policymakers have not lost their interest in happiness. This month David Cameron, Britain's prime minister, asked the Office of National Statistics to measure the country's "general well-being", as part of his promise to focus on GWB (General Well Being) not just GDP.

At this point there are 27 comments on the article arguing various points on the connections between money and happiness that could equally be made at an organizational level.

In a Wall Street Journal (November 23) article there is a connection made between gratitude and happiness

"A growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being.

Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They're also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections. "

This article mentions the Journal of Happiness Studies that I hadn't heard of and felt bound to look at . One of the articles in the current issue is titled The Connection Between Happiness and Service Businesses: A Preliminary Study. Its abstract reads:

Happiness may be one of the most important goals that many people pursue in the world. This study adopts a qualitative approach to investigate the determinants of happiness for Taiwanese/Chinese people. Further, we investigate related service opportunities for happiness via a field survey of 808 respondents. This study identifies four happiness segments for people in Taiwan/China: Influential & Outgoing, Adequately Settled, Pleasure Seeking, and Young & Restless. These four happiness segments differ markedly in terms of characteristics and potential service opportunities. The findings of this study have implications for researchers who are seeking to understand happiness in an Asian country.

An article in October's journal Well-Being and Trust in the Workplace also looks interesting – particularly in relation to one of my current pieces of work on teleworking. We already know that teleworking brings numerous benefits to employees. But we also know that one of the barriers to extending teleworking is manager trust in their employees who are teleworking. ("If I can't see you how do I know you're working?")

This paper uses life satisfaction regressions based on three surveys in two countries (Canada and the United States) to estimate the relative values of financial and non-financial job characteristics. The well-being results show strikingly large values for non-financial job characteristics, especially workplace trust and other measures of the quality of social capital in workplaces. For example, an increase of trust in management that is about one tenth of the scale has a value in terms of life satisfaction equivalent to an increase of more than 30% in monetary income. We find that these values differ significantly by gender and by union status. We consider the reasons for such large values, and explore their implications for employers, employees, and policy-makers.

So the links between gratitude, happiness, and higher performance are both researchable, and researched. I'm still wondering how to help the organization I'm working with develop more of a culture of gratitude and happiness with the outcome of increasing performance.