Management & Organization

Happiness and success are inseparable

We all know this. But that happiness affects our work effort, creativity, level of energy, our way of being around other people and our ability to solve problems is perhaps new information to most. We Are Best When We Are Happy (2013) is the title of a book on management, that focusses on happiness as a vast unexploited resource within corporate life. Based on his own management and life experiences, Danish author Michael Kamber describes how people and organizations improve their performances and competitiveness through joy. What Kamber wants, is for happiness and the positive mood to make their entrance within companies, where they can make a difference and create a better bottom line.

If you need more happiness in your workday, keep reading as we, based on Kamber’s book, offer you insight on why it is so important to your company that you and your employees are happy. We also offer you guidelines on how you a leader or executive can become more positive and make your employees happier - and more efficient.

Where does happiness come from?

There are two kinds of emotions – positive and negative ones. Happiness is one of our basic positive emotions and it can be used actively to fight negative emotions. For instance, when we work on conquering our fear, which is also a basic emotion – this could be fear of new work assignments, fear of being next in line for being fired or merely fear of not performing well enough – interesting things happen in our brains, according to Kamber. Things, that help promote our ability to think creatively and use our full potential.

When we are happy, chemicals like dopamine and serotonin pumps through the brain and triggers well-being and activates the brain’s learning center. The chemicals get the brain cells going, and we are able to think faster and more creatively. We can solve more complicated assignments and solve difficult issues. All because we are happy. On the other hand, the capacity to think and act is hampered when the negative feelings such as anxiety and fear takes too much space.  We keep a narrow focus on the threat that's in front of us, and thoughts of escape or battle take us over and make us short-sighted, which leaves us with no room to think freely. According to Kamber, Happiness does the exact opposite, and this is why it is so important to stimulate.

Happy people are more efficient and creative on their jobs, and they find it easier to be around other people and be part of social connections and teamwork. They help raise the company’s level of innovation, efficiency and competitiveness. Happy people are according also less sick and recover from illness faster, so the happier your employees are, the less absence due to illness.

The mood of the executive is contagious

According to Kamber, companies have every opportunity of affecting the mood that the employees are in. Especially the tone he or she usee and the manager or leader's mood decide whether the workday is characterized by positive or negative emotions. Emotions are contagious – this we already know. When we enter a room with other people, we quickly read and assess the mood. We detect signals such as tone, looks, breathing, body language, silence, laughter, etc. and we adapt our state of mind accordingly. We blend in, and the mood is highly influenced by the way in which the dominant people in the flock behave.

In companies, leaders naturally belong to the group of dominant people, and therefore his or her mood automatically affects the rest of the group. A bad mood spreads like wildfire, and over time a leader is part of creating a bad mood within the entire company. That is why a pleasant tone is important to practice. Some leaders feel that their position demands that they behave more seriously and buttoned up than they would do if they were not leaders. The assumption that seriousness signals trust and competence is still very much alive and well. Meanwhile, a smiling and praise-giving executive is considered less competent. But according to Kamber there's plenty of consolation to be had for happy executives, because there's solid documentation of the fact that a positive tone provides the best results.

Now we know how and why happiness affects our work. Read on for a few simple methods to help you begin practicing a workday filled with happiness and efficiency.

“License to say yes”

For Kamber, the path to happiness goes through a positive YES-culture. Leaders must be better at saying “yes” instead of “no” and “maybe”. “License to say yes” is a method for achieving a positive YES-culture. The method is being used at the luxurious hotel The Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. Here, they provide their personnel with the freedom of saying “yes” to the customers’ wishes. On the other hand, they aren't allowed to say no without having asked their boss for permission. Usually, it is the other way around. In most companies, employees have to check with their boss before saying yes to something extra. “License to say yes” creates a culture, where employees care about making it work, and the desire to do your best outweighs the fear of making mistakes.

The midweek pause

The American Nataly Kogan is the founder of the company “The New Happier”, and she works determined on creating happiness among employees. You can read about this in the Fast Company newsletter. She specifically attacks “the midweek crisis”, which she believes is a common phenomenon. In the middle of the week employees have a tendency of running out of energy and be marked by negative feelings. Instead of pressuring and whipping them into working, Kogan assembles her employees every Wednesday for “happier hour”, where they meet and have a good time. And she advices other companies to do the same. The environment in this type of get-together must be relaxed, and there should be something to drink and eat. Conversations are informal and non-work-related. Everybody are recharged. The pause brings back the smile on their faces, and so the happiness spreads. The employees have something to look forward to, and productivity increases.

A positive focus makes you happy

What it's all about is to focus on the positive. Both Kamber and with Kogan agrees. Kamber describes six simple rules for becoming more positive. The sixth rule is especially interesting (We won't describe the other five here), because it specifically states that we are capable of training our positive focus and that this can be done quite systematically in our everyday.

  • Every day you must write down three things that have made you happy within the past 24 hours. According to Kamber, this is an efficient way of training your ability to maintain the positive feelings. By writing this down you'll realize that there are also positive things occurring on the darkest and rainiest of days. It is a way of strengthening the sensation of happiness in your everyday and your general life-satisfaction.

  • Have something to look forward to. You can prolong a positive experience by looking forward to it. The joy of anticipation is great, and even though the outcome may not always live up to your expectations, there is much positive energy to be harvested from the expectation of something good.

Kogan has developed an app for this very purpose – to collect and document the things that makes you most happy. “An app that can make you happier”. You can insert the things that make you happy in the form of image and text, links, voice memos, etc.

Read more about the app here:

By using relatively simple means you can create a happier workplace, that also makes your employees satisfied and your company more efficient.