What's Your Team's Happiness Quotient?
No matter who you are, there is an inherent need for all to reach a level of satisfaction so that we feel joy at the end. All other emotions arrive because we failed to derive happiness and hence had to replace it with the next appropriate emotion.
Why do we fear telling others how we feel?
If you have watched the series Modern Love, you would notice each of its episodes hinges on deriving happiness from meaningful relationships. This series is a visual representation of stories published in The New York Times and is a startling revelation of the pursuit of happiness in the high-tech fast lanes of the city where people, we believe, have no time to stand and stare. What is noteworthy is that each of the unconventional bonds, as shown in the episodes, gain ground based on heartfelt and open conversations including constructive criticism. How many of us find it easy to share with others, what is bothering us? Most of us fear getting judged, misunderstood, alienated, and hence, as we have been taught, we tend to keep our conflicts to ourselves.
The same is true for workplace relationships and how we succeed or fail to realise workplace satisfaction. While the context is different, it is just as necessary to start and sustain open, honest conversations with the ultimate goal of growth and betterment. But how do we share our concerns at workplace? Is it safe to speak up on issues that bother us? What if we offend our superiors?
If you are a manager or a people-leader, these are only some of the questions bothering your team every now and then. And it's time to go beyond crafting an internal communications plan to reach out to employees.
Can we measure happiness?
When thinking about increasing happiness, one of the most important aspects is measurement. Is there a way to accurately measure people’s happiness, both within teams and across different departments in an organization? To measure levels of happiness, it is imperative to understand the drivers of happiness. The degree of risk ranges from job profile, tension to meet sales and revenue targets, pacifying an enraged client, fear of a superior - Doubled by internal conflicts and competition that is unfortunately a workplace inevitability in today's fast-paced world.
Your internal communications plan might be speaking to employees, but is it also empowering them to speak up? While it is well known indeed that counselling sessions and therapeutic tools like engagement workshops are useful tools to counter this, very few organizations understand the need for assessment first.
A large part of this assessment is to ensure employees feel heard in a space that is secure and not threatening. Anonymity can be a big differentiating factor here. An anonymous feedback portal, blind surveys and situation-based pulse checks can get the ball rolling. Find out straight from your employees what it is that they need, what is lacking in the workplace, and what is hindering their happiness, productivity and growth.
Do we need to measure happiness?
Evolving research shows that the case of taking happiness seriously is based on a belief that underpins the range of potential ways to build a much better world, and even offer solutions to address war, poverty, and diseases. Often quoted as a giggle factor, happiness studies were considered frivolous attempts by many until groundbreaking evidence shows how measuring and maintaining happiness can build stronger and healthier lives, above and beyond conventional medical care. But since we have conflicts to resolve, it means having a more engaged workforce in every industry. Here it's imperative to go beyond the earlier definitions of "employee engagement" and not confining oneself to planning just corporate team building activities. A dedicated and passionate workforce is the means to keep the economy running, and happiness needs to be sustained.
Research from the Harvard Study of Adult Development — one of the longest-running studies on happiness - found that specific traits and behaviors were linked with increased levels of happiness across the entire group. Dr. Robert Waldinger, the project’s director stresses close association with family, ties with spouses and friends as one of the most significant factors stimulating happiness.
So why can this not be extrapolated at least in part to the workplace? It is this very sense of belonging that hinges on the foundation of a cohesive and glued workforce built on trust, empathy and the spirit of togetherness. Since work lives are integral to sustenance, feeling satisfied at work correlates to going back home happy and hearty. And that's why while work and life must be separated to a degree, the degree of happiness, contentment and wellbeing cannot be separated as finely.
Means to measure happiness
Happiness measures at the workplace are fruitful by running frequent surveys over a considerable period. This serves to pinpoint the changing dynamics of happiness and helps to understand the trends of workers over some time. Though there are several scales to measure happiness, it is pertinent to remember that none of those will bear results if the participants are rushed to answer.
Especially at a time when stress is high and morale is low, consider rolling out surveys that are interesting, engaging, situational and interactive. Give your team a chance to enjoy and embrace the process of giving feedback. For instance, instead of asking "Is Your Manager a Competent Leader?", illustrate a situation in which a manager's qualities shine through and ask people to choose options by actually putting themselves in the hypothetical situation. For example, the afore-mentioned question can comprise several sub-situations - "Is your manager reasonable with deadlines? Is your manager willing to grant you leave during an emergency? Are you able to approach your manager with minor queries?" - These are the important micro-level questions that actually paint the macro-picture.
Additionally, allow your employees time to take surveys at their own space. Keep survey windows open for weeks at a time, send regular reminders and if you feel that your team is getting no time during work, then push a deadline to enable them to take the survey. Genuine feedback requires thought and should not be demanded under pressure in a tight timeline.
Understand your people to truly understand what their happiness means. And the first step to understanding anyone is asking the right questions, interpreting subjective answers, and above all - Listening.