Articles From Shawn Achor View Profile

Share this Article
  • 3 Uncommon Ways to Drive Happiness in the Workplace

    Shawn Achor, 3 Uncommon Ways to Drive Happiness in the Workplace

    This article by Mark C. Crowley featuring an interview with Shawn Achor  was originally published on Fast Company. 

    Engagement is the holy grail of workplace satisfaction. Here are three new ways to think about your employees’ happiness.

    By the late 1990s, the number of people diagnosed with depression in the U.S. had increased by nearly 1,000% in just a half-century according to the World Health Organization.

    Believing that psychological research had been too narrowly focused on finding new treatments for human despair—and not on a cure—University of Pennsylvania professor, Martin Seligman, reframed the problem entirely, and challenged academics across the country to begin exploring the causes of human well-being.

    “What are the enabling conditions of life that help people achieve greater happiness and thrive in their lives,” he pushed his colleagues to discover. “What makes people flourish?”

    It was in this inspired moment that Seligman gave birth to “positive psychology,” the scientific study of optimal human functioning. And over the past 15 years, extensive positive psychology research has proven to have a remarkable impact on lifting people out of depression—exactly what Seligman had hoped.

    But many of its discoveries have produced an additional, and likely unintended, benefit. They provide profound new clarity on what influences workers (human beings) to becomes the most enthusiastic and productive in their jobs. What Seligman and thousands of other academic researchers collectively discovered is that people turn out to be far more creative, engaged, and successful when their mindsets are positive—when they feel “happy.”

    “Happiness” is, of course, a loaded word today, and Seligman is clear in distinguishing that its true meaning extends well beyond transitory feelings of pleasure. In positive psychology’s more complex definition, “happiness” includes experiences of positive emotions, combined with deeper feelings of engagement and meaning:

    Positive Emotions: What we feel. Pleasure, joy, and comfort.

    Engagement: The flow that comes from the frequent use of one’s greatest strengths and talents while doing gratifying work.

    Meaning: Having strong connections with other people, personal growth, and feelings of achievement.

    Seligman emphasizes that people definitely need frequent experiences of positive emotions in order to thrive in the here and now, but that sustainable happiness only is attained when we’re certain our life activities matter and are leading to personal growth. Simply put, we need all three to be “happy.”

    According to Shawn Achor, positive psychology expert and New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage, “data now abounds showing that happy workers produce higher sales, perform better in leadership, and earn higher job performance ratings and pay. Study after study shows that feelings of happiness lead people to excel in their jobs.”

    I recently had the opportunity to meet with Achor and asked him to share some of the best ways workplace managers can directly influence greater happiness in their teams. Here are three leadership practices I found to be the most uncommon and useful:

    ACTIVELY ENCOURAGE SOCIAL INTERACTION

    “Countless studies have found that social relationships are the best guarantee of heightened well-being and lowered stress,” Achor told me, “and both are an antidote for depression and a prescription for high performance.”

    While it’s all too common in business for bosses to spot a few employees chatting it up in the halls and instinctively conclude that they’re dodging work, the research proves that the better people feel about workplace relationships, the more effective they become.

    When surveying employee engagement all over the world, Gallup routinely asks workers, “Do you have a supervisor or someone at work who cares about you?” While many CEOs have asked Gallup to remove this question with the belief that it’s inherently soft and un-useful, Gallup discovered that people who answered “yes” to it were more productive, contributed more to profits, and were significantly more likely to remain with the firm.

    During the early days of the financial meltdown, financial services firm, UBS, elected to eliminate the beer carts that circulated on the market floor every Friday afternoon. Achor told me that there was one manager who noticed an immediate and negative impact on his team’s spirits tied to this one cost-cutting move—and he decided to dip into his pocket to bring it back. As the economic crisis wore on, his team proved to be tighter, stronger, and less inclined to leave for a higher paying job. “I’m a professional investor,” the manager said, “and this was the best investment I ever made.”

    Said Achor, “That simple act of paying for refreshments showed that he cared about his team’s level of happiness—not just their level of performance. And we now know those two things are directly linked.”

    HIRE PEOPLE WITH HEART

    Yale Psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski interviewed hundreds of workers in all professions and found that people have one of three work “orientations” or mindsets:

    1. They see work as being a “job,” or a chore, and use the paycheck as its reward.
    2. They approach work as a “career” and work to advance and succeed.
    3. They see their work as a “calling” and find work fulfilling because it gives them feelings of meaning and purpose.

    Wrzesniewski shows that people with a calling will work harder and longer simply because their jobs are rewarding. Consequently, Achor’s advice to hiring managers is to ask people, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” Their answer will reveal how much of their heart they’ll likely bring to their work.

    REMEMBER THE LOSADA RATIO

    University of North Carolina psychologist, Barbara Frederickson, took a team of researchers into 60 companies and transcribed every word used in their business meetings. Afterwards, they parsed every sentence for positive and negative words, and took a simple ratio of the positive-to-negative statements.

    What they discovered was that the companies with the greatest financial performance had a better than 3:1 ratio for positive communication. They additionally found that a ratio of 6:1 was characteristic of teams with consistently extraordinary achievement.

    Achor’s advice: “Go out of your way to build employee strengths instead of routinely correcting weaknesses. When you dip below the Losada line, performance quickly suffers.”

    The idea that it’s become the job of organizations to foster employee happiness is unquestionably one that still rankles many in business. Many of us can’t get beyond the traditional belief that happy workers produce unhappy shareholders.

    But Achor offers this advice to the slow-to-adapt and openly skeptical: “We’re hitting a tipping point where we realize we can no longer increase the number of hours and stress loads that we’re putting on people to raise their level of productivity.”

    “What we’re finding is that if you want to see what people are capable of achieving, it requires new types of leadership—and new definitions of how we pursue happiness in organizations.”

    Shawn Achor  is the founder of Good Think, Inc. and the author of New York Times best-selling books The Happiness Advantage (2010) and Before Happiness (2013).  In 2006, he was Head Teaching Fellow for “Positive Psychology,” the most popular course at Harvard at the time. He holds a Masters from Harvard Divinity School and has spoken in 45 countries to a wide variety of audiences. Watch his popular TEDxBloomington video on TED.com, The Happy Secret to Better Work.

More Articles From Shawn Achor » Change Your Job–by Changing Your Mindset
Share this Article
X

FIND A SPEAKER

TESTIMONIALS

Testimonials
  • The Nebraska Hospital Association along with numerous other state hospital associations have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Executive Speak...
    The Nebraska Hospital Association
  • Everything went really well and we really enjoyed having Jack Uldrich as our speaker!  He was entertaining and funny and provided great examples....
    Novo Nordisk
  • "I want to thank you for helping with our Principals Day event. Marshall Goldsmith was excellent. Not only is Marshall the consummate professional, be...
    Burns & McDonnell
  • "As I mentioned before, your engagement model was incredibly easy to work with, and I know we came to you on short notice!  I would highly recomm...
    Capitol One
  • "The group that I work with to obtain all of my keynote speakers is Executive Speakers Bureau and I can tell you that I don’t like working with ...
    Indiana Youth Institute
  • "OMG Richard! As always you make me look like a rock star. Every single speaker we selected hit it out of the park. Thank you again. Can't even say wh...
    Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Assn.
  • "Your tenacity and persistence in staying in touch with us is a model example of good salesmanship and partnering.  I will be using you as an exa...
    Schneider Electric
  • "We loved our speakers. Thanks to you and your team for your outstanding service and thank you for your patience!"

    National Association of the Blind
  • Thank you to both of you for everything surrounding Mr. Will as our special guest. I suspect, soon, I will be in touch regarding our next event. 
    Oxford Financial
  • You ladies really are the BEST!  After this event I am going to be on the hunt for keynote speakers in May.  I really want to work with you ...
    ICMI
  • "WOW, is all I have to say and thank you!  Our event was a huge success and you never steer me wrong, both David Cottrell and Ryan Estis were exc...
    ICMI
  • "Let me just say again, what a pleasure it is to work with you and ESB. You really make it harder for others to reach the bar."
    ASTD
  • Thanks to you, Jo and the rest of your team.  You are the BEST.  Knowing you are behind a speaker allows us the luxury of concentrating on o...
    Ohio Hospital Association
  • "I shared with Kaplan [Mobray] that I had never had this type of experience with ANY vendor I have worked with in the past. Your responsiveness to urg...
    Gates Corp.
  • "We not only went 3 for 3 but I'd say they were all home runs! Thanks for your help on the speakers. It was a key and very positive component of our c...
    Chem-Dry
  • We could not have done it without you.  Thank you for the outstanding suggestions.  The speakers were by far the best we have ever had.
    FedEx
  • "Everyone loved Bob and he was so nice on site. Thank you for all you did. The process was so easy and we will definitely work with you again next yea...
    NBC
  • "My entire team has enjoyed the experience of working with you and ESB more than words can express. Everything was handled in a professional and timel...
    Cregger Company
  • "Thanks to you and Jo for all your efforts.  Connie Podesta and Roger Dow were great!"   
    National Apartment Association
  • "I wanted to share with you feedback of my experience in working with Executive Speakers Bureau.. Very responsive and detail oriented.  When I wa...
    Amdocs
  • "Thank you so much for all your help in putting this together on such short notice. I will definitely use your services again in the future."
    Applied Materials
  • "I will be sure that all involved know what a wonderful resource you have been. The universe smiled on me when I discovered Executive Speakers and you...
    Ocala Eye
  • "You made my job so much easier! You are the only bureau I will use."     
    Sigma Systems
  • "I appreciate your recommendations.  In addition, you are always a pleasure to work with and understand the pains of an over worked meeting plann...
    Milliman
  • I’ve used the services of a number of speakers bureaus in the past. However, my current experience working with the Executive Speakers Bureau ha...
    Intel
  • As always, you deliver excellent service. Thanks!
    Camden National Bank
  • Bridgeworks was awesome!!! Great feedback from all!! Thanks for all of your collaboration and positive we'll use you in the future.  
    Johnson & Johnson
  • "Richard, Your ability to put me in front of just the right group again and again, is nothing short of amazing. You work your tail off, you sweat the ...
    Alan Hobson
  • I want to thank you for all of your assistance you and Jenny were wonderful. If it had not been for you sending me suggestions I would not have found ...
    West Virginia Tourism
  • Thanks to Richard and Jo for all the coordination. Another homerun from Executive Speakers Bureau!  
    Wisconsin Hospital Association
  • "I LOVE this list that you sent me! I emailed several different places on Tuesday an...
    CoreLogic
  • “Thank you guys it was a pleasure working with you.... You made the whole process easy. Thanks again”
    CableNation
  • The event was EASY Cake! and it went over very very well.  Thank you so much for the help and organization, it made my life very easy. 
    Boys & Girls Club
  • "This year’s speaker line-up at our Summer Meeting was the best yet. We knocked it out of the park. Thanks for all your help securing such excel...
    North Carolina Hospital Association
  • Our bank has held an annual business and economic conference for the past 9 years.  We have worked with Executive Speakers every year and I have ...
    First Midwest Bank
  • We truly appreciate the excellent support and attention to detail we have received from Executive Speakers Bureau.  They have provided us with so...
    IBM
  • "My mind was very much at ease knowing that Jack Uldrich was so well prepped.  I will definitely use your agency again."  
    EAIE
Need Suggestions? Have Questions?

Need Suggestions? Have Questions?

Call us to discuss how we can help find the right speaker for your organization.

Get Ideas in 2 Hours or Less

Please fill in information below

Executive Speakers Bureau consistently receives praises about our speed and efficiency. From the beginning of your event planning, our extensive online speaker database and resourceful staff allow us to quickly equip you with the best speaker for your event.

Need a last minute speaker? No worries. Our speed and efficiency help us give you ideas for speakers in two hours or less.


Privacy by SafeSubscribeSM