Is it Your Job to Make People Happy?
Most of the time I'm brought into companies to deal with all things which affect performance and ails the human mind: anxiety, depression, neurosis, obsessions, paranoia, delusions. Supervisors seem to think they've failed if employees are not shouting," Thank God it's Monday!" as they march to their cubicles. These supervisors have failed, but not for the reasons they think. They are looking for the wrong things from their employees, and behaving in the wrong way to gain results.
Most supervisors have to stop thinking their primary role is to make their employees happy: it is a battle that they can't win. Personal motivation and happiness belong to and is defined by each individual. Well meaning supervisors have even been preventing the work happiness phenomena from evolving by not understanding it.
Gregg Easterbrook found, "If you made a graph of American life since the end of World War II, every line concerning money and the things that money can buy would soar upward, a statistical monument to materialism. Inflation-adjusted income per American has almost tripled. The size of the typical new house has more than doubled.
A two-car garage was once a goal; now we're nearly a three-car nation; designer everything, personal electronics and other items that didn't even exist a half-century ago are now affordable. No matter how you chart the trends in earning and spending, everything is up, up, up. But if you made a chart of personal satisfaction it is racing down at breakneck speed."Gratitude has a lot to do with happiness, but is like a candle in the wind.
Unless an action is directly tied in the mind of an employee to a supervisor it does not have a long lasting effect. Supervisors should be a bit less self important and a bit more realistic. Employees lives are more than their work; their lives teem with different roles, mothers fathers, friend and neighbor each role brings challenges, and satisfaction; work life is important but so are the other things which define us.
So the impacts of rewards we give are diluted by everything else which is going on in a person's life. Giving a person a box of candy when they are struggling with weight control is hardly a rewarding gift that will be appreciated. Bill Cohen, a Proforma Franchise owner in Lebanon New Hampshire, has created products that many employees savior; he does this by keenly determining what each employee in the companies he works with desire.
It is interesting he has found that employees believe that their supervisors have the power to reduce their happiness, but have little power to increase it. Rachel Permuth Levine a well known wellness expert from the National Institute of Health provides employees she works with opportunities to select from a number of alternative paths to find their own happiness.
The supervisors she works with see employees' not just as workers but as complex human beings capable of improving their lives and making the right choices. Here are a few simple steps supervisors can take to improve the work environment.
- Think of your workers as a team, not as a collection of individuals. Individuals have a myriad of problems that most supervisors do not have the expertise, time, or the responsibility to solve. Engaging employees in the content of the work makes them more productive. Satisfying feelings of accomplishing meaningful work blow away anything a supervisor can say or do for an employee. If a job needs to be done and has value then the employee recognition for doing it correctly. Direct feedback is your most powerful motivational tool.
- Know when you are in over your head and refer the employee to psychological or clinical experts. When you take on the role of enabler you have just crossed into choppy water. This is where the horror stories start. I dealt with a supervisor who allowed an employee to sexually harass coworkers because the supervisor knew the employee had a poor marriage. I have coached a supervisor that called employees at home to see if they were sober enough to report to work. Making excuses or ignoring inappropriate behavior is the number one failure of poor supervisors. Employees know when a supervisor is an enabler and disrespect him/her for it.
- We have all heard the adage supervisors shouldn't socialize with people they supervise. In most cases this is true. What is said in a bar never stays in a bar. People are drawn to gossip; do not say or do anything with your employees that you would not be proud to be reported in your local paper.
- Keep your own personal life out of the workplace. I've seen supervisors bring their own personal issues directly to the job. This burdens employees with a whole array of issues that have nothing to do with work. I recently spent a year sorting through the dirty laundry of a supervisor whose behavior created an incredible split in her team. Employees had to decide whether to protect her from the organization or do their work, a choice they should never have to make. You are entitled to the same psychological, and medical support your employees have; do not be afraid to use them.
- Be a good listener. Listening means hearing all the information, evaluating it, and then telling the person what you plan to do next. Get all the information you need to make a decision, reflect on it, decide if it is the right thing for the team, and reply to the request on the agreed to time. Don't be afraid to check with your human relations specialist to check any legal or contractual problem related to the request.
- Be a good researcher read about trends in the community where are the stresses is there high unemployment, are businesses closing, what is happening with childcare and after school programs?
- Attend wellness conferences and network with other supervisors in your own field and in other industries. The world is full of good ideas borrow the best of them from your colleagues.
Finally, remember you are not a mind reader; personal happiness is so individualized that most people can't define it for themselves, so how can you define it for them? Make the environment open for discussion, listen with a desire to improve conditions, and you'll have the best bet at gaining what you want.
About The Author
Dr. Wayne Weiner is a man of many talents and Interests from history, health, to state of the art business and communication technology. He is the co-founder of Bella Business Solutions, developers of innovative products and services. He has won awards as an innovative strategist and motivational leader and is nationally recognized as an expert change agent who propelled hundreds of for profit, universities and public organizations into exemplar organizations.
Dr. Weiner works with many Native American Tribes and is totally dedicated to improving the life of the tribal members. He is an organizational visionary whose analyses and recommendations have successfully fundamentally redesigned the culture of some of this country's leading organizations. He has a dynamic track record of charismatically influencing change in many people's poor health habits. He is also an avid writer and author of a science fiction Trilogy and three spy novels.