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How to Maintain Happiness in the Workplace


Shawn Achor is one of the leading research experts on the connection between happiness and success. In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn presents three proven strategies to help individuals see their reality differently in order to become more engaged, productive, and innovative in the workplace.

Strategy 1: Recognize Alternative Realities

During the 2008 financial crisis, Achor realized that the employees who managed to stay productive and excel amongst the chaos were the ones who were able to let go of their predetermined beliefs about what the world should look like. Employees who embraced their new reality (a smaller house, a budget, etc.) were more likely to bounce back than those who clung stubbornly to their old reality.

Strategy 2: Add Vantage Points

In all professions, it is easy to get trapped into seeing things from a single vantage point. By training our brains to see additional vantage points, we can learn to approach problems with a broader and deeper perspective.

Achor presents a good exercise for doing this:  Write down on a piece of paper what your life at work is like right now.

  • Did your vision of reality leave out some important details?
  • If you mentioned a volatile work environment, did you also mention opportunities for promotions? 

Now using only true statements, offer an alternative description of the exact same work situation. This is difficult, but allows us to look at situations in multiple different ways and see different realities that are all constructed out of facts.

Strategy 3: Pursue the Most Valuable Reality

In 2010, HSBC deployed an advertising campaign in airports that demonstrated the power of our brains to construct multiple realities based on the same external world.  HSBC displayed three identical images of a bald head (see below); each superimposed with a different word. For most people, the words changed how we perceive the image. One inspires awe, one inspires admiration, and one creates the feeling of sorrow.


In this case, the words tell you what to think about the person in the picture. However, in the real world, your own brain actively writes words on every person or image you see.  The words and phrases that our brains write on people, projects, and goals at work change your perspective, motivation, engagement, and creativity.

How can satisfied/engaged employees help your company?

  • Decreased turnover: Hiring a new employee can be pretty pricey. In fact, research suggests that a direct replacement of an employee can cost as much as 50-60% of his/her annual salary, but the total costs associated with turnover can range anywhere from 90-200%. This stat alone explains why an increased focus on employee satisfaction and overall retention has become such a focus for companies everywhere.
  • Increased production: There is no denying that employee satisfaction/engagement leads to increased customer engagement. Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report states that companies with engaged employees and engaged customers enjoy a 240% jump in performance-related business outcomes compared to those with neither engaged workers nor engaged customers.
  • Increased profitabilityA Towers Perrin-ISR study found that net profit margin was 2.06% for highly engaged companies versus –1.38% for low-engagement companies. Regardless of this statistic, it is no surprise that employee satisfaction has a direct effect on a company’s bottom line. 

By using these strategies, leaders and employees can maintain happiness in the workplace and become more engaged, motivated, and productive.

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