How to Kill Happiness at Work – Part 2


One of our most popular blog posts last year was titled, “How to Kill Happiness at Work.” Either HR people are really cruel or they’re genuinely concerned about the happiness of their employees (we’re guessing it’s the latter).

In that post, I shared some interesting research from Woohoo Inc. on the causes of bad days at work. A global survey of more than 700 workers showed the top five causes of bad days are:

  1. Bad bosses (lack of help and support) – 40%
  2. Bad relationships with co-workers (negative co-workers, complaining, bullying) – 39%
  3. A lack of direction/clarity (uncertainty about vision and strategy) – 37%
  4. No praise for our work (lack of recognition for work) – 37%
  5. High workload (busyness) – 36%

Looking back at this list, something struck me. Bad bosses may be the number one cause of bad days at work, but couldn’t you also argue that managers have a very real impact on every factor on this list?

  • Bad relationships? Negativity on the team is often modeled by a manager’s negative attitude.
  • Lack of direction? It’s up to the manager to distill company strategy to the team level.
  • Lack of praise? Your manager should be your biggest advocate.
  • Heavy workload? If a manager isn’t appropriately allocating resources, what are they doing?

Does this put a lot of pressure on the managers in your organization? Absolutely. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which values you say your company lives by if your people managers aren’t living and breathing those values and modeling them for their teams.

Companies are beginning to realize this, which is why the new role of manager as coach is one of the top six megatrends changing the face of HR and business. There’s a real shift in focus from command and control to inspire and empower.

In an interview earlier this year, Gary Hamel told us the need for flatter organizations comes from that fact that we no longer need hierarchy to process information. “Now information is cheap to acquire and share,” he said. What does that mean for our middle managers? Hamel continues:

Multi-layered hierarchies are an artifact of the pre-Internet age. Many of those layers are now redundant. Having said that, the goal is not to throw half the managers in the world under the bus. Those individuals are, on average, super smart. They’re very committed. They have a lot of technical knowledge. But the goal is to help them either develop their capacity to be natural leaders who can mobilize others without the aid of positional power, or to move back into specialist roles where their technical skills will be more valuable.

Even if your company sets a goal to be more intentional and thoughtful in who you hire and promote to be people managers, what can you do about the managers already in place? Are you giving them what they need to motivate, inspire, and coach their people?

One way to empower your people managers is through a social recognition program. Not only does this allow managers to show their team appreciation throughout the year, but also the back-end data can help them make better, more information decisions.

For example, if a manager has a team of remote workers, recognition data can highlight projects and milestones their team accomplished, even if they weren’t directly involved. The same back-end data can be predictable, by shedding light on flight risks – high-performing employees who haven’t been recognized enough – before it’s too late.

This data is also helpful for HR organizations to measure the effectiveness of managers. It can show you the super users – the managers who consistently recognize and congratulate their team. It can also show you red flags – parts of the organization that experience no recognition.

The goal is to empower your managers to be better coaches for their teams. If you can do that, you will see amazing results. According to our latest WorkHuman Research Institute survey, when employees agree, “My manager is a good coach and guides me to do my best work every day,” they are:

  • 70% more likely to love their job
  • 70% more likely to be highly engaged
  • 52% more likely to recommend your company to a friend
  • 121% more likely to believe your company has a human work culture
  • 47% more likely to feel they belong

Who wouldn’t want that for their people?

RELATED POSTS

How to Kill Happiness at Work

In Search of Happiness at Work

Survey: 93% of Managers Need Training on Coaching Employees

The Art and Science of Coaching

The Manager’s Field Guide to Recognition

Sarah Payne Sarah Payne (152 Posts)

As Managing Editor, Sarah manages Globoforce's blog and writes content about making work more human for people and organizations worldwide. She has a BA in English and Writing from University of Rhode Island.