Happiness at work

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Despite a large body of positive psychological research into the relationship between happiness and productivity,[1][2][3] happiness at work has traditionally been seen as a potential by-product of positive outcomes at work, rather than a pathway to success in business. During the past two decades, maintaining a level of happiness at work has become more significant and relevant due to the intensification of work caused by economic uncertainty and increase in competition.[4] Nowadays, it is viewed by a growing number of scholars, academics and senior executives as one of the major sources of positive outcomes in the workplace.[5][6]

Definition[edit]

Ryan and Deci offer a definition for happiness in two views: happiness as being hedonic accompanied with enjoyable feelings and desirable judgments and they define happiness as being eudemonic, which involves doing virtuous, moral and meaningful things.[7] Schimmack explains that the hedonic alternative is usually found in research on subjective well-being which outlines two related elements: life satisfaction, judgment and affect stability or having a superiority of positive feelings or less negative feelings.[8] Watson et al. claims that the most important approach to explain an individual’s experience, such as the structure of mood and emotions, is in a hedonic tone (pleasantness-unpleasantness).[9] Warr[10] describes the hedonic approach as being concerned with pleasant feelings, satisfying judgments, self-validation and self-actualization. In other words, in order for one to live a happy life one must be concerned with doing virtuous, moral and meaningful things while utilising personal talents and skills. However, some psychologist argue that hedonic happiness is unstable over a long period of time, especially in the absence of eudaimonic well-being.[11]

While happiness is not fundamentally rooted in obtaining sensual pleasures and money, those factors can influence the well- being of an individual at the workplace.[12] However, extensive research has revealed that freedom at a workplace and autonomy has the most effect on the employee's levels of happiness[12] as well as gaining knowledge and ability to influence one's individual working hours .

Companies with higher than average employee happiness exhibit better financial performance and customer satisfaction.[13] Thus, it is beneficial for companies to create and maintain positive work environments and leadership that will contribute to the happiness of their employees.[14]

Antecedents[edit]

Organisational culture[edit]

Organisational culture represents the internal work environment created for operating an organisation. It can also represent how employees are treated by their bosses and peers. Therefore, an effective organisation should have a culture that takes into account employee’s happiness and encourages employee satisfaction.[15] Job satisfaction or employee satisfaction is defined as a personal evaluation of conditions present in the job or outcomes that arise as a result of having job.[16] Therefore, job satisfaction has to do with individual’s talents and preferences. Although each individual has unique talents and personal preferences, the behaviors and beliefs of the people in the same organizations show common properties.[16] This, to some extent, helps organisations to create their own cultural properties.

As members in an organisation work together to perform a job, the created culture will, in turn, enable the members in the organisation to understand each other and work in a more comfortable environment.[17] Jarow concludes that employee feels satisfied not through comparisons with other peers, but through his/her own happiness and awareness of being in harmony with their colleagues.[18] He uses a term called “carrier” to represent lack of happiness, life in constant tension and never-ending struggle for status,[18] as opposed to this “anti-carrier” approach in which employees tend to perform in a more loyal and productive.[19]

Employee salary[edit]

There are many reasons that can contribute to happiness at work. However, when individuals are asked with regards to why they work, money is one of the most common answers[20] as it provides people with sustenance, security and privilege. To a large extent, people work to live, and the pecuniary aspect of the work is what sustains the living. Locke, Feren, McCaleb Shaw and Denny argued that no other incentive or motivational technique comes even close to money with respect to its instrumental value.[21]

The income-happiness relationship in life can also be applied in organisational psychology. Some studies have found positively significant relationships between salary level and job satisfaction.[22] Some have suggested that income and happiness at work are positively correlated, and the relationship is stronger for individuals with extrinsic value orientations.[23]

As opposed to the positive relationship between pay level and job satisfaction, some concluded that salary, in itself, is not a very strong factor in job satisfaction.[24] Added to this, hundreds of studies and scores of systematic reviews of incentive studies consistently document the ineffectiveness of external rewards.[25] The question regarding this subject is recently studied by a group of people, including Judge and his colleagues. Their research shows that the intrinsic relationship between job and salary is complex. In this research, they analysed the combined impact of many existing studies to produce a much larger and statistically powerful analysis. More specifically, they study the correlations between employees’ compensation and the well-being achieved from jobs by looking at 86 previous studies. This research is of great significance, in that it illustrates the great dilemma for employers when it comes to pay. There is a large number of parameters, not just with respect to the link between jobs and salary, but in how money is valued. It is probably true to say that money is a driver of employee’s happiness. However, it is transitory as well. Judge and his colleagues have reminded us that money may not necessarily make employees happy.[26]

Job security[edit]

Main article: Job security

Job security is an important factor to determine whether employee feel happiness at work. Different type of job has different job security.[27] In some situations, a position is expected to be offered for a long time, whereas in other jobs an employee may be forced to resign his/ her job. Hence, this aspect is refer to determine the likelihood of losing one’s job.[28] The expectation of the job availability has been related with the job-related well-being[29] and the high level of job security corresponds to high level of job satisfaction alongside a high level of well-being.[30] It seems that in job security more emphasis is put on desirable outcomes rather than undesirable ones, therefore, employees are more likely to include job security as an important element of having a positive outlook on the future.[31]

Career development[edit]

The opportunity for promote or give a position that obviously capitalises on personal skills in one’s career is an important characteristic in occupational environment. In essence, the progression of career is grown from bottom up in an employment hierarchy.[32] However, there are also other forms of career development, involving indirect work movement, shifts to another roles.

The option for moving or shifting to alternative roles motivates the employee's participation in the workplace[33] meaning if employee can see the future potential for a promotion, motivation levels will increase. By contrast, if an organisation does not provide any potential for higher status position in the future, the employee's effectiveness in work will decrease. In addition, the employee may consider whether or not the position would be offer to them in the future. On the other hand, not all of the opportunities for transferring into another activity are aimed to obtain the upward movement. In some cases, they are aimed to prevent the skills obsolescence, provides more future career possibility, as well as directly increasing the skill development.[34]

Job autonomy[edit]

Job autonomy may be defined as the condition of being self-governing or free from excessive external control in the workplace environment. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that autonomy is important to human beings because it is the foundation of human dignity and the source of all morality.[35] Among the models of human growth and development that are centred on autonomy, the most theoretically sophisticated approach has been developed around the concepts of self-regulation and intrinsic motivation. Self-determination theory proposes that ‘higher behavioural effectiveness, greater volitional persistence, enhanced subjective well-being, and better assimilation of the individual within his or her social group’ result when individuals act from motivations that emanate from the inner self (intrinsic motivation) rather than from sources of external regulation.[36] For self-determination theorists, it is the experience of an external locus of causation (or the belief that one’s actions are controlled by external forces) that undermines the most powerful source of natural motivation and that (when chronic) also can lead to stultification, weak self-esteem, anxiety and depression, and alienation. Thus, health and well-being as well as effective performance in social settings are closely related to the experience of autonomy. Hackman and Oldham developed the Job Characteristics Model, a framework that focused attention on autonomy and four other key factors involved in designing enriched work. Work designed to be complex and challenging (characterized by high levels of autonomy, skill variety, identity, significance, and feedback) was theorized to promote high intrinsic motivation, job satisfaction, and overall work performance.[37] Two decades of research in this tradition have shown that job scope or complexity, an additive combination of autonomy and the four other job characteristics: (a) is correlated significantly with more objective ratings of job characteristics; (b) may be reduced to a primary factor consisting of autonomy and skill variety; and (c) has substantial effects on affective and behavioural reactions to work, mostly indirectly through critical psychological states such as experienced responsibility for the outcomes of the work. It is possible to infer from this line of research that the experience of autonomy at work has positive consequences ranging from higher job performance to job satisfaction and enhanced general well-being, which are both related to the concept of happiness at work.

Work/life balance[edit]

Main article: Work-life balance

Work- life balance is a state of equilibrium, characterised by a high level of satisfaction, functionality, and effectiveness while successfully performing several tasks simultaneously.[38] The non-work activity is not limited to family life only but also to various occupations and activities of which one’s life is composed. Scholars and popular press articles have started promoting the importance of maintaining a work-life balance beginning in the early 1970s and have been increasing ever since.[39] Studies suggest[40] there is a clear connection between the increase in work related stress to the constant advancements in digital and telecommunications technology. The existence of cell phones and other internet based devices enables access to work related issues in non- working periods, thus, adding more hours and work load. A decrease in the time allocated to non- work related activities and working nonstandard shifts has been proven to have significant negative effects on family and personal life. The immediate effect is a decrease in general well- being as the individual is unable to properly allocate the appropriate amount of time necessary to maintain a balance between the two spheres. Therefore, extensive research has been done on properly managing time as a main strategy of managing stress. It is estimated by the American Psychological Association[41] that the national cost of stress for the US economy is approximately US$500 billion annually.

Some of the physiological effects of stress include cognitive problems (forgetfulness, lack of creativity, inefficient decision making), emotional reactions (mood swings, irritability, depression, lack of motivation), behavioural issues (withdrawal from relationships and social situations, neglecting responsibilities, abuse of drugs and alcohol) and physical symptoms (tiredness, aches and pain, loss of libido).[42]

The condition in which work performance is negatively affected by a high level of stress is termed 'burnout', in which the employee experiences a significant reduction in motivation. According to Vroom’s Expectancy Theory, when the outcomes of work performance are offset by the negative impacts on the individual’s general well being, or, are not valued enough by the employee, levels of motivation are low.[43] Time management, prioritising certain tasks and actions according to one’s values and beliefs are amongst the suggested course of action for managing stress and maintaining a healthy work- life balance. Psychologists have suggested that when workers have control over their work schedule, they are more capable of balancing work and non- work related activities. The difficulty of distinguishing and balancing between those spheres was defined by sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild as Time Bind.[44] The reality of constant increase in competition and economic uncertainty frequently forces the employee to compromise the balance for the sake of financial and job security. Therefore, work/ life balance policies are created by many businesses and are largely implemented and dealt by line managers and supervisors, rather than at the organizational level[45] as the employee's well being can be more carefully observed and monitored.

Working relationship[edit]

According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, feeling a sense of belonging to groups is a significant motivation for human beings. Co-workers are an important social group and relationships with them can be a source of pleasure.[46] Three Need theory also suggests that people have a Need for affiliation.[47] Person-job fit, the matching between personal abilities and job demand, has important effects on job satisfaction.[48]

Group relationship[edit]

Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory indicates that co-workers relationship belongs to hygiene needs, which are related to environmental elements. When environmental elements are met, satisfaction will be achieved. Employees tend to be happier and more hardworking when they are in good working environment, for instance, being happy to work in a good working relationship.[49]

Group relationship is important and has effects on employees' absenteeism and turnover rate. Cohesive groups increase job satisfactions. Mann and Baumgartel state that the sense of group belongingness, group pride, group solidarity or group spirit relates inversely to the absenteeism rate. Among the target groups, group with high cohesiveness tend to have low absenteeism rate while group with low cohesiveness tend to have higher absenteeism rate.[50]

Seashore investigated 228 work groups in a heavy-machinery-manufacturing company. His findings suggest that Group cohesiveness helps employees solve their work-related pressure. Seashore define cohesiveness as '1) members perceive themselves to be a part of a group 2) members prefer to remain in the group rather than to leave, and 3) perceive their group to be better than other groups with respect to the way the men get along together, the way they help each other out, and the way they stick together'. Among the target group, the less cohesive the group, the more likely its employees are to feel nervous and jumpy.[51]

Different communication ways in groups contribute to different employees satisfaction. For example, the chain structure results in low satisfaction while the circle structure results in high satisfaction.[52]

Leadership[edit]

In relations to the work place, successful leadership will structure and develop relationships amongst employees and consequently, employees will empower each other.[53]

Kurt Lewin argued that there are 3 main styles of leaderships:[54]

  1. Autocratic leaders: control the decision-making power and do not consult team members.
  2. Democratic leaders: include team members in the decision-making process but make the final decisions.
  3. Laissez-faire leaders: team members have huge freedom in how they do their work, and how they set their deadlines.

Management plays an important role in an employee's job satisfaction and happiness.[55] Good leadership can empower employees to work better towards reaching the organisation's goals.[56] For example, if a leader is considerate, the employees will tend to develop a positive attitude towards management and thus, work more effectively.[57]

Feelings, including happiness, are often hidden by employees and should be identified[58] for effective communication in the workplace. Ineffective communication at work is not uncommon, as leaders tend to focus on their own matters and give less attention to employees at a lower rank. Employees, on the other hand, tend to be reluctant to talk about their own problem and assume leaders can figure out the problem. As a result, both leaders and employees can cause repetitive misunderstandings.[58]

Consequences[edit]

Job performance[edit]

Main article: Job performance

Research shows that employees who are happiest at work are considered to be the most efficient and display the highest levels of performance. For instance, the iOpener Institute found that a happy worker is a high-performing one.[59] The happiest employees only take one-tenth the sick leave of their least happy colleagues as they are in better physical and psychological health than their colleagues. Furthermore, happier employees display a higher level of loyalty, as they tend to stay for far longer periods in their organizations. Happiness at work is the feeling that employee really enjoy what they do and they are proud of themselves, they enjoy people being around, thus they have better performance.

One of example for the retail company is that most of retail company’s own ‘Chief Happiness Officer’ or something similar like ‘Happiness HR Manager’ who is the main driver in making and keeping the workplace happy. These happiness consultants can help employee find a way to enjoy the difficult task and reduce their work stress, hence increase the employee work performance and decrease the company turnover rate.[60] The organization not only gives their employees an opportunity to spend their days earning money but also lets their employees feel that they are enjoy to contribute their effort to the work place.

Absence from work[edit]

Main article: Absenteeism

Employee behaviour might influenced by happiness or unhappiness. People would like to participate in the work when they feel happiness, or in the converse, absenteeism might occur.[61] Absenteeism can be defined as the lack of physical presence at a given place and time determined by an individual's work schedule.[62] Those behaviours having a significant influence on the theories and practices terms. From the theoretical term, absenteeism can be associated with a wide range of external and internal variables such as environmental and individual factors.[63] Also, the level of absence is significantly related to employee job performance. In practical terms, the cost of absenteeism to organisations can be considerable.[64] Cost control has a very important status of organisation’s cost management, the rapid increase of temporary replacements, overweights the difficult of employee’s training and company’s cost.

Absence from the work is determined by medical, social,[65] family and also organisational factors. Although employee absenteeism are usually associated with the job-related well-being or simply whether employee feel happiness during the work, other factors are also important. Firstly, the healthy constrains such as being ill would force the employee absence from the work. Secondly, social and families pressure can also influence the employee’s decision to participate in the work. From the organisation perspective, the job characteristics, company encourage participate policies[66] and supervisor or subordinate’s support[67] can influence on attendance or absence as well.

Absenteeism is usually measured in two methods, the time-lost index and the frequently index respectively.[68] The time-lost index refer to calculate the total absence time during a certain period, perhaps represent as a percentage of the total time. The frequently index method is refer to count the number of absence, which give the same meaning for one day absence and one month absence.

Employee turnover[edit]

Main article: Employee turnover

Employee turnover can be considered as another result derived from employee happiness. In particular, it is more likely that individual employees are able to deal with stress and passive feelings when they are in good mood.[69] As people spend a considerable amount of time in the workplace, factors such as employee relationship, organizational culture and job performance can have a significant impact on work happiness. What is more, Avey and his colleagues use a concept called psychological capital to link employee satisfaction with work related outcomes, especially turnover intention and actual turnover.[70] However, their findings were limited due to some reasons. For example, they omitted an important factor, which was emotional stability.[71] Additionally, other researchers have pointed out that the relationship between work happiness and turnover intention is generally low, even if a dissatisfied employee is more likely to quit his/her job than the satisfied one.[72] Therefore, whether or not employee happiness can be linked with employee’s turnover intention is still a moot point.

Measurement[edit]

Although there are a few surveys used to measure the happiness or well-being level of people in different countries such as the World Happiness Report, the Happy Planet Index and the OECD Better Life Index, there are no surveys that measure happiness in the specific context of the workplace. There are, however, surveys created to assess the job satisfaction level of employees. Even though job satisfaction is a different concept, it is positively correlated to happiness and subjective well-being.[73] The main job satisfaction scales are: The Job Satisfaction Survey (JSS), The Job Descriptive Index (JDI) and The Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ).[74] The Job Satisfaction Survey (JSS) assesses nine facets of job satisfaction, as well as overall satisfaction. The facets include pay and pay raises, promotion opportunities, relationship with the immediate supervisor, fringe benefits, rewards given for good performance, rules and procedures, relationship with coworkers, type of work performed and communication within the organization. The scale contains thirty-six items and uses a summated rating scale format. The JSS can provide ten scores. Each of the nine subscales produce a separate score and the total of all items produces a total score. The Job Descriptive Index (JDI) scale assesses five facets which are work, pay, promotion, supervision and coworkers. The entire scale contains seventy-two items with either nine or eighteen items per subscale. Each item is an evaluative adjective or short phrase that is descriptive of the job. The individual has to respond "yes", "uncertain" or "no" for each item. The Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ) has two versions, a one hundred item long version and a twenty item short form. It covers twenty facets including activity, independence, variety, social status, supervision (human relations), supervision (technical), moral values, security, social service, authority, ability utilization, company policies and practices, compensation, advancement, responsibility, creativity, working conditions, coworkers, recognition and achievement. The long form contains five items per facet, while the short one contains only one.

See also[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Boehm, J K. & S. Lyubomirsky, Journal of Career Assessment. Vol 16(1), Feb 2008, 101-116.
  • Diener E., & Biswas-Diener R., (2002) Will money increase subjective well-being? A literature review and guide to needed research Social Indicators Research. 57, 119-169 Diener E. and Biswas-Diener R.
  • Forgas, J. P., (2002) Feeling and doing: Affective influences on interpersonal behavior, Psychological Inquiry. Vol 13(1) Jan 2002 1-28.
  • Iverson R.D., Olekalns M., & Erwin P.J. (1998), Affectivity organizational stressors and absenteeism: A causal model of burnout and its consequences. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 52, 1-23
  • Fredrickson B., & Branigan, C., (2005) Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought-action repertoires Cognition and Emotion, Vol 19 (3), 313-332(20)
  • Baas, M., De Dreu C.K.W., Nijstad, B.A., (2008) A meta-analysis of 25 years of mood-creativity research: Hedonic tone, activation, or regulatory focus? Psychological Bulletin. 134(6) 779-806.
  • Cropanzano R., & Wright T.A., A 5-year study of change in the relationship between well-being and job performance, Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 51, 252-265
  • Forgas, J. P. (1998). On feeling good and getting your way: Mood effects on negotiating strategies and outcomes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 565-577.
  • Goetz, M C Goetz, PW and Robinson, M D, (2007) What's the use of being happy? Mood states, useful objects, and repetition priming effects. Emotion Vol 7(3), 675-679.
  • Watson, D. (1988). Intraindividual and interindividual analyses of positive and negative affect: Their relation to health complaints, perceived stress and daily activities. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1020-1030.
  • Kobasa S. (1979) Personality and resistance to illness. American Journal of Community Psychology, (7) 4, 413-423
  • Kubzansky L.D., Sparrow D., Vokonas P., & Kawachi I., (2001) Is the glass half empty or half full? A prospective study of optimism and coronary heart disease in the normative aging study Psychosomatic Medicine 63:910-916
  • Danner D.D., Snowdon S.A., & Friesen W.V., Positive emotions in early life and longevity: findings from the nun study, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, May 2001, Vol. 80, No.5, 804-13
  • Argyle M., (1987) The experience of happiness, London: Methuen
  • Casciaro T., & Lobo S. L. (June 2005) Harvard Business Review, Competent Jerks, Loveable Fools and the Formation of Social Networks
  • Staw B.M, Sutton R.I., & Pelled L.H. (1994) Employee positive emotion and favorable outcomes at the workplace. Organization Science, 5, 51-71
  • Losada, M. & Heaphy, E. (2004). The Role of Positivity and Connectivity in the Performance of Business Teams A Nonlinear Dynamics Model. American Behavioral Scientist, 47: 40-765.
  • Martin L.L., Ward D.W., Achee J.W. & Wyer R.S., (1993) Mood as input: people have to interpret the motivational implications of their moods. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 64, 317-326
  • Staw B.M. & Barsade S.G., (1993) Affect and management performance: A test of the sadder-but-wiser vs. Happier-and-smarter hypothesis, Administrative Science Quarterly 38, 304-331
  • Cropanzano R., & Wright T.A., (2001) When a “happy” worker is really a productive worker: a review and further refinement of the happy-productive worker thesis. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice& Research, 53, 182-199
  • Folkman S., & Moskowitz J.T., (2000a) Positive affect and the other side of coping, American Psychologist, 55 (647-654)
  • Folkman S., & Moskowitz J.T., (2000b) Stress, positive emotion and coping, Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9,115-118
  • Lai, J.C.L., Chong, A.M.L., Ho, S.M.Y., Siu, O.T., Evans, P.D., Ng, S.H., Chan, P., Chan, C.L.W. & Ho, R.T.H. (2005) Optimism, positive affectivity, and salivary cortisol. British Journal of Health Psychology, 10, 467-484.
  • Pryce Jones, J. (Forthcoming) Happiness 9-5
  • Ventegodt, Søren, and Joav Merrick. Health And Happiness From Meaningful Work : Research In Quality Of Working Life. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 23 July 2015.
  • Wandemberg, J.C. (1998). Sustainable by Design? Economic development and natural resources use. Ph.D. Dissertation, New Mexico State University.