which comes firstAre you happy in your job role? Is it your company’s responsibility that you be happy at work?

Continuing on my last post on the myth of work-life balance, I was reading a thought provoking Business Insider article today by Jane Watson with the headline ‘Why Companies Should Stop Trying To Make Employees Happy’. The basic premise of the article questions whether it is the role and responsibility of a company that their employees be happy.

I agree with Watson that it is not the responsibility of an organisation to make their employees happy. Happiness is subjective and is the responsibility (choice) of the individual.

In the Business Insider article, Watson makes the point that conflicting research exists showing happiness may in fact be a bi-product of focus and productivity, not the other way around.

While it would be easy for me to cite the numerous research studies that show productivity and focus may in fact be a bi-product of ‘happy’ people, I’d rather make the point that this is really a ‘chicken or egg’ discussion.

If we know there is a correlation with happy workers and productivity, or productive workers and their happiness, (note that an association or correlation is not saying that happiness causes productivity, or that productivity causes happiness) surely, just as the smart leaders have worked out that employees who are provided with training and development are in a better position to be operating more safely, and more productively than without training and development, surely, providing employees with a working environment that will encourage them to be productive just makes sense.

I think with all good intentions (in the main), the happiness movement might have distracted leaders of organisations away from the goal of productivity and got caught up in the strategy of creating happiness.

For me, I don’t think the question has really changed for many years… rather than asking the question ‘how do we make our employees more happy at work?’ the question that still needs to be answered is ‘how do create a working environment where people will want to intrinsically strive to do the best job they can do?’

And while the researchers will undoubtedly continue to have conflicting findings depending on what point of view or leadership philosophy you lean toward, the best place still to discover how to create the most productive work environment, is by asking the individual employee, what type of working environment, given the constraints of reality, would be most conducive for them to want to do their best at work.

What I’m convinced of, if you were to explore this question with every employee, in one form or another, they would include in their answers, that they want to work in place of trust… where their work relationships (with colleagues, leaders, suppliers and customers) build self-trust, trust in others and others trusting in them.