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Happiness and the Power of Purpose

“It’s nothing personal, it’s strictly business.” The famous line uttered by Michael Corleone in The Godfather neatly summarises the way many used to feel about work – that you could remove all sense of personal value, emotion and intention and still get the best out of what you do. On the United Nations’ official International Day of Happiness, we explore the role that happiness plays in business success and how it is linked to purpose and positive intention.

Fast forward to today and the link between workplace happiness and productivity is undeniable. Happy people are better employees. Happy employees make for a more profitable company because those who work with purpose, are truly engaged with their jobs and share the same values as their colleagues work harder — and smarter. An extensive study into happiness and productivity, carried out by Oxford University in 2019 found that, on average, workers are around 13% more productive when happy.

Meanwhile, disconnected, unhappy people add little value, do not contribute to a psychologically safe and impact our organisations in distinctly negative ways. Even worse is when leaders are disengaged or lacking in positive intention because their emotions and mindset has a domino effect on the moods, morale and performance levels of their workforce. In a U.S.-based study of 357 full-time managers and their 1,404 subordinates, the London School of Economics found that leaders who tended to be viewed by their employees as more transformational were leaders who reported feeling more positive mood states during their working days.

It’s time to blow up the myth that emotion is important in the workplace. There are clear neurological links between feelings, thoughts and actions. When individuals are in the throes of experiencing strong negative emotions, it is almost like having blinkers on, focusing only on the source of the pain. As humans, we do not process information as well, think creatively, or make good decisions.

If we can agree then that our emotional states at work matter, what components are critical to increasing engagement and improving our performance?

To be fully engaged and happy, most people will say that they are looking for these three things.

An intentional vision of the future: People want to be able to see the future and know how they fit in as part of that future. Simultaneously, people learn and change when they have a personal vision that is linked to an organisational vision. If leaders do not paint a compelling vision of the future, that value the people they have working towards achieving it, they can end up losing people as a result.

Purpose: People want to feel as if their work matters, and that their contributions help to achieve something truly important that goes on beyond growth and revenue. They want to know that they — and their organisations — are doing something big that matters to other people and will make a difference.

Strong relationships: We know that people join an organisation but they make the decision to leave a boss. A dissonant relationship with one’s boss is nothing short of frustrating and painful. So too are bad relationships with colleagues. Leaders, managers, and employees alike applaud close, trusting and supportive relationships in terms of their link to a happy state of mind — and their willingness contribute to a team.

Ultimately, it is on individuals to find ways to live our values at work and build great relationships. But it is on leaders to create an environment filled with morale and a positive attitude where people can thrive. This is particularly true for an industry such as security where employee engagement is critical to ensuring the personal safety of clients.

In other words, putting the happiness of your people first means that everybody reaps the benefits.

It’s simple and it’s practical: for an engaged workforce, take care in how you create a vision, link people’s work to the greater purpose of the company and reward and praise those who resonate with others and share in that purpose.


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