Three Practices To Help Conquer Unhappiness In The Workplace

We’ve all likely experienced the impact of unhappiness in the workplace. If you think about the difference between employees with exceptional output versus those with mediocre output, it’s day and night. Simply put, an unhappy workforce makes a huge impact on organizational productivity and profitability. According to Gallup, more than 80% of employees are not engaged at work.

Unhappiness is having an even greater impact on individual employee health and well-being.  The biggest driver of health problems is stress, and one of the biggest drivers of workplace stress is bad bosses.  The reality is that we’re now working more than ever. The average person spends more than 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime, which can drastically diminish the amount of time they’re able to spend with family and loved ones. But increased work time does not always translate into greater productivity or happiness. Asking people to be plugged in and responsive all the time can lead to burnout and work-related stress.

At a basic level, human beings want to be connected. They want to know that they matter and that they are heard. When business leaders don’t listen to their employees, that connection can be lost.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Business leaders can promote connection and make the workplace more “human.” In a data-intensive reality where change and disruption are the norm, connection to one another and to our organizations is more vital than ever before. In fact, competitive business advantage today lies in the ability to find the right signals in a busy universe and apply these insights quickly.  

1. Be inclusive. Decisions within an organization are often made with a certain set of leaders, and these decisions aren’t always shared with the rest of the employees; this is why more than 70% of change initiatives fail — you’re overlooking key players who could help execute those decisions. So instead of keeping things inside a closed room, include everyone’s voices in your organization in topics that matter (e.g., values, culture, strategy, change, process improvement). This helps employees feel connected to the organization and empowered to drive change. People are far more likely to get on board with decisions if they understand the reasoning behind them.

2. Embrace transparency. Transparent communication is the key to building trust and rapport in the workplace and to developing a healthy culture. The narrative we let people write on their own is often much worse than the truth. Offering visibility into both the good and bad can remove uncertainty and benefit your company as a whole. Your team will be excited about finding remedies to problems if they have some visibility into what’s happening, and they will be far more effective in implementing solutions.  

3. Show vulnerability. Share your humanity. The idea of the “infallible leader” is as realistic as believing in minotaurs or mermaids — they don’t exist. In any sizable organization, there’s too much nuanced information for leaders to have all the answers. So, be humble, and ask your team questions to tap into their wisdom. In her book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, author Sheryl Sandberg found that showing vulnerability led to better outcomes and more realistic expectations for all employees. Acknowledging one another’s humanity inspires more engagement and, in turn, higher performance, increased productivity and better business outcomes.