skip to main content

Become Happier

If you want to be happy, be.

People used to believe that you didn’t have to be happy at work to succeed.  And you didn’t need to like the people you work with, or even share their values.  “Work is not personal,” the thinking went.

This is bunk.

Happy at Work

Studies now universally show that happy people are better workers.

Those who are engaged with their jobs and colleagues work harder — and smarter.

And yet, an alarmingly high number of people aren’t engaged.  According to a sobering 2013 Gallup report, only 30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged.  This echoes what I’ve seen in my work, and Covid most likely has reduced this engagement number significantly.

Not many people are truly “emotionally and intellectually committed” to their organizations.  Far too many couldn’t care less about what’s happening around them.  For them, Wednesday is “hump day,” and they’re just working to get to Friday.

And then there’s the other end of the bell curve —nearly one out of five employees is actively disengaged, according to the same Gallup report.  These people sabotage projects, backstab colleagues, and generally wreak havoc in their workplaces.

The reality is disengaged, unhappy people aren’t fun to work with, don’t add much value, and negatively impact your organization (and our economy).

It’s even worse when leaders are disengaged because they infect others with their attitude.  Their emotions and mindset impact others’ moods and performance tremendously.  After all, how we feel is linked to what and how we think.

In other words, thought influences emotion, and emotion influences thinking.

For business leaders and entrepreneurs, it’s time to finally blow up the myth that feelings don’t matter at work.  Science is on our side: there are clear neurological links between feelings, thoughts, and actions.

How to Be Happy at Work

Research tells us that employees want three things to be happy at work.

  1. A meaningful vision of the future: Everyone wants a vision.  People want to see the future and know how they fit in.  And people learn and change when they have a personal vision linked to an organizational vision.

Sadly, far too many leaders don’t paint a compelling vision of the future, don’t try to link it to people’s personal visions, and don’t communicate well.  And they lose people as a result.

  1. A sense of purpose: People want to feel that their work matters and that their contributions help achieve something significant.

And except for those at the tippy top, shareholder value isn’t a meaningful goal that excites and engages them.  Instead, they want to know that they — and their organizations — are doing something big that matters to other people.

  1. Great relationships: The good news and bad news is we know that people join an organization and leave a boss.

A dissonant relationship with one’s boss is downright painful.  So too are bad relationships with colleagues.  In recent research, leaders, managers, and employees all say that close, trusting, and supportive relationships are hugely important to their state of mind — and their willingness to contribute to a team.

There is an abundance of internet advice on how to be happy, and most of it is good, within the framework given.  But to have long-term happy employees, leaders must focus on vision, a sense of purpose, and relationships.

The Bible

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for well-being, flourishing, and happiness is the same word.  This word is also most often translated into English as “blessed.”

Psalm 1:1-2 says,

Blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the Law of the Lord,
And on His Law he meditates day and night.

Although the original words are different, in the New Testament, these words also translate to blessed, happy, and flourishing.  For example, Matthew 5:9 says,

 “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.


Notice how the current research on happiness at work concurs with God’s design.  The words used to mean happiness also means well-being, flourishing, and blessed.

Happiness is not simply a smile on your face.  It is an inner sense of peace.

Business leaders and entrepreneurs cannot provide this sense of happiness to the degree God delivers it.  But you can give your employees happiness by giving them vision, a sense of purpose, and a great relationship.