Organizational joy refers to feelings of happiness that are either about aspects of one’s job (e.g., tasks or corporate purpose) or experienced in organizational settings (e.g., at the office).
Happiness that is felt about these topics or in these circumstances has beneficial effects on several organizational outcomes. For example, one experiment found that employees who feel happy while performing their tasks are 13% more productive. Other studies have found that organizational happiness is associated with increased task persistence, creativity, retention, and customer satisfaction.
Despite the importance of organizational joy, employees experience it far less than they want or expect to. For instance, one study conducted by Kearny, a global management consulting firm, found that while 90% of employees expected to feel joy, only 37% report feeling it, leaving 53% of employees with a “joy gap.”
Source: Analysis of 2018 A.T. Kearney survey by Siegel + Gale
To reap the benefits of organizational joy, businesses must find ways to minimize this discrepancy between expectations and reality.
Six Tips For Increasing Levels Of Organizational Joy
Employees can lower the delta between expected and experienced levels of organizational joy by adopting the following strategies.
- Set the tone: Team leaders’ moods are contagious. If they seem pleased with the company’s financial state, excited about its purpose, or just generally happy, employees will be prone to mirror their joy. Because of this, employers should make special efforts to express their happiness.
- Articulate a meaningful purpose: In addition to uncovering the joy gap, the Kearney survey found that organizational joy is strongly associated with whether an employee (i) feels committed to achieving the company’s vision and strategy for the future, (ii) believes that the company makes a positive societal contribution, and (iii) understands the company’s vision for the future and how they fit into achieving these goals.
The upshot is clear. As Michael Schrage, visiting research fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, states, “people want more than a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work; they want to find alignment with purpose”.
- Express gratitude: It’s difficult to feel joyful about a job that one doesn’t believe they are good at, and it’s difficult to feel successful without positive feedback from team leaders. To create a joyful workplace, employers must create systematic processes that allow managers and peers to express gratitude and recognize employees’ hard work.
- Don’t force it: Because joy has such a strong positive impact on individual and organizational well-being, employers may feel tempted either to ignore the existence of negative emotions within their organizations or to outright discourage employees from experiencing them.
Though this instinct is understandable, it is counterproductive. For example, one study found that people who habitually avoid acknowledging challenging emotions often end up feeling worse. Employers implementing joy-boosting strategies can avoid this outcome by offering workers a dedicated space to express negative sentiments towards their jobs or organizations.
- Provide adequate mental health care benefits: Some mental ailments (e.g., depression or anxiety) make it extremely difficult to feel happy and relaxed. Employees suffering from one or more of these mental health conditions may not be able to experience organizational joy without first receiving help from a mental health professional. Organizations should make sure that their professional support services are designed to meet the needs of their diverse demographic and that employees are aware that these resources are available
- Be mindful of the many flavors of happiness: Happiness comes in many different varieties (e.g., free-floating, attached, authentic, autonomous, etc.). To enhance the power of the aforementioned joy-boosting strategies, employers should combine them with tailor-made tactics to cultivate specific flavors of happiness. For instance, companies can boost authentic happiness (i.e., unforced joy that reflects an individual's genuine values) by giving workers a say in the organization's culture.