Is the Pursuit of Happiness Killing Employee Productivity?


Employee engagement is a commitment to give one’s best to the success of the company. It entails emotional commitment to achieve the vision and goals of the business. Therefore, every organisation aims to improve their employee engagement.

Engaged employees understand the value of their contribution to the company. Their productivity speaks of the intensity of their passion. They are happy going to work knowing that they are capable of making a difference.

Yet, can we conclude that all happy employees are engaged?

In a Forbes article, it says that happiness does not equate to employee engagement. Some happy employees go to work every day but they are not contributing much. What’s important to them is they get the pay cheque and enjoy the perks.

There is nothing wrong with making your people happy. You only need to worry if you are making them happier without engagement in return. Think deeper and find ways to make the engagement happen.

Stop making your employees happier

Engaged employees are happy they have work. More than that, they are happy because they have a venue to share and hone their skills.  Work is not only about money.

Work is about dignity.

Your business is at stake if your employees only stay because of the perks and benefits. The gym membership, health insurance, retirement package, and bonuses are not bad. But, they are only icing on the cake.

Work is about exerting effort to contribute something for a purpose.

Real work is sometimes exhausting. Even engaged employees feel boredom. Yet, they view boredom as their gateway to professional growth. They strive to improve their skills every day. They too enjoy having fun at work.

But they understand that work is not just about fun.

While it's not bad to add more perks, it’s not a guarantee that you will produce more engaged employees. Do not build a culture around perks.  Better develop a culture of values like dedication, learning, and resilience.

Develop a culture of resilience

Stop surveying the happiness of your employees. There is no proof that happiness increases productivity.  Better to study what motivates people.

Acknowledge the importance of resilience. Resilience is the ability to take control of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and actions. Resilient people have a can-do attitude even under pressure. They know how to manage negative stress to fuel their creativity.

Happiness is fleeting. But a character built on resilience can withstand boredom, negative feelings and thoughts. Their productivity is not dependent on the weather. They have the ability to make a bad day a productive one.

Management should understand how people's minds work.

Those who believe they can, achieve more. While those who believe it’s impossible, tend to limit themselves. This defeatist attitude is a sign of disengagement. And, you can use resilience to combat this negative attitude in your company.

Look for resilience during an interview. Start developing a culture of resilience. Focus more on organisational transformation. Be a leader that inspires your team towards a shared vision.

Have a clear vision and expectations

Have a regular vision review with your team. It pays to remind people why you need to keep going. Emphasise the importance of the bigger picture. Use your vision as a positive reinforcement to employee engagement.

Make your people be aware of the company's achievements. Knowing that the company has moved forward gives an inherent satisfaction. Your engaged employees become happy that their efforts have already paid off.

Be warned though that engaged employees are seldom very happy to sit back.

They hate the status quo and are always busy pushing forward. They get disappointed when the change they work hard for is not happening. Most of them are very passionate about their work. Be sure to make them feel valued to lessen the risk of losing them.

Stop operating in reactive ‘fire-fighting’ mode all the time. Thriving in survival mode with inefficient processes disengages your valued employees. Invest in technology to improve your efficiency. You can’t expect increased productivity with outdated tools and processes. Effective leadership provides a well-planned strategy towards their vision.

Provide career development

Engaged employees see their future aligned with the vision of the company. They believe that they have a bright future ahead. Staying in your company is a professional investment on their part.

Employee engagement develops in a growth-mindset culture.

Self-improvement is the differentiating factor between a happy employee and an engaged employee. A happy employee does not give importance to professional growth. As long as they are happy, they continue to show up, put in the minimum hours, and go home. They are the thriving zombies in your organisation.

If you want to develop employee engagement, provide a venue for career development. Provide resources and opportunity for learning. The committed ones would take the opportunity to grow themselves. The mediocre ones choose to remain stagnant.

Career development means professional growth. For some, growth means a technical certification and skills improvement. For others, it means being able to handle bigger responsibilities. Make sure that as the company grows, your people also grow.


There is no proof that happy people can make your company great. While employee happiness is important, it's not enough to make them engaged. Life is not only about happiness, but a pursuit of a meaningful purpose.

Disengaged employees, happy or not, don’t add much value to the organisation. Their laid-back attitude can frustrate the engaged ones. Remember that engaged people do not thrive in a mediocre environment.

Effective leaders recognise the value of communication. They always remind people of their contributions. They inspire people to focus on the vision and find purpose in the company’s mission.

Leaders need to understand what motivates and demotivates people. Engaged employees deserve to have a timely and sincere recognition for a job well done. When efforts are not appreciated, they find no value staying with the company.

Disengagement must be viewed as a response to negative emotions. People come to your company happy and excited about their new job. When they become frustrated, angry and stressed out, find out the underlying reasons. Make sure to address the root cause of the issues. Otherwise, your company will be full of people ready to jump ship anytime.

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