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Engaged Employees Are Not Always Happy

Posted by Insightlink on 03/27/15

Why Having Happy Employees Is The Wrong Goal

Seriously, can anything be changed in 10 easy steps?

Nothing in life comes easy and in her recent article titled ‘Why Employee Happiness is the Wrong Goal,’ Liz Ryan steps up and says making happiness your goal at work is ‘insulting to employees.’ Why? Because happy is nowhere near sufficient to describe the relationship between work and a truly engaged worker.
Ms. Ryan’s article is a refreshing change from the litany of articles written about employee engagement because she captures the essence of the engaged employee, the one who gives discretionary effort, the one who goes above and beyond. And this employee as she explains, is not always happy!

Rather than focusing on new programs to make employees happy, we should be taking away the obstacles that keep people at work disempowered and disconnected from their mission, and from yours. Leadership in the knowledge economy has more to do with removing impediments to teamwork, collaboration and new ideas than with installing even more programs and policies than we already have.
“Happy employees” is just another part of the Godzilla mechanism of bureaucracy and hierarchy glued together by fear. We can shoot much higher than to have merely happy employees.
When people get to plug into their personal power source at work — when we can remove the impediments that keep our co-workers from acting on their natural inclination to bring their best to the job, including their best ideas and their full-bodied passion — they are more than happy. Their heads spin with ideas. They grab random grocery store receipts to write their ideas on, before the ideas fly away.
They come to in the morning excited to keep pushing forward, because they know that no one will be standing over them with a stopwatch saying “Hey you! You’re ten minutes late.”
Happiness is fleeting, but connection to your work is a power source that gets stronger over time. You can create that energy in your organization by getting rid of red tape bureaucracy and rules, one stupid and archaic policy at a time.

Ryan’s advice: Get rid of forced or stack ranking first, then lose your individual performance management system. Get rid of attendance policies for salaried employees. Lose your medieval bereavement leave policy and stop stealing your employees’ hard-earned frequent flyer miles.
Little by little, make your workplace human. Trust the people you hired. Trust yourself enough to trust them.

In other words, make your workplace human and they will come. Employees could be putting in time but their responses to an employee survey may show they are happy, which is why our employee surveys are designed to measure job satisfaction and engagement, not happiness. We agree that being happy is not the same as being engaged, they are completely different and we are thankful to Ms. Ryan for explaining the difference so well.

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Insightlink Communications are experts in employee survey design, data collection and analysis. Since 2001 we've helped companies of all sizes measure and improve their employee satisfaction and engagement.

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