Is it really possible to create workplace conditions that lead to employee happiness? Each person’s happiness is triggered based on unique conditioning, the person’s distinctive experiences and beliefs, so there’s rarely a single set of environmental factors that lead to happiness across a group. Positive emotions are vital for peak performance, but the best way to engender them is by influencing primal emotions and helping employees self-manage emotions.
Happiness is a high-level cognitive emotion that is shaped by each person’s unique experience and learning. Such cognitions are located within higher neocortical brain regions and are linked to the programming of each individual’s development. It’s not feasible to create an environment in which everyone is happy, because each person’s experiences and learning are different. For example, you can create an environment in which decision making is participative, and some people will be happy to have influence on decisions, but others will be frustrated with the time it takes.
Instead of happiness, we can target more primal emotions that represent the raw emotions that we all have in common. They arise from the very ancient lower regions of the brain and are inherited rather than created by lived experiences. We can help people quell their “fear” emotional system by teaching them to self-manage their emotions through stress reduction techniques that engender positivity. Also, we can stimulate positive emotional systems somatically, via the body, through rhythmic breathing, spontaneous play, and deep laughter. These techniques can easily be deployed in a team. Positive emotional systems can be also be stimulated by giving people the opportunity to seek happiness (or whatever they want to seek).
A recent Harvard Business Review article contends that we need to create workplaces that make employees happy so they will be more productive. I respect the concern for employee well-being, and I agree that positive emotion leads to higher performance, but I don’t believe you can make an organization happy. You can create “healthy” or “high performing” organizations that most people will like. But if you say you’re creating a “happy” workplace, people will expect to be happy and some won’t be, and it will lead to frustration.
As we learn more from science about the incredible power of group emotions, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team emotions to increase creativity and performance, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Incredible Power of Group Energy or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.Share