Happy Employees

I’m having a great day; everything is going my way, the sun is shining, and I’m feeling good. You could make the argument that I’m happy and I’d probably agree.

If you did not know me, you might think it’s my circumstances that makes me happy. But if you spent time with me, you would find out I work hard at being happy because Jesus not only commands us to be happy, He gives us the instructions on how to be happy.

My thoughts today, however, are about my employees.  As I walk through the work areas of my business, I see employees who are happy and employees who are visibly not happy.  And this concerns me.

My question is, as the owner or manager of a business, am I responsible for my employee’s happiness?

For this question, I’m going to look at three perspectives that will shed some light on employee happiness.

Employer’s Perspective

First, from a pure employer perspective, we need to consider the purpose of business. Not just your business, but business in general.

If you believe Milton Friedman, then the purpose of a business is to maximize shareholder’s profits. Today, many answer this question saying the ultimate purpose of a business is to serve society and to make the world a better place. An in-between definition is to maximize profits for its owners or stakeholders while maintaining corporate social responsibility.

But in none of these definitions is the employee’s happiness specifically called out. My opinion for this omission is many of the jobs we ask our employees to do are really not “happiness motivating” tasks. Cleaning sewers, working on an oil rig, and washing dishes really do not engender happiness. Cleary not all, or not even most, employees get to do the fun and enjoyable tasks found in most businesses.

Also from the employer’s perspective is the age-old attitude that the employee accepted the job, is getting paid for their labor, and nowhere is the need for happiness to be found. This is the cruel taskmaster, suck-it-up, just be glad you have a job attitude that we are constantly trying to overcome.

Employee’s Perspective

The second perspective is the employee’s. We know a happy employee works harder and will be employed longer.

Increased production and lower training costs has a direct impact on the bottom line hence profits will go up.

We need to be careful with this approach, however, because machines need no training and do not complain, so the logical extension could be we need to replace all our employees with machines. I like my employees and, even if I could, I would be very hesitant to replace them with a machine.

God’s Perspective

The last perspective is that of God. This is not that we are playing god, but that God invented happiness. To look at this from God’s perspective, I’m going to focus on one verse that is representative of nearly all the other Bible verses about happiness.

Psalm 37:4 says.

Delight yourself in the Lord,

and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Happiness comes from all things associated with God. Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is all about happiness.  Many parables are about happiness.  God wants us to be happy.  But there is a catch: happiness is not about what makes us happy but about who makes us happy.

This relates to our workplace by understanding that it is not about the job, the tools to do the job, or the perks that go along with the job. It is the who that is involved in the job.

As the boss, you can have some influence on the employee’s happiness. It’s the pat on the back, the acknowledgement that they are doing their job, the respect you give them every day that has the potential to help make people happy.  Those actions are a must in today’s work environment.

But we all know some people are just not happy people, and you cannot do enough to make them happy. God is the only one who can make someone happy, and your job is to make finding God an opportunity for all your employees.

Of course, I’m not telling you to cross the “political correctness” line and proselytize to your employees. What I am saying is, at a minimum, do not be an impediment and potentially be an encourager. The end product will always be happier employees.

Yes, you need to be concerned with your employee’s happiness:

  1. The employee’s happiness relates directly to the corporation bottom line.
  2. The employee’s happiness improves the employee’s individual life which has a direct impact on our social responsibility
  3. The employee’s happiness is an imperative from Jesus.

Oh, and along the way, this will make you happier.

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