Happy Work: Leaders Creating an Engaging Work Culture as a New Normal

May 03, 2023 | 449 Views

Happy Work: Leaders Creating an Engaging Work Culture as a New Normal

Simmone L. Bowe, MSc.

Leadership Strategist & Coach | The Limitless Life Coaching Company

Working in HR and training, I hear all about how employees feel about their work and how unhappy some of them are. Creating a happy workplace is something that is near and dear to my heart; understanding what is making people so unhappy in their work. Leaders have such an important role to play in how happy or unhappy work has become. So I want to explore the following:

How are we really doing at work?

It is very easy for employees to say they’re happy and put on a face that communicates contentment. Employees may seem to be productive and engaged in what they do. But when we dig into peoples’ emotional states of well-being, we realize there are varying levels of joy, fulfillment, and engagement in work. So we have a range of people who are happy, people who are angry, people who are indifferent, people who are overwhelmed, and people who are just done – the people who if they had an option, would leave.

Here are some key statistics coming from the global workforce for 2022 from a Gallup Poll on how people feel about their work today.

Global Survey Results

People are showing up, but they are not feeling well, and they are not connecting with work. It is our responsibility to dig into that. You might think it’s not the leader’s problem to deal with these issues. We could say they should “leave it at the door” when they come to work. But we all know that’s not possible. What can we do as trainers and leaders to make a difference for people in their wellbeing at work?

What is at the heart of happiness at work?

It makes people happy to be seen and recognized in their workplace. In the hospitality industry, we are hardwired to be more aware of helping people feel seen. But how many of us go into a restaurant and remember the name of the server? Most of us just want to order our food.

Every element of an organization has needs that need to be met: organizational needs, leadership needs, and employee needs. At the intersection of these is the happy place for all three– where everyone gets what they need. 

Organizational Needs

Leadership Needs

Employee Needs

Driving Change Through Leadership 

We as leaders need to find a balance among organizational culture, will for change, and leadership. Every organization needs to drive a culture that fits the vision of where the company wants to go, what the company wants to do, and how people interact with each other and with customers. Every organization needs to find the will for change. And that means finding the leadership to create the change. How healthy is your organization in these aspects, and how do you know?

We all need to get our fingers on the pulse and keep our eyes on the strategies. However, what we do to determine that pulse is often ineffective. We send out surveys of dissatisfaction and disengagement, we have HR focus groups, we orient employees and then leave them, we have the moment of truth with managers, we do enigmatic exit interviews, and basically offer no path to a career path. These don’t work.

First we have to ask ourselves: Are we ready for change? If we are ready, let’s go, but if we aren’t, let’s figure out why. Sometimes we don’t have the will or the leadership to change.

What is the role of leadership in cultural change? There are different kinds of leadership (see chart below), but the best kind of leadership is “The Mentor Manager” who has high expectations and standards and high connection and empathy which result in employees feeling respect and loyalty.

The Role of Leadership in Culture Change

The three things to concentrate on when leading culture change are: Beliefs, Behaviors, and Brand. What do you believe? Do I think we have a culture of engagement? Think about your organization. What culture shifts does it need? What are the current obstacles? What strategies can be used to create positive change?

It is important to ignite the human connection at work. Most people are struggling with something. Concentrating on wellness and well-being, and empathy and compassion with action, will go a long way to creating a culture of happiness in your organization.



State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report, Gallup

World Happiness Report 2022, Independent Experts 

I Love It Here, Clint Pulver

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