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  • Writer's pictureKate Gigax

As a People Lead, Don't Focus on Employee Happiness




Happy employees are more productive and engaged...right? Yet, if you have ever managed an unhappy employee, you likely know the energetic drain of trying to satisfy someone who is unhappy. A client of mine recently expressed “I just can't seem to do anything to make this team member happy.” The trouble with focusing on making people happy at work? Happiness is elusive. Research shows that happiness is a fleeting emotion and cannot be sustained over the long-term. A less elusive goal? Helping team members feel valued.

Feeling valued is a critical aspect of employee engagement and satisfaction.

When employees feel valued, they are more committed to their work, more likely to stay with the organization, and more willing to go above and beyond to meet goals.

And when employees feel valued, they also tend to feel happier. Here are five ways to focus on helping employees feel valued:


1. Show Appreciation

Acknowledgement can go a long way in making a team member feel valued. People leaders should seek opportunities to recognize their employees' effort and contributions either in writing or in a public setting like a meeting. Level up a “good job” pat on the back by sending a written note detailing the specifics of the behavior or performance you’re acknowledging, what made it recognizable, and the impact it had.


2. Discuss Career Development

Carving out time to discuss team members’ short- and longer-term career goals and supporting them to achieve those goals—even when it may mean moving to a different role—signals both interest and investment. Try scheduling an hour to ask questions about where your team members see themselves and what experiences will help them achieve their goals and see what you learn.

3. Provide Opportunities for Growth

Employees want to feel they are developing their skills and advancing in their careers. Managers who provide opportunities for growth such as training, mentoring, stretch assignments or cross-functional projects signal they are invested in team members’ success which can lead to greater personal fulfillment and commitment to the organization.


4. Listen and Respond to Feedback

Managers who actively listen to their directs’ feedback and respond to their concerns foster a two-way relationship. When employees feel that their opinions are heard and valued, they are more engaged and committed to their work. Make it easier to provide feedback upward by asking for suggestions or advice instead of asking if they have any feedback.


5. Trust and Empower

Giving team members the authority to make decisions and take more ownership can go a long way toward helping them feel respected (and can also open opportunities for you to delegate). So often, I see well-intended people leads offering too much feedback to team members—making them feel micromanaged—or asking questions that signal lack of trust in people’s competence to do their jobs. To increase the odds of success when delegating, provide clear guidelines and expectations and recognize that others likely won’t do things the same way you do. And, when things do get off track, focus less on blame or what went wrong and more on helping team members learn so they can avoid the same mistakes next time.


Next time you find yourself worried a team member isn’t happy, consider shifting the question to one you can control and ask yourself if you’ve helped them feel valued.

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