On Leadership and The Real Happy Happy


I sing the “Happy” song (see the attached video.) I drank the Kool-Aid. I’m clapping along. Happy, happy, happy, happy……Clap along! I am sitting around the campfire singing Kumbayah. I am every happy cliché in the book. 

And that’s okay with me because I believe that creating happiness in the workplace is the key to performance, productivity, and bottom-line impact.

The Real Happy Happy

The kind of happiness I’m referring to isn’t just about cool office spaces, free food, or nap rooms at work.  It’s about why organizations are using these tactics and why they work.

Surveys and studies have shown that one of the top reasons people leave their jobs is because they were not motivated, challenged, or given opportunities for growth.

  • People want to work hard and realize the benefits of doing a good job.
  • They want to feel good about their work.
  • They want to be happy.

Creating a Culture of Happiness

Creating a culture of happiness starts from the top.  As organization development professionals, convincing leaders this is important is our job.

It begins with job structure by:

  • Giving people a challenging job with clear goals
  • Holding them accountable
  • Providing the right tools to do the job
  • Proper coaching and guidance to do it well

Add autonomy and recognition to this mix and you have a recipe for happiness, but that’s not all…

The final touches to creating a culture of happiness revolve around creature comforts.  If we are asking people to give their all to our organization, then we will want them to be:

  • Comfortable (desks, chairs, pods, standing desks)
  • Well-nourished (free food)
  • Well-rested (nap rooms)
  • Healthy (exercise programs)
  • Have the ability to work at their own pace and on their own time tables (flexible scheduling)
  • Collaborate with others to help facilitate good ideas (technology, communal work spaces).
  • Sprinkle in a little bit of fun and you have got it!

Think of Google

This is where the office slides (instead of steps) and ping-pong tables come in – think Google.  Believe it or not, people aren’t slacking off when they take part in these activities during the work day.  If they were, why are these perks so popular and why do organizations continue to use them?

My answer is because they work and here’s why.

Needing a Brain Break

Have you ever worked on a project for so long that you just needed a “brain break”?  I have and when this happens I usually go for a walk, listen to some music, stretch, or do anything else to clear my mind for a while.  Our brains need time to synthesize everything that is going on around us and our bodies need to be nourished, exercised, and well-rested.

When people feel good and are given the autonomy to do their work in their own way, they perform at their best.  If they need a nap in the middle of the day, so be it, as long as their work gets done on time and is done well.

This also applies at times when we need a creative outlet, time to exercise, or take care of family obligations.

By allowing people to take care of personal needs during the typical workday, they are able to better focus on their work upon return, while at the same time it encourages their brain to switch gears and process things from a different perspective.  This “downtime” eases people’s daily worries and concerns and sets the stage for optimal work performance.

Creating a Culture of Happiness

The benefits of creating a culture of happiness far outweigh the costs to carry out and run them.  The difficult part is creating a culture that believes in this model and understands and promotes the idea that it’s ok for people to have fun at work, take some leisure breaks, and take care of themselves and their family during the work day.

This is very different from punching in and punching out with the same scheduled breaks each day, which many people are used to.

When giving people some freedom and autonomy, it builds trust between employees and the organization. Employees feel valued and respected. And this is quite motivating!

Yes, there will always be slackers and people who take advantage of the system, but there will always be slackers no matter what kind of culture you create in the workplace. And those need to be dealt with separately, so why not give these ideas a try?

How are you helping to promote a culture of happiness?  What kinds of programs have you heard about? What are you doing to make sure that people think of your place as a happy one? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Wendy S. Butler

Wendy Butler is Organizational and Employee Development & Talent Management
Her Passion is to help People Discover, Develop, and Promote their Unique Talent
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L2L Contributing Author


  1. bhedden on June 18, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Home run Wendy! So many organizations take this concept for granted. Individuals sloth into work each day out of pure necessity. Can you imagine the productivity brought-on by highly engaged and happy workers? As the ole saying goes, “the beatings will continue until moral improves”.

    • Wendy Butler on June 18, 2014 at 11:22 pm

      Thanks so much. Glad it resonated with you.

  2. Larry Walker on June 18, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Excellent piece Wendy – well done. This ties directly to Gallup’s work on employee engagement, especially the idea of getting ‘all of the employees’ creative juices addressing organizational issues.’

    • Wendy Butler on June 18, 2014 at 11:23 pm

      Thanks Larry.

  3. Georgine on June 19, 2014 at 4:09 am

    Fantastic article. People want to work, want to have a purpose, want to achieve clear goals. We need to put these in place to ensure our workforce wants to come to work everyday.

    • Wendy Butler on June 20, 2014 at 9:53 am

      I completely agree, Georgine. Thanks for the feedback!