In recent years, happiness has been heralded as the foundation for productive and satisfied workers. Even here on the Sycol blogs, we’ve talked about the benefits of happy employees. However, there has been some push back about the importance of happiness and its real impact on productivity. In fact, some authors suggest that happiness is the result of success, rather than success being the result of happiness.


Dr John Sullivan is one such industry thought leader on talent management who believes the unending search for employee happiness is a fad of which employers should be wary. In fact, he suggests that the pursuit of happiness may be more harmful to organisations than it is helpful. Sullivan warns against getting caught up in the latest “feel-good junk science fad” and instead focus on productivity.


You can read his article to see the many reasons he believes happiness is the wrong metric for productivity. The point, however, is similar to our recent post about motivation vs discipline. Much like motivation, the quest for happiness creates a paradigm in which the people within an organisation believe they must feel a certain way in order to be productive and good at their jobs. It reinforces the idea that happiness and motivation are external, as opposed to being an intrinsic and self-directed.


None of this is to say happiness is a bad thing. On the contrary, according to Sullivan, productive and successful employees tend to be happier than those whose performance doesn’t quite measure up. Instead of trying to make unhappy employees happier, he suggests investing your organisational “happiness money” into leadership and development programs, and providing employees with the resources they need to learn and grow.


In this way, employers can pull back from chasing happiness and focus squarely on constant improvement. It is through the hard work and development that people achieve success. With success comes confidence and overall job satisfaction.