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Happy Employee - Main

Most leaders dream of managing a team full of happy employees. A happy employee is more likely to work well with others and be more motivated. In a team of happy employees, you’re likely to see less conflict and more collaboration.

This is all great. However, if you run around trying to make everybody happy, you’re going to be in for a disappointing time.

You Will Never Make Everybody Happy

Unfortunately, happiness is never certain, and everybody is different. As such, there is no secret ingredient for making everybody happy.

When two people want to be promoted, but there is only one position open, someone is going to be unhappy.

If Sandra is highly motivated and goes over and above for the team, while Peter is lazy and does just enough to get the job done, Sandra is likely to be frustrated and unhappy.

Smiley balls - happy employee

When Tracy gets to go to the fancy conference while Tim has to stay back at work, Tim is probably going to be unhappy.

Mike was happy at his job for many years. Eventually, he gets bored and wants a new challenge, but there are no promotion opportunities. You haven’t necessarily done anything wrong, but happy Mike has now become unhappy.

As you can see, there are countless examples where team members are bound to be unhappy, for good reason.

A Leader Can Create the Potential for a Happy Employee, But Can’t Guarantee It

I don’t believe it’s a leader’s responsibility to create happy employees. As we’ve seen earlier, there are plenty of situations that result in unhappiness.

Happiness in the workplace is actually every individual’s responsibility. Of course, a leader does have a big impact on the people they lead. Bad leaders can certainly make people unhappy very easily.

However, a leader’s role is not to make happy employees. What you need to do is create conditions where your team members can make a clear decision to opt in or out.

You create the team environment and manage the work. It’s up to individual team members to decide whether they are happy with the situation or not.

You are creating the potential for happiness, but you can’t control exactly how your team members will feel.

Create the Potential for a Happy Employee With Clarity, Consistency and Transparency

How to Create a Happy Employee 4

To have the best chance of leading a happy employee, you need to create an environment where three things exist.

Clarity means people know what is expected of them, and they know what to expect of others. It also means they know how their role fits in the team, and the organisation.

Consistency means the rules of the workplace apply to everyone, and the rules apply all the time. Consistency means that processes are followed and there is less uncertainty.

Transparency means that people understand why decisions were made. It means that communication is clear, and people understand the information they need to perform their role.

These three ingredients give your team members the potential to achieve happiness in your team. Let’s look at them one by one.

How to Improve Clarity In Your Team

There are many factors that contribute to clarity (or lack of it) in a team environment.

One of the best ways to improve clarity is to make sure that everyone has clear roles and responsibilities. Everyone needs to know what they need to do, and what part they play in the team. They also need to know how they should be working with others, outside of the team.

If you’re hiring a new team member, make sure they understand what’s expected, before they take the role. You’re more likely to get a better team fit that way.

It can be useful to create a RACI matrix to help you define and communicate the responsibilities and accountabilities in your team and between other teams. It also helps to have defined job descriptions, explaining what each team member needs to do in their role.

RACI Matrix - Unclear Roles and Responsibilities

A Simple RACI Matrix

Related: For details on how to build a RACI matrix for your team, see this post: How Leaders Can Fix Unclear Roles and Responsibilities.

Tip: A RACI Matrix is good, but sometimes teams still struggle with accountability. If lack of accountability is an issue for your team, Thoughtful Leader can help. Check out the Hold Your Team Accountable eBook, for tools and techniques to improve accountability and performance. You and your team deserve better… try the eBook today.

Communicating Accountability and Responsibility is Critical

It’s great to have defined roles, responsibilities and accountabilities. But this is absolutely useless if you don’t communicate them to others.

When people aren’t aware of the responsibilities of others, this tends to cause conflict. You’ll start to hear things like:

“What does that person actually do?” or

“Why are they asking me for this information?” or even

“Who put them in charge?”

Clearly communicating responsibilities in and around your team will help you to avoid these situations.

Help Your Team Understand How They Fit In the Bigger Picture

Another way to create clarity is to help you team members understand how they fit in the big picture of your team and your organisation.

Meaning of life - happy employeeMany people play supporting roles in a workplace, and it isn’t always obvious how they contribute to the big picture. This can make team members feel as if their role isn’t important, which reduces the chances of having a happy employee.

The degree that a team member considers their role to be meaningful is often referred to as task significance. To help your team members find their task significance, try:

  • Showing your team the whole end-to-end process of how work is performed in your area
  • Making sure that your team members see some of the impact that their work has on others in your organisation.

Often you can accomplish these actions by encouraging interaction with other teams in your workplace. Everyone gradually starts to build a picture of how they fit in and contribute.

For example, if you happen to lead a team of software developers, it can be beneficial for them to actually see real users using their systems in action. This way, all the work they do starts to feel just that little bit more real.

How to Improve Consistency In Your Team

Process diagramConsistency is critical for creating the potential for happiness in your team. Consistency means that things generally happen the same way each time.

A lot of this comes down to process. It’s important to have solid processes and systems to encourage consistency. Consistency reduces uncertainty in your team.

If your team members are always working in different ways and there is no repeatable process, frustration increases, because it’s harder to control the quality of the work you do.

This results in a lot of fire-fighting and fixing issues, and everybody runs around wondering just what’s going to happen next! These are not good conditions for creating a happy employee.

Related: Why You Need to Understand Your Team Process.

Consistency Means Enforcing the Rules… Every Time

Consistency isn’t all about process. It is also about delivering consequences and rewards in a consistent way.

There should be consequences for bad behaviour, and they should apply to everyone. When people see others getting away with poor performance or bad behaviour, they start to feel resentful of their leaders and other team members.

They begin to sense that you don’t mean what you say, that you don’t “walk the talk”.

It works the same for team rewards. If Rhonda gets a day off for working hard to hit a deadline, then you can bet that Tom wants that too. If it doesn’t happen for Tom, he might just stop working hard to hit the next one.

Start applying the rules consistently to improve the potential for happy employees.

Related: Why Leaders Must Drive Consequences in the Workplace.

How to Improve Transparency In Your Team

Last but not least… let’s talk about transparency. Transparency is all about communication. You create transparency by communicating openly and often.

Transparency means that people know why things are happening. They know what is happening and when.

When people feel like they are informed, they feel as if they belong in the team and the workplace. They also are more likely to feel valued and included, particularly if you involve them in decision making or other team decisions.

Transparency creates awareness, and reduces the chance that people will just create their own story. Rumours and gossip are more common when people are not well informed, because they just make up the story for themselves.

To create transparency in your team, try the following:

  • Communicate regularly to let team members know about key events or decisions, as well as the reasons behind them
  • Involve team members in decisions and discussions that affect the team
  • Spend time 1 on 1 with team members, to ensure they have a direct channel to provide you with feedback.

Related: 5 Powerful Ways to Create Open Communication in Your Team.

You Can’t Guarantee Happiness, But You Can Create the Potential For It In Your Team

You can’t guarantee a happy employee. It is not your job to make sure everybody in your team is happy all the time.

The best chance you have is to create the conditions for leading happy employees, with clarity, consistency and transparency.

This means that your team members will know how they fit in, what is expected of them and they will have awareness of how things work and what is happening.

Then, it’s up to your team members to decide whether they like it or not, and you’ll have the best potential for leading a team of happy, satisfied employees.

Tip: Happy employees are great, but motivating people can be hard. If you are struggling to motivate your team, Thoughtful Leader can help. Check out the Motivating Your Team Audiobook, for tools and techniques to get the best out of your team members. Don’t settle for a lazy, disinterested team… try the audiobook today.

Do you agree or disagree? What do you think creates a happy employee? Leave a comment below, I’d love to read them!

Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help, you can send me a private message through my contact page.

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