Some leaders dream of being able to make everyone happy. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone loved their job and stayed forever? In any workplace, there are a lot of people to consider if you’re going to make this equation work.
Let’s look at this situation a little closer.
Trying to make everyone happy is going to fail
When we try to make everyone happy, we are juggling several factors. Every person has different motivations and goals. Some people are ambitious, wanting to improve their career and get promoted. Others are more interested in their family life. They will come to work and do their job, but after all, it’s just a job.
The trouble is, you can only really put forward one approach for your team. This team approach is made up of several factors and is also guided by how your organisation operates. Just a few of these factors include:
- How you manage performance
- Any provisions for flexible working
- Team structure and leadership roles
- Learning and development approach
- Team rewards.
To make everyone happy, you will need to cater for every individual circumstance
Let’s look at remuneration as a good example. Most people would like to be paid well for what they do. Most people think they do a good job and they should be paid more for it.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t have the capacity to increase everybody’s pay consistently. As a result, leaders need to pick and choose who should be rewarded.
Naturally, some people will think they’ve been hard done by and deserve it more than another person. Even if this isn’t true, it’s often hard to convince them otherwise. After all, our ego tells us that we deserve it.
Remuneration is tricky because it affects people’s lives. Some people need more money than others to support their lifestyle or family requirements. You can say “that’s their own fault”, but it doesn’t remove the issue. If we all had the same monetary requirements, we could all be paid equally and everyone would, in theory, be happy. This simply isn’t the case.
Let’s consider flexible work arrangements as another example. Some people require more flexibility to cater for family or other commitments outside of the workplace. Others don’t have those requirements and don’t require or value flexibility as highly.
As a result, if you are providing flexibility as a “perk” for working with you, some people will value it highly, while others simply won’t care. The same could be said about workplaces that provide free soft drink. This is good for people who like soft drink, but useless for those that don’t.
You can see from these few examples that you are going to run into issues when you try to make everyone happy. Everyone’s different requirements make it an impossible juggling act.
Trying to make everyone happy results in mediocrity
Trying to make everyone happy can actually bring some unintended consequences. Some leaders believe that making everybody happy is a worthy goal. However, this can result in a situation where nobody is happy, but everybody is happy *enough* not to quit.
Sometimes the quest to create happy workers results in mediocrity across the board. Instead of promoting somebody to fill a leadership position, for example, leaders may not promote *anybody* so that people don’t get upset. This doesn’t make anybody happy. It just prevents people from being really unhappy.
The same goes for pay rises. Instead of giving high performers better pay rises, everybody may get an equal, lesser pay rise. This will keep the masses happy. But unfortunately, it will make your high performers unhappy.
When your team is just happy enough not to quit, your team won’t do their best work. They will simply do the bare minimum to get the job done. Without adequate reward, they will realise there is no point in working harder. They will be rewarded equally, no matter how they perform. Soon enough, you’ll be leading a team of average employees. This is probably not what you had in mind when you wanted to make everyone happy.
Avoiding unhappiness is not the goal
The goal for leaders should not be to make everyone happy. Nor should it be to avoid unhappiness at all costs. Given that you cannot possibly cater for everybody’s preferences, you are bound to experience some unhappiness within your team at some point.
When people in your team are unhappy, you should definitely listen to their concerns and look for possible ways to resolve them. However, this should not happen by bending the rules, or changing the way you run your team, or doing favours for people.
If somebody is unhappy, you need to listen to their concerns and see if they can be resolved. If they cannot be reasonably resolved within how the team operates, then it may be time for that employee to move on. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because turnover can be your friend.
In my experience, trying to make everyone happy is destined for failure. I’ve never seen it work in practice, although it is a nice concept. The trick as a leader is to realise when you are doing it. If you are trying to avoid conflict and appease your employees, you may be trying to make everyone happy.
Even in workplaces where everybody seems happy, you only need to spend a little time talking to people to find out that this usually isn’t actually the case.
Ever worked in a place where leaders try to make everyone happy? How did it work out? I’d love to hear your comments about this one.