Is Your Organization Happy?

If you answered yes, congratulations. You’re having fun! If you answered no, congratulations. You’re part of the global and national workforce that is the majority.

So how do you create a happy workplace?

The blindingly obvious answer is, “To have a happy workplace, get rid of the unhappy people.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement. We all know a disgruntled employee. We know how their negativity clouds the environment. Thus, if and when we can, we tend to stay away.

Engagement survey evidence supports this view. A 2013 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management stated the relationship between co-workers was becoming more important than the one they had with their supervisor. Annie McKee, a leadership expert and co-author of Primal Leadership, lists it as one of the three key components of a happy workplace.

Does firing “unhappy employees” guarantee the organization will become a great place to work? If it were only that simple.

Of the five items below, which do you believe is the key factor in a happy organization?

  1. Company Culture
  2. Co-Worker Relationships
  3. Recognition from management or co-workers
  4. Supervisor Relationship
  5. Management Transparency

Did you choose #5? If so, you’re correct. Transparency is the No. 1 factor. Warren Bennis, the renowned leadership expert, wrote transparency creates candor in an organization which leads to trust and increased performance. I would add it enhances morale.

If you’re the senior official– be it elected, appointed or earned due to promotions– being able to explain “why” to people creates greater transparency and trust in you as a leader. It’s not easy. It’s uncomfortable. But in the end, it pays off.

Consider the following example.

I took over a failing department that changed 12 directors in nine years, experienced low morale and had no public support. Candidates in county commissioner elections vowed to fix the department. In my second meeting with the entire staff, an employee who was considered an “influencer” by management and his peers asked me about a major policy decision I’d made in which he disagreed. The room went silent, but all eyes watched my reaction. The gauntlet had been thrown.

I have a cardinal rule. If I can’t explain my decision, then I’ve made a bad one. You may not like my rationale, but at least I have one and it’s not ‘because I’m the boss.’

I stated my rationale for the decision. With that, the meeting ended. For the rest of the day, staff came up to me and thanked me. It was the first time any director explained their decision.

Here’s another example.

During my first week on the job in this department, the deputy director approached me about an issue that wasn’t going well. He attended a monthly meeting of a very influential stakeholder group and asked how he should spin the issue at their next meeting.

I asked him what was the truth. He told me. I told him to tell it. He did. By ending the spin and taking responsibility for the truth, as bad as it may have been, we began the road building that turned the stakeholder group into an ardent supporter of the department and its mission.

Leaders must be transparent. Paul Abbott, executive vice president of commercial payments at American Express, said, “If you don’t set the tone right from the top, nothing will ever happen.” Actions, not words, count.

The key to a happy organization: transparency.


Submitted by Larry Keeton

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