How Important is Employee Happiness?


Weirdly enough, Business Week recently had a point-counterpoint on the topic of whether employee satisfaction with their job matters. I wouldn't deign to put myself in your brain but I'm inclined to think, gee, happy workers are good workers. If you crack the whip at your workers, they will resent you and either look for a way out or just do a crappier job in general. Have you seen that NBC sitcom The Office? Yes, it's on a very handsome TV station, but also… it's an example of what lousy managers yield: lazy workers who mug to the camera more often than do what they were hired for.

Or do they? Costas Markides of the London Business School thinks that "happy employees tend to enjoy the status quo so much they might resist changes to it… [or] refrain from taking on new challenges." But as one of the commenters on that piece points out, the attacking argument is a tad flimsier for it says "many managers still believe stress and fear are the best ways to keep workers cracking." Emphasis added is my own, because the other argument uses research to back it up, instead of just believing something makes more sense.

Teresa Amabile, director of research at Harvard Business School, and Steven Kramer, independent researcher and consultant -- and both co-authors of The Progress Principle -- take the opposite position, stating that their research showed "people are more productive and creative when they have more positive emotions."

I don't really want to say, "So what do you guys think?" But it seems like if it's a topic worth discussing, surely there are managers out there who think keeping your workers on their toes… I just know I wouldn't want to work for them or run my shop like that. Would you?

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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