4 Workplace Happiness Myths, Debunked

We all want our employees to be happy at work.

More and more companies are focusing on culture, perks and benefits to keep employees happy. But do you really need a company bar, sleep pods and a 3 day workweek, or is happiness more complex?

Here are 4 myths around workplace happiness, debunked…

1. Happy workers are more engaged

Employee happiness and employee engagement are not the same thing. Sure, people who are happy at work may be more positive about the company, and therefore more engaged, but happiness doesn’t guarantee engagement.

Stephanie Reyes of TribeHR, points out how happy employees might not be engaged…

“On the other hand, an actively disengaged employee may be happy about a particular benefit or perk, yet still fail to contribute at the level of an engaged employee. And striving to keep employees happy by simply indulging them will not necessarily increase employee engagement.”

While you want to focus on happiness, because you care about your team, don’t forget about employee engagement, and don’t assume that just making your team happy will make them better workers.

2. Employees should be happy all the time

You can’t expect everyone to be happy all of the time. In fact, studies have shown that the pursuit of happiness can leave people feeling disappointed and deflated when they fall short of their goals.

Onno Hamburger, author of Happiness at Work, believes that you can be happy at work and still have negative feelings sometimes…

“Some people believe that happiness at work means the eradication of all negative feel­ings. These people are heading for disappointment. Happiness at work means that the balance is tipped in favor of the positive and that you have the feeling that you are doing something worthwhile. However, even when things are going well, we sometimes need negative feelings, as they serve as a warning when there is a chance that things may go wrong. Negative emotions also help bring about change”

Do what you can to make your team as happy as possible at work, but punishing them for being occasionally pessimistic, or just a bit grumpy, will put them under too much pressure and just leave them feeling worse.

3. A ‘fun boss’ will make everyone happy

Being the boss is tough and sometimes, you’re not going to be your team’s favourite person. This can be difficult for many managers (especially less experienced ones) to accept.

While you want to be supportive of your team, and you want them to be able to approach you with any problems or concerns, trying too hard to be a ‘fun boss’ can actually have a negative effect on your team.

Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, points out how an OTT happy boss can leave employees feeling down…

“This won’t surprise anyone who’s encountered managers in the mold of David Brent–but the hazards of enforced positivity get worse when it’s a matter of trying to make other people, not just yourself, feel cheery. Feeling obliged to maintain a sunny facade actually imposes a cognitive burden on employees–it’s a form of affective labor–sapping resources that could be more productively deployed.”

Give your team plenty of constructive criticism and make sure they know they can do the same to you. Do make an effort to get to know everyone but don’t try to force cheeriness.

4. Money can’t buy happiness

Okay so this one isn’t strictly a myth. Money can’t buy happiness. But the lack of it sure can make us less happy says Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project

“As the current financial downturn is making vividly clear, money contributes to happiness mostly in the negative; the lack of it brings much more unhappiness than possessing it brings happiness. (Good health is the same way – it’s easy to take money or health for granted until you don’t have it anymore.) People’s biggest worries include financial anxiety, health concerns, job insecurity, and having to do tiring and boring chores.”

Money might not be the biggest motivator for employees, but it is important. If you want happy, healthy and productive employees, make sure you’re paying them a fair wage.


There’s no doubt that workplace happiness is important, but we need to be thinking about it in a way that is helpful for our staff and makes our businesses more productive.

Trying to force happiness onto your employees is likely to leave them feeling bitter, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying your best to make everyone comfortable and happy at work (and outside of it).

Workplace happiness and job satisfaction are subjective, make sure you get to know everyone on your team and take the time learning what makes them happy.

What happiness myths have left you or your co-workers feeling down in the dumps? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Photo Credit: AMagill via Compfight cc

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