June 3, 2015 in Mindset, European HRD Business Summit 2015

The pursuit of happiness in the workplace: Do happier people work harder?

Nic Marks: Happiness Research Methodologist and Author, The Happiness Manifesto.


Everybody in your organisation is a sensor; how people are feeling is great information about what is going on. If you listen to this information, then you will get mission-critical feedback and information about what is going on in your organisation. There is a difference between emotions and cognition (as emotions are felt in the body as well as the mind). Positive emotions are more about thriving than surviving.

We don’t want happy, low-performing teams. But nor do we want high-performing unhappy teams. We want a combination of teams that are both happy and high-performing. If people are just doing OK then things may not be terribly wrong, but you are missing out on so much.

Happiness leads to creativity, which leads to innovation, which leads to business success. In today’s climate, most organisations need to innovate to survive. Conclusion: we need happy people!

Jim Harter’s paper ‘Causal Impact of Employee Work Perceptions on the Bottom Line of Organizations’ (2010) explored how happiness leads to performance and performance leads to happiness. But: the causal link from happiness to performance is loads stronger. Happiness leads to success, something that lots of people get wrong.





How do we do this:

  1. Connect – need to bring people together, we are relational beings.
  2. Be fair
  3. Empower people. People want to work and be useful and use their strengths. Help them.
  4. Challenge
  5. Inspire – hep people see the bigger picture of what they’re doing


Nic talked about how happiness isn’t a totally new theory, just one way of driving change and drew parallels with Seligman’s PERMA model and with Pink’s Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose.


Nic then talked about a load of examples of organisations doing great things:

  • Pixar: working space constructed to help people collaborate
  • Gravity payments: CEO cut pay from 1m USD to 70K (as this was calculated as being what was needed to be happy) and raised every employees’ pay to the same level of 70K!
  • Zappos: two rules- (1) be yourself (2) use your judgement
  • openenglish: selling ‘life transformation’ rather than english language course – more inspiring sales message on the ‘why’ of what customers are buying
  • Buurtzorg: empower people to do their job


(This was live-blogged during a session at the European HR Directors Business Summit 2015 in Barcelona – I’ve tried to capture a faithful summary of the highlights for me but my own bias, views – and the odd typo – might well creep in.)


By browsing this website, you agree to our privacy policy.
I Agree