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Mar 4, 2013

It’s hard to imagine, but there are still managers who feel that happiness is not a requirement of the job.

Worse, some executives feel that employees should be grateful that they even have a job. I’ve actually heard managers assert that an employee who is happy with their job probably isn’t working hard.

This “old school” belief has thankfully been phasing out over the years as ROI tools have helped HR departments demonstrate how much it costs to lose an employee. Nowadays, employers believe that a happy workforce is a more productive workforce and are searching for ways to keep employees “engaged.”

Why are employees still disengaged and unhappy?

And yet despite this, many employees are still unhappy.

Sure, there might be a few employees out there who will be disgruntled no matter what you do. Their general disposition dislikes hard work and authority, so nothing an employer does is going to make them happy.

Luckily, these people are few and far between, and the vast majority of the human race wants to be productive and strives to do a good job. With all of those employees so eager to please, and employers who have read the studies about making employees happy, why are employees still disengaged and unhappy?

One reason could be that employers feel that all they need to do is lay out the prescribed tools (incentives, rewards, bonuses, raises, promotions, etc.) and then wait for employees to fall in line and grab the satisfaction and happiness that’s waiting. Management often feels that they have done everything they can do to make employees happy, but that the employees are just not stepping up to do their part.

This is a one-sided approach and very narrow minded. Taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach to almost anything in business is a mistake. Human beings are too different and have too many facets.

Maybe you need to change your thinking

This is the evil stepchild of handing out once-a-year bonuses or one big event at the end of the year. Or only rewarding the sales person who gets the most revenue, while ignoring the hard work of the rest of the sales team who might have opened small, yet new revenue streams or retained your high-maintenance clients. These are all the wrong ways of motivating and incentifying employees.

It goes without saying that your employees should absolutely be happy in their jobs. Time and time again, studies have shown that a happy workforce is an engaged workforce. And a fully engaged employee is not just looking to make their own situation better, but also thinks about what is good for the company as a whole and how their peers are feeling.

If you want an employee that is both happy and engaged, that might mean a change in your thinking.

It takes more work from management

So, change the incentives you offer. Make sure to reward people along the way, throughout the year. Small, yet well-timed “thank you’s” to someone who is fully engaged and continuously doing something for the company may do more than handing out large bonuses to your end-of-year producer, so make sure you keep your eyes and ears open. Remember to reward the every-day hero, not just the sales superstar.

Keeping employees happy is something that takes more than laying out a few incentives and then waiting for employees to snap them up. Your employees want you to be as engaged in them as you are in the company. That means stepping forward, actively rewarding and encouraging them, offering them ways to grow within their career, outlining how they contribute and why that is important, and helping them understand what the company’s overall goals are.

In short, employee happiness and, thus, employee engagement, takes work on your part as a manager. However, if you expect your employees to put in the work for you, how can you deny the work that needs to be put into them?