The topic of happiness is one I am often questioned about. People are really curious about how they get happiness, and often there is a misconception. This misconception is “once I reach these certain things, I will feel happy”.

A few years ago, I did a Master’s degree in Positive Leadership and Strategy and one of our subjects was the Economics of Happiness. Episode 17 of my Level Up Leadership podcast comes from one of the papers I wrote for this Master’s Degree.

There are three innate psychological needs that relate to people’s wellbeing (or happiness) and this is known as Self Determination Theory.

  1. Autonomy – the need to control the course of your own life. People are happier or have greater well-being if they feel in control of their own life.
  2. Relatedness – the need for close relationships with other people. 
  3. Competency – the need to feel that we are effective in dealing with the environment. Another way to look at that is that we feel competent and are able to do a task or a job.

So have a think about this for yourself – is there an area where you feel these three things?

When we are thinking about happiness in the workplace, we speak about the concept of Procedural Utility. Which essentially is saying that people value the journey, not just the destination when it comes to decision-making in their work.

Consider within your team, how you go about deciding who gets leave when, who gets promoted, and how salary reviews are done? All of these things have a definite outcome, and often we just share that outcome. What we don’t share is the process of how we get to the outcome.  

Procedural Utility says that people value the conditions and processes that lead to the outcomes, not just the outcomes. Which means having a fair process and engaging people along the way, which means even if they don’t like the answer or the outcome, they will still be engaged and (relatively!) happy.

If you can involve your team in how you came up with that decision and share this Procedural Utility. You’re more likely to have an engaged team.

Happiness is subjective. Sometimes we think happiness is the destination, but I guarantee you, it is the journey.

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