Tag Archives: Martin Seligman

Employee Engagement – It All Starts with Happiness

Employee engagement is difficult to define, but you “know it when you see it” (with thanks to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart for his much paraphrased quote).

“Culture trumps strategy, every time.”
Nilofer Merchant in Harvard Business Review Blog

“Get the right people on the bus.”
Jim Collins, from “Good to Great”

gThankYou! Happiness BillboardCompanies that genuinely cultivate strong employee culture know these things to be true.  They see the results; employees live it, customers know it, recruits know it.

How can companies develop a more engaged workforce by building a more customer-centric culture?  It all starts with happiness, and that’s great news!


You may think happiness is amorphous; that’s it’s a know-it-only-when-you-see-it thing, as Justice Stewart did (albeit about obscenity in a movie).

It is not.

In recent years an entirely new scientific field has developed — the study of happiness.  Pioneered by University of Pennsylvania psychology Professor Martin Seligman, this field has grown into the Penn Positive Psychology Center .  Dr. Seligman’s work has important implications for employee engagement.

Seligman and his team also have great news for businesses and other organizations:

  • Happy people are much more effective in many ways that are highly valued by organizations.
  • Happy people can be identified, so they can be recruited.  Believe it or not, one study shows individual’s long-term happiness can be determined by a photo!  It’s true; an “authentic” Duchenne smile is a valid predictor or many traits associated with happiness.
  • Happiness can be developed because it is a learned trait.  Your organization can teach it; colleagues can learn it.  (People can learn helplessness, too.)

Where does happiness come from?  How does it begin?  Two places:

First, it comes from using personal strengths.

Next, it comes from gratification; “calling on one’s strengths to meet a challenge”.  Gratification results from doing something meaningful; it is not just doing some pleasurable activity.

Let’s break this down.  What are the strengths managers should look for?  Strengths are virtuous.  They’re the personal traits we would admire in any setting, not just at work.  These strengths, these virtues, are universal, they are admired in any culture.  Among the strengths associated with workplaces are:

  • Wisdom and knowledge
  • Courage
  • Love and a deep sense of humanity
  • Appreciation of justice

Next, gratification; it comes from doing something worthwhile, something someone believes in.

For leaders, this breakthrough learning about happiness, strengths, gratification and successful management is crucial.  Ask yourself:

  • Do I know my team members’ strengths?
  • Do they know them?
  • Do we agree on those strengths?
  • Do we, together, agree what tasks and projects give them the best opportunities to develop, showcase, and create value from these strengths?
  • Do we identify and agree on the results from their projects that constitute success?

Then, do my team members similarly identify the strengths of their team members?

In coming posts, we’ll dig more deeply into employee engagement topics such as:

  • Workplace activities and behaviors that are likely to inspire happiness.
  • The value of collaboration in happiness.
  • How happiness can be learned, and taught.
  • Creating gratifying work.

Do you think of your employees in terms of their happiness?  What workplace efforts do you employ to inspire happiness?

Learn more about the relationship between employee satisfaction, engagement and recognition in our FREE Guide Below:

gThankYou! Ultimate Guide to Employee Gift-Giving

About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime.  gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin.  Contact:  Rick KileyChief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
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A Yardstick for Thanks

Thankfulness has been said to be a key component in happiness and an important tool to up your satisfaction with life – and work.

Thanks to the positive psychology gurus at the University of Pennsylvania, you can measure your level of gratitude. In six simple questions, Dr. Martin Seligman – often credited as the father of positive psychology – offers a tool to test your thanks. (An easy registration is required for this quiz.)

Thanks is key to happiness.

Thanks is key to happiness.

In his own words, Seligman says gratitude amplifies good memories of the past. He offers an exercise in expressing gratitude. Think of it as a way to throw out bad memories to make room for the good.

How does this apply to the workplace? Writing on happiness on the job in her HarvardBusiness.org blog, London-based executive coach Gill Corkindale explains it this way:

“It all comes down to choice, and this is where I believe happiness lies. In choosing — as far as you are able — what you want to do and how you will do it. While not all of us can choose our work and colleagues, we can all choose how we approach things — with an open, optimistic, and positive outlook or with a   frustrated, irritated one. To this end, I suggest you look at the work of positive psychologists such as Martin Seligman and Tal Ben-Shahar, whose course on happiness at Harvard has been inspirational for many students.”

It’s important, today more than ever, to recognize the importance of tools like gratitude to amplify the happiness we all have in our work. This is happening in the most unlikely of places. In England, the British government has appointed economist Richard Layard to the post of “Happiness Czar” to bolster the happiness of its citizens. It’s certainly worthwhile, in our own lives, our own work, and our own organizations, to look at how to be thankful and boost our own happiness quotient.