A while ago, I responded to a comment on The Employee Engagement Network that asked the question about employees finding happiness in their jobs and developing a "happy" workplace. Now, if you've ever attended one of my keynote sessions, you already know that I don't subscribe to the concept of happiness being found on the job. I was asked to clarify my belief on happiness and so I shall attempt to do so here.

Happiness is not a result of finding the perfect job, finding the perfect partner, having a lot of money or by finally reaching retirement.

If one person on the job is happy and the person in the next cubicle (doing the same job) is not, it stands to reason that happiness is not a result of the work, the pay, the benefits, the environment of the job or the boss. Happiness cannot be defined by doing a job. Happiness cannot be the end-result of working or everyone doing the same job, the same responsibilities, responding to the same stresses and carrying out the same duties or everyone would be happy across the board. We already know that this is not so. We can't address people's home-lives, their values, their character traits or their beliefs on accountability. Therefore, it is impossible for the job to make anyone and everyone happy.

Happiness is a state of being and not a result. Happiness therefore must be and has to be a choice. There are so many extenuating circumstances that can allow people to be moody, angry, frustrated, negative and condescending. These are choices that individuals make in reaction to circumstances. There is no single event that causes people to live a life of misery and therefore the same must be true on the other end: a good job will not compensate for a lifetime of hardship and struggle and therefore no job can make a person happy.

If there were ten employees in a workplace and five seemed happy and five seemed miserable regardless of the fact that the culture of the workplace was positive, supportive, engaging and rewarding, would the onus still be on management to work harder to get the miserable employees to become happy? I doubt that any of these character choices of the miserable group could be blamed on the job. Therefore, can we take full credit for a group of happy staffers? People don't "make" people happy. Happiness is something we choose to feel. No one person or thing "makes" a person miserable. People, based on their personal philosophy and values, choose to feel miserable.

Let's not delude our thinking into believing that we can make employees happy. We can make the job rewarding. We can make the job fun. We can make the job engaging but that is no guarantee that the people we work with, at the end of the day, are going to be happy. Happiness is a choice.

People who have chosen to be happy and still are not, never were happy in the first place. Personally, have I found happiness in my work? Nope. It doesn't exist here either. There are parts of my job that I love. There are parts of my job that I despise (see travel, airlines, airports, security screening, long distances in rental cars, lost hotel reservations, bad meals in restaurants, bad service, bad coffee in hotel rooms, etc., etc.,). Does that mean I am an unhappy person? Of course not. But I made a deal a long time ago that I would help people get better at their jobs, improve their circumstances in life by improving themselves and develop a resilient attitude when life hands us crap. That deal, I am still keeping. That is my mission. That is the reason I get out of bed in the morning because I made a promise to do this and I keep my word. There is great reward in my work but I don't consider that to be happiness.

Any employer who believes that because of their own leadership, their employees will be happy, is self-deluding. I can't make you happy. I can bring some joy. I can bring a little peace. I can even bring an "a-ha" moment which opens you up to your own potential but I can not make you happy.

Clive Beddoe, former CEO of WestJet Airlines was once asked why all of his employees seemed happy on the job. He replied, "I learned a long time ago that you can't teach people how to have a happy personality. So we just hire happy people and teach them how to do the job."

Attitude Adjustment: You will NOT find happiness on the job. It is not a result. It is a choice. Make the choice to be happy. Learn everything you can in finding your happiness buttons, pursue it relentlessly and you will soon find that it never was the job that needed to be changed - it was you. Life gets better when you get better. But as for a happy workplace? The workplace will only be as happy as the people working in it!

Author's Bio: 

Kevin Burns, Author & Attitude Adjuster, is an attitude expert in Employee Engagement, Service and Safety. Kevin believes better people offer better service, make better sales, get along better, communicate better, engage themselves better, manage better and overall, make your organization better and safer as a whole. He delivers high-energy and hilarious keynote presentations to corporate and association audiences throughout North America. To inquire about Kevin's availability, call toll-free 1-877-BURNS-11.

More info on Kevin's programs at www.kevburns.com

Additional Resources on Attitude can be found at:

Website Directory for Attitude
Articles on Attitude
Products for Attitude
Discussion Board
Kevin Burns, The Official Guide to Attitude