Why Overlooking Employee Happiness as a Core Business Metric is a Big Mistake

How People Work: Episode 5

Hap­pi­ness is under­rat­ed in the work­place. While most lead­ers under­stand that employ­ee hap­pi­ness is impor­tant, many have strug­gled to tie it to a core busi­ness metric.

How does work­force hap­pi­ness impact costs, earn­ings, or efficiency?

Hap­pi­ness is close­ly tied to pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Accord­ing to research by MIT, self-report­ed hap­pi­ness is a pre­dic­tive mea­sure of per­for­mance — a much more reli­able pre­dic­tor of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty than employ­ee engagement.

So why is it so often over­looked by many organizations?

In this episode, Jason and Jor­dan explain the con­nec­tion between employ­ee hap­pi­ness and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, build­ing a case for why employ­ers should care about the hap­pi­ness of their peo­ple from a busi­ness perspective.

They urge lead­ers to view human flour­ish­ing as an ori­ent­ing prin­ci­ple in their busi­ness to sup­port the hap­pi­ness and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of their people.

Key ideas and highlights

  • Most lead­ers dis­miss hap­pi­ness off-hand as a soft” or qual­i­ta­tive” met­ric that doesn’t have any­thing to do with real work.
  • Peo­ple expe­ri­ence sus­tained hap­pi­ness when they move toward a high­ly val­ued goal.
  • When we study the tie between employ­ee hap­pi­ness to pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, we find that hap­py employ­ees are more pro­duc­tive than their unhap­py counterparts.
  • Stud­ies men­tioned in this episode: 

When we view our work as a means of con­tribut­ing to soci­ety, we start to view our per­son­al pro­duc­tiv­i­ty as a means of dri­ving human flour­ish­ing. This ori­ents us to some­thing that’s big­ger than our­selves and requires that we take our per­son­al hap­pi­ness seri­ous­ly. — Jason Murray

Now avail­able on: Apple Pod­casts | Spo­ti­fy | YouTube

Learn more about how you can retain employ­ees and reduce the costs of your peo­ple pro­grams with Fringe.

Word of the day

  • 26:07 Tan­ta­mount ✨


  • 2:20 — Why employ­ee hap­pi­ness is an impor­tant busi­ness metric
  • 5:00 — 3 dif­fer­ent def­i­n­i­tions for hap­pi­ness: Eudai­mon­ic Well­be­ing, Ful­fill­ment, and Hedo­nic Pleasure
  • 8:29 — How to accu­rate­ly assess employ­ee happiness
  • 9:35 — Is hap­pi­ness a soft” met­ric or a core busi­ness met­ric? Why is it overlooked?
  • 13:51 — Why busi­ness­es aren’t set up to dri­ve happiness
  • 16:47 — Why lead­ers should care about the hap­pi­ness of their people
  • 17:01 — Gen Z is poised to be the most phil­an­thropic gen­er­a­tion ever. Why?
  • 20:30 — Lead­er­ship approach­es that inspire hap­pi­ness and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty vs those that don’t
  • 24:21 — What hap­pens when we view human flour­ish­ing as an ori­ent­ing principle
  • 27:37 — How does hap­pi­ness tie to productivity?


Jor­dan (00:05):

How many hours and years of our lives do we spend on work for near­ly all of us, we spend 30 plus years and one third of our days in our voca­tion, more time per­haps, than we spend at rest or at play. But this isn’t a prob­lem. Why? Because work is good. Work needs to be inte­grat­ed deeply into our lives and must be in line with our most impor­tant goals and val­ues. And if it is, we have a far more com­plete and ful­fill­ing life expe­ri­ence. Wel­come to How Peo­ple Work, pod­cast, where we explore the inter­sec­tion of how humans think and act and how they apply them­selves to their work. When you under­stand both of these things, you’ll be equipped to be insight­ful, com­pas­sion­ate, and com­pelling lead­ers. Wel­come back to How Peo­ple Work. My name’s Jor­dan Peace. I’m sit­ting here with Jason Mur­ray, my co-host. Excit­ed to talk to you today about some very, very tech­ni­cal top­ic about how to get the very most out of your peo­ple. We’re going to talk about time man­age­ment. We’re going to talk about change man­age­ment, so much man­age­ment. What is

Jason (01:11):

What is Change man­age­ment? I don’t even know.

Jor­dan (01:11):

We’re not going to talk about — None of those things.

Jason (01:14):

Will there be stakeholders?

Jor­dan (01:15):

That would be absurd. There will be stake­hold­ers. No, actu­al­ly we’re going to talk about some­thing that actu­al­ly in real life helps employ­ees be pro­duc­tive and it is happiness.

Jason (01:26):

All right.

Jor­dan (01:26):


Jason (01:27):


Jor­dan (01:28):

Crowd goes qui­et. Yes. Hap­pi­ness. In fact, we are not researchers. We are not aca­d­e­mics nec­es­sar­i­ly, but through much research, have affirmed the fact that hap­pi­ness is actu­al­ly a key — has a key tie to this idea of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty amongst employ­ees. And it’s also just a real­ly good thing all by itself.

Jason (01:52):

All by itself. Yeah. Well, it’s prob­a­bly a lit­tle iron­ic because I mean, my role in Fringe until recent­ly has large­ly been talk­ing with cus­tomers and prospects for the bet­ter part of four years. And when­ev­er I would talk to peo­ple peo­ple or HR peo­ple you would not get any kind of push­back what­so­ev­er around the notion of hap­pi­ness for peo­ple or employ­ees being a good thing. And so the dis­con­nect seem­ing­ly is exec­u­tives and com­pa­ny lead­ers, like our­selves that for what­ev­er rea­son, don’t con­nect with that or don’t feel that it’s maybe a busi­ness met­ric that mer­its any kind of real inspec­tion when it comes to think­ing about how you run your orga­ni­za­tion or mea­sure things that are rel­e­vant when it comes to peo­ple and what­not. And so that is some­thing that we hope to dis­pel today because there are many facts and much research that I think draw a very direct line between hap­pi­ness and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty is some­thing that ought to be real­ly core to what we’re try­ing to do as both peo­ple and indi­vid­u­als and as a company.

Jor­dan (03:07):

Yeah. Last week we attacked work-life bal­ance, and today we’ll attack the notion that hap­pi­ness does­n’t mat­ter. This is becom­ing a lit­tle Myth­Busters-ish, I believe, but I’m total­ly fine with it.

Jason (03:19):

Well, we were just look­ing at a old Super Bowl com­mer­cial of the office line­backer, so now I’m just imag­in­ing him tack­ling these ideas. That’s super cheesy. <laugh>. Sor­ry, guys.

Jor­dan (03:33):

Can I say nerd alert again? Yeah, I think I’ll squeeze that into every episode and it’ll be real­ly easy to do, actually.

Jason (03:38):

Yeah, it will be. Yeah. I’ll own it ful­ly. So hap­pi­ness is kind of the key top­ic. There’s prob­a­bly a cou­ple propo­si­tions that I have here. One, I think is that hap­pi­ness is under­rat­ed for some of the rea­sons that we just stat­ed, or at least under­rat­ed by cer­tain peo­ple and lead­ers with­in orga­ni­za­tions. And that sec­ond­ly, hap­pi­ness is a direct dri­ver of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, that they’re real­ly close­ly linked to one anoth­er in some ways that we’ll talk about. So I think where it’d be help­ful to start is just what do we mean? Yeah. When we say hap­pi­ness, what are we actu­al­ly talk­ing about?

Jor­dan (04:14):

Yeah. I mean, I think it’d be impor­tant to look at some of what you’ve been read­ing in terms of how the researchers are defin­ing that hap­pi­ness, right? But I would hope that it is deep­er than the dopamine hit received when we check a box in our to-do list or when some­one says a nice com­pli­ment, and that thing that fades with­in about 30 sec­onds and then kind of we’re back to our default men­tal state, what­ev­er that was pri­or to that lit­tle dopamine hit.

Jason (04:47):

Right? Right. Yeah. So there’s real­ly three, kind of, main areas, I guess you’d say, that there’s con­sen­sus from researchers and psy­chol­o­gists around. So one is just real­ly sim­ple sub­jec­tive well­be­ing. So it’s kind of like how do you define hap­pi­ness? While it’s what­ev­er you feel, in some ways, is kind of how you would say that. And so if you eval­u­ate your life as pos­i­tive or sat­is­fy­ing or ful­fill­ing, that the pos­i­tive emo­tions asso­ci­at­ed with that would be defined as hap­pi­ness. And so anoth­er more tech­ni­cal, which I’ll admit I did­n’t know before this pod­cast when I was doing my research, is what they call you eudai­mon­ic wellbeing.

Jor­dan (05:28):

That should have been my word of the day.

Jason (05:29):

But I actu­al­ly think — yeah that should have been. And so while I did­n’t know the word, I think the con­cept itself is actu­al­ly very deep and maybe even the most sig­nif­i­cant way that we could think about hap­pi­ness. So it’s the sense of ful­fill­ment and pur­pose that comes from liv­ing a mean­ing­ful and ful­fill­ing life. And so it’s often asso­ci­at­ed with auton­o­my, com­pe­tence, sense of com­mu­ni­ty and relat­ed­ness. And then what we were talk­ing about in the last episode was being engaged with things that align with your most impor­tant val­ues and goals. And so that being a key dri­ver of hap­pi­ness there. And then the third which is maybe the most basic hedo­nic plea­sure which are the emo­tions and sen­sa­tions that just come from enjoy­ing some of the more basic things in life myself.

Jor­dan (06:21):

I see. Enough said.

Jason (06:25):

We will leave that one to the side. And I think part of the rea­son for that isn’t that not impor­tant, but most of the research has shown that that par­tic­u­lar aspect of hap­pi­ness isn’t gen­er­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with sus­tained hap­pi­ness. And I think that’s what we want to real­ly focus on here.

Jor­dan (06:43):

Kind of that dopamine hit idea.

Jason (06:44):

Exact­ly. And so, I mean, an exam­ple of that would just be food. So food is some­thing that trig­gers pos­i­tive emo­tion in us. When we eat it, we con­sume it, it makes us hap­py but it does­n’t help us devel­op new skills to move through life or cre­ate a dri­ve to expe­ri­ence new things because it sati­ates. And so that actu­al sati­a­tion, bio­log­i­cal­ly, means that it’s just not going to be some­thing that sus­tains that feel­ing of hap­pi­ness in the same way that pur­pose, mean­ing, and ful­fill­ment will. So I think those are impor­tant dis­tinc­tions here.

Jor­dan (07:20):

Well, it’s some­thing that’s com­ing from with­out, as opposed to some­thing that’s com­ing from within.

Jason (07:24):

Yeah, that’s a real­ly good way to put it.

Jor­dan (07:26):

That first def­i­n­i­tion, which I think is not one to skip over either — that self-defined idea. I’ve offten heard this idea that hap­pi­ness is a choice. And to some degree, I actu­al­ly think there’s some truth to that. The per­spec­tive, the belief that I have a good life. I have a lot to be grate­ful. Hon­ing in on what is good and choos­ing to focus on that I think can have a real­ly big impact on that emo­tion­al expe­ri­ence of hap­pi­ness. I don’t think it’s some­thing to skip over alto­geth­er to get to that. Eu-di — Say it again?

Jason (08:03):


Jor­dan (08:04):

Eudai­mon­ic. I’m nev­er going to get that.

Jason (08:05):

Real­ly enun­ci­ate that.

Jor­dan (08:07):

Well, eu-dai-mon­ic. Dai-mon­ic? Okay. I just keep hear­ing demon­ic in my head. The sense of ful­fill­ment and pur­pose, this deep­er thing like that. Obvi­ous­ly that’s where we’re going to spend most of our time talk­ing about this and study­ing this and look­ing at the research. But I also just want­ed to call out that first part because we should­n’t skip over the fact that when you say sur­vey employ­ees, for exam­ple, and they say that they’re hap­py, that should be con­sid­ered, right? Espe­cial­ly if it’s some­thing that is anony­mous and you don’t know. They have no rea­son to lie when you don’t know who’s answer­ing the sur­vey. So they’re iden­ti­fy­ing as hap­py that that’s an impor­tant data point.

Jason (08:49):

Well, and it’s actu­al­ly prob­a­bly one of the most accu­rate things that we can ask an employ­ee to report on when it comes to engage­ment sur­veys. So some of you all out there might be famil­iar with Mar­cus Buck­ing­ham’s research, but one of the things that he talks about when it comes to engage­ment sur­veys, feed­back and things like that, is that we’re ter­ri­ble asses­sors of oth­er peo­ple, but we’re great and accu­rate asses­sors of our own state of being. And so when you ask some­body about their feel­ing of hap­pi­ness, we can actu­al­ly reli­ably use that in our employ­ment data as a ref­er­ence point for hap­pi­ness and things of that nature. So I think it is valid.

Jor­dan (09:26):

Plus one for nar­cis­sism. That’s great.

Jason (09:31):

So I think what’s inter­est­ing, we men­tioned this at the top of the episode, is that a lot of lead­ers dis­miss hap­pi­ness. The notion of hap­pi­ness is some­thing that’s maybe soft or just kind of a qual­i­ta­tive met­ric. It real­ly does­n’t have any­thing to do with real work. And so, I mean, a ques­tion that would be inter­est­ing to kick around a lit­tle bit is why is it over­looked in that way?

Jor­dan (09:53):

It’s mushy. First of all, right? I think there’s an ego there. There’s a left­over idea that this is a trans­ac­tion. I’m pay­ing you to do work. Just get it done. Shut your mouth, I’ll pay you money.

Jason (10:11):

I don’t care how you feel.

Jor­dan (10:12):

I don’t care how you feel. Yeah. I don’t have to care how you feel. Why should I?

Jason (10:15):

Hap­py or Sad.

Jor­dan (10:16):

Does­n’t mat­ter. Right. So I think there’s an unwill­ing­ness to engage on things that are emo­tion­al. Well, for the rea­sons I just said, but also maybe the fear of that that’s a slip­pery slope, that, well, we’re not real­ly sup­posed to be friends. We’re sup­posed to be cowork­ers. This is not a fam­i­ly. It’s a team. Right? And there’s this sense of I don’t want to go there. And also, I don’t know, I guess if you’re a leader and you’re think­ing, I’m going to get into an emo­tion­al engage­ment with my employ­ee, this is a per­son I might have to fire some­day. I can’t — I don’t want to know about whether or not they’re hap­py. So I just think there’s some fears. There’s some fears there. I don’t think their fears are legit­i­mate. I don’t think the fears should cause us to over­look these things. But I’m just you try­ing to iden­ti­fy some of the rea­sons why we might push back against the notion, maybe to give them the ben­e­fit of the doubt. Maybe they’re think­ing, how could I impact that? Even if we study it, what does this work have to do with their hap­pi­ness if they’re not hap­py? It’s prob­a­bly, this is an assump­tion that’s being made. It’s prob­a­bly because things aren’t okay at home. There’s prob­a­bly an issue with this, that and the oth­er. Right?

Jason (11:38):

It’s not the work. It could­n’t pos­si­bly be.

Jor­dan (11:39):

Exact­ly, because we assume what’s hap­pen­ing not at work is what’s kind of con­trol­ling their emo­tion­al life and their state of being, which it can be, cer­tain­ly. But it also could be very much about the peo­ple in the room or the vir­tu­al room or what­ev­er, and those rela­tion­ships or the task is too dif­fi­cult or too easy or what­ev­er the case may be.

Jason (12:01):

So, well, it goes the oth­er way too. Yeah. I mean, there’s lots of research on the expe­ri­ence of hap­pi­ness at home because of what’s hap­pen­ing at work. So it’s a lit­tle iron­ic in some ways that we’re talk­ing about it from the per­spec­tive of those things influ­enc­ing that feel­ing of hap­pi­ness and how an employ­ee is at work and how that relates to pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. But what hap­pens at work very much has a very direct impact on the sat­is­fac­tion of fam­i­ly mem­bers and kids even, in particular.

Jor­dan (12:30):

Yeah. So I think it’s those things. And then prob­a­bly the thing that you’re try­ing to dis­pel here to begin with is that it actu­al­ly is impact­ful. So if I don’t believe that this is a sta­tis­tic that mat­ters, if you tell me that we had a 3% increase in our health insur­ance claims expe­ri­ence last year, right? Oh, the ears perk, God, what peo­ple miss­ing work, what? Our pre­mi­ums are going to go up? I can tie it to dol­lars so quick­ly and so fast that it’s just like, okay, well, there’s a stat I want to hear, right? And so some of it is just, I think the matu­ri­ty of the research that needs to come out and get more wide­spread to help peo­ple look past, well, it’s a lit­tle mushy. Well, it’s a lit­tle inti­mate, but it’s worth look­ing at. And sad­ly, typ­i­cal­ly it’s the finan­cial real­i­ties that cause lead­ers to break through the bar­ri­ers of their fear and engage with some­thing new.

Jason (13:29):

Yeah. Well, it’s the eas­i­est way, and I mean, you and I have our role in the demands of our posi­tions inside of Fringe have changed a lot over the last four years. And I have some sym­pa­thy, I guess you might say, for those lead­ers. I mean, I don’t think it’s cor­rect, maybe the way the deci­sions are being made, but you can empathize sit­ting on a board and being a part of finan­cial con­ver­sa­tions and look­ing at the met­rics of a com­pa­ny the way that we’re required to do now, it’s easy to see how you can get stuck on — there’s not a sin­gle place on a bal­ance sheet or a PNL that hap­pi­ness shows up as remote­ly prac­ti­cal. And so the whole notion of that being some­thing that’s a real core busi­ness dri­ver, I think is chal­leng­ing to say the least.

Jor­dan (14:18):

Yeah, it is. I mean, at best, we’ve got some data at this point that’s pret­ty firm around reten­tion, and you can tie hap­pi­ness to reten­tion and then go, oh, okay, now I under­stand how this saves me mon­ey. But the two prob­lems, one, that’s not deep enough finan­cial­ly, it’s not well-round­ed enough finan­cial­ly. But also the per­spec­tive out­side of the finances all togeth­er is miss­ing that I work with human beings and I should want to impact them in such a way that I help them to be hap­pi­er and more ful­filled and to flour­ish. That should be a goal regard­less of the rest of that. So you kind of have to sneak in through the back door of the bot­tom line to some­times get peo­ple’s atten­tion, but often if you can wake em up and help em remem­ber that these are peo­ple, then you can get more ful­ly into the minds and hearts and make some change.

Jason (15:16):

So I think that that’s actu­al­ly an idea I want to stay on for a few min­utes here, because I mean, we have some data and we have some research that we want to talk about that I think helps kind of prove out some of the ROI around this. But I think — I’d love to say maybe more ide­al­is­ti­cal­ly, why should we care about hap­pi­ness to begin with? And say, you start­ed to touch on that a lit­tle bit, but why should hap­pi­ness mat­ter to us as maybe com­pa­ny leaders?

Jor­dan (15:44):

Well, hap­pi­ness. Hap­pi­ness is like sneez­ing. And it’s like some­body sneezes — Excuse me, yawns, yawn­ing. I take it back. Not like sneez­ing. It’s like yawn­ing, right? It’s con­ta­gious. Some­body yawns. You got to yawn, okay? You can’t not do it. And the next per­son does it before you know it, all the air’s gone in the room. But it’s one of those things, you can’t be around a per­son that is hap­py and not crack a smile. Some­body that’s just had the best day and they walk into a room or a vir­tu­al room and they’re just lit up and they got a sto­ry to tell and some­thing great hap­pened and it just catch­es on. And that is on a shal­low, momen­tary lev­el, but it’s also on a deep­er, more per­ma­nent lev­el when you are around a bunch of sat­is­fied peo­ple that they’re grate­ful for their life and the rela­tion­ships in their life, and they just have that attitude.


It just rubs off so much. And the only rea­son I bring all of that up is because these lead­ers should care for their own sake. Because the pur­suit of help­ing oth­ers be hap­pi­er is what makes human beings hap­py. That’s what makes us hap­py, is the pur­suit of help­ing and uplift­ing oth­ers. That’s why Gen Z is, I, I’ve read in many dif­fer­ent places, poised to be the most phil­an­thropic gen­er­a­tion ever. They don’t have any mon­ey yet. So you can’t mea­sure it on dol­lars, but on vol­un­teerism, for exam­ple, yeah, they’re like 6% high­er vol­un­teerism from the age group of 15 to 19 than even the age group of 20 to 24.

Jason (17:23):

Wow, I did­n’t know that.

Jor­dan (17:25):

And why? I mean, I’m going to get into a big tan­gent here, so I apol­o­gize, but we talked about this in the last episode, right? Around the what’s gone, each era of human his­to­ry and what’s become more and more and more true, and then the wealth of your coun­try you live in is that sur­viv­ing is real­ly easy. When you wake up tomor­row morn­ing, there’s not one time that will ever cross your mind, I hope I have enough food in shel­ter today.

Jason (17:55):


Jor­dan (17:57):

Or I hope my child does­n’t die from the com­mon cold, right? You won’t think that. You don’t have to think that. That’s won­der­ful in and of itself. That’s great. But when you don’t spend your time think­ing about sur­viv­ing, you can go one or two dif­fer­ent direc­tions. You can think about human flour­ish­ing, and you can think about serv­ing oth­ers, and you can think about real­ly uplift­ing those around you so that oth­ers can expe­ri­ence that same lack of wor­ry, lack of doubt, lack of anx­i­ety around the basic needs of life. Or you can get just real­ly, real­ly into your­self and just explor­ing how won­der­ful and unique you are and how great your thoughts are that no one else has ever thought in human his­to­ry. And you can get real­ly, real­ly self-cen­tered. And you see peo­ple do that. And where does it lead <affir­ma­tive>, just mis­ery, right? Just misery.

Jason (18:51):


Jor­dan (18:52):

The self-absorp­tion nev­er leads to a great place. So I bring all of that up just to say, these lead­ers, if they’re so self-absorbed that they can’t see that the hap­pi­ness of their employ­ees is impor­tant, then they’re real­ly doomed, nev­er expe­ri­enced very much hap­pi­ness themselves.

Jason (19:10):

Or at worst, their employ­ees are sim­ply means to an end for their own pur­pos­es, which aren’t -

Jor­dan (19:17):

Which won’t be ful­fill­ing, right? Because if they treat their employ­ees that way, they’re going to treat the next peo­ple that way once they get the ins that they’re jus­ti­fy­ing through the means.

Jason (19:27):

So I guess maybe an oper­at­ing prin­ci­ple here that we could talk about, that’s a vision of hap­pi­ness. And I think this con­nects to the con­cept of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty that’s root­ed in human flour­ish­ing. Because what you were talk­ing about there is well, sort of the premise that well, every­one has a right to be hap­py, and that’s kind of west­ern soci­ety infused into the basic build­ing blocks of a free soci­ety. And we get to pur­sue hap­pi­ness and well­be­ing as we define it for our­selves and have the abil­i­ty to con­struct that in our lives. And so what would be inter­est­ing to talk about now is, well, how does hap­pi­ness con­nect to pro­duc­tiv­i­ty? Yeah. Because those two things maybe seem at odds with one anoth­er to some degree.

Jor­dan (20:22):

I mean, it’s not that hard to under­stand. I know we always take it back to kids. We always take it back to kids. But when I go to my kids and I’m just a big grump, and I’m just like, how does your room look this bad? We just cleaned it two, and I’m not a per­fect — I’ve done this speech a cou­ple hun­dred times, right? We cleaned like two days ago, how is it this bad? What are we, wild ani­mals? Yes, I’m just right. And they are, right, to an extent, and I’m just like, clean it, shut the door. How much hap­pi­ness is tak­ing place in the room, and how much pro­duc­tiv­i­ty is tak­ing place in there? There’s two paths that I can take after I give that speech. I can go back in there and I can dou­ble down and I can be scary dad­dy and I can be like clean it or else,” and they’ll be pro­duc­tive for five min­utes out of just kind of fear, right? Out of just like, oh, he was, did you see that? Yeah, that was seri­ous. But I’m going to have to go back in five and a half min­utes lat­er and triple down to get anoth­er four min­utes of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty out of them, right? But if I walk in, I’m like, guys, check out the room.


Looks pret­ty ter­ri­ble. Do you remem­ber what it was like when your room was clean and you had all this room to run around and do cart­wheels and explore? And you remem­ber how much fun that moment was when we fin­ished clean­ing it last time? Let’s do it again. And then I grab the first toy and I grab the first, what­ev­er, pair of dirty sev­en year old boy under­wear and put it in the, car­ry it over to the, what­ev­er the damn thing’s called, the laun­dry bas­ket. And they’re like, let’s do this. Right? And they will work for 30, 40. I mean, these are lit­tle kids. They’ll work 30, 40, 50 min­utes and they’ll crank it out. And occa­sion­al­ly I’ll have to be like, Hey, are we work­ing or play­ing? And have to redi­rect. And there’s a lit­tle bit of play in there too. And I don’t even nec­es­sar­i­ly have to stay the whole time.


I can be like, all right guys, I’ll be back in a few min­utes. And they’ll keep work­ing. Because the per­spec­tive was, I cast a vision for what it was going to be like when they were done. And I jumped into the work with them, and it was all very, there was no blam­ing. There was no you suck, no why are you such ani­mals? We did­n’t focus on how ugly it was to begin with. And they’re chil­dren. We are just chil­dren that got old and have more respon­si­bil­i­ties. There’s not a great deal of — we did­n’t real­ly grow up that much — There isn’t that a great deal of dif­fer­ence between us still fig­ur­ing it out? And I think why would­n’t adults work the same way when they see the vision and they feel like they’re on a team and they feel like their leader is will­ing to go first and to be a part of the work and be in the trench­es, why would they not be pro­duc­tive? That feels good. All of that feels very good, kid, adult or whatever.

Jason (23:35):

Yeah, total­ly agree.

Jor­dan (23:35):

But that was a long mono­logue, but -

Jason (23:37):

I could­n’t help but think about, so my dad, you know was Marine when I was grow­ing up, and so a com­mon phrase I heard -

Jor­dan (23:44):

Not just a Marine.

Jason (23:45):

He was a drill instruc­tor for a few years as well. So there was a phrase, Beat­ings will con­tin­ue until morale improves”, which I will caveat: I was not beat by my father.

Jor­dan (23:57):

I think that’s like a Dil­bert article.

Jason (23:58):

Yeah, I think so. But he loved it. He loved it because, well, being a drill instruc­tor, right? There prob­a­bly was a lit­tle bit more going on.

Jor­dan (24:07):

And you can moti­vate out of fear. You can. No one’s enjoy­ing it, and they’ll leave you for some­one that does­n’t make them feel scared as soon as they can. It’s possible.

Jason (24:21):

Yeah. Well, I think there’s some­thing about this idea of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty too that’s real­ly impor­tant because it con­tributes to, let’s say, the bet­ter­ment of human beings in soci­ety, or this notion of human flour­ish­ing. I think we’ve now talked about it a cou­ple times and in pre­vi­ous episodes. And I think that is an ori­ent­ing prin­ci­ple becomes real­ly sig­nif­i­cant because then it’s not even just about hap­pi­ness for the sake of hap­pi­ness and kind of self grat­i­fi­ca­tion, but it’s also a high­er vision when you talked about, in the exam­ple with your kids hav­ing that vision of, Hey, this is what we’re aim­ing for togeth­er. That kind of moti­vates the action and the activ­i­ty. And so when we think about what we’re doing as indi­vid­u­als with­in teams or with­in com­pa­nies or as a soci­ety, I think if we could say, well, hey, we’re aim­ing for human flour­ish­ing, all of a sud­den the degree of my pro­duc­tiv­i­ty actu­al­ly becomes a con­trib­u­tor or detrac­tor from that human flour­ish­ing. And so I think it ori­ents us to some­thing that’s maybe big­ger than our­selves that puts the hap­pi­ness in a place that becomes more sig­nif­i­cant. Because if hap­pi­ness can help moti­vate us towards pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, towards good human ends then that seem­ing­ly is a good thing.

Jor­dan (25:44):

Yeah. I think that’s excel­lent. I think it’s a great replace­ment for this idea of employ­ee sat­is­fac­tion. Sat­is­fac­tion is com­pared to what? Com­pared to my last job, com­pared to doing noth­ing alto­geth­er? <laugh> Like that. It’s not, when you say, are you hap­py? It’s tan­ta­mount to mean­ing, to pur­pose, to the core of who you are. And if you could tie work to the core of who peo­ple are and why they exist and con­tin­ue to exist. I mean, you could sur­vey on that one ques­tion. And that’s not to say that there’s no oth­er work to be done, but that would be, I can’t imag­ine a more clear kind of heart­beat check than that question.

Jason (26:40):

Yeah, I total­ly agree. Well, and the research by psy­chol­o­gists, and hon­est­ly, I mean, lead­ing up to this, I read prob­a­bly a dozen dif­fer­ent actu­al research papers.

Jor­dan (26:53):

I know, you real­ly nerd­ed out on this.

Jason (26:54):

I did. And went real­ly deep. And hon­est­ly, it was shock­ing because some of this stuff that is old, I mean, it’s like 20 years ago, researchers were writ­ing about these things, and I was like, oh my gosh.

Jor­dan (27:09):

Well it can’t pos­si­bly mat­ter then, cause no one had any good thoughts 20 years ago. Right? Every­one was an idiot.

Jason (27:14):

Total­ly. So I mean, it’s just kind of strik­ing to me how far removed these ideas have been from a busi­ness set­ting when they feel, I can’t think of things that feel more rel­e­vant in some way than these con­cepts. And so in some of these stud­ies, psy­chol­o­gists found that what they call pos­i­tive affect. And so it’s worth dis­tin­guish­ing between hap­pi­ness, well­be­ing, and pos­i­tive affect. A pos­i­tive affect is just the man­i­fes­ta­tion of the feel­ings that some­body may have. And so in one of these stud­ies, I mean, they did some­thing so basic where they gave peo­ple a 10 minute com­e­dy clip and then asked them to per­form a bunch of task-ori­ent­ed prob­lem solv­ing, or they gave some­body a lit­tle gift before, like a lit­tle bag of choco­lates. And those sim­ple things that increased the pos­i­tive affect that these peo­ple felt lit­er­al­ly increased their pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and com­ple­tion of these tasks. They were assigned by 15 to 20%. So I mean, it was astound­ing that they felt like, so it increased the inter­est and satisfaction.

Jor­dan (28:28):

A few laughs, or just the feel­ing of get­ting a gift. Not an expen­sive gift. Just like a few chocolates.

Jason (28:32):

Just like that basic feel­ing. We’re not even talk­ing about the deep­er things sur­round­ing hap­pi­ness. We’re talk­ing about real­ly sur­face lev­el hap­pi­ness kind of things that had such a profound

Jor­dan (28:45):

Plea­sure lev­el stuff.

Jason (28:46):

So they found it increased inter­est and sat­is­fac­tion in the work. It increased cre­ativ­i­ty in task exe­cu­tion. So peo­ple were more cre­ative in solv­ing the prob­lems that they were giv­en as a result of the increased pos­i­tive affect. It increased actu­al per­for­mance on the prob­lem solv­ing tasks, espe­cial­ly the ones that were more com­plex and required cre­ativ­i­ty for solv­ing. So you think about we’re in a tech­no­log­i­cal world, it’s increas­ing­ly com­plex. The kind of work that’s need­ed to be done requires increas­ing cre­ativ­i­ty, right? What could be more help­ful than doing things that help peo­ple be more cre­ative? It increased speed in com­plet­ing the tasks and it increased their focus in com­plet­ing unpleas­ant tasks, which I thought was real­ly fas­ci­nat­ing too. So I mean, there’s mun­dane things that all of us have to do in our work. And so even in the mun­dane tasks that were assigned, it increased the focus in com­plet­ing those things. And that was just the real­ly sur­face lev­el hap­pi­ness kind of stuff. And so what I think is real­ly fas­ci­nat­ing is what if we go a lit­tle deep­er? Cause some ways I don’t even think it’s that hard. So com­ing back to the notion that we had, I got to real­ly enun­ci­ate it. The eudai­mon­ic well­be­ing, that’s

Jor­dan (30:11):

Your word, man.

Jason (30:12):

So this is the one that’s asso­ci­at­ed with your val­ues and goals. And so why I think that mat­ters is if we can help peo­ple lay out their val­ues and goals, which in the last episode you said, Hey, one of the things that you could do as an indi­vid­ual if maybe you’re strug­gling with work or life or just try­ing to fig­ure it out, is take some time and write down things that are impor­tant to you. And actu­al­ly, that task lit­er­al­ly con­nects very direct­ly to this sense of hap­pi­ness and well­be­ing that you expe­ri­ence. Because psy­chol­o­gists also know that human hap­pi­ness, that is the sus­tained vari­ety, is expe­ri­enced in con­junc­tion with the feel­ing that we’re mak­ing progress towards goals of the high­est order that we val­ue and hold in high esteem. And so if we don’t have those goals and val­ues, we’re not going to be able to expe­ri­ence that sus­tained hap­pi­ness. And so I think that’s a real­ly unique way to even think about prac­ti­cal impli­ca­tions for how do we go about set­ting up the employ­ee expe­ri­ence in such a way that peo­ple are giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to maybe think about those things.

Jor­dan (31:21):

Or why pri­or­i­tize employ­ee experience?

Jason (31:24):


Jor­dan (31:24):

Why con­tin­ue to pri­or­i­tize employ­ee expe­ri­ence in a down mar­ket, right? Right. I mean, I’ve got­ten ques­tions about that. Why are we still spend­ing mon­ey to have events and send peo­ple gifts and real­ly just enhance peo­ple’s day?

Jason (31:38):

Hap­pi­ness. <laugh>

Jor­dan (31:41):


Jason (31:41):

It’s right here.

Jor­dan (31:42):

Because it’s the right thing to do. These are peo­ple that we’ve inter­sect­ed in our lives, and it’s the right thing to do to treat them real­ly well. So just sort of on an eth­i­cal stand­point, but beyond that, they’re going to be far more productive.

Jason (31:57):

It’s good business.

Jor­dan (31:58):

It’s good busi­ness. Well, I’m con­vinced. I hope our lis­ten­ers are. It’s been a fun top­ic. I hope this has been mean­ing­ful. I hope espe­cial­ly to any lead­ers are tak­en away, <laugh> pay atten­tion to this. Get over your­self that it’s a lit­tle mushy. It’s a lit­tle soft in the begin­ning. It is the right thing to focus on and has real life and real world, real busi­ness outcomes.

Jason (32:27):

Yeah. We’ll share some links in the show notes as well to the arti­cles. There’s a hand­ful that I think are worth­while to nerd out on. And there’s some more digestible ones that are eas­i­er to read.

Jor­dan (32:38):

They’ll read the long ones, I’m sure. I won’t, but they will. Give me a word. What’s our word for next week?

Jason (32:47)

All right. Word for next week. You ready for it? Malarky. <laugh>.

Jor­dan (32:50)

That’s easy. Yeah. Oh man. That’s going to be a cake walk. Alright, good. Well, thank you for lis­ten­ing. We’ll see you next week on How Peo­ple Work.