Why is it important to make people happy at work, and more importantly, why is that your job?
As a leader, you certainly have a full plate, and tackling issues of employee mental health can feel both overwhelming and confusing. That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook, though.
Bosses have a profound impact on worker morale, and worker morale has a profound impact on the success of a business. As a leader, it’s your responsibility, your opportunity and your privilege to place high priority on the emotional health of your work team.
But in the stressful climate of business, it’s easy to lose sight of the “softer” matters of heart and mind, and that’s when big losses at business start to be spelled “U-N-H-A-P-P-Y”.
Workplace discontent and employee burnout can lead to high turnover, counterproductive work behaviors, lowered innovation, low motivation, less talent retention, more negative conflict and a declining organizational culture.
Fortunately, characteristics of good leadership happen to also be the ingredients of employee happiness. By folding the principles of transformational leadership into your daily operations, you can safeguard both the success and spirit your organization and everyone in it.
Transformational leadership involves four main skills and practices.
Idealized influence: This basically means walk the walk, give a good example of the types of behavior, thinking and interacting that you want people in your organization to epitomize. Be ethical, follow the same rules you tell others to follow, be moral and kind, in short, be a person other people should look up to. Doing this creates not only a great learning opportunity for followers, it makes people trust and feel safe with you at the helm.
Inspirational motivation: Share and share often the vision and purpose of your organization, and how each person fits into that bigger picture. The vast majority of your employees fundamentally want their work to mean something good. Even if it’s in a small way, leaders need to continuously emphasize how workers are making a difference and how every step gets us closer to that valued, shared goal.
Individualized consideration: Support each of your employees in a personal way. This means not only making sure they have what they need to get a job done, it means partnering with them to solve problems and feel their best. This might include discussing both workplace and personal matters, or social dynamics an employee is experiencing.
Taking the time to give a listening ear and a sounding board for troubleshooting, and showing you are genuinely interested in each person makes a world of difference. Having an “open door policy” is great, but really go the extra mile to reach out and engage with each worker. This will help you anticipate broader workplace problems, implement pre-emptive solutions, and it will galvanize the loyalty members feel toward you and their jobs.
Intellectual stimulation: Every person wants to grow and climb higher mountains throughout their career. You can be the catalyst for this progress by consistently and enthusiastically investing in employee development. Be curious about what each person is passionate about, and what their unique skills are (even if it’s not part of their job description). You can find diamonds in the rough, and those gems enable product innovation and higher-level accomplishments, not just for individual workers, but for the business as a whole.
Employee mental health is not just a nice idea or an afterthought, it’s the foundation of success for every organization, and it’s in the leader’s hands to safeguard and enhance the experience of everyone following them.
Happy workplaces are more productive, more innovative, more competitive and more robust. The best part is caring for emotional health at work only requires some mindfulness, attention and a commitment to give your best. When you follow the steps toward uplifting those around you, an elevation of your own health will inevitably follow.
Brett McDonald is the owner of Dragonfly Team and Leadership Counseling in Wenatchee. She holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology and was a practicing therapist in Wenatchee for 17 years. She also has a doctorate degree in business administration with an emphasis in organizational leadership. She can be reached at (509) 679-4556.