Why happy employees may not be motivated

But what if it’s wrong? After all, happiness is a mood state and that is not the same thing as motivation or commitment. There are plenty of immensely happy people who are quite average or even below average as performers on the job.

Why happy employees may not be motivated

There certainly is a relationship between job satisfaction and productivity but while everyone wants to work in an environment that makes them happy, the reality is that satisfied employees are not necessarily more productive. Productive employees tend to be happy however.

They are productive when their leaders emphasize quality and customer service and they are well trained, empowered, and involved in making decisions. This allows them to be more engaged and to communicate and collaborate with each other.

Consider the resources currently being wasted by companies trying to satisfy their employees in order to get greater performance. The emphasis instead should be on emphasizing performance instead and the satisfaction will follow.

In Search of a Productive Workforce

This “happy employee” approach is basically a failed philosophy. This is because while satisfaction may be a by-product, it alone does not drive high performance. That performance comes from leadership that inspires employees to enthusiastically give 100% every day.

Think about it for a minute. How many times have people testified that they were inspired by a boss who coddled them and always made them happy. Now instead think of how many times people have stated that their boss challenged them and pushed them past their limits and taught them to aim higher than they ever thought possible.

Which of these two scenarios is most inspiring and conducive to performance? People become satisfied not because they had it easy, but because a leader cared enough to push them to new heights.

Employees cannot be bribed into becoming motivated with financial rewards nor can they be coddled into becoming great. They get to this state under the guidance of successful leaders who push them out of their comfort zone so they can discover and maximize their unrealized potential. After this is done, these leaders recognize that performance and leave them beaming with hard-won self-respect and fulfillment.

People become more motivated when their leaders provide ample:

happy employees

Autonomy: This is the chance to take control over a complete unit of work in which the employee is really interested.
Responsibility: Here employees have personal responsibility for setting goals and being accountable for achieving them.
Recognition: Here leaders recognize employees for achieving meaningful results.

Why Happy Employees May not be Motivated

Ask people to identify the things that really irritate them so much that they change what could have been a motivating workplace into a drudgery and these are the typical responses.

Managers who do not recognize them for their efforts, take the credit for themselves.
The lack of the feeling that everyone is in this together.
Continuous implied threats of demotion or dismissal.

Some other interesting particulars about job satisfaction worth considering in job design parameters are:

People with relatively high incomes tend to be more satisfied.
Women tend to be more satisfied than men.
The self-employed tend to be more satisfied.
People in small workplaces tend to be more satisfied than those who with large employers.
Working at home tends to be more satisfying.

The Value of Management Training

It is easy to overlook the human element and sacrifice the emotional wellbeing of employees in the name of profit. The truth is, however, that the long-term benefits of training management to connect with employees are in the best interest of every business. The price tag associated with overstressed and unmotivated employees is extraordinary. They are less productive, more likely to take sick days, more likely to develop serious health problems and more likely to leave a position.

Over the past four years, the Center for Work-Family Stress, Safety and Health (CWFSSH) has studied how changes in the work environment can affect employees’ health and welfare. The results verify what so many in the training and consulting industry already understand.Training those in leadership roles to connect with their employees improves employee health, job satisfaction and decreases turnover. Drs. Leslie Hammer and Ellen Kossek explain that “… with companies cutting training budgets, they haven’t been taught basic management skills.” Employee perception of managerial support determines the attitudes, sleep patterns and overall health of workers.

Management Training


The CWFSSH asked managers and employees to rate the supportiveness of the managers before and after the training process. Originally one-third of employees gave the managers much lower ratings than the managers gave themselves. After the training, however, the manager and employee ratings were nearer to each other.The managers concentrated on inquiring about the family members of employees and accommodating scheduling needs. They were simple steps to implement, but they had profound results. Employees of trained mangers were willing to comply with policies, were happier and reported fewer stress related health problems.


Most of the mangers in the program genuinely wanted to support their employees. They just needed to be trained. With the proper training, these managers were transformed into leaders, capable of building relationships with their employees. Approaching the workforce from a place of compassion and engaging them on a personal level creates a positive work environment. By moving away from simply managing employees to leading them, the stress level of everyone is improved. Not only is the quality of life for employees improved, but managers also have fewer headaches addressing poor attitudes and covering the shifts of the frequently absent.

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