Leaders: Are you Tired of Trying to Make Your Staff Happy? 

April 28, 2023

I often hear a version of “no matter how much I give my staff, they always ask for more, so I’ve stopped caring about making people happy.”

What if you’re going about it all wrong?

Did you know that there are actually two kinds of happiness?

What is Hedonic Happiness?

When you give people things like occasional perks, rewards, or other benefits to try to make them happy, this can help them experience hedonic happiness. While it can feel good momentarily, it rarely leads to lasting wellbeing. People call this the hedonic treadmill, the sense that no matter how much we get we’ll never be satisfied. This happens because we tend to get used to the new state as the new normal.

You don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) make people happy in the hedonic sense, by giving them everything they ask for, but you do have the opportunity to provide the conditions for eudaimonic happiness. 

So what is eudaimonic happiness? 

Eudaimonic happiness is the deeper sense of joy, satisfaction with life, and purpose-derived wellbeing that comes from making meaningful contributions to the world and feeling connected to something greater than oneself.

This is why, even in places where people are lacking materially we can still see immense amounts of joy. Or, on the other hand, even where salaries are highest we don’t always see wellbeing.

Workplace conditions and training in the skills that are going to improve one’s eudaimonic happiness (or wellbeing, for short) can maximize the success of the initiatives, programs and improve retention and morale.

So yes, don’t worry about making everyone happy in the short-term. But do consider helping your staff experience wellbeing, resilience, mattering, purpose, meaning, connection, and contribution to something greater.

Hedonic happiness and eudaimonic happiness both have their place in our lives. However, as workplace strategies for improved morale, one is a bandaid and the other one takes strategic planning, creativity, intentionality.

Can you guess which one is which?

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