Is a Happy Person More Successful at Work?
Being a happy person is of course worthwhile for its own sake, but are happy people also likely to be successful?
In answering the question “what causes happiness?” our article points to research that suggests we can become happier: we can choose to be happier.
However, for many, if it is to be worth finding ways to be happy in the workplace then we need to also ask:
can being happy help make you more successful at work?
Are Happier People More Successful?
There seems to be growing evidence to answer this question positively. Seligman suggests that recent research is starting to indicate that happiness is “causal and brings many more benefits than just feeling good.” For example Seligman points towards increasing evidence that happy people are healthier, more successful, and more socially engaged, and that the causal direction runs both ways.
Lyubomirsky, King and Diener go further and suggest that positive moods and emotions lead a happy person to think, and act in ways that promote:
- Building their own resources and capability, and
- Their ability to positively work towards their goals.
In other words, a happy person thinks and behaves in a way that is more likely to be successful.
In studying the evidence of a wider range of research studies they find that happy workers enjoy multiple advantages over their less happy peers. The list is impressive. For example Happy people are more likely to:
- Secure job interviews,
- Show superior performance and productivity,
- Be evaluated positively by their supervisors,
- Handle managerial jobs better.
They are also less likely to show counter-productive workplace behaviour and job burnout.
Although the researchers express some caution, their study of a wider range of research articles does indicate that a happy person appears “to be more successful than their less happy peers in the three primary life domains: work, relationships and health.”
They suggest that although not conclusive there is evidence that happiness may often come before successful outcomes, rather than just following as a result of successful outcomes. Whilst it is understandably assumed that success brings happiness, it seems that the opposite also has some truth: happy people may well in many cases tend to be more successful.
Be a Happy Person – You Might as Well!
At an intuitive level we all recognize that people who are genuinely happy help to create a much better work environment. Nobody wants to work around disgruntled colleagues, and it’s worth remembering as Cynthia Nelms pervasively said:
“Nobody really cares if you’re miserable, so you might as well be happy.”
There is growing support for choosing to be happy not simply because “we might as well”, though a good reason in itself, but also because a happy person tends to be more successful in many areas of life, including the workplace.
Of course what one person means by success might be very different from somebody else. You might want to read more about defining success more broadly as balancing family, work, self and community in our article success maker.
What though should people in the workplace be doing to promote happiness? We discuss some ideas you can apply in our article finding ways to be happy at work.