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Creating a Happy Workplace

Creating a Happy Workplace: Is Happiness Good for Business?

Few would argue that creating a happy workplace is worthwhile in its own right, but can happiness be good for business? In our article “What makes a happy company?” we highlighted 6 key questions to help create a happy, flourishing workplace.

But don’t just take our word for it. Here we let one successful business leader argue for the benefits of creating a happy workplace. His example should encourage us all to recognise that perhaps profits and happiness can go hand in hand. Perhaps finding ways to be happy at work really can help deliver competitive advantage. For both individual managers and for their organisations.

Although we each have some responsibility for helping to create a happy workplace, it’s especially important that managers understand their role in this process. It’s managers who are best placed make it happen. Indeed, it’s often said that people leave managers, not companies. (Find out how to become a manager people want to work for in our e-guides, such as Managers Make the Difference). Perhaps a manager like Hal Rosenbluth….

“Profits are a natural extension of happiness in the workplace.” And “If we put our people first, they’ll put our clients first.” Hall Rosenbluth built up the small, family-run Travel Management Company to become one of the largest in the United States. In his provocative book “Customers Come Second”, he outlined his radical approach to management: putting employees first. He argued that:

What is interesting is how Rosenbluth described his journey to building a very successful and happy workplace. In an interview with Fast Company, Rosenbluth described the origins of his radical philosophy. What led him to his unusual approach of putting customers second and employees first? You may not be surprised to know it was his own experience of being managed poorly.

Rosenbluth joined the family business after leaving college at the age of 22, and “wandered around the company working for one lousy manager after another. Each added to a growing list of negative role mod

els with whom I had come in contact over the years. Fortunately, I learned a lot from these negative role models”.

He recalled a company who’s management “was so overwhelmingly consumed by focusing on our customers, they forgot about their own employee’s happiness.” He felt the place was unpleasant to work in and

was a company “full of unhappy people producing unhappy service and deteriorating profitability.”

He decided never to become such a manager himself. Rosenbluth was arguably ahead of his time in deciding to use the power of friendship to build a successful business. Today it’s well known that a key element of happiness is the importance of networks of friends. Rosenbluth recalled how it was his friends who came to his aid and stayed with him during trying times.

“Friends never let friends down. This realization led to my plan to build a company of friends. First, I had to create and sustain an environment that would breed friendships. Second, I would only hire nice people.”

Rosenbluth proved that a happy company can be a profitable company. He ended the interview with a parting tip for a happy workplace:

“Care about your people and they will care about your business. Forget that and watch profits go down the drain.”

The success of Rosenbluth’s approach to management was seen in the way his company handled the aftermath of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre. The travel industry was hit particularly badly by these attacks and Rosenbluth’s company was no exception. Faced with a massive drop in turnover, Rosenbluth was forced to lay staff off. Many took voluntary redundancy, others voluntarily took pay cuts to help the company survive. However the company did everything possible to weather the storm and the majority of staff laid-off were eventually re-instated.

As a Manager, What Can You Do?

The Llyn Peninsular, in North Wales, is well known for having noticeably warmer weather than its immediate neighbours. The North Atlantic drift helps create a distinct micro-climate.

If they have a mind to, managers can create organisational micro-climates, helping foster happier workplaces. It’s up to you to make a difference. Nobody is better placed to create a happy workplace than its managers.

To build that happy workplace try to become a talent magnet. Seek out the best staff if you are recruiting, or try to forge happy, productive working relationships with those already with you. Think through the 6 questions in our article “What makes a happy company?” and how they might relate to your team. Whatever the result, they’ll provide a good indication of what a happy company – a flourishing and happy workplace – should look like.

Build friendships at work as Hal Rosenbluth suggests: start the process of building a company of friends. After all if you can tell good people by the company they keep, you can certainly tell a good company by the people it keeps!

If you want to read more about one of the central philosophies of this site, you might like to look at these two pages: What Makes a Great Manager and Toward a Meaning of Happiness at Work. Both explain the relationship between happiness and a better workplace, and will help you to reflect on whether you’re getting the most out of both your work, your colleagues, and yourself. Are you a happy manager?


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