Is “Joy” a Part of Your Work Culture?


During a planning retreat, a vice-president asked me, “Do you think it is OK for staff to feel joyful at work?”  

“Absolutely,” I responded.

The VP asked, “How do you cause employees to be joyful? We celebrate birthdays, offer movie outings, and sponsor employee sports teams.  Employees show enthusiasm during these events, but smiles turn to frowns upon returning to work.”

“Joy” is a feeling of pleasure and happiness, and an A. J. Kearney survey revealed that only 37% of employees say they experience “joy” at work. 

But “joy” is not about employees playing together.  Alex Liu, writing in the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIW, explains that employees experience joy when they achieve something together that contributes to society.

Put simply, joy is the product of cooperating with team members to achieve “wins” that also improve society.

Winning sports teams provide a formula for how to create “joy.”  Team members understand and accept their roles, and they recognize other members’ contributions.  The late Dean Smith, a hall of fame basketball coach at North Carolina, encouraged shot makers to acknowledge the teammate who passed the ball by publicly pointing at him. 

Just as in sports, a little high fiving, handclapping and team cheering may induce joy and help advance the ball at work.

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