Many leaders seek ways to make their employees happier at work yet lack the emotional intelligence to understand how to achieve this goal. While problem-solving abilities (IQ) are a vital characteristic in leaders, this emotional intelligence (EQ) is just as (if not more) integral to running a thriving workplace, as this will bring back the human element of work.
It can be easy to reduce emotion to binary characteristics—happy or sad, satisfied or dissatisfied—but there is far more to it than that. Humans experience a wide range of emotions, with some theorists suggesting that as many as 82 emotions make us who we are. A leader with strong emotional intelligence will be able to understand this and see that employee satisfaction and employee happiness are not the same.
Understanding Employees’ Emotions
Before leaders can understand their employees’ emotions, they must first look inward. If the leader feels unhappy or unfulfilled with their job, it’s likely that the employee is feeling equal—or perhaps even more—unfulfillment. As such, when trying to improve the workplace, start by focusing on and fixing the things that bring unhappiness.
Many business leaders tend to forget that energy is infectious. As the leader of the business, if you radiate positive energy and happiness, employees will feel more positive and happier about their jobs. The inverse is also true: if your days are filled with negativity, don’t expect your employees to feel happy or content.
In the past two years, with more employees than ever working from home, it has become increasingly challenging to feel and gauge workers’ energy. Nevertheless, there has been one trend that people have widely recognized: employees feel lonelier than ever.
For many employees, their job was one of the few opportunities for socialization they had outside of the home. Remote work has deprived them of this critical opportunity. As a result, employers must regularly check in with their employees to see how they are doing. There’s no water cooler to congregate at or desk to stop by when working from home.
Ideally, weekly one-on-one meetings should be held between employees and their direct managers to ensure everyone is on the same page about expectations. These meetings can likewise help the organization as a whole form and foster a culture of open, honest, and transparent communication.
Creating a Culture of Positivity for Your Employees
The biggest mistake an employer can make is to attempt to buy or bribe their employees’ happiness. If a business treats its employees as if they are only there for the paycheck, they will behave that way. While money is one form of compensation, other forms of compensation— time off, self-expression, leadership, and the ability to grow vertically within the company—can be just as important to employees as financial compensation.
Financial incentives such as raises and bonuses may be enough to make some employees content, but others will need more to feel fulfilled in their jobs. Most employees need to experience all these forms of compensation to feel valued in the workplace and experience what employers see as “employee satisfaction.”
However, employers should also realize that happiness changes over time in ways both big and small. Expecting employees to be happy in their position daily is unfair and unrealistic. Checking in with employees regularly is the only way to know how they are feeling at any given time and to identify how you can improve the company and culture to restore their happiness.
Furthermore, it is critical to understand that people grow and change, and there may be a point when your company is simply no longer a good fit for an employee. That doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing anything wrong—and trying to force an unhappy employee who is no longer a good fit for your company to be happy will only make things worse. A good leader knows when they no longer have anything to offer their employees and allows them to move on to their next opportunity.
Employers must realize that fixing employee satisfaction is not as simple as throwing money at the issue in the hopes that employees will suddenly feel happy. Forming a connection with the people who work at your company and understanding the complexity of their emotions is what it will take to implement the institutional changes to make your company a better, happier place to work.
Craig Goodliffe is the Founder of Cyberbacker.