Joy -The New Workforce Benchmark

There is a malaise within our workforce that is troubling right now. It’s causing many to retreat from all that was “normal” and begin a quest for the holy grail of personal fulfillment - discovering purpose, passion, and legacy. It’s been a rough few years and the hits continue to come. The hunger runs deep. I have spoken with many people lately that are looking for joy in their work and personal life. Thus, there is a new benchmark in our business world for employees and it’s no longer tied to job satisfaction.


I’ve only seen true joy a handful of times in my life. I’m not talking about happiness which can be fleeting or fulfillment and satisfaction which are task oriented. Rather, witnessing an inner glow that bubbles up and spills over stirring the senses, bringing a smile to your face and, a desire for the same.


I’m often asked, “What brings you joy?” It’s a question I answer carefully because there are large gaps between satisfaction, happiness, and joy. Joy runs deep, there is nothing surface about it. It’s not short term like happiness or job satisfaction but rather, its tied to an internal belief system within that guides you, your personal North Star. It allows you to stay focused on that guiding light, while the chaos of the world goes on to the left and to the right of you. You choose to walk this path of grace because you choose not to lead a life of despair and hopelessness. It’s a conscious choice, not one you accidentally landed on.


Recently I made a list of all the things that brought me joy. But after I looked at it, I realized that I had added things to the list because I thought I should, because they were important to me at one time. The longer I stared at the list, the longer I felt compelled to divide it up into joy, happiness, and satisfaction columns. I realized that as an attorney, social entrepreneur, and founder of a nonprofit, I feel satisfied when I’ve done a job well and it has helped others. I’m happy when I have lunch with my friends or take a walk on a beautiful day in the park. But I feel joy when I’m in the creative process, attempting to paint a picture or make something even if I can purchase it, cooking a meal with love for my friends or being trusted to set up a department or run a project in a way that will be win/win for all those in its circle of influence. For me, innovation brings me joy.


Do you create a sense of “awe” for your employees? It’s that feeling of amazement or wonder that comes from being in the presence of something bigger than you, that reminds you that you are an important part of something greater. Tall order I know. Higher Purpose is a term being used a lot these days as a fourth pillar behind Mission, Vision, and Values. I applaud that because it takes the business’s sole focus off short term profits. But how does that translate down to the individuals that work for you? How do you provide that sense of purpose in them, one that brings them a sense of joy?


Business leaders tend to think a great deal about success, but rarely about joy. But people intrinsically seek joy. And joy connects people more powerfully than almost any other human experience. Employees who believe their “company makes a positive societal contribution” and who feel “personally committed to achieving the company’s vision and strategy” have a greater chance of experiencing joy at work. This takes a little excavating on the part of the company leadership team and goes back to the “trickle up” approach I continue to harp about. It’s important to meet with your team and find out about the things and issues that they resonate with. Then create impact programs that support your business strategy from the bottom up rather than pushing management philosophies down, ones that may fall flat with your employee pool, leaving them listless and uninterested. Remember, you are creating a culture of innovation


Lastly, make space for joy. It’s hard for it to “bubble up” when everyone is in constant go mode like hamsters on treadmills, running from one task to another. Busyness and stress are definite killjoys. Is it possible to create pockets of calm throughout the workday? Perhaps this includes moments to play, previously inconceivable in the workplace during work hours. But laughter and lightness inspire attitude adjustments and give your worker’s time to recenter and for those feelings of significance and joy to resurface. And … reasons to stick around, their quest might be winding down.


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All rights reserved – Linda Lattimore