For a happy workplace, stress employees' strengths

Aug 2, 2012 Staff

Question -- "As an employer, I am frustrated by the concept that it is my job to make my employees 'happy.' I certainly want them to be pleased at work and have a vested interest in the business' success, but 'happy' seems more of a personal thing, a bit touchy feely for the office. Am I wrong to expect an employee to come in and want to do a good job?"

-- Seth, Worland

Answer -- Alex Linley, founder of the Center for Applied Positive Psychology in England, says "Happiness gets trashed. It's considered too pink and fluffy for the workplace."

You are not alone in thinking this topic might be out of place in the office. However, Linley says it is often dependent on perception. For example, she strives to help organizations become "strength-based." This means that the employer seeks to buoy what people are doing right, rather what they are doing wrong.

In Marcus Buckingham's book, "First, Break All the Rules," a survey found that only 17 percent of U.S. workers use their strengths at work. Yet, the largest global companies such as Yahoo, Toyota and Best Buy have strength-based cultures.

Strengths, according to Linley, are the "pre-existing capacity for behaving, thinking or feeling that is authentic and energizing to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development and performance." It is believed, that when employees use their strengths, it will tend to create a sense of purpose and "happiness" with their work.

What does this mean to you as a small employer? Start by defining the strengths needed in your business and then redefine roles (job descriptions) to better play to a person's strengths. Have an employee partner with someone who compensates for his weaknesses. Explore and evaluate your approach, and continually refine the process. Ask employees for input into their jobs and how they might see their strengths best used.

This is a process, not an immediate solution. So, give it a little time. In the long run, it can lead to "happier" employees and a more productive environment for you, the business owner, and lead to a better experience for customers.

Petersen-Frey offers one-on-one advising for expanding a business to the global marketplace in a focused manner (versus accidentally). She can be contacted at or (307) 632-6141.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepre

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.


Editor's note:R00;Anya Petersen-Frey is the WSBDC regional director, part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, email at or call at 1-800-348-5194.

Print Story
Read The Ranger...