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By: Dr. John T. Self

The Happy Employee

How many times have we heard that our employees must be happy to be effective? I've heard many, many managers say this. But is that what our employees really require to do a good job?

Of course, anyone you ask would like to be happy. Duh. But at work? Think about it. on On your list of wants, how high is being happy at work? It would rate fairly low on mine. Opportunity, fairness and openness all would rank higher for me.

In fact, happy almost implies a temporary state. Sure, you can make your employees happy. It really isn't very hard. Want to make them happy? Try one of these. They are all guaranteed to make them happy:

  • Tell your employees that you are going to lock the front door 15 minutes early at closing.
  • Buy pizzas for everyone on a Friday night. Let them all sneak back to grab a quick bite.
  • Let them have the day off on their birthday.
  • Terminate the guy you should have terminated last week
  • If they are expecting a 25 cent raise, give them a dollar raise

You get the idea. All temporary, all fleeting moments. Their happiness wouldn't last, and then they'd be in search of the next "happy" moment.

Many managers run their shifts trying to make happy employees. They succeed, but the bar is raised higher each week. What do you do for an encore? Deluxe, Super Supreme pizzas? And then what? Free steaks? Nope, it all comes down to good, solid management. You've got to manage well for any kind of long term consistency. Let your employees find "happiness" outside the workplace.

To bring about motivated and satisfied, loyal employees takes more than temporary moments of being given something. You really can't buy motivated employees. You've got to earn it. Good and excellent employees know this. You want to know what they are saying behind the back of managers who try to buy their loyalty? It is not pretty.

These are the employees you want to keep, not the ones who are always looking for something. I have always thought of them as takers. They always want something. They want their schedules changed. They need to get out early. They would like to work a particular station. They want to work many shifts. They want to work fewer shifts. But will they help you out when you are in a bind? Nine times out of ten, they won't. Again, temporary happiness is just that - temporary. You can't buy love and you can't buy loyalty. Forget happiness. You'll thank me for this one day. I promise.

About the author:  John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academe, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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