Why Are Workers Unhappy?

One would think after all these years of talking about engagement, retention and morale, we HR types would have moved the needle on workplace happiness. Nope. Gallup recently released its annual report on employee engagement, and its findings are grim: 70 percent of American workers are not engaged. Given that workplace engagement and happiness are almost synonymous, it follows that only 1 in 3 workers is happy at work. Ouch.

Our very own Frank Kalman reported on the Gallup findings last week. He explains why employee happiness and engagement is so important: “According to the Gallup report, organizations with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee in 2010-11 experienced 147 percent higher earnings per share compared with their competition in 2011-12.”

Happy employees produce, in other words.

I have been writing about these issues for Talent Management for almost two years, apparently in vain. Something is wrong in the American workplace, and I am going to find out what it is. Next week, I am attending the Third World Congress of the International Positive Psychology Association as a reporter. Positive psychology conferences, despite their smiley-face sounding names, are not New Age hug-a-thons. The World Congress in particular brings together every serious scholar in the field presenting the latest research on what makes people happy. As your intrepid, truth-seeking reporter, I am going to ask four questions of the presenters and attendees:

1. Is happiness at work important?

2. Is happiness at work possible?

3. Why are most of us unhappy at work?

4. What can companies do to make workers happy?

Reporting live from Los Angeles, I will keep you posted on what I find through tweets (follow me on Twitter @BowlingDan) and updates on this website. In the meantime, what questions do you have? Please leave them in the comment section below and I will share what answers I get.