by Alex Palmer | November 30, 2016
There is no shortage of suggestions for finding happiness in one's life and career, from self-help theories to business-school strategies. Workplace happiness is also a hot topic among academics, who have delved into what it takes to find satisfaction and fulfillment in one's work. To get a better sense of this, Incentive reached out to a number of these researchers who have spent years studying this topic, asking for specific tips and insights they could provide, both for individual employees and the managers who oversee them.

Beware of Overqualification

"Overqualification is a form of underemployment wherein people have more skills, experience, knowledge, and abilities than is required for the job they hold," says Dr. Chia-Huei Wu, an assistant professor of management at the London School of Economics' Department of Management. His research in organizational behavior focuses on personality development, work design and employee well-being. 

"Though in effect this makes them very capable, if left unchecked overqualification can result in employees feeling deprived of the opportunity to utilize their skills, or feeling under-valued, thus leading to negative work experiences. Empirical studies have shown that overqualified employees tend to possess a negative attitude to work, become dissatisfied with their jobs, and as a result develop a lower level of commitment to their employers. They are also more likely to become more psychologically and physically distressed, more likely to voluntarily quit their jobs, and have a greater tendency to engage in counterproductive work behaviors, such as incivility, absenteeism, low engagement and productivity, creating broader problems within their organizations."

Avoid One-Size-Fits-All

"Reward people for performance. Don't be a socialist by offering money/reward to everyone in equal amounts -- this demotivates hard working and meritorious people," advises Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, PhD, associate professor of community health in the Department of Nutrition and Health Science for Ball State University, in Muncie, IN. "Manage conflict and problems. Don't tell people, 'You are adults, you can handle this or deal with this,' which is a common response from managers. Enforce company policies, don't manage out of personal whims and fancies. Offer opportunities for continuing education and professional development. Not all rewards have to be monetary, some incentives like training, education, and other benefits are comparable to annual raises."

Help Workers Succeed

"One of the best ways to make employees happy is by helping them be successful," says Robert M. Peterson, Ph.D. White Lodging Professor of Sales at Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, IL." When employees achieve or exceed goals, are paid their worth, and recognized for their value and contributions, they are happy on the job." 

For that reason, Peterson and his team have included a Staccato Simulator process for the university's students in which they practice real-life scenarios and help future sales reps practice calling techniques and become more comfortable on the phone.

"When employees are armed with this ability, their achievements soar and become the centerpiece of their career happiness," he explains. "Simulation-based learning is proven to be more effective for long-term retention and productivity, and that ultimately leads to success and happiness in the workplace. In our program, we have tracked all 500 students who were trained using simulation-based learning and all are happily employed in positions of sales, marketing, and law."

Build Relationships

"Resonant leaders are warm, they listen to their employees, they are transparent about their goals and their decisions. Practicing resonant leadership ensures workers feel safe on the job, less stressed and able to focus on the work itself," says Kathryn Stanley, PhD, chair of the Organizational and Leadership Psychology Department, and director of PsyD Leadership Psychology at William James College in Newton, MA. "Take time to build relationships. These kind of activities are often considered at best a necessary evil but are critical for ensuring a positive work environment that allows for happiness to thrive. Make sure to bring the team together to focus on what's relevant but also to have fun. Make sure to give authentic praise and acknowledge a job well done. Be available to teach and mentor."