Happy at work in Chile

I’m currently in Chile to do 2 speeches for Transbank, a credit card transaction company that is already #1 on Chile’s Great Place to Work ranking.

After my first speech, Christian Castro of Transbank sent me this video to show me a woman here in Chile, who is clearly very happy at work :)

I’m speaking at Transbank’s annual employee retreat. This year, to really recognize the importance of emotions at work, they’ve themed the event after Pixar’s awesome Inside Out movie.

I quickly grabbed the chance to dress up as my favorite character from Inside Out:


Check out the amazing work our partners are doing around the world

woohoo partners logo

We currently have partners in 15 different countries and following the amazing work these companies do fills me with pride. It is beyond amazing to see so many people all around the world committed to promoting happiness at work. Here are just a few recent examples – all of these took place within the last month or so.

If you are looking for someone to help your workplace become happier and more successful, you should absolutely talk to one of our partners. And if you’re thinking that you might like to do the same kind of work, we are looking for more partners.


Our partner in Argentina spoke at an international conference on happiness at work. Here’s an excerpt of his speech:


Workplace To Be in Germany  is tweeting 100 tips for more happiness at work:

Follow Annika here or see her excellent TEDx talk here.


One of our Dutch Partners, Happy People Better Business, arranged an entire conference about happiness at work in The Hague. Here’s an overview of the day:


Avive in Mexico spoke and exhibited at an event in Mexico City. Here are some pics from their booth:

IMG_2590 IMG_2595


Brett Leadbetter, our man in Australia, introduced these cards at a client:

random act cards

Here’s his explanation:

I have just used this with a school where we presented a ‘Happiness at Work’ Day earlier in the year. I placed a pile of these cards anonymously, with a few gifts (fun stickers, pencils, erasers) for a teacher at the school, encouraging them to continue the ‘crime-spree’ – about to find out the results. We have used them in the past as a ‘unofficial gauge’ of the culture of a school – sometimes this tells us more than the official opinion surveys!

Staff don’t need to spend money, just come up with a way to make someone’s day – we’ve had cars washed, playground duties covered (a big one with teachers!), sometimes bringing someone a coffee or cup of tea on a busy day works well.

Holland (again)

Another one of our Dutch partners, Toptimism at Work, made this beautiful video:


Bloch&Østergaard just revolutionized performance reviews for one client by changing them to a network-based model. Here’s how they did it:

Yesterday we killed the annual boss/employee appraisal-and-development-plan meeting for on of our clients, and replaced it with a network-based mentor-board approach for development and well-being for employees.

We wanted to remove the hub-and-spoke approach to development planning, and replace it with sincere care and advice from people in the organization, that knows what you’re working with, how you approach it, and how well the interaction with colleagues is handled.

We started two months ago by mapping the organisational network structure, (who do you work with, who do you get sparring from, who do you get energy from, and who do you talk to about private matters), from which we have established mentor boards for each employee, consisting of two people from the network, that you yourself have pointed towards in the net work analysis. The mentor board will then help/coach you and support you in your development, gather feedback from the network, and strive to nurture well-being. Results and relations must be discussed on each “board meeting”, and happiness at work is explicitly part of the templates and material.

Will it work? I think so. It was received by one of the most experienced male specialists in the group with the words “this is brilliant!”

How incredibly awesome!


Vega IT arranged a relay race for charity not just for their own employees but for all IT companies in Novi Sad. 184 runners organized in 46 teams participated.

vega relay race


Power of Happiness in Turkey just had their second annual international conference about happiness at work. I spoke at the first one but it looks like this one was even more awesome:

Find a partner / become a partner

You can see all our Woohoo Partners here or apply to become one yourself here.

Wanna see one of my speeches in 40 seconds?

A few weeks ago I spoke in Holland at the awesome Happy People Better Business conference and here’s a 40-second impression of that speech. We’ve always felt that a speech about happiness at work should be happy to be effective and I think the video conveys just that.

Last week I spoke in the UK at the Service Desk Institute conference, this week I’m speaking at Transbank in Chile and next week I’m in Poland at a conference for innovators and startups.

Woohoo :)

How to be a startup rebel

Last year I spoke at the Happy Startup Summer Camp – an awesome event for startups who want to do things differently.

I also did a workshop on happiness at work at the camp (happiness being the foundation of success for any startup) but in my main speech I focused on how to be a startup rebel.

Because let’s face it: Starting your own company requires you to take risks, ignore any-sayers and not be afraid to be yourself. You can see the whole speech above.

10 simple things the CEO can do to create a happy workplace

happy org chart

Happiness at work starts from the top. This is one of the fundamental truths of happy workplaces.

In any organization where people consistently love to work, you will find a CEO and executive leadership team that places employee happiness among their top strategic priorities and act accordingly.

One of our favorite examples of a CEO who truly gets this is Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines (since retired), who put it like this:

When I started out, business school professors liked to pose a conundrum: Which do you put first, your employees, your customers, or your shareholders? As if that were an unanswerable question.

My answer was very easy: You put your employees first. If you truly treat your employees that way, they will treat your customers well, your customers will come back, and that’s what makes your shareholders happy.

So there is no constituency at war with any other constituency. Ultimately, it’s shareholder value that you’re producing.

If, on the other hand, you have top brass who don’t give a damn about anything but the bottom line and their own bonuses and stock options, I can flat-out guarantee that you will create an organization with very little happiness but with a lot of fear, stress and frustration. And, ironically, with poor bottom line results.

So top executives MUST make employee happiness one of their most important goal. Both because it’s the right thing to do for the sake of their people, but also because it will actually make the company more successful. Studies consistently show that happy workplaces make more money.

But how does a CEO or top executive practice this on a daily basis? What can they do to make their organization happier?

Here are 10 great real-life examples that we’ve seen work really well in workplaces around the world.

10: Regular lunches with employees

During a speech in Istanbul, I met an executive of a huge Turkish organization who has had a monthly lunch with 10 randomly picked employees for years now. Every month 10 employees get a chance to have a nice lunch and over the course of a couple of hours get to ask any question they want and air any concerns or complaints.

They also get a chance to meet him in an informal setting and get a sense of who he is as a person.

9: Random acts of workplace kindness

medis 1

Some CEOs enjoy doing little random things to surprise and delight their staff. Here’s an example from Medis, one of our clients in Iceland, where the CEO decided to make fresh pancakes and waffles for anyone passing by.

He even had a great time himself:

I thoroughly enjoyed it – the biggest joy I actually got out of observing the reaction of the colleagues !

FYI we did not announce anything but simply showed up in the corridor without notice and took people pleasantly by surprise.

8: Celebrate accomplishments

The Danish Competition and Consumer Authority is a government agency whose 200 employees work to enforce consumer regulations and keep markets competitive.

Every month they have a breakfast meeting where important information is shared with all employees. At this meeting, the director Agnete always shares 2-3 successes that the organization has had since the last meeting. She’ll highlight how they’ve completed a big project or won a court case and make sure that the people who worked on that are recognized and celebrated.

7: Encourage bad news

One CEO we know had a strong desire to receive all bad news as soon as possible. He knew bad things happened (they do in all workplaces) but he also knew that some employees were to afraid of reprisals to come out and directly say that they might miss a deadline or have to disappoint a client.

So he has trained himself and his managers to always receive bad news with a smile and a phrase like “Thank you for telling me that.” This took some practice.

That way bad news come out early and can be dealt with before it turns into a disaster.

6: Meet with new employees

One fast-growing company of ours has a tradition where the CEO hosts a monthly afternoon tea at his home for all new hires that month.

It’s a completely informal gathering that serves two functions: He gets to meet all the new people and get a sense of who they are and he takes some time to talk about the company’s history and vision which is a powerful way to show the new hires the values and purpose of the organization.

5: Solve problems

Overall Board

South African social media agency Quirk has a process in place that encourages employees to bring about any problems they see to the attention of the executive team. The process gives all employees a voice and guarantees action from the executives in two weeks at the most.

You can read about their process here.

4: Encourage critical questions

The former CEO of a big global logistics company had annual road shows where he went around the world to present their annual strategy to the company’s locations.

He wanted to show the attendees that they could ask him anything, so he introduced an award for “most critical question.” The award was a little cow statue to show that the company had no “holy cows” – any question was fair, no matter how critical.

3: Say good morning

Carsten and Karsten, two sales managers at Danish company Solar, wanted to do something nice for their employees.

Early one Monday morning, they stood at the entrance and greeted every employee with a cheerful “good morning” and a breakfast they could take to their desks.

2: Celebrate mistakes

In one company, the CEO was told by a trembling employee, that the company website was down. This was a big deal – this company made most of its sales online, and downtime cost them thousands of dollars an hour.

The CEO asked what had happened, and was told that John in IT had bungled a system backup, and caused the problem. “Well, then,” says the CEO “Let’s go see John!”

When the CEO walked into the IT department everyone went quiet. They had a pretty good idea what wass coming, and were sure it wouldn’t be pretty.

The CEO walks up to John’s desk and asks “You John?”

“Yes” he says meekly.

“John, ” says the CEO, “I want to thank you for finding this weakness in our system. Thanks to your actions, we can now learn from this, and fix the system, so something like this can’t happen in the future. Good work!”

Then he left a visibly baffled John and an astounded IT department. That particular mistake never happened again.

In many workplaces,  employees who do good work are rarely recognized but anyone who makes a mistake is immediately and harshly punished. This is dumb.

When we can openly admit to screwing up without fear of reprisals, we’re more likely to fess up and learn from our mistakes. And that’s why top executives should help employees celebrate mistakes.

As an example, IT company Menlo Innovations in Michigan has this banner hanging in their office:

Make mistakes faster

1: Walk the halls and meet people

One day, the IKEA store in Gentofte, Denmark was a hive of activity. Not only was there a European executive meeting taking place, but the company founder, Ingvar Kamprad himself, was in the house. That’ll make most employees straighten up and put in a little extra effort.

The execs wrapped up at 6 in the evening and Ingvar then took a stroll through the entire store as if this was the most natural thing in the world, kindly greeting each and every employee. He encountered two female employees talking to each other and approached them with a smile and the words: “And what are you two lovely ladies talking about?” – following up with big hugs for both of them.

I love this because it shows a genuine interest in the employees and because Kamprad is clearly happy himself and not afraid to show it.

We know from psychological studies that emotions are contagious and top leaders can spread a lot of happiness simply by being happy themselves.

The point

This list is by no means exhaustive and it’s definitely not meant to be prescriptive. We’re not saying all executives should do these things.

What we are saying is that top executives play a huge role in creating happy workplaces. They do this in the big stuff – by making sure that the strategies, plans, goals and values they set for the organization are defined with the employees’ well-being in mind.

But they also do it in small, daily, interpersonal ways where they can show that they genuinely care about their people, can build relationships with employees and can let employees see them as real human beings.

However, this can only work under a few conditions:

  1. It must flow from a genuine care for the employees. If the CEO doesn’t honestly care about her employees, she shouldn’t try to fake it. But I’ve always said that if you don’t care about people, you have no business leading them.
  2. Executives must WANT to do things to make employees happier. It’s OK to go a little outside of your comfort zone but if you do things you actively hate, that fact will shine through and it probably won’t work.
  3. Actions must match words. You can’t on the one hand make pancakes or hug employees and on the other hand introduce large-scale organizational changes with no regard for how employees feel. They will see right through that.
  4. Consistency over the long term is mandatory. If you do this for a short while or only do it some of the time, it will be recognized as fake.

Understanding this and acting on it gives the executives in a workplace huge leverage to make their employees feel valued professionally and personally – thus increasing happiness, engagement and motivation as well as productivity.

Not doing this – and let’s face facts, most executives don’t – means failing your employees, your customers and your investors.

Your take

Do you think executives should care about the happiness of their employees? Do the executives in your workplace honestly care about their people? How do they show it / not show it?

Related posts

My top 10 feel-good movies

love actually

I’m going completely off-script in this post to talk about something unrelated to happiness at work but still close to my heart: Feel-good movies.

I have a weakness for feel-good films and I’m not ashamed to admit it :)

I love the fact that these movies show the world as a warm and happy place where good things happen to nice people, where everything eventually has a happy ending, where people can be themselves and are accepted for who they are and where second chances can be found by those who don’t succeed at first.

This may even be a more accurate portrayal of how the world actually is. I know it’s more common to see the world as hard, unfair and dog-eat-dog but there are equally compelling arguments that show that the world favors those who are nice and cooperate. And feel-good films reflect that.

So here is my top 10 list of feel-good films – in no particular order.

The Fisher King (1991)

Terry Gilliam’s visually stunning film has Robin Williams in one of his most challenging and touching roles. It is a beautiful story of redemption and forgiveness and of love and madness.

My rating: 10/10

Favorite quote:

“There’s three things in this world that you need: Respect for all kinds of life, a nice bowel movement on a regular basis, and a navy blazer.”

Down by Law (1986)

A black and white minimalist masterpiece from Jim Jarmusch with an incredibly unlikely main cast of Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni. This is quite simply one of the most beautiful movies ever made. You could blow up pretty much any single frame of this movie and hang it as a poster.

My rating: 10/10

Favorite quote:

“It’s a sad and beautiful world.”

Strictly Ballroom (1992)

The fascinating thing about this Baz Luhrman movie is that it is both a tremendous parody of a dance movie AND a tremendous dance movie. It’s about not being afraid of being different and not living in fear.

My rating: 10/10

Favorite quote:

“Vivir con miedo, es como vivir a medias!”

(Living in fear, is only half-living.)

Love Actually (2003)

The ultimate romantic comedy, feel-good movie and Christmas movie rolled into one. The all-star cast includes Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson and Billy Bob Thornton. At our house, we have friends over every year in early December and watch it together.

My rating: 10/10

Favorite quote:

“Okay, Dad. Let’s do it. Let’s go get the shit kicked out of us by love.”

Amélie (2001)

This movie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet leans slightly into the magical realism genre without becoming too weird.

Favorite quote:

Narrator: Amélie still seeks solitude. She amuses herself with silly questions about the world below, such as “How many people are having an orgasm right now?”

[scenes of various orgasms taking place]

Amélie: Fifteen.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

3 leading actors known mainly for being in action movies play drag queens and while Hugo Weaving and Terrence Stamp are both fanastic Guy Pearce especially takes to the role as a duck to water. A wonderful movie about being different. Look out for the scene where they walk out of theie bus in small-town Australia in full drag – it was shot on an actual street in Australia and the reactions you see are genuine.

My rating: 10/10

Favorite quote:

“That’s just what this country needs: a cock in a frock on a rock.”


Sure this is ostensibly a screwball comedy (and it is really, really funny) but it’s also a heartwarming story of friendship and being yourself.

My rating: 9/10

Favorite quote:

“Here at Globo Gym we’re better than you, and we know it.”

Stardust (2007)

Neil Gaiman is an amazing writer whether he works in comics (his Sandman series is the very best of the genre) or in novels. This beautiful movie is a classic fairy tale with some cool twists.

My rating: 9/10

Favorite quote:

[the pirates have just discovered Captain Shakespeare in drag]
Skinny Pirate: What’s the problem?
Captain Shakespeare: It’s my reputation.
Skinny Pirate: No. No. Don’t be silly. Nonsense.
Old Pirate: It’s all right, Captain. We always knew you were a whoopsie.

Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

While filming his big-budget superhero movie The Avengers, Joss Whedon needed to relax. So he got some friends over to his house for a couple of weeks where they shot Much Ado About Nothing in black and white and with modern costumes but with the original Shakespeare text. It is hilarious, it’s a feel-good love story and you can just tell that everyone there had a great time making it.

My rating: 10/10

Favorite quote:

“I wish my horse had the speed of your tongue.”

Field of Dreams (1989)

The ultimate movie of second chances. Goes directly into magical realism but without losing its sense of fun and humanity.

My rating: 9/10

Favorite quote:

“Is this heaven?”

“It’s Iowa.”

More feel-good films

Honorable mention goes to these movies:

A wonderful life
Slumdog millionaire
Russian pizza blues
Eat drink man woman
Pane e tulipani
Out of Rosenheim (Bagdad Cafe)
The Intouchables
Good Will Hunting
The snapper
Hable con ella
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Mitt liv som hund
Royal Tenenbaums
Shawshank redemption
La vita e bella
What’s eating Gilbert Grape
Moulin Rouge
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Oceans eleven

Your take

Have you seen any of these list? Did I forget your favorite feel-good movie? Write a comment and let me know what you think.

For anyone who didn’t quit yesterday, get our best tips on becoming happier in the job you have


International Quit Your Crappy Job Day was yesterday – March 31.

The day is our attempt to convince more people who hate their jobs that quitting IS an option – and often the best option.

But of course we realize that quitting is not for everyone. Maybe you’re not that miserable at work or maybe you’re simply not currently in a position to quit for financial or other reasons.

So if you are unhappy at work but not ready to quit, the important thing is that you do something to become happier at work.

And to the effect we have gathered a list of resources here. These are some of our best tips on becoming happier in the job you already have. We share them in the hope that they can help more people become happy at work.