All posts by Alexander

The value of a happy team

In this video gymnast Katelyn Ohashi scores a perfect 10 for her floor routine. But while her skills are amazing, my favorite thing in this video is how happy and engaged the rest of the team standing in the background are.

They celebrate when she sticks a landing and even do some of her moves along with her.

What couldn’t you do with that kind of support and energy around you!

Super early bird tickets now on sale for our 2019 conference

We have just opened ticket sales for our 10th annual conference on happiness at work – the super early bird tickets are available until January 20.

This conference is for HR people, managers and anyone else looking for valuable insights and proven tools to create happier and more successful workplaces.

Our previous conferences got an average rating of 4,8 out of 5! Buy your tickets now and save a bundle :)

 

Worst. Comment. Ever :)

One of my most popular articles is this one on Why “The Customer is Always Right” is Wrong.

I have gotten so many supportive comments from retail employees who have been treated badly by rude customers and received no support from their managers, who hide behind this tired maxim.

Of course not everyone agrees. Here’s a comment I got a few days ago:

BS!!! BOTTOM LINE IS THAT THE CUSTOMER
HAS THE MONEY.
THATS THE GOLDEN RULE…
HE WHO HAS THE GOLD MAKES THE RULE!!!

That’s hilarious :) It’s also the perfect expression of the entitled attitude that the worst customers use to justify their horrible behavior. Having money gives you NO license to treat others badly.

10 crucial questions to ask about your job at the start of a new year

The beginning of a new year is a great time to take stock of your work life. Were you happy or unhappy at work? What would you like to change?

It’s important to evaluate because how you feel at work has such a large influence on you at work AND at home. When you’re happy at work, you have better job performance and more career success. You also have better health and a happier private life.

Unfortunately most people look back and think exclusively in terms of what went wrong. The things they should have done. They goals they ought to have achieved. The progress that didn’t come.

We gain much of our happiness at work (and in life) by appreciating the good things we have and do. Sure, you should also make sure to improve your circumstances and address any problems but it is just as important to be able to appreciate the things that do work.

This is hard. Negativity bias is one of the most well-established psychological phenomena and it means quite simply that our minds devote more mental focus and cognition to the bad than the good. Our thoughts automatically go to problems, annoyances, threats and fears but remembering and appreciating the good in our lives takes effort and focus.

We think you can achieve much more by turning that around 180 degrees, so here’s our suggestion for a little new year’s exercise in happiness at work.

Think back at your work life in 2018 and answer the following 10 questions. It works best if you take some time to think about each question and if you write down your answers.

  1. What went really well for you at work in 2018?
  2. What did you do that you were proud of?
  3. Who did you make a difference for at work?
  4. What new skills have you learned professionally?
  5. How have you grown and developed personally at work?
  6. Who has helped you out at work in 2018?
  7. Who have you admired professionally?
  8. Which 5 things from your work life in 2018 would you like more of in 2019?
  9. Which 5 things from your work life in 2018 would you like less of in 2019?
  10. What will you specifically do to become happier at work in 2019?

Some people think that they must work hard to become successful – and that success will make them happy. The truth is the opposite: being happy makes you more effective and successful at work.

So this year, make happiness at work your #1 career goal – because being happy at work will make you more successful in your career.

And that may require some tough decisions. If you find that you’re just not happy at work, maybe it’s time to find a new job. Fortunately, International Quit Your Crappy Job Day is just around the corner.

I wish you a very happy new year at work!

2018 – our most international year ever

2018 has been our awesomest year yet, not to mention our most international year ever :) It’s pretty stunning to see the change that a small Danish company has been able to inspire in workplaces all over the world.

Here are some highlights from our 2018 at Woohoo inc – and let us just take this chance to wish you an incredibly happy 2019!

50 countries!!!

In November I spoke to 1,000 government managers and executives at a conference in Ottawa. That was our first ever speech in Canada, and that means that we have now spoken in 50 countries around the world. You can see the whole list here.

Partners in 29 countries

We now have partner companies using our tools and methods in 29 countries!

We could not be prouder of the AMAZING work they are doing all over the world, including:

International survey on good days at work

Together with our partners we conducted an international survey to find out how often people have a good day at work and what makes it a good day. We collected data from 2,500 workers around the world and you can see the results here.

New book: Leading With Happiness

 

Our latest book Leading With Happiness is getting rave reviews and is currently being translated into Danish and Arabic.

Conference

In May we held our 9th Conference on Happiness at Work and it was truly our best one yet. You can see all the talks here. The audience favorite was Garry Ridge, the CEO of WD-40 Company, who shared how a happy culture has made his company a global success.

Sold-out CHO Academy in Copenhagen

Our most recent Chief Happiness Officer Academy in Copenhagen was a huge hit and completely sold out with a long waiting list.

15th company anniversary party

Woohoo inc has been in business since 2003 and we celebrated our company’s 15th birthday with an EPIC Great Gatsby themed party.

This Danish CEO did something AWESOME for his staff at Christmas

Søren Steffensen, The CEO of Danish supermarket chain Irma, has a simple philosophy: The employees come first.

He also knows that Christmas is the busiest time of year for his people, so he is currently on a tour where he and his top leaders visit all 80 stores to meet the staff, drum up some energy and personally hand out Christmas presents to their people.

What a great thing for a top executive to take time to do, to show people that they’re valued.

The above pic is from one of the Copenhagen stores, where he found the actual, genuine, real Santa Claus behind the register :)

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5 things to know before you try to motivate your employees with money

Do financial rewards motivate employees to work better? I really don’t think so.

Companies that use rewards and bonuses to make employees happier and more motivated are largely wasting their money. The promise of a bonus has never really done anything for me personally, and the research in motivation is very clear: Rewarding people for better performance tends to reduce performance. See the book “Payoff” by Dan Ariely for some great real-life studies.

But maybe I’m wrong – it wouldn’t exactly be the first time :)

So I recently asked this question on twitter and LinkedIn:

Have you ever received a bonus or other monetary reward at work, that was given in a way that made you happier at work and/or more motivated? If so, what about the reward was it that worked for you?

The replies clearly show that we can’t completely dismiss the use of monetary rewards and bonuses at work – and they also reveal when they actually make people happier and more motivated.

Here are 5 lessons from the replies I got.

1: Financial rewards work better when they are surprising

One factor that showed up in may comments was that surprising rewards work much better than expected ones. This is a crucial finding because many companies promise certain rewards when employees achieve certain goals, making the rewards expected and reducing their effectiveness.

Here are some examples:

“My husband recently received an unexpected bonus, for exceptional service. It was not asked for, not expected but welcomed with great warmth and happiness.”

“I have this clear recollection of my former manager handing me a gift certificate for a lunch. Compared to my other bonuses and incentives this was nothing – in a monetary perspective and yet it made a huge impression the reason being that it was unexpected. He just wanted to appreciate my work.”

“Yes I have – the fact that it came out of the blue and was accompanied with a handwritten card from the bosses meant all the difference in the world.”

“One time. It came as a complete surprise (as opposed to those ‘entitled’ bonuses) + some nice personal words to go with the $$$.”

“It came as a surprise, so was a reward rather than incentive, and with a genuine, and face to face, conversation about why it was being given.”

2: Financial rewards work better when they’re clearly tied to recognition

People also found rewards motivating when they were given as recognition for good and meaningful work.

“Yes, when it was clearly linked to the result we as a team had made. Everybody got paid from the hard work and because we succeeded. Being part of a result and seeing that in your wallet – I believed made us happier.”

“I was fortunate to work for an executive who understood the value of appreciation. The company didn’t have a bonus system as such (at least not for my level) – yet, from time to time, when I had done a particularly good job – he would come to my office, give me feedback on the extra value of this effort, an gave me 3 bottle of good red wine, paid for a pair of expensive sunglasses I was looking at, … smaller tings like that.

He frequently gave med feedback on what I have done – but sometimes, it was just a tad more than that – and it made me feel good and truly appreciated … and really wanting to do what it takes to experience that again.

Oh – by the way – the executive was not my immediate manager, but the managers manager.”

3: Financial rewards work better when they are given as a good experience

Many people mentioned that they’d gotten rewards that were given as a good experience rather than as a monetary amount.

“At one of my workplaces the bonus system allowed me to study an MBA. The reward system was built on pretty simple financial KPIs and depending on the result my employer would pay for the following year’s tuition….that affected my motivation positively.”

“Yes – anything you can share with your family is great! They also ‘suffer’ from us working hard :-)”

“Good question Alexander ! I worked during 5 years for a Hotel group chain in the world, with work contracts of limited duration for each mission. One day, between two contracts, my manager offered me (to reduce my waiting of my working visa for Kenya and to thank me), a free Flight where I wanted in the world. 10 days after, i left with my best friend for Mauritius island !! Beautiful reward of my work : to offer me a moment to rest !!!”

“Looking back I am more happy with a dinner my great boss gave me many years ago than a loyalty bonus of substantial value from an ahole years later.”

“Does “go on vacation and bring me the receipts – you look like you need it” count? If so, yes – and what worked was the fact that this particular boss noticed that I was run down and ragged and did, in fact, sorely need a vacation, and that I was going to find an excuse not to go unless she did something about that, too. Also, I couldn’t really afford a trip at the time, so the money did actually matter, too.”

4: Financial rewards work better when people need money

This one ain’t exactly a mystery – if employees need money, giving them money makes them happy.

“A friend of mine once told my managers manager that I was so tired (I was working 14-16 hours a day, seven days a week for 3 months) I had fallen asleep in the cinema watching the latest 007 movie (so, not something by krzysztof kieslowski). My managers manager said that he’d reimburse my ticket. I thought nothing of it, but got a note from him saying that there’s money for a dinner also, and then a 2.500 USD extraordinary payout. It made a huge difference and impact, I felt really appreciated (because money was a factor in my life back then). Today, it wouldn’t make any big changes.”

“Once, when I was young and working at my first real job. When Christmas arrived I got a box full of Christmas related food and snacks. This was also my first time living on my own – I expected nothing and was very happy to get food and snacks that I could not afford on my own back then.”

5: But many say rewards don’t work for them

I got so many replies from people who said that they had never received a financial reward in a way that worked for them. In some cases, they even made things worse. Here are some of the replies:

“I have also tried being incentivized where it felt more like a stressful factor than an incentive. I think – for me at least – the task has to hold meaning and the reward has to be at a reasonable level to balance out the extra effort.”

“Never. I was always rewarded with recognition, a new problem to solve and more responsibility. The pay was always more than I wanted to spend, and I never thought about it”

“Nope. Did once get one so small the entire team thought of giving it back. As a reward for our efforts it was actually a demotivating insult. No bonus is better than a belittling bonus IMO.”

“Yes, momentarily. Because the amount was substantial. Another time, yes, because I didn’t expect it. Both times, the feeling lasted about a week….. then it was ‘same old, same old’🤨”

“Honestly, no, I don’t think I have. I’ve valued the money, and sometimes felt trapped in my role and retained by the expectation of receiving it, but not felt motivated by it. Achievement, thank yous, helping my team, making things better and purpose all motivate me more.”

“Only ever earned sales commission as a bonus, and never has it had any effect on my motivation or behaviour.”

“In the past I’ve received a surprise bonus at the end of a big project and it was a moment of happiness and motivation. “Hey, these people appreciate the work we did!” But when the next three projects finished up and no such bonus appeared, it was demoralizing in that the Board appeared to have lost interest or appreciation for the years of work that went into the projects.”

The upshot

Monetary rewards are one tool that companies can use to motivate employees and keep them happy – it’s just that for some companies it’s the only tool they use reliably and that is doomed to fail.

If your employees need money, giving them money will make them happier. If they don’t, you might find it  much more effective to:

  1. Make the reward a surprise
  2. Give an experience instead of money
  3. Give the reward as recognition for good work

And note that these three can easily be combined, making rewards that much more effective.

And ESPECIALLY note that if when companies give “bad” rewards they can actually backfire and make employees less motivated. How dumb is that?

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