Happiness at Work

October 27, 2018

Happiness at Work

One of my favourite theories isn’t actually academic; it’s motivational.  It’s called The Black Dot Theory and it works like this:  Imagine you have a white sheet of paper in front of you.  If you were to draw a black dot anywhere on that paper, you’d no doubt find your gaze drawn constantly to the darkly coloured sphere you’ve just illustrated.

That’s an analogy for life … and for work.  The black dot represents something unfortunate that’s happened to you.  Maybe it’s a pay rise you didn’t get, a resignation you weren’t expecting, or a project that missed its deadline.  During such situations, it’s human nature to concentrate only on the black dot, gloomily thinking you’ve failed and that your job is terrible.

The Black Dot Theory simply reminds us to take notice of all the abundant white space still left on the sheet of paper that represents everything you enjoy at work, such as your colleagues, clients, organisation, influence, purpose, or whatever else it may be for you personally.

I was thinking of that non-academic theory when I was reflecting recently on fresh research published in the Leadership & Organization Management Journal.  The researchers wanted to find out what causes happiness at work, so they analysed more than 120 people working in banks.  The dominant factor they had in common – the one thing that seemed to propel their happiness in the workplace – was an altruistic leader.

Altruistic leaders are those prepared to engage in self-sacrifice as a way of cultivating a positive work environment.  Empathy comes easily to them and they genuinely care for the welfare of their team.  Happiness among their employees then obviously ensues.

To become more of an altruistic leader consider the following:

  • Serve your employees as though they’re your customers.
  • Surprise them by going beyond the call of duty to meet their needs.
  • Discuss your decisions with them to ascertain how they’ll be impacted.
  • Put their interests ahead of your own.
  • Promote a culture of learning, making sure that you, too, are learning along the way.
  • Experiment with new ideas, accepting failure as a natural part of the process.

Over time, you’ll notice that black dot shrinking.