A Simple Way for Managers to Improve Happiness at Work

Jake Wilder
4 min readOct 27, 2022

Stop Being Such a Boss

Photo: iStock

“Leadership is the ability to facilitate movement in the needed direction and have people feel good about it,” wrote Tom Smith. Managers tend to focus on the first part of that advice but neglect the second. There’s a tendency to think that if people are getting the work done, whether they feel good about it or not is immaterial.

Except study after study shows that happier employees are more engaged at work. One poll showed that of those who considered themselves happy at work, 48% said they cared more about their product, 73% said they were better collaborators, and 85% said they take more initiative.

More than that, it’s simply the right thing to do. We all spend a large portion of our lives at work. As leaders, we have a moral obligation to make this time both meaningful and enjoyable for people.

Which brings me to a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Four professors analyzed the responses of 38,000 workers to a daily Gallup poll and assessed the correlation between people’s overall life satisfaction and their relationship with their boss at work. They combined those answers, then correlated them across millions of other responses to control for respondents’ personalities and other variables to come up with an interesting conclusion.

People who saw their relationship with their manager as a partnership, as opposed to one of a traditional boss, reported much greater satisfaction in their work and life. And not a trivial amount either. The survey found that people reported happiness levels similar to doubling their household income.

For all the time and energy companies spend to deliver perks and benefits, this is a simple change that every manager can make. Stop treating people like subordinates. Start treating them like partners.

It reminded me of some advice I received many years ago, when I was first starting in management. One of my mentors said to me, “Don’t ever say that anyone works for you. Always say that you’re working with the people you manage.”

It may seem like minor semantics, but I like to think that this small change influences many of the behaviors that determine…

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Jake Wilder

I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.