In Business, Happiness Doesn't Always Mean Success

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- We've got a fundamental premise wrong. We believe that making employees satisfied will make them successful. That's not true. In fact, the relationship is reversed -- make people successful and they will be happy. Employees, at least those you want to keep, don't want to be indulged, they want to be successful.

Imagine that you are sitting in a room with 10 sales reps, none of whom are making quota. Feel the mood of the room. How can you change it?

You can try to make them happy ... maybe a company bowling night. Or, you can help them make quota. Which will have the biggest impact on job satisfaction? Causality flows from success to satisfaction. We've got it backward.

This is not a new discovery. Organization researchers have known this for decades.

  • In 1976, "The Handbook of Industrial/Organizational Psychology," the professional's bible, summarized 3,300 job satisfaction studies dating back to 1955 and found, "... negligible relationships between satisfaction and level of performance or productivity."
  • In 2009, Ed Lawler of the University of Southern California the world's most respected HR researcher and author of "Talent," said definitively: "Satisfaction does not lead to performance; it is caused by it."
  • In a 2009 CFO Magazine article, Richard Beatty of Rutgers University, one of the today's most influential organizational psychologists was quoted, "HR people try to perpetuate the idea that job satisfaction is critical, but there is no evidence that engaging employees impacts financial returns."

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