We all want to be happy at work, but what does this really mean? The official definition of happiness is the quality or state of being delighted, pleased, or glad as over a particular thing. According to many researchers, happiness is a synonym for contentment. At work, to be content sometimes means your career is not moving forward at all. Still, many people get to a place in life where that is okay; they will get their self-worth from some other avenue.

Savvy management can encourage some of those other avenues to keep employees’ content in an otherwise boring, mind-numbing role with little advancement opportunity. For other people the opportunity to grow, to gain influence and respect are needed to allow them at least the perception of being significant. Humans want to be significant; we want to have a reason for our existence. It has been said that a person with a ‘why’ to live, can put up with almost any ‘how’ they live, and this seems to bear out. Humans will subject themselves to extreme discomfort to the point of death if they have a cause to die for, yet they will whine about the trivial things in a life of luxury if being comfortable is all they have as a goal in life.

Knowing of both these two paths to happiness: contentment and significance, allows management to structure the workplace culture based on the requirements of the role. If a routine job is important, develop those alternative mechanisms for personal value to be obtained by the workers. If the job demands innovation and drive, sharing the visions and glory of the goal will be needed to inspire the team to their maximum effectiveness. Do not confuse or mix the two paths as worker confusion and even bitterness may result.