Sunny Grosso, culture chief and founding member of Delivering Happiness, joined Mentera for its July Care Chat. An expert in the science of happiness, she began studying the topic as a result of her childhood. Read more to learn about happiness at work.
Embracing Happiness at Work
“I grew up in a household that was really based on a survivor mentality. So it was always about getting ahead….And I came out of that really wanting to understand how to thrive. So I started studying happiness and well-being and looking at how to apply that to businesses,” she explains. “[The world] had some massive changes during the pandemic that have left us in a truly new place where I’ve seen the readiness explode for us to embrace what it means to be whole, healthy, happy, and emotionally resilient in the workplace. We are in this sort of work renaissance now, so it’s a pleasure to be here as part of that.”
The science of happiness, says Grosso, sprang from the field of psychology. “Around 1998,Marty Seligman came along and many other researchers in the field, and they started to say, ‘We shouldn’t be studying the average [person] because if we do, we’re going to continue to be simply average. What we should be studying is who are the high-performing outliers. What are those people doing?’ So we started studying the high performers. We started studying what it takes to thrive. And that’s really the science of happiness.”
Grosso says that happiness is a measure of your emotional engagement and your emotional thriving. It takes into consideration not just how you interact with people, but what your emotional state is, which she says is our strongest motivator, adding that approximately 90% of our motivation is based on how we feel. “There are positive emotions. There are negative emotions. Most times we’re on a spectrum, but workplaces that are able to provide what humans need to be healthy, happy, and whole, see a huge uptick in their return on investment in so many different areas.” She adds that happier people at work come home to create better relationships with their family and make a difference in others’ lives and the world as a whole.
A successful happiness survey, says Grosso, will include measures of engagement, and, conversely, a successful engagement survey will include measurements of happiness. Our well-being, she notes, is dependent on our “whole being,” so when considering the whole being, you have to consider emotions. “Some of the things we want to measure at work is the positivity effect, to use a scientific term,” she explains, or how often employees have positive feelings. “So the survey is not just looking to see if employees are engaged and have the resources to do their job, but if they also have positive friendships and emotional support at work.”
Other things businesses should measure, she notes are purpose, depth of connection, and care at work. “The number one reason that employees leave [their jobs] is they don’t feel cared about by their manager or the organization,” says Grosso.
“When we look at positivity and the happiest workplaces, there are really two sides of the coin of the measurement,” she says. One is that positive feelings out-measure negative emotions, but also that they feel that work provides them a safe place to vent those negative emotions without their feelings being downplayed.”
To foster trust and increase positive well-being, Grosso says C-Suite executives should have meaningful one-on-one conversations with their employees and train management to have those conversations with their teams about the whole human being—the whole range of experience. Ask questions about what’s going on in their lives as a whole and ask them what their life goals are, in addition to their work goals.
“It’s not enough to say, ‘We are an inclusive organization or we are purpose-driven organization.’ It has to be discussed: What does that mean for us? What does that mean for leaders? Leaders have to really go first and bring that vulnerability forward, which helps build the trust. That’s how the masks come off and how psychological safety is created.”
See the full video here.