Who or what is a Chief Happiness Officer (CHO)?
The CHO title is modeled on all the other CXO titles. The CTO is in charge of technology, the CFO is responsible for the financials, the COO is head of operations. And when you realise that employee happiness is the most important success factor for any business today, it becomes essential to have a chief happiness officer, someone who is the main driver in making and keeping the workplace happy.
Do you think companies should begin appointing CHOs or hire happiness consultants?
Yes, any company needs a CHO. And many can benefit from outside help to become happier. That's certainly what our clients tell us.
How did you make the leap from a geek to a happiness freak?
After I'd been in the IT business for about 10 years I sold my IT consulting company in 2002. After that, I took a break to ask myself, "What is my vision? What am I really passionate about?" And I realised that it was no longer IT, it was this idea of spreading happiness at work.
You have come to India and worked with managements here. What advice would you give to employers to turn the workplace into a honeycomb of bliss?
Well, bliss may be a strong word. But there are two things I've noticed about Indian workplaces that I think you need to change before they can become really happy. One is that there seems to be a very authoritarian culture — the boss' word is law and the structure is very hierarchical. Also, in some places, at least, low-level employees are treated quite rudely or badly. This is bad for employee happiness. It is important to treat every employee, regardless of status or position, with respect.
Also, I've noticed that Indian workplaces look to the US for clues on management. Well, let me tell you something: The American management style doesn't even work that well in America. And considering how rich Indian culture is, I would much rather see Indian workplaces look there for inspiration than to the US.
Finally, I think the huge advantage you have in India is that there is already in Indian culture and society a desire to be happy, at least in private life. I would love to see more Indians take that desire into the workplace.
What is your idea of fun at the workplace? Is it no work at all? Or you pretend to enjoy what you do?
I love what Noel Coward said once: "Work is much more fun than fun." Happiness at work really comes from two things: results and relationships. Results is when you're good at what you do. You make a difference and you can be proud of your work. Relationships is when you like and respect the people you work with and they like you. If you have that, you will be happy at work.
Do you really 'need' to have happiness in your workplace to be effective?
Yes! Studies show that employee happiness is the main factor that drives business success. Happy workplaces are more innovative, have happier customers, sell more products, have lower absenteeism and employee turnover and make more money.
What is the critical thing one can do to make a difference to happiness at the workplace and those of co-workers?
It's to focus on the right things. Happiness at work is not about salary, bonuses, workplace fitness or titles. As long as we focus only on those, we can never create a happy workplace. It's about results and relationships.
Happiness at work always remains a theoretical concept. How can one turn that theory into praxis?
That is a great question — and it's really about focusing on results and relationships. It means creating a workplace where every single employee goes home from work knowing that they've done great, important work together with great people. On a very practical level, here are some simple things any workplace can do.
1. Praise people . Praising other people's good work is one of the simplest and most effective ways to make them happy. Don't make a big production out of it, just make it a habit to appreciate a job well done whenever and wherever you see it.
2. Say, "Good morning". In too many workplaces, people have gotten into the habit of not saying good morning to their coworkers. Make sure to greet each person in your department in a happy, cheerful way. A tip: Make eye contact, use the person's name and sound happy!