“What’s the difference between happiness at work and employee engagement,” I’m often asked.
Someone can be happy at work, but not “engaged.” They might be happy because they are lazy and it’s a job with not much to do. They might be happy talking to all their work-friends and enjoying the free cafeteria food. They might be happy to have a free company car. They might just be a happy person. But! Just because they’re happy doesn’t mean they are working hard on behalf of the company. They can be happy and unproductive.
When someone is engaged, it means they are emotionally committed to their company and their work goals. They care about their work. They care about results. This makes them go above and beyond—to give discretionary effort. In fact, many full engaged people are a little stressed at work. They aren’t necessarily walking the halls whistling a tune, and happily hanging out at the water cooler. Engaged sales people are the ones still banging out cold calls on a Friday afternoon. Engaged programmers are the ones working through the night in order to hit a deadline. Engaged factory workers pull the chain to stop the entire line when they notice a defect.
However, research is overwhelming that we need to be engaged at work in order to be happy in all areas of our life. Because of the spillover and crossover effects, our emotions at work effect our health and relationships. Being fully engaged at work gives us a sense of purpose, of meaning, of belonging…vital human needs beyond the paycheck.
Yeast is not that same as bread, but yeast is required to make bread. Engagement at work is not the same as happiness, but you need engagement to achieve happiness.
Kevin Kruse is a NY Times bestselling author and keynote speaker. Get more success and tips from his newsletter at kevinkruse.com and check out keynote video clips. His new book, Employee Engagement 2.0, teaches managers how to turn apathetic groups into emotionally committed teams.