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Workplace happiness keeps employees on board

FORT LAUDERDALE — Workers found a new love for their jobs in the recession, whether they were really satisfied or not. But as the economy recovers, the unhappy worker is likely to start looking for a new job.

Employers that want to retain their talented and skilled workers should be aware of what tends to make their employees happy at work. For some, that may be flexibility with their work schedules. Others cite a friendly, collegial environment. Rarely is compensation listed as what makes people happiest at work.

But with some employers handling layoffs poorly, the attitude is "when this market turns and I'm no longer fearful of losing my job, I'm going to be finding a new job," says Stacy Ethun, president of Park Avenue Group, the Orlando affiliate of MRINetwork, a global search firm.

The Conference Board recently reported that job satisfaction is at a 22-year low, with only 45 percent of those surveyed being satisfied with their jobs. Almost one-quarter of respondents said they didn't expect to be at their current jobs within a year.

Management is often unaware of the level of dissatisfaction among workers and fails to take steps to prevent significant turnover, Ethun says. "Managers seem to have the attitude, 'If I'm going to be unhappy, then everybody's going to be unhappy,' " she says.

Ethun says younger workers usually want opportunities to learn and seek new challenges.

JoAnna Brandi, a specialist in customer retention in Boca Raton, asks employees in her workshops to write down "everything that makes you feel good at work." "The two that matter most are the people I work for and the people I work with," Brandi says.

Participants also say they feel good when: "my boss notices my effort and my results," "higher-ups ask me questions," "people tell me clearly their expectations," "I can provide feedback without fear of negative consequences," and when management "gets out of my way."

"It's having faith in me," says Brandi, who is collecting data on what motivates people at www.feelgoodatworkproject.com. Visitors can take a confidential survey on the site on what makes them happy at work.

Define happiness in the workplace

I recently asked several workers what makes them happy at work.

Maria Cristina Gonzalez, a strategy consultant for IBM: Having the autonomy to make day-to-day decisions, instead of dealing with bureaucracy.

Julianne Carelli, public relations manager at MSC Cruises in Fort Lauderdale: An environment where she is recognized for her efforts and communicates well with her boss and colleagues.

Michael Scuotto, assistant manager of environmental services for Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale: Recognition from top management. He also strives to treat his staff members with dignity and respect, and give them flexibility. As a result, they're more willing to step up when extra work is necessary, he says.

Terry Frisenda, vice president for sales at Johnstone Supply in Fort Lauderdale: A good balance of work and personal time.

Workplace happiness keeps employees on board 01/28/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 28, 2010 3:30am]
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