What makes people feel truly satisfied? To write Well-Being: The Five Essential Elements, Gallup researchers Tom Rath and Jim Harter combed through research on worker engagement and productivity. Their key insight: The secret to a happy life is rooted to a large extent in interactions with co-workers and bosses. Rath outlined the findings in a conversation with Inc. reporter April Joyner.
Most people list their boss as the person with whom they have the least pleasant interactions at work, according to your research. Why?
Many people actually say cleaning the house is more enjoyable than sitting in the same room with their boss. Yet in the best workplaces that we've studied, workers want to spend time around their bosses, because they know that they care about them as individuals, what's going on in their lives, and their career development.
How can you build that kind of culture?
The first step is having good managers in place throughout an entire organization, not just in pockets. Our research shows that people don't quit a company; they quit a bad manager.
So, then, how do you define a good manager?
When you think about the way good managers invest time in the development of employees, it looks a lot like what great teachers and great parents do. They see all of the employees as unique individuals. They know their strengths. They help them celebrate successes. And they're clear about expectations, so their employees know what they're supposed to be doing on a daily basis.
You also found that happy workers spend six hours a day socializing. How is that even possible?
Well, we counted time spent chatting on e-mail and IMs in addition to time outside of work. And this is a good thing: Studies have shown that when an employee has a best friend at work, he or she is likely to be highly engaged and much more productive. Meanwhile, for an employee who doesn't have a friend at work, the odds that he or she will be highly engaged are quite low.