Why engaging employees does not mean making them ‘happy’

The role of today’s internal communicator is not to deliver unicorns and rainbows, the author asserts, but to inspire staffers to put forth their best work—solo and in concert with others.

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Beth and Mary have worked for the same company for about the same length of time.

They work at same tier of the company hierarchy. They are paid about the same, have the same benefits, have equally supportive and communicative bosses and have experienced roughly the same employee journey through their careers. Count Beth and Mary among the company’s engaged employees who are good at their jobs and do them well.

Mary is happy. She is upbeat. She loves life.

Beth? Not so much. Beth always looks as though she is in despair. She sighs a lot. Smiles appear forced. Her somber demeanor has little impact on her relationship with her staff, who admire her skills and respect the commitment she has made to them and her readiness to stand up for them. By the same token, they wouldn’t be in a hurry to have a glass of wine with her after work.

What can a good employee communications function do to make Beth happy?

Beyond making sure she knows she can take advantage of the company’s Employee Assistance Program? Nothing. Not a damn thing. What’s more, it’s not the purpose of employee communications to make Beth happy. It never has been.

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