The Personal ROI of Happy in Government

Happy employees make for more engaged employees. The author explains how this applies to federal employment.

There is plenty of data out there touting the ROI (Return On Investment) of happy (read “engaged”) employees. Most of the information is based on corporate organizations because it’s easier to quantify there.

Corporate America has an easy scorecard to read—it’s called a Profit and Loss Statement. Data indicates that the average ROI of a happy employee in the corporate world comes in at around 1.5 times the annual salary of that employee added to the company’s bottom line.

But, We’re the Government

Ok. That’s nice. We’re not corporate America. We’re government.

And there is a fair amount of data pointing to the ROI of happy, engaged government employees. Organizations with more engaged employees experience fewer lawsuits, fewer complaints about bad leaders, and fewer accusations of discrimination and bullying. (Yes, those are actually symptoms of employee dissatisfaction, not the cause of it.) They have better success at recruiting new talent, lower attrition rates, and less productivity lost to sick days and unscheduled leave.

Why Does This Matter?

But why does that really matter? After all, we’re not a for profit entity. So much of what we “produce” in government isn’t accurately quantified by simple numbers. We don’t make widgets and we don’t generate revenue, so why does happy really matter?

From my perspective, the ROI of happy in government is far higher and more important than anything that can be counted with a simple tally sheet. Whatever your personal thoughts about the administration in place at any given time, the people who make our nation work–the ones who make the gears turn–are those in the trenches, on the line, manning the desks every single day regardless of the political winds that blow.

ROI From the Trenches

Interesting fact to note: Only 4% of government workers will ever make it to the executive level. And, 80% of the work gets done, OR NOT, in the trenches.

This is where the real ROI of happy comes in.

Regardless of what organization you are in and regardless of what level of government (federal, state, local, municipal) you serve, you create the fabric of the society we enjoy in this country. When even one employee within that organization is unhappy, disengaged, or burned out, that disease spreads just like a really bad flu. Remember the last time you were on the couch with aches and fever? Just how creative, innovative, resilient, confident, and compassionate were you feeling then?

The same is true with our organizations. When someone inside the organization is suffering the Burn Out Flu, there is no capacity to navigate slashed budgets, generate new programs, resuscitate failing programs, or compassionately articulate the changing landscape to the communities they serve. The flu then spreads into the wider population of our communities and our nation.

Being Happy is Contagious Too

But enough about the organization, let’s talk about you. What’s the ROI on happy for you? Aside from all the standard benefits that come with lower stress levels: more energy, more enthusiasm, lower blood pressure, better sleep, blah, blah, blah, there’s something else:

Happy employees STAND OUT. They get noticed. In addition to being creative, productive, etc., they seem to attract people, opportunities, and synchronicities that fast track them toward their personal goals…including things like promotions, rotational assignments, and high-profile special projects. (And if you look closely, you’ll notice that they still have time and energy for those things that light them up outside of work too.)

Let’s face it: Happy is contagious!

What’s their secret?

Those happy employees did not wait for their organization to create happy for them. They chose happy first and THEN helped create the environment for it.

Yes, there are things that organizations can do to promote better employee engagement (read: support a culture that makes happy easier). And, an organization can do all those things right and, unless you choose happy first, the organizational initiatives will fall flat…and so will you.

So here’s one small step you can take today to promote yourself to YOUR next level of happy. Before you walk out the door tonight, spend 5 minutes at your desk and quickly write down everything that went well today. No matter how big or small, what went well today? Repeat this exercise daily for a week and notice what happens.

Re-energizing mid-career government employees is our specialty here at Greatness In Government. For more strategies to get your happy back, check out 5 Unexpected Success Principles for Creating Greatness In Government

About the Author

Martha Wilson is a retired CIA Operations Officer, leadership instructor, transformational coach and the founder of Greatness In Government, a leadership and personal development firm that specializes in re-energizing mid-career government employees. Organizations that are struggling with complaints about bad leaders, discrimination, bullying and other symptoms of employee dissatisfaction hire her when they are ready for a fresh approach to leadership training. She also provides private coaching to high-potential government employees who have decided to assume responsibility for their own personal and professional development.