A couple of weekends ago, I watched a special on PBS called “This Emotional Life” and one of the pieces of research they featured was on social connections and happiness. The research was conducted by Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis of Harvard, who’s been researching social connections for decades. The findings floored me. If your friend becomes happy, it increases the probability that you will become happy by 15%. If your friend’s friend becomes happy, it increases the probability that you’ll become happy by 10%.
In fact, it takes up to 4 degrees of separation (in other words, your friend’s, friend’s, friend’s, friend) before that person’s emotional (happy) state of mind has nothing to do with your emotional (happy) state of mind. Think about that. People whom you don’t even know may affect how you feel, or vice versa, you may affect how people feel including those you don’t even know.
While their research did not directly address a work context, imagine the implications of their research on your organization. If you as a leader are happy, you may directly influence the happiness of those around you. And when people are happy, they will more than likely be more productive, easier to work with, and more amiable. We all know the influence leaders have on those around them, but to what extent? By stretching Dr. Christakis’s research into the workplace, a leader’s own emotional, happy state may influence the happiness of others, possibly creating a happier, more productive workplace climate. A simple act (like a compliment or special recognition) toward one of your coworkers could make them happy, which according to Christakis’s research on social connections, may in turn cause others well beyond you and your immediate social connections to become happy.
Is this idea too far-fetched or have you seen how happiness can be contagious within your organization?
– Bill Gentry
Photo credits: 1. “LOVE” in Thailand..HaPpy ValenTine’s Day…, 2. Shiny Happy People, 3. Happy Flyer, 4. DSC_4082, 5. zowie and me smiling, 6. 065/365: Show us your smile!, 7. A Friendly Smile, 8. children, 9. Eyes left? No it’s smile, 10. Bright eyes and a warm smile …, 11. Happy Fruit Grass, 12. young boys, 13. Laughing Child, 14. Silver smiles, 15. I didn’t know anyone could smile this big, 16. Smile!, 17. My favorite smile, 18. children, 19. Inocencia-Riendo en el Cementerio…, 20. Jayantii Laughing, 21. Smile!, 22. smiles, 23. “Smile, it’s the key that fits the lock of everybody’s heart.”, 24.Smile 3, 25. A SMILE