‘Fake It ‘till You Make It’ Doesn’t Apply to Happiness


Understanding the Value of Happiness at Work 

If you’re happy and you know it… fake a smile? Not quite how the childhood song goes, but it is something that many of us do each day. Especially for those who work in client and customer-facing roles, the expectation to ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ and put on a happy face is high. And yet, a genuine smile cannot be faked, and authentic happiness can’t be forced.

There is no replacement for a real, authentic, honest smile that comes from a place of true contentment. And, as it turns out, genuine happiness is also good for business outcomes. Happy employees are more productive and engaged in their work, which is a win-win for employees and their employers.

Let’s look a bit more about why ‘fake it ‘till you make it’ doesn’t apply to happiness and why leaders need to understand the value of happiness at work.

Emotional Labour of Faking Happiness

Anyone who has worked a customer service job knows how to put on a happy face at work. There’s an expectation a lot of the time to smile, laugh, and generally appear to be happy when interacting with customers in that type of role.

Faking happiness comes at a cost—it takes emotional labour, which is defined as “managing emotions during interactions to achieve professional goals and conform to work role requirements.” Here are some symptoms of the emotional labour of faking happiness:

  • Exhaustion. It is honestly just tiring to put on a happy face when you are not feeling it.

  • Inauthenticity. There is a lack of authenticity that will come across in interactions between employees and customers, leading to a worse customer experience (CX).

  • Low resilience. Fake happiness is just an act, not a deep truth. Resilience comes from the inside out—how people feel internally and not just what they put on for show.

ROI on Employee Happiness

So, happiness matters. There are several studies to suggest that happy employees have a massive ROI in the workplace. One study found that happy workers are 13% more productive. The study was able to demonstrate a tangible link between reported happiness levels and productivity as measured by metrics like calls per hour and sales conversions.

This increase in productivity will, obviously, increase the positive business outcomes like higher revenue or increased client acquisition. But it also has benefits beyond just productivity and revenue generation. Increasing happiness amongst employees has other positive outcomes, including:

  • Reduced turnover and healthcare costs.

  • Positive decision-making abilities.

  • Better overall job performance.

  • Ambition to develop skills and reach goals.

I mean, it all makes sense, right? Being happy and content makes it easy to work hard and do your absolute best—it’s the natural outcome. So, employees who are happy in their role will bring massive ROI back to the workplace through increased motivation, engagement, and productivity in their work.

A Manager’s Role in the Workplace

Happiness matters, we can see that. So how do we get there? I believe that managers have a huge role to play because they are the ones who directly interact with employees and are setting up the conditions under which people are happy at work.

An important caveat is that, ultimately, each person is responsible for their own happiness. We should all exercise our agency to leave unhealthy environments, have difficult conversations about things that need to change, or work on our mindset so that we can experience gratitude and positivity. So, this is not to say that managers are 100% responsible to make employees happy. Rather, they have influence and authority to make positive changes that naturally improve the happiness of their employees.

This Forbes article outlines a few great ways that managers can increase happiness in their team:

  • Be attentive to employee needs and demonstrate care and understanding. Managers need to value emotional and mental health as well as physical health and performance outcomes.

  • Provide autonomy and decision-making. Nobody likes being micromanaged! Managers should trust their team enough to make decisions on their own.

  • Encourage challenge and development so employees feel like their skills and abilities are valued and needed.

  • Create an inclusive environment where people know they matter to the team and the company.

There’s a cost to fake smiles and inauthentic happiness—the emotional burden for employees leads to exhaustion and lack of engagement. But true happiness can have a dramatic and positive impact on a personal and professional level. Managers need to be aware of this and take steps to start creating a positive work environment that fosters employee happiness. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to see happiness become a KPI for success in the future! It’s simply too important to forget about.

Till next time,


By Luke Jamieson

Keywords: Change Management, Customer Experience, Future of Work

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