Creating a Happier 2012

This is the week where most New Year’s resolutions meet an untimely end—often because people set unrealistic goals. Having a happier work life—and happier life in general—is within anyone’s grasp. One of the most important predictors of workplace happiness is your relationships. The Gallup Engagement Survey has found that people who have three friends at work are 96% more likely to be satisfied with their lives. How can you ensure that the workplace you’re considering joining will contain potential friends?

One word: Values.

Find an environment where your core values are shared. That guarantees that regardless of background you will have common ground with your coworkers and management. You’re also more likely to connect to the company’s mission if you share their values.

A dramatic example of employees who not only connected but embodied their company’s values was detailed in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review. Authors Rohit Deshpandé and Anjali Raina studied employees’ response to the 2008 terrorist attacks on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, India in their article “The Ordinary Heroes of the Taj” (http://bit.ly/tk770z)

For three days the hotel was under siege by men armed with automatic weapons that took hostages, killed others and set fire to the building. While we’ve heard stories of individuals who risk their lives to help others, as Alix Spiegel of NPR noted “what happened at the Taj was much broader. During the crisis, dozens of workers — waiters and busboys, and room cleaners who knew back exits and paths through the hotel — chose to stay in a building under siege until their customers were safe. They were the very model of ethical, selfless behavior.”

The Tata Group (owner of The Taj Group) has a clear focus on character when it comes to recruiting employees. Rather than look for those with the best grades from the best schools, they look for those who are empathic, respectful of others and motivated by more than money alone. This focus on character is a direct reflection of the corporation’s commitment to social justice.

While the authors noted that no single factor can explain the employees’ behavior, “we believe that the unusual hiring, training, and incentive systems of the Taj Group—which operates 108 hotels in 12 countries—have combined to create an organizational culture in which employees are willing to do almost anything for guests. This extraordinary customer centricity helped, in a moment of crisis, to turn its employees into a band of ordinary heroes.”

While most companies are not as overt in articulating their values as the Tata Group, focusing on understanding a potential employer’s values will enable you to ask the right questions ensuring a good fit and a happier 2012.

Amanda Mitchell is an executive coach and strategist specializing in helping senior executives deal with disruptive drama within their teams. An advertising agency veteran, she experienced first-hand the business implications of corporate drama both with her Fortune 500 clients and within the Manhattan ad agency she led. She founded Our Corporate Life (www.ourcorporatelife.com) to help executives solve the problems no one wants to deal with. She has been published in Bloomberg Businessweek, and quoted in Fast Company, CNBC.com, and Monster.com. She lives in New Jersey with her family.

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