While it's old news in Europe, happiness at
work is only slowly making its way into North American management values. I
recommend you visit the Chief Happiness Officer to learn
more about happiness at work.

At the project management level, it's time we let go of the myth of performing
under pressure and recognize the boost in productivity that happy people bring
to their projects.

From happy to unhappy in one short year

I remember a place I worked at a few years back. When I joined the team,
everyone was happy at their jobs. They felt that their boss was treating them
well, they enjoyed the team they worked with, and they felt their work had
value. The Christmas party that year was great: people proposed honest toasts
to the bosses, and the bosses in return expressed heartfelt gratitude and pride
in their team. All in all, projects were coming along quite nicely, deliveries
were made on time and that was a very cool workplace to come to every weekday.

The following year, however, things changed. The company got a few big
contracts. We were a small team (fewer than 50 people total in the company) and
this was more work than we could handle. Everyone was asked to go the extra
mile during this temporary "crunch," and most of us were happy to do
it: after all, we were happy in our job, proud of our product and willing to
spend more time with the great people we liked working with so much! Well, six
months later, we were still in this crunch. Everyone was under a lot of
pressure to deliver. Deadlines were slipping by. Everyone felt stretched. And
very few people were added to our teams. We started feeling that our bosses
didn't care so much about us. We started feeling overstretched. Conflicts were
breeding in the teams. Soon enough, no one was willing to work late, unless
they were forced to.

No one was happy at work anymore. Productivity declined. No one was
interested in helping out.  And people started leaving the team.

So, how do you keep your team happy?

Keeping your project team happy is actually simple:

  • Remember they are human.
    Programmers are people too. Keep in mind that they have emotions,
    likes and dislikes. You should respect them for who they are. If your
    start developer really hates to fix bugs, keeping him working on new code
    may boost the overall team's productivity. 
  • Observe. It's
    usually easy to spot unhappy people, just watch and listen to what they
    have to say. When you spot someone on your project team who is negative
    and does not contribute to the project, chances are they are unhappy.
  • React quickly. As
    soon as you spot an unhappy person on your team, sit down with them and
    try to understand why they are unhappy. If it's work-related, see with
    them how you can improve their morale at work. 

It's contagious

Both happiness and unhappiness at work are contagious. Keeping your project
team happy will reflect positively on the project, and before long your project
manager colleagues will ask you about your secret 🙂