The four keys to a fulfilling job, according to a happiness researcher

This question originally appeared on QuoraWhat are some ways companies can increase happiness levels of employees, in order to boost performance? Answer by Raj Raghunathan, professor of marketing and happiness expert at UT Austin.

One way to answer this question is to first get an understanding of what we need — beyond basic necessities — in order to lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

It turns out that we need two main things:

First, we need to feel that we are progressing towards fulfillment of three important goals:

  • 1) Mastery (the feeling that we are really good at something)
  • 2) Belonging (or intimacy with at least one other human being), and
  • 3) Autonomy (or the feeling that we are not puppets in someone else’s hands, but rather are the authors of our own judgments and decisions).

The second thing we need is a certain attitude or mindset — specifically, the mindset of abundance. The mindset of abundance, rather than that of scarcity, is more conducive for sustaining happiness.

Once you understand this, it becomes a little clearer what companies can do to promote the happiness of employees. You need to help employees progress towards mastery — e.g., help them develop the set of skills and capabilities that are important to them. You also need to help them feel a sense of belonging or connection with other people in the firm, particularly the ones with whom they interact on a regular basis. Finally, you need to give them a sense of autonomy. In particular, findings show that employees are happier when they have concrete, unambiguously defined goals, but are given freedom on how to achieve them.

One other thing companies can do is help nurture the abundance mindset. This may be more difficult to pull off though, since developing this mindset is something that each person much feel individually motivated to do.

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