What are the basics for a happy workplace?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I know what you are thinking. Is there such a thing? I happen to believe there is. I’ve worked under different management styles and have been a manager in various capacities. 

In the beginning, I thought; if I could provide my employees with all kinds of fun things all the time, that would equal a happy workplace—for example, gift cards for contests or an annual employee appreciation party. Though these are great, I realized they only provided a temporary morale boost and did not make me a good manager overall. The answer, though, was simple. Much simpler than coming up with ideas to cover up that morale was low in general. 

Here’s what I found

Everything starts from the top in a work environment. It is essential to have a great leader in place. Unfortunately, some leaders forget that they work for their employees as much as they work for them. We all have had a not-so-great boss one time or another, and I have been like this myself at one time. When bosses don’t work, delegate, don’t listen, don’t motivate, take credit for another’s idea, and don’t help propel their employees forward, It’s not fun. When they don’t care or want to do the work, then for sure, employees don’t either. 

I realized that employees don’t require the world to be happy, but a few basic things can improve positivity in the workplace.   


  • An avenue to better their careers
  • A leader who listens
  • A leader who leads by example
  • A leader holds people accountable

These are four steps, that if implemented, can change a work environment dramatically. Let’s dive a little deeper into each one. 

An avenue to better their careers

Few people want to stay in the same position forever, and leaders should do what they can to make forward movement possible for their people. I mean, if employees are doing great, then the leader is a superstar. Putting a plan together is always a bit of work initially, especially if there isn’t anything in place already, but it certainly pays off in the long run. Here is a list of some ideas.

  • Have requirements for each department written out and accessible to your employees. Details they can access other than the employee handbook and strictly for requirements of each department and what is needed to move forward. They can look at these and then strive towards where they want to be because they know what it takes to get there.
  • Never turn away an employee who wants to learn – your employees are your biggest asset, and as a leader, you are only as good as the people around you. 
  • Training – have break-out training sessions for different departments and allow all employees to elect to attend. It’s a way for curious employees to learn about other departments and their requirements and helps you recognize employees that take the initiative. Training and educating employees shows an open path for a forward movement that leads your employees to be more successful and make more money if that is what they want.  

A leader who listens

Listening may be the most crucial step when it comes to leadership. If you do not listen, your employees will not tell you anything, and if they are not talking to you, to whom are they talking? It is not good to not know what is happening in your workplace. It creates a communication breakdown and promotes negativity.  

  • Be a humble leader and listen to what your employees say even if it is hard to hear; you will be building trust. 
  • Act. If your employee comes to you with an issue, take action, and do everything you can to resolve the issue. It shows that what your employees say is important. Even things that can be deemed minor and easily remedied, even small matters, are never as small as you think. 
  • Praise. If your employee comes to you with a great idea, make sure they get the recognition they deserve. Or if your employees tell you that one of their co-workers consistently goes above and beyond their job, do something special for them. It truly makes people happy to see those who deserve praise get it. 

When it comes to this, there are so many gray areas, and no one will ever be perfect. But, if you genuinely take the time to listen to your people, it only creates an open communication culture, which is a great thing. 

A leader who leads by example

This one, I believe, is the simplest. No one wants to do the work for someone who is not willing to do the work themselves. If you are a leader, you must know how to take over each department if needed. That you can jump into the fire alongside your employees and that you are not above the work.  

  • Keep learning. Keeping your knowledge fresh makes it easier to address issues in different areas, streamline productivity, and make you valuable. 
  • Make sure when implementing something new that you have the details worked out and the instructions in place. 
  • Learn from your excelling employees; they may have different tactics that can be learned and shared.
  • Ask for help when you need it. This gesture will show your employees that they can do the same. 
  • If you are an owner, make sure your managers know how to positively and productively implement your values.

A leader who holds people accountable

It can be hard to be the enforcer. But if you are consistent and fair in holding your employees accountable, it won’t be viewed negatively. 

  • Have your policies and procedures in place and accessible
  • Make sure your employees know and understand what these policies and procedures are 
  • Enforce them, not in an “I’m gonna take you down if this is not done” vibe, but a relaxed but strict “this is what is required, and I will make sure that we are adhering” type of way.
  • Make sure you are personally following what you have in place. 

These are things and ideas that I have personally implemented and experienced, and they have worked well. There is no instant fix for poor morale, but a little elbow grease and teamwork can make the needle move in a better direction. Come up with a plan to include your team in this process. That way, you can celebrate together when you hit different goals. Working together makes everything better. I wish you all the success in your workplace!