Only Happy People Need Apply


by Monica Cornetti
January 28, 2016

Like it or not, feelings and emotions play a huge role in every area of our personal and professional lives. However, many of the people we work with believe there is no room for emotions in the workplace. They’d be happy to create a sign to post at the door that states, “Please check your emotions at the door…we’re working here!”

But of course, they only mean those emotions that are perceived as negative, such as frustration, anger, shame, fear, or despair. Positive emotions, such as joy, happiness, gratitude, hope, and optimism, are always welcome. But is it possible to have the positive without the negative?

Monica will be presenting on gamification in a pre-conference workshop and in session 303 at the HDI 2016 Conference & Expo in April. Register for the conference and pre-11 today and add her session to your schedule!

Recently, I read about Robert Biswas-Diener, coauthor of The Upside of Your Dark Side, in which he asserts that our pursuit of happiness and a strong tendency to avoid discomfort of any kind is making us psychologically weak. And according to a recent Harris Poll Happiness Index, Americans are less happy now than we were a few years ago.

Now, this seems like a counterproductive article for someone who makes her living helping organizations to make their workplace more fun and engaging. But I have worked for organizations where we weren’t allowed to use the word “problem.” For example we were taught to say, “We have a challenge with the software updates.” Of course, there were times that the frustration level from lost data was so high, it was all I could do not to scream, “We have a freakin’ problem here, and it’s time for us to figure out how to solve it!”

Of course, no one wants to work with an emotionally unhealthy, depressed, angry, selfish person. That is not what I am promoting. What I am saying is that we cannot feel the pure happiness of accomplishment if it cost us nothing to reach that goal.

So how can we, in a civilized workplace, realistically embrace the difficult or uncomfortable emotions? The first thing to do is to recognize that we can harness the power of negative emotions:

  • Self-doubt can spur collaboration with other people, motivate self-improvement, and help us to be more open to change.
  • Guilt motivates us to become more sensitive, caring, and giving than we'd be otherwise.
  • Frustration can cause us to stop and ask ourselves what is working and what is not, and if we look closely, we will probably find at least one thing that is going right that we can focus on.

In our desire to only have “happy” people working with us, it's easy to forget that negative or bad feelings are a healthy and an essential part of our growth and development.

The term often used by game designers to describe that feeling of emotional elation when you succeed at a task is called fiero, the Italian word for pride. The coolest thing about fiero is that we all express this feeling of triumph over adversity in the exact same way.

If we want more fist pumping and fiero at work, we need leaders who recognize the energy of creating an environment where it’s okay to not know all the answers, to make mistakes we learn from, and to feel anger or frustration at a process gone wrong. These leaders will be able to lead their team to understand the source of negative emotions, and help them channel those feelings into ones of productivity, solutions, and positive results. Now that’s fun!


A gamification speaker and designer, Monica Cornetti is the world’s number-one Gamification Guru according to UK-based Leaderboarded. She’s the author of the book Totally Awesome Training: Put Gamification to Work for You, writes The Gamification Report blog, and hosts the weekly Gamification Talk Radio Program. Monica received her MA in economic development and entrepreneurship from the University of Houston – Victoria and her BA in psychology from Seton Hill University. Follow her on Twitter @MonicaCornetti.


Tag(s): employee engagement, gamification, hdi conference, practices and processes, people, supportworld

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