The link between excellence and happiness

Is it a focus on excellence that causes happy employees or do happy employees cause excellence?

Recently The Excellence Canada Thought Leaders Roundtable came together to discuss how excellence links with happiness at work. The consensus was that you can’t really have one without the other. It is a bit of a theoretical debate about which one comes first. Very much like a “chicken and egg” conversation.

What was beyond debate though was that a strong relationship exists. You can have happy, engaged employees when you have a focus on excellence principles. You can have a focus on excellence when you have happy, engaged employees.

The conclusion was that it’s a circular process where positive results from an excellence focus leads to happier employees AND happier employees then contribute more to the excellence focus.

The opposite vicious cycle is also possible and should be noted – unhappy employees’ poor attitudes and negative behaviours impact the organization’s ability to implement excellence, making them unhappy – and it rolls downhill from there.

It was also determined by group that the benefits to employees of organizations focusing on excellence often go unsaid. The list of benefits is valuable in telling the “what’s in it for me” story.


Positive Impacts of Excellence on Employees

  • Opportunities, both professional and personal
  • Job success/sustainability
  • Pride
  • Stable employment
  • Reputation
  • Happier/Healthier
  • Growth and Development
  • Ownership/empowerment/contribution
  • Loyalty
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Sense of belonging
  • Co-worker cohesion
  • Political credibility/respect
  • Freedom/autonomy
  • Enhanced career path
  • Financial/performance recognition
  • Peer recognition
  • Clear understanding of direction
  • Personal alignment to common goal “I make a difference”

There were actually negative impacts also identified based on an employee’s perception.

Negative Impacts of Excellence on Employees

  • Perception of increased workload
  • Perception of front-end workload on documentation and process
  • Lack of understanding of “who is going to do all this work?”
  • Can be perceived as unfair when there isn’t a clear line of accountability
  • Perception that we must not be doing a good enough job today if we are trying to improve
  • General fear of change from status quo
  • “Here we go again” mentality associated with “flavour of the month” programs

These negative impacts can slow or stop an organization’s progress in implementing a focus on excellence. The following counter-measures were put forth to get past the negative perceptions.

Counter Measures to Get Past Perceived Negative Impact of Excellence Activities

  • Increase trust and transparency
  • Increase communication
  • Define clear lines of responsibility and accountability
  • Clearly identify how this will benefit the individual employee (publish the above list of benefits for individuals)
  • Reason for embarking on Excellence focus needs to be clearly communicated

More about “The Link Between Excellence and Happiness at Work” from “The Excellence Canada Thought Leaders Roundtable” can be read here (

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