The Workplace Joy Gap


October 8th, 2019

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Having health work relationships are important for our mental health and resilience. Healthy relationships regularly produce joy, and joy produces healthy relationships. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary definition, Joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires. Joy helps us have a more positive outlook and creates intimate connections between people, thus contributing to two of the five pillars of resilience within Roffey Park’s resilience framework, namely Connection and Perspective. We are more resilient the more supportive human connections we have and our ability to change our perspectives to the positive side of our circumstances.

When reading Dr Marcus Warners relationship book on 4 habits of a joy-filled marriage, I came upon the interesting concept call the Joy Gap. The joy gap is the length of time between moments of shared joy. I began to wonder whether the joy gap concept applies equally to a healthy workplace. Consider your last moment of shared joy in your workplace. Consider the moment of share joy before that. That’s your workplace joy gap.

The more frequent and shorter the joy gap the more likely we are to have positive feelings towards our workplace. The longer the gap, the chances are our moral and opinion of our place of work diminishes. When was the last time you were recognised for your good work? When was the last time your team paid you a compliment? Did the team remember to celebrate your last big win, or did they rush back to their desks to work on the next big tender or proposal?

Mark Twain said, ‘I can live for two months on a good compliment’. In the past, I oversaw several international teams, many of them would only get to see me once or twice a year in person for a few days as I visited their countries. However, the one thing I tried very hard to do was have an annual team build event when the teams came together to share learning and experiences, talk about performance and objectives, and take collective accountability for the regions we operated in. It was also a fun time for encouraging and connecting with each other. At worst, this was the length of our joy gap, 12 months. Yet it was incredible how these few days together helped motivate the teams, build morale and goodwill towards the organisation. More surprisingly was that our team just naturally got really good at sharing our successes and delighting in the achievement of others no matter where in the world they were located. We felt connected by moments of shared joy.

We forget that joy releases dopamine, and oxytocin, hormones that give a sense of happiness but also help build trust and connectedness. A great team or organisation is one where every member is contributing moments of shared joy. The responsibility is not on the leader solely, but the leaders should help create the culture and environment for these connections to happen. This concept of the joy gap is not about being unrealistic about the difficult business climate, increased competition, disrupters and uncertainty that add stress to the modern workforce, but it’s about taking moments to recognise that even in the midst of difficulty there are always some low hanging fruit that are worth picking and sharing.

The joy gap is great because it is reciprocating. Celebrating success creates the expectation and feelings that we are successful, and we expect to go on being successful. Not dissimilar to this time of the year, where if our favourite rugby team is racking up wins, we build up a sense of joy and expectation that they will be successful in their next match. And as we share our joy it becomes infectious.

John Maxwell talks about the Law of High Morale which simply says, when your winning, nothing hurts. When the law is working at its best, the leader boosts the morale of the team and the team boosts the morale of the leader. It summed up by the team though, when you do good, you feel good – when you feel good, you do good.

Rarely to we describe our organisational culture as joyful. Maybe this should change. Maybe we should be more conscious and self-aware of our role in contributing toward creating a joyful culture.

Take some time to reflect on the joy gap in your team and organisation. Do you recognise these moments of shared joy? Is your team culture open to creating and sharing these moments? What hinders you? What can you do to become a joy-filled team or organisation?

On a personal level you may want to take the Roffey Park Resilience Capability Index and find out how your perspective and connections contribute to your personal resilience.

Read more of our research into mental health, wellbeing and resilience here.