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Whose job is it to keep the workers happy?

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger
Happy employees are productive employees or so the saying goes. I always thought it was my job to keep my staff happy, that is engaged, motivated, optimistic and enthusiastic. However some commentators have suggested that one of the key functions of a modern HR service is to creat a positive attitude to work amongst employees. So is it HR’s job to keep the workers happy?
They are often accused of being remote and out of touch but for good or bad senior managers set the tone with in an organisation. The warm words in the annual report about being one big family, supporting each other, making people feel they belong, valuing their contribution and treating people fairly don’t mean much if senior managers encourage a culture of overwork , bullying and ruthlessness.
Whether an employee feels positive about work has more to do with how well they get on with their line manager and team mates than how they feel about senior management or the organisation. What is the atmosphere like in the team, do people help each other out, do they have trust and confidence in the manager, do they feel their contribution is valued or are there personality conflicts, mutual distrust and claims of favouritism.
Can HR realistically counter a negative tone set by senior management or make up for a bad line manager? HR may not be able to do much about the culture of overwork modelled by senior managers but they certainly can champion Equality, promote employee engagement, challenge bullying, encourage recognition and reward,  provide opportunities for  development, and intervene in bad management. Whether the organisation is characterised by an open and consultative relationship with employees or a confrontational and antagonistic relationship is as much down to the influence of HR as it is to the style of senior management.
So if keeping the workers happy involves encouraging a positive attitude to work, engaging with employees, creating a fair and safe work place , providing opportunities for development and  raising the standard of management then HR are centre stage.
Line managers must take responsibility for what happens in their teams , senior managers need to show leadership but HR can make a positive difference.
In philosophical terms happiness is a state of mind and each individual is responsible for their own happiness but in the employment  context “happiness “ is a positive attitude to work  and the employer encourages this by making the work place safe and fair. We all play our part in achieving this from colleagues, through line managers to the board. HR help us do it better.

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