An addictive drug that’s good for business!

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Imagine if instead of all the hard work involved in creating an environment in which people are happy and effective they could just dole out “happy pills…”

I am pleased to report that the answer is yes. Sort of. There is a substance which, administered regularly, will vastly enhance the mood and performance of people and, according to recent research, improve profitability by 20%. This substance will make people work more efficiently, more creatively, more flexibility and even significantly heighten engagement and loyalty. A member of the opiate family, if this substance were to be produced in pill form it would be illegal, and it is highly addictive.

What do we know about this potentially illegal substance that can improve performance, engagement and profitability so dramatically? Let’s look at the facts.

Fact one: The substance is called dopamine. It occurs naturally in the brain and it is one of the 110 or so of the brain’s neurochemicals.

Fact two: It is part of the reward system of the brain. It makes people happy, even at work.

Fact three: People who get the drug become more engaged, more motivated, more productive, more flexible, less stressed, have fewer heart attacks and have less chance of getting serious anxiety disorders such as Postraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Their memory will also be better and they will have a better immune system and a greater chance of living longer.

Fact four: People need and want dopamine. They will become very attached to those who give it to them.

The delivery system for this potent neurochemical is simple, safe and vastly underused. It is praise and recognition, catching people at what they do right and letting them know. At a time when people are more stressed than before and organizations are cutting back on financial rewards, the skilled use of praise is more essential than ever.

To be most potent, praise should come in three forms: for what people do (the new clients, meeting their targets, the reports in on time), for how people do it (their creativity, their ingenuity, their willingness to try something different) and simply for who they are (as in “I really appreciate your being part of the team.” or “I really like working with you.”).

Recognizing people publically and even-handedly makes them feel good and has the added benefit that other team members feel there are in an environment in which effort is rewarded. Researchers at Toronto University have found that people become committed to the relationship with those who praise them (as any druggie does to his or her dealer) and that this commitment spreads to the pusher’s team and to the whole company.

What’s more, studies carried out by the Gallup organization have that the effect is so great that merely giving employees regular praise—even for just doing their jobs—can increase a company’s profitability by up to 20%.