How to Truly Satisfy Your Employee, According to Harvard Research

Beyond paychecks and office perks, a Harvard professor reveals a profound truth. The key to contentment isn't material rewards but the acknowledgment of one's efforts. Dive into why recognized accomplishment trumps all other incentives.

September 2, 2023
Mohit Sahni
How to Truly Satisfy Your Employee, According to Harvard Research

In the corporate maze, there's always a buzz about what truly keeps employees ticking. Is it the hefty paycheck at the end of the month? The fancy job title? Or perhaps the alluring office perks like free lunches and game rooms? But what if the real secret to employee happiness isn't found in any of these? 

What if it's something more fundamental, more intrinsic? According to a Harvard Business School professor, there's one standout factor that holds the key to employee contentment. And no, it's not about the size of their wallet or the view from their office window. It's about being recognized for their accomplishments, about knowing that their work truly matters.

The True Value of Employee Happiness

When you picture a thriving workplace, what comes to mind? Perhaps it's state-of-the-art facilities, innovative projects, or impressive revenue charts. But beneath these tangible indicators, there lies a more profound metric, often overlooked: employee happiness.

It's not just a feel-good factor. Employee happiness is a potent business catalyst. Study after study highlights a simple truth: happy employees work harder. It's not about clocking extra hours but about the quality, creativity, and dedication they bring to each task. Their enthusiasm becomes infectious, elevating team morale and driving projects forward with a zest that's hard to replicate.

Moreover, happiness isn't just about boosting performance in the present. It has long-term implications. A content employee is more likely to stay, reducing turnover rates and the associated costs of hiring and training new personnel. They become brand ambassadors, their satisfaction radiating beyond office walls to potential clients and recruits. And here's a kicker: happiness makes people functionally smarter. It's as if joy fine-tunes the brain, enhancing decision-making, problem-solving, and innovative thinking.

Decoding Happiness: Myths vs. Reality

The quest for the secret sauce of employee happiness often takes us down some well-trodden paths. We think, surely, a fatter paycheck will spark joy. After all, doesn't everyone want to earn more? Or perhaps it's about status, with high-flying job titles and corner offices being the coveted trophies. Maybe it's the culture – those hip workplaces with bean bags, team outings, and no-jerks-allowed policies.

But here's the twist. Dive into the data and these commonly held beliefs start to crumble. Higher pay and elevated job titles, while appealing on the surface, don't correlate directly with increased happiness. Whether you're in a blue-collar role or a white-collar one, the happiness meter tends to hover around the same mark. Similarly, the nonprofit versus for-profit debate? It's a draw when it comes to job satisfaction.

Harvard's Golden Nugget

When it comes to unlocking the mystery of employee contentment, Arthur Brooks, a renowned professor from Harvard Business School, offers a refreshing take. It's not about the paychecks with many zeros or a corner office view; it's about something profoundly human. Brooks insists that the cornerstone of happiness in the workplace lies in a "sense of recognized accomplishment." It's about feeling that your contributions at work don't just vanish into the ether but are noticed, valued, and celebrated.

In a candid conversation with HBR, Brooks delves deeper, answering the pivotal question: What kind of jobs truly make employees happy? The surprising revelation? Neither higher pay nor a grandiose title guarantees happiness. Blue-collar or white-collar, for-profit or nonprofit - employees across the spectrum report similar levels of job satisfaction. 

So, if money and status aren’t the magic potions, what is? It boils down to a sense of achievement and the recognition that comes with it. When employees feel that they're genuinely making a difference and that their achievements are acknowledged, that's when they truly shine.

This insight reframes our understanding of job satisfaction. It’s not about external accolades but an internal recognition of value. Employees crave the validation that their work has meaning, that they're driving change, and that this change doesn't go unnoticed. As Brooks succinctly puts it, happiness stems from "earning success" and feeling that you're "creating value" both in your life and in your professional journey.

The Universal Craving

Employees, regardless of their role or rank, have an innate desire to be seen, acknowledged, and validated. This isn't just about vanity or seeking praise. It's a deep-rooted psychological need that ties back to our very essence as humans. When our efforts are recognized fairly, it sends a signal that we're valuable and that our contributions matter.

Arthur Brooks' insights shed light on this very sentiment. He suggests that beyond the trappings of high pay or lofty job titles, what employees truly crave is a transparent and genuine acknowledgment of their contributions. It's about feeling that their efforts are moving the needle, making a difference, and being noticed for it. When there's a clear and direct link between what an employee does and the recognition they receive, it fosters a sense of purpose and belonging.

Yet, many organizations miss the mark here. They pour resources into bonuses, perks, and other tangible rewards, overlooking the simple act of genuine acknowledgment. But the truth is, when employees see their hard work reflected in the company's success and feel a personal connection to that achievement, it creates a powerful motivation loop. 

It's a reminder that their role, no matter how big or small, has a meaningful impact. Happiness, in this context, springs from the simple joy of knowing one's work resonates and leaves a mark.

When Purpose Outshines Pay

When it comes to rewarding employees, many companies instinctively reach for the financial lever, thinking bonuses or raises are the ultimate tokens of appreciation. While fair compensation is undeniably important, it's not the sole ingredient in the recipe for genuine job satisfaction. 

Adam Grant's research at Wharton drives this point home. In a compelling study, call center workers who heard firsthand how their efforts changed someone's life saw a whopping 20% jump in revenue. It wasn't a bigger paycheck that fueled this surge, but the profound realization of the impact of their work.

So, before you consider adding another zero to a bonus or installing the latest office gadgetry, take a moment to reflect on the essentials. Do your employees genuinely see the value of their contributions? Do they feel acknowledged and appreciated for the difference they make? In the quest for a happier workplace, it's clear: a sense of purpose and genuine recognition far outweigh the allure of monetary rewards. Meaning, it seems, truly does trump money.

Physical Wellbeing

Hack Your Way to Health: The Science Behind Bio-Hacking

January 27, 2023
Rakhee Todankar
Hack Your Way to Health: The Science Behind Bio-Hacking

Welcome to the world of Bio-Hacking! A revolutionary approach to optimizing our health through the manipulation of our diets. Gone are the days when we simply relied on conventional wisdom and bland diets to maintain our well-being. The landscape of our diets has shifted dramatically, with a growing interest in the science behind how we fuel our bodies. 

And that's where Bio Hacking comes in, offering a new way to unlock our full potential through tailored nutrition. By understanding the intricate interplay between our diets and our bodies, we can fine-tune our eating habits to achieve optimal health. 

Join me on this exciting journey of discovery, where the possibilities are endless and the results truly transformational.

The Art of Nutrigenomics

One of the most exciting developments in the field of nutrition is the science of Nutrigenomics. By sending a simple blood sample to a specialized laboratory, we can delve deep into our genetic makeup and discover the optimal diet tailored just for us. 

From uncovering food sensitivities to maximizing our nutrient intake, Nutrigenomics is a powerful tool for unlocking the full potential of our health and wellness. 

The Time-Tested Technique

Intermittent fasting has been a timeless technique, originating from ancient civilizations where food was scarce and long periods without eating were common. It's about balancing controlled eating and fasting to find what works best for you.

This practice brings numerous benefits, such as improved metabolism, better insulin sensitivity, and reduced inflammation. It allows your body to focus on important processes like cell repair and waste removal by regulating your eating patterns and giving your digestive system a break. Find your rhythm, whether it's fasting for 12 or 16 hours, and reap the benefits of this time-tested technique.

"Good nutrition is a responsibility, not a restriction." - Bettina Leigh

The Elimination Diet

Hack Your Way to Health: The Science Behind Bio-Hacking
Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

As a professional nutritionist, I always suggest exploring the power of the elimination diet to uncover food sensitivities and improve overall health. The process is simple: by eliminating certain foods and then gradually adding them back into your diet, you can discover which foods trigger adverse reactions and determine any allergies you may have. 

The Fiber Fix

When it comes to your diet, fiber is often the unsung hero. This time-tested nutrient provides a multitude of health benefits, from supporting good gut health and boosting immunity to improving digestion and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. But despite its many perks, many of us struggle to get enough fiber in our diets. 

Start by incorporating more fruits and veggies into your diet. These nutrient-rich foods are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals that support overall health and well-being. Consider adding various colorful food items to your plate, and try new recipes incorporating fiber-rich ingredients, like whole grains and legumes.

The Supercharge of Superfoods

As a professional nutritionist, it's hard to deny the buzz surrounding "superfoods" and their potential health benefits. But what exactly makes a food "super"? It's all about the high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can support our overall health and wellness. From nutrient-dense berries to anti-inflammatory spices, incorporating these power-packed foods into our diets can give us the extra boost we need to feel our best. 

So why not add a sprinkle of spinach to your smoothie, or enjoy a handful of goji berries as a snack?

The Protein Punch

Hack Your Way to Health: The Science Behind Bio-Hacking
Photo by Mark DeYoung on Unsplash

Protein is the powerhouse nutrient that provides the building blocks for our muscles, hormones, and enzymes. It's essential for maintaining muscle strength and tone and helps ward off cravings by filling us up. But the benefits of protein don't stop there - it also plays a critical role in balancing hormones and managing blood sugar levels. 

From animal-based sources like meat, fish, and dairy to plant-based options like beans, lentils, and tofu, there's a variety of ways to get more protein into your diet. 

The Sweet, Sunny, and Savvy Approach

The Sugar Solution: Sweeter Health Ahead

Sugar, the sweet treat that has become a staple in our diets, is causing more harm than good. Overconsumption of processed foods and sugar leads to a host of health problems and is taking a toll on our bodies. But it's never too late to make better choices for our health. We can turn our health around by cutting back on processed foods and sugar and enjoy a sweeter, healthier future.

The Vitamin D Boost: Light Up Your Health

Vitamin D is crucial in optimal health, playing a role in everything from bone health to immune function. Maximizing your vitamin D levels through sun exposure and supplementing for deficiency can help ensure you're getting enough of this essential nutrient. Don't let a lack of sun keep you from shining bright!

The Practice of Bio-Hacking

Biohacking is the process of making small changes in your diet, exercise, meditation, and mindfulness practices to achieve big results for your health. Keeping a food log and making conscious choices can help you make the most of your bio-hacking journey, leading you to a healthier, happier you.


The journey to healthy living and well-being doesn't have to be complicated. Bio-hacking is a simple and effective way to take control of your health and harness the power of diet, exercise, and mindfulness. With the help of professional guidance, you can find your own path to health and happiness by making small, sustainable changes that will have a big impact on your health in the long run. 

So why wait? Embrace the power of bio-hacking today and start your journey towards a healthier, happier life.


How to Battle Gaslighting and Toxic Workplaces

March 5, 2024
Mohit Sahni
How to Battle Gaslighting and Toxic Workplaces

Work should be a place where you feel motivated, valued, and have opportunities for growth. Unfortunately, toxic work environments and insidious tactics like gaslighting can make your professional life a nightmare.  Gaslighting, a form of psychological manipulation, involves making someone doubt their own perceptions, memories, and even their sanity. It often manifests in power imbalances and can erode your confidence and well-being.

Understanding these destructive dynamics is the first step towards protecting yourself and creating change.

Identifying Gaslighting: Red Flags to Watch Out For

Gaslighting: Learn the Warning Signs
Denial and Contradiction

Gaslighting can be deceptively subtle, making it difficult to recognize immediately. However, gaslighters often rely on certain patterns of speech and behavior designed to confuse and undermine you.  Let's look at some of the key tactics they use:

Denial and Contradiction

Gaslighters might flatly refuse to acknowledge something they said or did, even when you have proof.  This direct contradiction of your memory can leave you feeling disoriented and questioning your own experiences. For example, you might confront a colleague about their disparaging comments during a meeting, only to be met with the response, "That never happened. You must have misheard."

Trivialization and Minimization

When you express frustration or hurt, a gaslighter might downplay your emotions, making you feel like you're overreacting or being too sensitive. This is a way to invalidate your experiences and make you doubt your own feelings. For instance, you might express exasperation over being consistently overloaded with work, and they respond with, "Stop being so dramatic.  Everyone has a heavy workload sometimes".

Shifting Blame and Guilt-Tripping

Gaslighters are masters of redirecting blame.  Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, they twist situations to make it seem like everything is your fault. This manipulation can leave you feeling guilty and ashamed, preventing you from advocating for yourself. For example, when a project goes wrong, the gaslighter might say, "This entire disaster is your fault. If you hadn't been late with that report, none of this would've happened."

Gaslighting by Proxy

Sometimes, a gaslighter enlists others to participate in their manipulation. They might spread false rumors about you to colleagues or paint a misleading picture of your behavior, further eroding your confidence and isolating you within a team. For instance, a gaslighting boss could speak poorly of your work ethic to other managers, leading to a widespread perception of you as an unreliable employee.

Emotional Withholding and Silent Treatment

Emotional manipulation is a powerful tool for a gaslighter.  They might suddenly become cold and distant, refusing to talk or withdrawing affection as a form of punishment or to instill a sense of insecurity in you.  An example of this would be a gaslighting romantic partner who, following a minor disagreement, refuses to speak to you for days, leaving you feeling bewildered and questioning your actions.

Discrediting Your Perceptions and Reality

The ultimate goal of gaslighting is to make you doubt your sanity – your memory, your judgment, and your very perception of reality. Phrases like "you're crazy," "that's just your paranoia," or "you're too sensitive" are common ways to chip away at your confidence in your own experiences. Imagine you bring up a clear inconsistency in a story the gaslighter has told, and they respond with, "You're clearly imagining things. Honestly, you might want to see a therapist."

Remember, gaslighting doesn't always manifest in blatant outbursts. Sometimes, it can be hidden within seemingly harmless jokes laced with criticism or backhanded compliments designed to sting. Pay attention to how your interactions make you feel.  And most importantly, trust your gut – if something consistently feels off, it likely is.

The Toll of a Toxic Workplace

Toxic workplaces aren't just about one bad apple. They are characterized by patterns of dysfunctional behavior that  impact everyone:

  • Lack of Communication: Healthy workplaces have transparency and open feedback. Toxic ones thrive on gossip, secrecy, and leaving employees in the dark.
  • Unrealistic Expectations and Pressure: Constant unreasonable demands and an atmosphere of fear and negativity lead to burnout.
  • Bullying and Harassment: This can be overt or subtle – insults, put-downs, exclusion from important meetings, or being micromanaged.
  • Favoritism and Lack of Recognition: Hard work goes unrewarded, while certain individuals receive preferential treatment, creating resentment and distrust.

Strategies to Combat Gaslighting and Toxicity

Surviving (and thriving) in these environments takes a combination of self-preservation, gathering support, and proactive steps to create change.

1. Trust Your Gut and Validate Yourself

Your instincts are powerful.  If something consistently feels off, honor that feeling.  Don't let anyone undermine your perception of reality. Practice self-affirmations and remind yourself of your strengths and capabilities.

2. Document Everything

Maintain a thorough record of incidents. Include dates, times, specific details of conversations, and the names of any witnesses. Save emails, project notes, and anything that provides a concrete record, both for validating your experiences and potential escalation.

3. Build a Support Network

Don't fight this battle alone.

  • Trusted Colleagues: See if others share your concerns and experiences. They can offer both emotional support and practical advice.
  • Friends, Family, Therapist: A safe space to vent, process your feelings, and gain outside perspective is invaluable in combating gaslighting.
  • HR and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): If available, utilize these resources for guidance navigating your company's policies and procedures.

4. Set Boundaries

This is essential for regaining a sense of control:

  • Limit Contact: Minimize interactions with the gaslighter when possible. Choose email over in-person conversations for clear documentation.
  • Learn to Say "No": Respectfully decline requests outside your job responsibilities or that negatively impact your workload and well-being.
  • Assertive Communication: Practice clear, unemotional communication without aggression. State facts, avoid accusations, and focus on solutions.

5. Protect Your Mental Health

Toxic workplaces and gaslighting take a toll. Prioritize self-care habits:

  • Stress-Reduction Techniques: Deep breathing, mindfulness exercises, and meditation can calm your nervous system in the moment.
  • Physical Well-being: Focus on sleep, a balanced diet, and regular exercise to manage stress and boost resilience.
  • Therapy: Professional therapy offers tools to unpack the gaslighting, process its impact, and build long-term coping mechanisms.

6. Focus on What You Can Control

  • Your Reactions: While you can't control the gaslighter, you can choose how you respond. Limit emotional outbursts and strive for neutral responses.
  • Your Perspective: Reframe their manipulative behavior as a reflection of their own insecurities, not a deficit in you.
  • Your Goals: Stay focused on what you want to achieve professionally and don't let negativity derail your progress.

When Do You Stay or Walk Away?

Sadly, sometimes the best option is leaving a toxic workplace.   Consider these factors:

  • Severity and Impact: Is this a personality conflict with one individual or pervasive dysfunction in the company culture? Is the damage to your well-being too severe to stay?
  • Potential for Change: Does HR take these issues seriously? Have you tried addressing concerns with leadership, and is there any openness to improvement?
  • Alternative Options: Do you have another job lined up or the financial means to quit before securing one? Having a plan eases the transition.

If You Choose to Stay: Additional Strategies

If leaving isn't immediately possible, focus on harm mitigation:

  • Limit Interactions: Minimize contact with the gaslighter when possible. Communicate via email for documentation.
  • Grey Rock Technique: Become emotionally unresponsive, uninteresting to the gaslighter, and therefore a less appealing target.
  • Focus on Your Goals: What do you want to achieve in this role? Prioritize deliverables and minimize getting sidetracked by the negativity.
  • Build Your Exit Strategy: Start networking, update your resume, and actively look for opportunities that align with a healthier work environment.

Remember: You Are Not Alone

Gaslighting and toxic workplaces are, unfortunately, far too common.  By building awareness, setting boundaries, and seeking support, you can protect your well-being.  If possible  be part of the change by advocating for a healthier work culture. You deserve a workplace where you feel safe, respected,  and empowered to do your best.

Join the Wellness Tribe

Join The Tribe

This month we are focusing on food and how it affects your mental health. Join us as we bring in the most relevant interesting content from across the wellness segment.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.