How Curiosity Creates Happiness in the Workplace

Last updated: 2020-07-024 min read time
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If you ask the average child whether he or she likes olives or Brussels sprouts, you'll more than likely get the answer, “no”. If you then ask the same child if he or she has actually ever tried either, you'll probably get the same answer  —  “no”. Yet, later in life, the child may discover a love for both foods.

So, how do we know what we like or dislike, or discover what we might be good at unless we try? How much of our opinions are made up by presumptions?

While children are innately curious, curiosity and the willingness to try new things plays an even greater role in our lives as adults and in our work.

The Benefits of Curiosity

As explained in an article which appeared in The Guardian, research has shown a link between curiosity and happiness.

If you’re an employee who has received positive feedback on a project you worked on or used your skills to contribute to the success of a project, you’re likely to engage in that activity again. On the other hand, if you tried your hand at something and received a negative response, you’re unlikely to engage in that activity again. Unfortunately, many times, our experience means we put off trying new things even if they could be good for us, which can prevent us from discovering skills and interests.

As the article points out, research has shown that curiosity can also positively impact our memory. When we are curious, we are able to take in information without paying conscious attention. In other words, we engage in our work.

Curiosity has also been shown to deepen our connections with others including our colleagues. In fact, several studies have concluded that connection with our colleagues is one of the most significant contributors to employee happiness in the workplace.


Discovery, Learning and Innovation

An employee who is curious is an asset for any employer. After all, innovation is impossible without curiosity. Curiosity also allows employees to discover solutions to problems by thinking outside the box. As Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and trying new things, because we are curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” 

A curious employee doesn’t see their skills as “fixed” – they continually seek ways to develop their skills through ongoing learning and development. Learning and development are only possible with curiosity.

Trying New Things

Being curious enough to try new things often requires us to step out of our comfort zone, which can be scary for many of us. The good news is that when we do step out of our comfort zone, it helps builds our self-esteem. But it doesn’t stop there; building our self-esteem increases our wellbeing, and our wellbeing affects both our own and our colleagues’ happiness at work.

A meta-analysis review conducted by the Personality and Social Psychology Review (PSPR) concluded that employees who feel a bond with their colleagues, and who feel a connection to their employer, have greater health and happiness. Our happiness at work goes full circle.

As Dr. Maria Kangas of Macquarie University’s Department of Psychology in Australia said in The Guardian, “We can’t change our genetics, but we can force ourselves beyond the comfort zone just by asking: when was the last time I did something novel or outside of my usual routine?”