Lessons Learned While Developing
the Workplace Happiness Index

This project was motivated by the observation that the majority of extant workplace measures focus on the alignment of individual employees to the goals and objectives of the organization. The goal of this project was to develop a measure that indicates an individual's level of satisfaction with the experience of work on a personal, psychological level. The project methodology was composed of three major methods: (1) develop a theoretical framework for the Workplace Happiness Index (WHI), (2) create the Rasch-based WHI measure, and (3) conduct semi-structured interviews to collect data to validate the WHI with respect to the theoretical framework (for full details see, Albano, 2010).

Completing this project yielded some valuable lessons for developing measures using this methodology.

1. Develop a solid theoretical footing

The proposed stems for the WHI were developed by a panel of expert practitioners in fields including organizational psychology, management consulting, and human resources management. Because the colloquial use of the term "happiness" is so varied, it was important to develop a precise definition of the phenomenon the WHI was intended to measure. Basing this definition on a thorough review of the literature accomplished task. The intent of the WHI is to measure happiness in a civic context. Aristotle's (2001) notion of eudemonic happiness provided both a civic anchor and historical context for the measure of happiness. Eudemonic happiness also provided a conceptual thread that lead to the inclusion of identity formation (Waterman, 2004) and psychological well-being (Ryff, & Keyes, 1995) as important pillars in the theoretical foundation upon which the WHI is based. This rich framework provided good guidance for focusing the efforts of the expert panel and providing a conceptual anchor for researchers using the WHI.

2. Use Rasch statistics to examine fidelity to the theoretical model

The theoretical model for happiness used in the WHI identifies six elements that are indicative of an experience of happiness. The expert panel developed stems based on each of these elements and the resulting instrument was tested (N = 86) using the Rasch rating scale model. During this testing, misfitting stems were identified and examined for possible exclusion from the final version of the instrument. One stem–" My work is stressful"—is indicative of the importance of this analysis and its relationship to the theoretical model. In testing, this stem showed poor fit characteristics (IN.MSQ = 2.12, IN.ZSTD = 5.78). Examination of the stem showed that it was developed to test the theoretical element "A sense of meaningfulness in one's work". Upon further examination, the panel speculated that the stem was not indicative of the underlying construct—as an example, and emergency room doctor might find work both stressful and meaningful—and dropped the stem because of its lack of fidelity to the underlying model indicating the importance of using both Rasch statistics and an understanding of the underlying model to decide when to remove stems and when to attempt to rewrite them.

3. Interview data can provide rich evidence of validity

After administering the final version of the WHI to a second respondent pool (N = 67), I selected a group of high-(N=4) and low-scoring (N=4) respondents to participate in a follow-up semi-structured telephone interview. Interview data were examined and coded first with respect to the six themes developed in the theoretical model and then with respect to emergent themes (Bazeley, 2007). This analysis provides evidence of the validity of the instrument for separating respondents based on their experience of each of the theoretical themes and suggests additional themes for further investigation of workplace happiness.

Joseph F. Albano, Jr.

Albano, J. F., Jr. (2010). Developing a measure and an understanding of the individual experience of happiness at work. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (AAT 3371929)

Aristotle. (2001). Ethica Nicomachea [The Nicomachean Ethics] (W. D. Ross, Trans.). In R. McKeon (Ed.), The basic works of Aristotle (pp. 927-1112). New York: Random House.

Bazeley, P. (2007). Qualitative data analysis with NVivo. London: Sage.

Ryff, C. D. & Keyes, C. L. M. (1995, October). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(4), 719-727.

Waterman, A. S. (2004, July). Finding someone to be: Studies on the role of intrinsic motivation in identity formation. Identity, 4(3), 209-228.



Lessons Learned While Developing the Workplace Happiness Index, J.F. Albano, Jr. ... Rasch Measurement Transactions, 2010, 24:3 p. 1292-3


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