How to Wage Chemical Warfare Against Your Employees 


How to Wage Chemical Warfare Against Your Employees

“What is happiness?  It’s a moment before you need more happiness.” – Don Draper

There is a school of thought that posits that happy employees are better employees.  The idea is that happy employees communicate better, they treat customers nicer, work harder, are more productive, and loyal.  

If you survey your employees by asking them what makes them happy you may get a rainbow of answers.  Some will tell you that family and friends, meaningful work, and positive thinking makes them happy.  Some will tell you that gratitude, forgiveness, and giving to others does it for them.  Still more will tell you that religion, personal freedom, and good health puts a smile on their faces.


As professionals we are required to act on data.

And the data shows that there are, in fact, only eight things that make people happy.

And they are illustrated here in this joy-inducing graphic that I stole from someplace on the internet… 

Happy Brain Chemicals(Please note: if you are the creator of this graphic, know that you produced great happiness in me for creating and sharing it with the world and I thank you for it.  Drop me a line if it’s you!)

That’s right.  

The eight things that produce happiness are:

  1. Serotonin – the self-esteem and sleep chemical
  2. Oxytocin – the trust chemical
  3. Melatonin – the rest and relaxation chemical
  4. Norepinephrine – the excitement chemical
  5. Acetylcholine – the alertness chemical
  6. Endorphins – the pain killer chemical
  7. Dopamine – the reward chemical, and
  8. Phenylethylmine – the bliss and infatuation chemical

So, as a leader of people, how can you make your employees happy?  

Are there ways you can hack their brain chemicals to produce happiness?



You Say “Waging Chemical Warfare Against Your Employees” Like It’s A Bad Thing

Lacking a medical degree and permission to inject your employees brains with a productivity slurry, you may need to find some more humane (and legal) ways to get their juices flowing.

Here are a few tips from the pros.



Low levels of dopamine cause employees to procrastinate, doubt themselves, and lack enthusiasm.  With low levels of dopamine people will opt for easier options and accept less reward, where people with high levels of dopamine will be able to exert more effort in anticipation for greater rewards.

The Dopamine Hack

Help your employees boost their dopamine levels by creating new goals for them before they accomplish the current tasks at hand.  You know the idioms “the work never ends” or “there’s always more work”.  That’s a good thing if done in digestible chunks.  As your staff checks off their tasks make sure you recognize their accomplishments.  Regularly send your team encouraging emails and pepper the month with small bonuses wherever you can.  This gives them a dopamine shot that will increase future motivation and productivity.



Your employees’ serotonin gets flowing when they feel significant and important.  Staff members who exhibit unhealthy attention-seeking behaviors could be suffering from low levels of serotonin.  The same for staff members acting sullen or withdrawn. Most anti-depressants focus on the production of serotonin.

The Serotonin Hack

The brain has a hard time telling the difference between what is currently real and what is remembered memories from the past.  The good thing about this is that it will produce serotonin in both cases.  Practice gratitude with your staff members.  Rehash past positive memories of their success and accomplishments.  Remind them of the times they closed the deal, beat the deadline, and made the guy in the corner office proud.  Boost morale by being your people’s biggest cheerleader.



Known as the “cuddle hormone” Oxytocin is released when men and women are doing things that would be stroke-inducing in your HR manager if we discussed them at work.  If you work at a company that provides “mother rooms” know that they understand the importance of Oxytocin production.  

The Oxytocin Hack

Well, what are you to do if you exist in a non-touching environment where even hugs are taboo?  (yes, hugs boost Oxytocin.)  Well, giving gifts to people also causes elevated production of Oxytocin.  Birthday gifts, anniversary gifts, or just gifts for no reason is a great way to boost Oxytocin levels in your staff members.  The company store should know you and your expense account on a first-name basis.



Many of you are familiar with endorphins being released when runners get their “high” or if you’ve ever experienced a “second wind”.  Endorphins are released in response to pain, stress and they help alleviate anxiety.  Endorphins act as an analgesic and sedative which diminishes a persons perception of pain.

The Endorphin Hack

Exercise and laughter are the easiest ways to release endorphins.  Even the anticipation and expectation of fun and laughter will get endorphins flowing.  But what if your team is facing a deadline and you don’t all have time for a giggle filled jog?  Interesting enough aromatherapies, particularly vanilla and lavender, have been linked with the production of endorphins.  Spicy foods and dark chocolates will also cause human brains to release them.  If that deadline is looming larger and your team is strapped in at their desks consider of having some fresh baked vanilla cookies and dark chocolate bars in the break room or conference room may help with that second wind.  #fueledonthaifood


These are just four ideas to get your brain juices flowing as a leader about how to make your employees more happy, literally.

Do you have any tips or tricks of your own?  

Are you a master at chemical warfare?

Please share your successes and flops with me.

I want to learn more about you!