Positive energy, morale, esprit de corps, whatever you call it the culture of your organization is important. An organization’s culture is defined by the common spirit existing in the members of the group. A culture that is inspiring enthusiastic, devoted, with strong regard for the success and advancement of the group is a model worth striving for. It’s the workplace we all want to be a part of! But how do you curate that type of positive team energy among your workforce? And why?
Quantifiable advantages of a positive work environment
Why is it important to have a positive work environment? Decades of research in positive psychology and neuroscience has found that happiness is the precursor to success. You read that right, first comes happiness, and then comes success. Research within corporations consistently proves that happiness and optimism actually fuel performance and achievement. Companies with outstanding performance results often have a competitive edge in what is called the happiness advantage.
The bottom line is that when leaders create an environment where people feel good about themselves and the part they play in the organization’s larger mission, people feel good at work and do their jobs better. Makes sense, customers and partners can tell when your employees enjoy the work they do, and as a result, do it well. Everyone wants their workforce, customers, and partners to succeed. Happy people focused on creating great customer experiences are the very best competitive advantage you have in the marketplace.
Leadership – setting the example from the top
As a leader how can you set the tone for a positive culture that enables a healthy workforce that is engaged in furthering the mission of your organization? Creating a positive and healthy culture for your team rests on a few major principles. In general, it distills down to six fundamentals for having positive team energy in your workplace.
- Valuing colleagues on a professional and personal level.
- Supporting each other compassionately
- Avoiding an atmosphere of fear and retaliation for mistakes.
- Inspiring one another at work.
- Inclusion that emphasizes the meaningfulness of the work.
- Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust, and integrity.
As a business leader, how can you foster these principles?
Think about and encourage social connections in the workplace. This is not to say that work takes a secondary role to water cooler chat (or zoom chat in today’s world). Getting the job done is always the first priority, but connecting with the people you spend most of your waking hours with is important as well. A large number of empirical studies confirm that positive social connections at work produce highly desirable results. For example, people get sick less often, recover twice as fast from surgery, experience less depression, learn faster and remember longer, tolerate pain and discomfort better, display more mental acuity, and perform better on the job when they have meaningful connections to those around them.
Empathy matters! Your words have a huge impact on how your employees feel. A Cleveland Clinicbrain-imaging study found that, when employees recalled a boss that had been unkind or un-empathic, they showed increased activation in areas of the brain associated with avoidance and negative emotion while the opposite was true when they recalled an empathic boss. Be mindful of how you speak to and with your team. Team members who are doing a good job deserve to be recognized and encouraged. Those who are not meeting expectations deserve respectful conversations with clear maps to improvement. Modeling empathy helps your staff do the same with each other – and with your customers.
Be a part of the team, don’t just manage the team. Team members remember when the boss rolled up her sleeves and got the work done at a critical moment WITH the rest of the team. They remember the supervisor who assigned a project and strategized with them to make it work efficiently. Jonathan Haidt a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business shows in his research that when leaders are not just fair but self-sacrificing, their employees are actually moved and inspired to become “…more loyal and committed themselves. As a consequence, they are more likely to go out of their way to be helpful and friendly to other employees, thus creating a self-reinforcing cycle.”  Daan Van Knippenberg of Rotterdam School of Management shows that employees of self-sacrificing leaders are more cooperative because they trust their leaders more. They are also more productive and see their leaders as more effective and charismatic.
Encourage people to speak up and ask for help. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a boss who has the best interest of his staff at heart sees an improvement in output and performance. Employees want to feel safe, rather than fearful. Research by Amy Edmondson of Harvard on psychological safety shows that a culture of safety i.e. in which leaders are inclusive, humble, and encourage their staff to speak up or ask for help, leads to better learning and performance outcomes. A culture of fear of negative consequences, in the end, is detrimental to your bottom line. You can indeed drive people through intimidation. But why would you choose that route? People will phone it in to get the work done, but they are not going to pour themselves into their work. Feeling safe in the workplace helps encourage enthusiastic experimentation which is so critical for innovation.
When you are leading with a positive attitude in a supportive climate, people will go above and beyond what is necessary. When people feel appreciated, they become more confident and productive. Positive enthusiasm is motivational—and there is virtually no downside.
Just to be clear, we’re not suggesting that as a leader you gloss over the negative. It will happen. You’ll have that one toxic employee who needs special attention, or perhaps punitive action. Even by taking care of a toxic situation quickly, you are showing the rest of your staff how much you respect them and are part of their team. The company culture is affected by what you do as much as what you don’t do.
Doing your part
What if you’re not the boss, but simply a hard-working employee who wants to contribute to positive work culture. According to The Positive Psychology Program, genes are responsible for about 50% of our happiness and our actions and attitudes account for 40%. A positive attitude is innate in some and takes work for others. No matter where you find yourself swimming in the gene pool, you do have the opportunity to make the most of that 40% by focusing on your actions and attitude. How
Start with Yourself! – We’re not talking about being selfish, but being selfless. Try to focus on gratitude, positive thoughts, and personal integrity. Show benevolence and give off compassionate energy. Be attentive to your surroundings and other people’s feelings and needs, and then offer a helping hand when it’s appropriate. Nothing says positive energy more than that. And remember, as we mentioned above, it’s contagious. Win-win for everyone.
Collaborate – You’ve seen the motivational posters, “There’s No I in Team.” Your positive or negative energy is reflected in your team dynamic. Make sure your teammates know that their opinions and suggestions matter. Make it easy for people to come to you for your opinions and suggestions, too! This is especially important as many of us are working remotely these days. Make sure your team knows that you are available and how to contact you. Keep an “open door” or “open contact” approach to be a part of a great collaboration.
Get Involved – Doing something that helps others and makes you feel good at the same time is yet another win-win in the positive team morale game. Nothing gives off positive energy more than doing something that makes you feel good. Figure out a place to get involved that energizes you and helps others. It might be a community food bank, a mentoring program, or a garden club. Maybe your thing is a softball league or book club. Whatever it is, staying actively involved in something you’re authentically passionate about will naturally bring you feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction. These feelings will then radiate from you in the form of positive energy! Maybe you want to expand on that and participate in a volunteer effort with your coworkers. It’s a fantastic way to build open lines of communication through trust, participation, teamwork, and most of all, fun! And again, win-win for everyone.
Lifestyle – We couldn’t post an article like this without touching on lifestyle choices. So many things in our daily lives can positively or negatively impact our mindset. The best way to maintain a constant, consistent flow of positive thinking is to make a conscious effort to make positive lifestyle choices.
It can be pretty easy to spot those things that bring us down. It might be a person, a situation, “doom scrolling” through social media, or just eating a boatload of bad-for-you food. Try not to associate with those things. We know it’s hard especially when the world feels so uncertain! But in the word of the “prophet” Elsa from Frozen “Let it go.” Instead, focus on what brings POSITIVE energy into your life. Listen to uplifting, inspiring music. Go for a walk during your lunch break. Do yoga or meditate in the morning before work. Read more books. Keep a bowl of chocolates by your desk to encourage others to come over for a quick chat during the workday if you’re in an actual office. Give praises and compliments daily. Get a cute dog. Walk your neighbor’s cute dog – they’ll appreciate it! It doesn’t take much. Find something every day to lift your mood and make a commitment to yourself to do it.
We all want to work in a job that fulfills us, with people we enjoy. As leaders and individuals, we can take positive steps to make that happen. A positive workplace is more successful over time because it increases positive emotions and well-being. This, in turn, improves people’s relationships with each other and amplifies their abilities and creativity. There will be negative experiences and stressors, but a positive work environment can be a buffer making the negative times easier to bounce back from.
There are lots of bottom-line advantages as well. A positive workplace attracts great employees, making them more loyal to the leader and to the organization as well as bringing out their best strengths. When organizations develop positive, virtuous cultures they achieve significantly higher levels of organizational effectiveness — including financial performance, customer satisfaction, productivity, and employee engagement.