Leaders think that to promote positivity in the workplace, they should hire employees who act positively and eliminate the ones that don’t. But this not only a limited view, it’s completely incorrect.
Research shows that positivity leads to increased productivity. What business leader wouldn’t want that? In years past, positivity seemed to be an intangible quality. But over the last decade, science has shown that it can indeed be measured, induced and even cultivated. That means organizations can really focus on actively cultivating positivity in the workplace, and it starts with management. So now the question is, how do managers cultivate positivity?
Out of the six pathways to positivity: Positivity, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Achievement and Vitality, one offers the biggest return. Relationships.
Most of our days are spent relating to the people we work with so investing in those relationships as a manager is of great consequence.
As a leader, taking the following steps will impact your team’s positivity and performance. If you’re a job seeker, use these as a benchmark to measure your manager’s ability to foster positivity in the workplace.
1. Encourage Openness
Managers mistakenly think they need to instill fear and offer consequences if goals aren’t met or employees fall short in some area. However, this creates a culture of distrust. This is as far from positivity in the workplace as possible. As a result, employees are generally uncomfortable opening up to managers. They are afraid of sharing issues and frustrations for fear of being seen as weak or less than capable. Over time, this ends up producing stale work, stunts innovation and creates a fear of risk. If you encourage openness and want employees to talk to you about problems, you engender trust and create a safe environment. The benefits go beyond having happy employees who are less stressed. It can also increase productivity as well as retention.
2. Help Selflessly
As a manager your job is to ensure that work gets done. That doesn’t absolve you from getting your hands in the action. Actively look for areas where you can be helpful, even when you don’t have to. If your strengths compliment an employee’s weaker areas, offer to go over that part of the project with them. Don’t just offer cursory suggestions on how to improve it. If you take the time to actively be helpful rather than commenting and critiquing from the sidelines you will build loyalty.
Loyal employees, don’t just stick around, they perform better. But not out of fear. Instead, they have an inner desire and drive to do well that comes from feeling supported. Promote positivity in the workplace, and you will be a manager teams want to follow and work with. It’s your job to help them be successful, not the other way around. If you lose sight of that, you will lose the respect and loyalty of the team.
3. Be Empathetic not Sympathetic
There is a real difference between empathy and sympathy. Sympathy creates distance while empathy creates connectedness. To really understand your employees, you need to be able to feel what they feel from their point of you. If you can’t fully do that, you end up with sympathy. You’ll say things like, “I understand, but….” Just reading that you’re probably thinking, oh, I get it. Trying to fix the problem doesn’t mean you’re being understanding. Empathy is pure understanding and feeling the feeling with the other person. Sympathy is more like understanding without feeling and without perspective taking. It also often has an aspect of trying to make things better, “at least it isn’t all bad….” Dr. Brene Brown has a wonderful video that illustrates the point beautifully and I highly encourage you to watch it.
Are you looking to create even more productivity in the workplace? Start by fostering deep connections within the teams you mange. The higher the quality of our relationships the more positive impact they tend to have on other areas in our lives, including things like workplace engagement and meaning. So don’t just make it about work. Make it personal and you’ll be sure to see the difference.