Good Vibrations: Create a Positive Workplace to Boost Profits

By Phillip M. Perry
Negative businesses have a tough time making money. Employees with bad attitudes tend to pull back and maximize job security rather than create innovative solutions to business problems.
Even worse, customers feel unwanted and abandoned. “Negative thinking carries a real cost in terms of workplace productivity,” says John Wagner, a clinical counselor in Ft. Mitchell, Ky. (WagnerSeriouslyFunny.com) “Much of that cost results from poor employee performance.”
In the worst cases, adds Wagner, toxic workplaces cause the best employees to jump ship for the competition. Finding, hiring and training replacements require investments in time and money that could be better spent elsewhere.
You can avoid these costly matters by creating a positive environment in your own workplace. Here’s how.

CHANGE HAPPENS

Negative people create negative workplaces. It stands to reason, then, that to create a productive business environment
you need to change the thinking of those who contribute to a toxic one. Your entire staff needs to adopt a positive mental attitude (PMA).
Take Gloomy Gus—one of your long time workers and chief negative thinker. Maybe you think he’ll never change his attitude. But evidence suggests he can.
“Over the past few decades, scientific research has disproved the idea that our brains are set in stone once we reach our late twenties,” says Sandy Weaver Carman, an Atlanta-based management consultant (sandyweavercarman.com). “In fact, we can learn new ways of thinking and new ways of looking at the world.”
Granted, people do tend to resist change. But that’s a matter of choice. “Very often, people simply do not want to go to the trouble of learning anything new,” says Carman. “They need to be motivated.” That means Gus needs to be helped to start thinking of life as a glass half full instead of half empty.

START WITH #1

So how do you motivate Gloomy Gus and employees like him? Start by setting an example. “The person in charge sets the tone for the entire workplace,” says Julie Alexander, a management consultant in Garland, Texas (juliealexander.com). “People take their cues from the boss.”
Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall off track when faced with challenging business events. To maintain a positive attitude, we must adopt patterns of behavior that reinforce our productive mindset in the worst of times. And behavior is the key: We cannot control our emotions, but we can control how we respond to our emotions.
“Two behaviors tend to impact our mental state,” says Tina Hallis, a management consultant in Madison, Wis. (positiveedge.org). “The first is what we choose to think, and the second is what we choose to do on a moment to moment basis. Those little things add up.”
Such habits need not be major. They can be as inconsequential as buying coffee for the security guard, or taking a walk in the fresh air each morning before work. And they will differ with each person. For some ideas on how to keep your own positive gears running, see the sidebar, “How to Stay Happy.”
Determining to maintain a PMA is a great first step—but it’s also important to get feedback on how you’re doing. What does your staff think about your attitude? Your image may not be as positive as you imagine.
“Most of us think we’re happy go lucky,” says Carman, “But we may be showing the world something much different.
Ask your staff how you look to them. Then listen to their responses. If they say you tend to be gruff then it’s time to
re-think your style.”

PASS IT ON

Once you’ve put yourself together, encourage your employees to follow your example. How? Alexander suggests building a work environment around the recipe of CARE: Collaboration, Attitude, Responsibility and Enthusiasm. Here’s what each ingredient of that recipe means:
Collaboration. A successful business results from cooperative effort. No one person is a lone ranger.
Attitude. Everyone is encouraged to maintain a PMA at all times. Share this story’s sidebar, “How to Stay Happy,” with all of your staff members.
Responsibility. Every employee must learn to “own” a customer’s problem. That means following through on every sales and service initiative until the customer is satisfied.
Enthusiasm. Customers notice right away when employees are enthusiastic about their work. Exhibit enthusiasm about your own duties and invite your staff to follow suit.
The secret to getting CARE in place: Quality engagement with employees. “You need to be a good communicator, and encourage good communication among your staff members,” says Alexander. “Be open to one-on-one conversations, and schedule regular staff meetings in which people feel they are listened to and that their opinions matter.”
Stay alert when conversing with your staff. “Focus on being present when people talk with you,” says Carman. “Bosses too often let their minds wander.”
With their attention pulled in so many directions, supervisors might glance at their phones or their watches, or over the shoulders of the people with whom they are talking.
“Let go of the toy and be present,” says Carman. “If people feel like you value them they will be happier. And so will you.”
Beyond quality communication, you can also encourage a PMA by letting people exercise their creativity in their daily duties. “When you delegate, let the tasks go,” says Wagner. “Lighten up. Not trusting people to make the right decisions will limit them.”
People cannot rise up to low expectations, says Wagner. “If you don’t believe your team can handle a task, it probably won’t. Keep training people and focus on their strengths.”
Help people create new solutions by being specific about what you want. “People want to live up to others’ expectations,” says Alexander. “But if those expectations are not made clear people flounder and do not know what to do.”
Of course, people will make errors. When that happens, don’t be judgmental. Encourage your staff to learn from mistakes and try again.
“Employees are creative and productive when they are released from the fear that they are not allowed to mess up,” says Wagner. “And when they know they are free to ask for help, mistakes are corrected quickly.”
All of the above tips have one thing in common: They describe behaviors that lead to positive thinking. That’s a more effective approach than trying to browbeat people into to being happy.
“You want to help your employees be happier thinkers,” says Carman. “But you have to be careful: You can’t tell people
how to think. You do not want to be the ‘happiness police’ or ‘big brother.’”
Creating a happy, productive workplace is a long game. It’s not a matter of flicking a switch or reading a book. You need
to consciously adopt good mental habits and motivate others to do the same.
While the process takes time, everything starts with individual managerial commitment. “You have to want your employees to be more positive in their thinking,” says Hallis. “You have to feel it’s worth the effort.”
“When you feel workplace stress, pause and take three to five slow, deep breaths.”
“At the end of each day think back and dwell on two or three good things that happened.”

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Labtalk-November/December 2017