Most of us would agree that a positive attitude makes life easier since it tends to reduce stress and worry, increases productivity, and enhances relationships. Moreover, when we have a choice, most of us would rather spend time around a positive than a negative person. A negative person not only depletes him or herself of energy but does the same to those around them. Winston Churchill summed it up well when he said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
The workplace, like our personal life benefits significantly from an environment of positivism. Working in a positive environment not only increases happiness, but also perpetuates higher levels of employee engagement. As an illustration, let us look at one of the questions included in the 2010 Organization Morale Survey by HCS. The survey targeted respondents in organizations that self- characterized as being positive or negative organizations and asked a series of identical questions of both groups regarding desirable workplace characteristics. The results are striking. The four key “success” characteristics focused on by the survey (communications, teamwork, morale, and productivity) show significant differences between the two types (see Figure 1). Among positive organizations, 78 percent of respondents feel that communication is good while only 23 percent of negative organizations feel the same. Similarly, teamwork drops from 67 to 21 percent. A commitment to productivity and employee morale is almost nonexistent in negative organizations occurring eight and five percent, respectively. Clearly, a positive environment holds a high cost.
Not surprisingly, negativism accomplishes the opposite of what we desire as leaders by reducing the desire to communicate, work as a team, and produce. Moreover, it holds some detrimental outcomes of its own. Figure 2 captures the presence of apathy, absenteeism, conflict, and sabotage in positive and negative organizations. Apathy in a negative environment far exceeds apathy levels in a positive organization (78 percent compared to 20 percent). Almost five times more respondents indicate a high level of absenteeism in negative organizations. Conflict as well as sabotage levels nearly double between the two organization types. Although all four areas hold dire performance and financial implications, it is hard to decide which is worse: almost 80 percent of the workforce disengaged or nearly ten percent engaged in some type of workplace sabotage.
A positive environment starts with one person and his or her attitude. So, what can we do to be more positive? Here are a few basic things:
- think more positively, even when something is challenging;
- make constructive suggestions when someone wants your input;
- use your creativity;
- focus on the positive more than the negative;
- practice optimism;
- pursue your goals; and
- chose to be happy.