Emotional states are an overlooked resource in the workplace. How we feel affects how we work individually and together as well as our resilience to stress and our creativity. Unlike other resources to help our staff in these straitened times, positive emotional states are a zero-cost, renewable, source of energy. And they make a difference to those around us.
Did you know?
That 20-30% of business performance can be determined by the mood of employees
That back in the 1930s it was discovered that workers who experienced positive emotional states demonstrated an 8% increase in efficiency compared to the output of workers in a negative emotional state
That employees experiencing positive emotions are more helpful to customers, more creative, more attentive, and respectful of one another
And that daily experience of positive emotions influences an individual’s readiness to engage in particular organizationally beneficial behaviours (i.e. what we sometimes call organisational citizenship behaviours, beyond the constraints of our job description )
Did you also know?
That Alice Isen and her colleagues found that positive emotions facilitated cognitive flexibility, intrinsic motivation, promoted patterns of notably unusual thought e.g. creativity, boosted receptivity to new information, and improved problem solving.
And that furthermore, that they had an impact on social relations by facilitating inclusion, promoting helpfulness, generosity and social responsibility and reducing conflict.
While Fredrickson and colleagues established, amongst other things, that positivity enables people to see new possibilities, bounce-back from setbacks, connect more deeply with others, and reach their potential.
So it seems feeling good can be good for us at work. In addition,
Research highlights that resilient individuals use positive emotions in the face of adversity by finding positive meaning in ordinary events or within the event itself. This means that, even as everything looks gloomy, that can still appreciate the beauty of a sunset, or, they can extract some learning or benefit from the difficult situation if only ‘well, I won’t make that mistake again!’
And also that, the cultivation of positive emotions such as compassion, courage, forgiveness, integrity, and optimism prevents psychological distress, addiction, and dysfunctional behaviour.
So how can we help each other feel better at work?
Cameron identified six key positive practices that correlate with reduced turnover, improved organisational effectiveness, better work environments and better relationships with management. These are:
Compassionate support for colleagues
Fostering a culture of forgiveness
Fostering respect, integrity and gratitude
Inspiring each other at work
Emphasis on meaningful work
In essence, how we relate to each other and how we work with each other. So how can we put that into practice?
Here are five ideas for how to create micro-boosts of positive feeling and energy
Sharing a joke or having a laugh together
Cardio-vascular exercise, in my experience 20 minutes of swimming or circuits can do it
Meditation, personally l’m finding that the 55+ Pilates class induces a very zen-like state as I try to move muscles I didn’t know I had
Sharing a deeply meaningful conversation with a real connection, if only briefly
Being with your pet
And at the group level, in work
Asking each other positive questions; inquiring into the best of our work and steering away from the moan-fest
Constructively responding to each other’s good news
Bringing in unexpected treats (could even be healthy treats!)
Knowing three things about each of your colleagues’ out of work life, and finding a common point of connection
Celebrating everyone’s success as a group success, and group successes as everyone’s
We can’t prevent difficult emotions like anger, jealousy, fear, stress, anxiety and so on from arising. And as has long been established they have their psychological role: calling attention to a need for help; telling us there is something we aren’t happy about that we need to address; giving us energy to stand up for ourselves, or allowing us a cathartic moment. And no one is saying we should deny, suffocate at birth or otherwise suppress these feelings. But when they have served their purpose and we need to move on, we sometimes need someone to help us do that.
Other times, it’s just good to experience a blip of positivity, and look at all the benefit it brings.
With great thanks to Suzy Green, Michelle McQuaid, Alicia Purtell and Aylin Dulagil for much of the information above which I cribbed from their excellent chapter ‘The psychology of positivity at work’ in Lindsay Oades, Michael Steger, Antonella De Fave and Jonathon Passmore’s excellent book The psychology of positivity and strengths based approached to work’ published by Wiley Blackwell in 2017.
Sarah Lewis is the owner and principal psychologist of Appreciating Change. She is author of ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ and ‘Positive Psychology and Change’ both published by Wiley. She is also the lead author of 'Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management'.
See more Positive Psychology articles in the Knowledge Warehouse.
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