Creating a positive work environment does not mean you need to fill the office with ping-pong tables, playground equipment, sleep pods, beer kegs or fully stocked snack refrigerators. An organization that want to create a positive, leadership infused environment may want to look at the physical space to ensure it helps team members be productive, foster great working relationships, and feel comfortable; however, the way people treat each other at work is the key to a positive environment. Here are some things organizations can do to encourage the positive and discourage negative attitudes and work habits.
- Be open and transparent in communicating from top-level leadership. The key here is to keep all employees throughout the business involved in knowing how the organization is doing, what its goals are, what the mission and purpose is, and how each person’s job is linked to the important work being done. People are highly motivated by being involved in a cause that inspires them. For this inspirational and positive energy to infuse the organization leadership at all levels must openly share knowledge and information.
- Listen to opposing viewpoints so everyone feels heard. Open and transparent communication is a two-way (or many way) street. People in positive work environments feel comfortable speaking out, sharing ideas, giving opinions, brainstorming options. They are never put down for sharing. Leadership at all levels need to be open to listening to everyone and taking all viewpoints into consideration. Responses to those who share their ideas must be positive and encouraging such as “Wow, I had never thought about that. I’d love to hear more about your ideas to see if they might work here.” Negative responses must not be allowed to happen, for instance “Wow, I had never thought about that. I can’t imagine there is any way that would work. It is simply unrealistic and ridiculous.”
- Do not tolerate negativity. The second example response above is the type of nay saying, negativity that has no place in a leadership infused culture. That said, it is easy for anyone to sometimes look at the negative side of things. People tend to be naturally critical of their own weaknesses, for example, and this sometimes spills over into becoming negative toward others. To keep the workplace positive, it is important to recognize negativity when you encounter it, and be vigilant in stopping that type of thinking and behaving.
- Let every employee know they are valued. Similar to helping all employees understand the mission, vision, and plans for the organization so they can understand how their work aligns with the bigger picture, it is important to make sure every employee feels they are valued. This means every level of management, plus co-workers, colleagues, and subordinates all need to reinforce what they value from each other frequently. Believing and discovering the best in everyone and every situation must be cultivated. The old saying that it is good to catch someone doing something good every day is an important action that can and should be fostered.
- Unite teams around solving challenging and important problems that result in improvements that make a difference. This also is a great way to develop engagement and passion for the mission. People thrive in situations that are meaningful and important, so creating opportunities for teams to work together to solve important and meaningful problems, or to complete challenging and rewarding projects is a no-brainer.
- Treat people they way they want to be treated. This idea goes back to Tony Alessandra’s platinum rule. Get to know the people who you work with. What are the things that are important and motivating to them? What are the things that frustrate and annoy them? Then, tap into this knowledge of your co-workers to treat each of them the way they most want to be treated. If something energizes a colleague make sure you find ways to provide them with more of that. If something frustrates or annoys a person, then make sure you are not pushing their buttons. This alone will help transform the workplace into one that is positive and fun. Of course a slippery slide or fire pole instead of stairs might work too.