As a Leader, Are You For or Against Positivity?

positive-thinkingSome executives assert that expressing positive emotions in the workplace denies the harsh realities of 21st-century business, in which everything is too fast-paced and competitive to dwell on people’s feelings.

To some, an emphasis on positivity demotivates people to put in hard work and effort. As a leader, are you for or against positive thinking in your work team?

It’s true that dishonest or inauthentic positivity creates even more negativity. As leaders, we have to be able to deliver bad news in good ways so that it will be heard and spark the desired changes.

For example, when you need to give negative feedback, you must speak honestly and respectfully, and still have an impact. Let’s look at the research that makes the case for or against positivity…

Multiple surveys tell us that feeling unappreciated is the No. 1 reason why most Americans leave their jobs. Such statistics have been underlining the need for positive reinforcements ever since the Gallup Organization began surveying millions of people in the workplace.

In fact, 65% of people surveyed said they received no recognition for good work in the previous year, note Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton in How Full Is Your Bucket? (2004).

What employees want most (along with competitive pay) is quality management, Gallup research tells us. When employees fail to feel acknowledged and disapprove of their managers, they leave or simply stop trying.

The Case for Positivity

Not surprisingly, we gravitate toward positive energy and away from negativity. Like animals and plants, humans are heliotropic (literal translation: moving toward the sun). While this is an analogy, it makes sense: When we’re kind to each other and express gratitude, we experience an attraction and an energy surge that unlocks our inner resources.

We more accurately process positive information. We think about positive statements 20% longer than negative ones. We learn better, remember more and are more resourceful when we experience positive moods.

Several studies confirm that people live longer when they’re more appreciative. Gratitude and positivity stimulate the production of hormones that fight stress and fortify the immune system.

In the work I do coaching people, I find that many people tend to focus on the negative, even though positive thinking is more attractive to most. We have a compelling urge to focus on the negative biases at play and that must be counteracted. In my next post, we’ll explore the negativity bias.

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