Bad news travels fast so they say. People are quick to pass along negative stories, ideas and if we are being observant, behaviors.
Conversely, an optimistic idea (positivity) takes effort to multiply to the masses. You must know their biases or historical experiences to be successful in getting a positive message of optimism to take flight.
Couple the above with trying to change an entire group of people on the same timeline and you have a serious uphill climb to make.
Pavlov’s Dog Knows
It’s not a far leap to say that optimism in the workplace is a key component of culture. Sometimes we get lost in our materialistic mindset and think solving this problem is a simple formula:
- Negative employee
- Give a “treat” to employee
- Gift card
- Cookies, cakes, and sodas
- Company logo merchandise
- Positive employee
- A short amount of time passes
I’m not saying these material “Pavlov’s Dog” approaches should be removed. Honestly, it’s expected and if removed would be a step backward. It is in our modern workplace DNA.
This feedback loop, although instantly visible in results, doesn’t squelch the persistent pessimistic undercurrent that may be plaguing your organization.
Again, negativity can be in the form of actions. Actions on the part of both the employee and employer. Don’t be blind to where cynicism may be hiding in plain sight. Every group is different, but some possible sources of negativity may include:
- 1 person or small inner cliques
- Company policies that need a modern or post-pandemic review
- Work/life boundaries. Is it your culture to answer emails after hours and on weekends?
- How they start – Upbeat, somber, playful, serious, light-hearted, severe
- Environment – Lighting, comfort, stodgy, freeform, distractions, in-person, virtual
- How they end – “Go get’em!” or “We’ll never get all this done.”
- Trust – Fully trusting employees to do the job employed to do or are checks and balances with a dash of continual monitoring the order of each day?
Words Will Never…
It’s clear that words can in fact hurt you despite the old “sticks and stones” adage. Words, including emails, breakroom chatter, text messages, and even memes can and do own our primary senses and attention.
It’s tough to compete in these channels and be memorable with positivity and optimism. Continue to mitigate the best you can but realize there is another way.
Communicating optimism is not only a verbal or written message. Optimism is an experience.
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It’s often debated how to best communicate with so many generations co-existing in today’s workforce. Digital, print, text, teams, zoom, etc. It’s a mountainous pile of communications spaghetti.
The one common ground we know to work across all demographics is feelings. Advertisers know this all too well.
Feel the Difference
Here are my top 10 ideas for communicating optimism through how you make them feel:
- It’s your birthday – Acknowledge employee birthdays. Simply a card or a full-on celebration
- Announce successes – Sales goal met, employee promoted, employee’s personal successes outside of work acknowledged
- Newsletter/video update – Everything good happening in your organization announced weekly
- Charity – Working together to support a common charity such as a childhood cancer organization
- Work from (trust) – Outside, home, vacation home, communal office, beanbag chair, coffee shop, noon to nine, flextime
- Pop in – Don’t send an email to ask how their ailing mother is doing. Go talk to them!
- Notes – A handwritten note of praise, concern, encouragement
- Nutrition – Don’t underestimate the effects of food and drink during the day on mood and energy. Too much caffeine, sugar, and processed foods can create temporary highs and lasting lows.
- Sunlight – Encourage employees to take intermittent breaks to leave the office for a dose of sunshine and a change of view.
- Movement –
- Having everything at your fingertips can be a health and well-being curse. Printer, drinks, food, temperature controls, office supplies, etc.
- Consider standing desks and normalizing seeing people take breaks to stretch.
- Invite an instructor to demonstrate stretching and movement. Yoga, tai chi, resistance bands, tricep dips, etc.
What a Wonderful World
It’s been said that a goal of happiness is not a strategy for life. If you’re to this point in the article and you believe this is an article about creating happy employees, I’m not a very good writer.
If I could oversimplify the message for one takeaway, it is that a “wonderful world” in the workplace is simply cultivating positive and optimistic thoughts. Show people you genuinely care about their daily workplace experience.
~ Johnny Dodson
Director of Communications