II. Be Positive


“Here’s a little song I wrote.
You might want to sing it note for note.
Don’t worry, be happy.
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double.
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now.”

That song, by Bobby McFerrin, will probably never be the anthem of corporate America. Is it too far-fetched, however, to agree that a happy workplace is a productive workplace? Some might say that this simplistic notion would only be adopted in the quality control department at the local medical marijuana dispensary – and then forget about the productivity! Work is about working; not about having a good time, they say. But, are working and being happy necessarily mutually exclusive?

They should not be, according to Shawn Achor, winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University and author of The Happiness Advantage. These are his words:

“Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds, happiness will follow. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn’t just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe. For instance:

• Doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19% faster.
• Optimistic sales people outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56%.
• Happy workers have higher levels of productivity, produce higher sales, perform better in leadership positions, and receive higher performance ratings and higher pay. They also enjoy more job security and are less likely to take sick days, to quit, or to become burned out.
• Happy, engaged workers have been shown receive up to 25% higher job performance ratings than their unhappy colleagues, which translates into a better bottom line.
• On average, business units in the top quartile on the employee engagement produced 1 to 4 percentage points higher profitability.”

Hopefully, those hard facts and statistics give the average executive license to ease up a little and find a way to make his/her own workplace more enjoyable. In fact, the statistics show that a manager who can’t help his/her employees to “be happy now” is costing the company a boatload of profit.

In my 35 year career, I have worked for some very positive bosses, and for some whose negativity was toxic.  When I had a positive boss, my productivity and creativity increased dramatically.  I felt confident that my work was appreciated and that I could try to improve on existing practices without fear of punishment.  Even when I did something wrong, it was much easier to accept criticism from a positive boss and to improve my performance. Working for a toxic boss is stifling and demoralizing.  I left those situations as soon as possible. Because of my personal experience with positive bosses, I have attempted to be as positive with my employees as I know how.  The rewards, both in terms of productivity and loyalty have been remarkable. Happiness is an advantage.

While being successful in business requires a lot more than just being able to whistle while you work, the leader who maintains a positive attitude has a very positive impact on the workforce and workplace productivity. There are some relatively easy things that a manager can do to promote a positive attitude in the workplace. It might sound silly, but you can start by smiling when you see people on and off the job. Learn the names of the employees and greet them by name when you can. A quick trip around the workplace in the morning to say “Good Morning” to everyone is a great way to start the day for everyone. Look for ways to compliment the people who work for you. These are all simple things but they mean a lot when you take the time to set a happy tone in your workplace.

Finally, find joy in your journey. You spend much of your life at work. Why not enjoy it? Be happy now.

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