Some executives would assert that expressing positive emotions in the workplace denies the harsh realities of 21st-century business, which is too fast-paced and competitive to dwell on people’s feelings.
It’s true that dishonest or inauthentic positivity creates even more negativity. We have to be able to deliver bad news in good ways so that it will be received and spark the desired changes. For example, when you need to give negative feedback, you must speak honestly, authentically and respectfully, and still have an impact.
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 years ago.
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 is quality management, Gallup research tells us. When employees fail to feel acknowledged and disapprove of their managers, they leave or simply stop trying. They become disengaged.
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 coaching work I do, I find that many people show a tendency 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 having been trained to focus on what we have to ‘improve’ in ourselves. In my next post, we’ll explore the negativity bias.