5 principles for creating a culture of positivity at work

by Charlie Cartwright

negative to positive chalkboardIf the managers in your organization are unhappy that employees aren’t productive or engaged in the work, it could be because the managers themselves are unhappy. Positivity is what keeps a workplace ticking. It all starts with supervisors. And all they have to do is treat employees a little bit better.

In fact, the most common reason people quit their jobs is an unpleasant boss. So coach your company’s managers and supervisors to be fair, warm, courteous and trustworthy when dealing with the people who report to them. Encourage them to maintain a constructive, ongoing dialogue that can contribute greatly to employees’ overall sense of value, commitment and positive morale.

Here are my five principles for creating a culture of positivity at work:

1. Consistent intensity. Here’s what we see so often in the workplace: If someone makes a mistake, they’re made aware of it immediately and forcefully. But do you do that with such intensity when somebody does great work?

What’s needed is a balance—one that’s commensurate with right and wrong. The fact is: People do the right thing so much more often than they do the wrong thing. So build up a bank of good will with your employees by “catching” them in the act of doing good. That way, when they do the wrong things, it’s a lot easier to challenge them.

Bottom line: Up to 90% of all doctor visits are stress-related. Don’t let your organization’s supervisors make the work environment more stressful than positive. Coach them to practice consistent intensity: The good is just as good as the bad is bad, after all. React accordingly.

2. Fairness. Fairness in the workplace builds trust. If I know you’re fair, then I know you’re treating me the same way as every other employee, and I start to believe what you’re saying. I can trust your behavior.

Bottom line: Trust drives beliefs; beliefs drive behavior; behavior drives results. If we don’t have trust, we won’t have correct beliefs, and then we won’t have the desired behaviors and we won’t get the results we want. The foundation has to be fairness.

3. Warmth. Everyone knows the difference between a “Hey, how are you doing?” greeting and a genuinely warm greeting.

Remember Zig Ziglar’s famous quote: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Bottom line: When managers do little things like making sure there’s a cake for every employee’s birthday, morale, loyalty, productivity and even attendance improve. Who’s unhappy when there’s cake around?

4. Courtesy. This is a lost art. When I go to the store, the clerk might say “thank you”—maybe—but she doesn’t even look at me. I hear about managers and leaders who never say “thank you” or “good job” to their employees.

Discourtesy can eat away at a culture’s morale and cause a lot of hard feelings. And if we’re discourteous to our employees, we create angry employees. Angry employees will try to get even with the company by taking sick days when they’re well and by taking undo advantage of things like workers’ comp.

5. Trust. It’s the foundation of all of this. When managers trust their employees and the employees trust their supervisors, which drives positive behaviors and an adherence to the values that your organization’s leaders most likely say they stand for.

Around the globe, employees consistently say what they want most is respect, so it’s important to let employees know that you respect and value them.

Bottom line: You can’t have one-way trust. For people to trust managers and leaders, they need to be trustworthy, not just talk about it. Managers’ behavior must measure up to the principles of the organization. Employees need to witness that in action.


Charlie Cartwright is an assistant VP and a claims cost control consultant with Lockton Companies. Contact him at  (816) 960-9857.