PROOF THAT POSITIVE WORK CULTURES ARE MORE PRODUCTIVE

By 
Emma Seppala
 and 
Kim Cameron
December 01, 2015

Too many companies bet on having a cut-throat, high-pressure, take-no-prisoners culture to drive their financial success.

But a large and growing body of research on positive organizational psychology demonstrates that not only is a cut-throat environment harmful to productivity over time, but that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line.

Although there’s an assumption that stress and pressure push employees to perform more, better, and faster, what cutthroat organizations fail to recognize is the hidden costs incurred.

Wellbeing comes from one place, and one place only — a positive culture.

Creating a positive and healthy culture for your team rests on a few major principles.

The qualities of a positive workplace culture boils down to six essential characteristics:

1
Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends.
2
Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling.
3
Avoiding blame and forgive mistakes.
4
Inspiring one another at work.
5
Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work.
6
Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust, and integrity.

FOSTER SOCIAL CONNECTIONS

A large number of empirical studies confirm that positive social connections at work produce highly desirable results. For example, people get sick less often, recover twice as fast from surgery, experience less depression, learn faster and remember longer, tolerate pain and discomfort better, display more mental acuity, and perform better on the job.

Conversely, 
research
 by Sarah Pressman at the University of California, Irvine, found that the probability of dying early is:
  •  20% higher for obese people
  • 30% higher for excessive drinkers
  • 50% higher for smokers, but a whopping
  • 70% higher for people with poor social relationships.

Toxic, stress-filled workplaces affect social relationships.

TRUEFALSE

CORRECT

You're right, this statement is TRUE!

Toxic, stress-filled workplaces affect social relationships and, consequently, life expectancy.

INCORRECT

Sorry, this statement is not false.

Toxic, stress-filled workplaces affect social relationships and, consequently, life expectancy.

SHOW EMPATHY

As a boss, you have a huge impact on how your employees feel.

A telling 
brain-imaging study
 found that, when employees recalled a boss that had been unkind or un-empathic, they showed increased activation in areas of the brain associated with avoidance and negative emotion while the opposite was true when they recalled an empathic boss.

DID YOU KNOW?

Moreover, Jane Dutton and her colleagues in the CompassionLab at the University of Michigan 
suggest
 that leaders who demonstrate compassion toward employees foster individual and collective resilience in challenging times.
Research shows
 that 
workplace stress
 leads to an increase of almost 50% in voluntary turnover.

When leadership sacrifices for their team, employees often take advantage of them.

TRUEFALSE

CORRECT

You're right, this statement is FALSE!

Daan Van Knippenberg of Rotterdam School of Management shows that employees of self-sacrificing leaders are more cooperative because they trust their leaders more. They are also more productive and see their leaders as more effective and charismatic.

← Back to the question

INCORRECT

Sorry, this statement is not true.

Daan Van Knippenberg of Rotterdam School of Management shows that employees of self-sacrificing leaders are more cooperative because they trust their leaders more. They are also more productive and see their leaders as more effective and charismatic.

← Back to the question

GO OUT OF YOUR WAY TO HELP

Ever had a manager or mentor who took a lot of trouble to help you when he or she did not have to? Chances are you have remained loyal to that person to this day. 
Jonathan Haidt
 at New York University’s Stern School of Business shows 
in his research
 that when leaders are not just fair but self-sacrificing, their employees are actually moved and inspired to become 
more loyal and committed themselves. As a consequence, they are more likely to go out of their way to be helpful and friendly to other employees
, thus creating a self-reinforcing cycle.
Happier employees make for not only a more congenial workplace but for improved 
customer service
.

ENCOURAGE COMMUNICATION

Not surprisingly, 
trusting that the leader
 has your best interests at heart improves employee performance. Employees feel safe rather than fearful and, as 
research
 by Amy Edmondson of Harvard 
demonstrates
 in her work on psychological safety, a culture of safety i.e. in which leaders are inclusive, humble, and encourage their staff to speak up or ask for help, leads to better learning and performance outcomes. Rather than creating a culture of fear of negative consequences, feeling safe in the workplace helps encourage the spirit of experimentation so critical for innovation. Kamal Birdi of Sheffield University has 
shown
 that empowerment, when coupled with good training and teamwork, leads to superior performance outcomes whereas a range of efficient manufacturing and operations practices do not.

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