What Good is a Positive Outlook at Work?

 Positive At Work

Pursuit of happiness” may be an inalienable American right, but in American business, it was long considered irrelevant.

Individually, most of us would like to be more creative, increase our productivity, have more energy, increase sales, feel more engaged with our tasks and be happier.

Most employers would like those things, too—except perhaps for that last one: our being happier. It’s not that they’re necessarily against happiness. For a long time, happiness has just seemed irrelevant at work, where attitudes like “Leave your problems at home” and “You’re not paid to be happy” have historically prevailed.

Conventional wisdom has long held that unemotional, logical and task-oriented team members worked the hardest, produced the most and led most quickly to organizational success.

But the shift from an industrial economy to a knowledge-based one has led to new business issues. In decades past, when deadlines were missed, costs were overrun or a project lost money, usually the blame lay with technical problems, loss of funding or shifts in demand.

Today, the most intractable business problems tend to stem from internal disagreements, poor interpersonal skills, and low morale.

Promisingly, research shows that people who work with a positive mind-set perform better on nearly every level —productivity, creativity, engagement and trust. Plentiful evidence also indicates that business outcomes improve when the brain is positive.

Some business leaders embrace this connection and promote positivity as a potent factor in organizational success. “Trust and engagement…make staff happier (and) 87% less likely to leave,” says Fast Company magazine. “This has a direct impact on the bottom line…Analysts found that (companies among the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work For) consistently outperform major stock indices by 300%.”

No wonder Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness became a bestseller.

But what if your company isn’t so happiness-focused? What can you do on your own to be more positive, productive and satisfied?

The answer is, you can cultivate your own positive mind-set—or as positive psychology researcher Shawn Achor calls it, “the happiness advantage”—with some simple, private mindfulness practices.

Achor points to the connection between mindfulness and enhanced brain function. A calm brain (one not overwhelmed by things like multitasking) is a more positive, productive brain.

Barbara Frederickson, author of Positivity, makes the link between a positive mindset and happy relationships, improved health, less depression, and broadened perspectives. Her quick Positivity Self-Test may provide you some personal insight.

If you want to develop a more positive life, the path there is through developing new habits. As you develop new habits, you rewire your brain to be happier. Engaging in one brief positive exercise every day for as little as three weeks can have a lasting impact.

Choose one (or all) of the simple practices below to increase your own happiness:

  1. Jot down three things you are grateful for.
  2. Write a positive message to someone in your social support network.
  3. Meditate at your desk for just two minutes. Here are some subtle postures you can use.
  4. Exercise your body for 10 minutes.
  5. Create a daily journal describing your most meaningful experience of the day.

These small steps, taken consistently, can transform your life not only at work, but everywhere else. As Dr. Frederickson points out, “Experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative emotions leads people to achieve what they once could only imagine.”

Let me know how it goes on your positivity adventure!