Sunny attitudes boost workplace productivity

It’s no surprise that happy people are popular socially – but studies show that maintaining a positive attitude at work can affect many things, including performance. And it’s not just because coworkers like optimists. The study “Why does affect matter in organizations?” shows positive people not only influence the environment around them, but they also work more efficiently and get more done.

According to Sigal Barsade PhD, the co-author of the study, positive people tend to do better at work because they are more efficient at processing information. “If you’re in a negative mood, a fair amount of processing is going to that mood. When you’re in a positive mood, you’re more open to taking in information and handling it effectively.”

Additionally, the study indicated that employees who possess positive affect, or emotion, are more actively involved in pursuing work goals. The results indicate that being positive at work can translate to success.

How positivity affects the work of the team

Even in spontaneous collaborations, teams follow a cycle as they produce work together – forming, storming, norming, performing.

As they form a team, there’s often conflict – or storming – as team members negotiate their responsibilities. When the conflicts are worked out, the team comes to a stage where they are in agreement (norming), and finally taking on the tasks that will produce the desired outcome (performing).

When negative individuals are on the team, “storming” could last longer adding to the overall length of the project. Just as bad – the prolonged negativity could affect the mood of the other team members and impact their performance long-term.

So how do team members and managers recognize when negativity is prolonging the storming period and how do they resolve it?

Explore the importance of being positive with the entire team. When each person understands that being happy and optimistic not only affects their performance, but also their coworkers’ performance, they may be willing to embrace a more positive outlook at work.

Each team member should strive to start the day with optimism. With so much at stake, it’s worth it to ask each member of your team to try to be positive each day. The discussion paves the way for managers to remind staff of this commitment when workers fall into negativity.

As an individual, you can lead the positivity movement at work. Take it upon yourself to say hello to coworkers or smile more often. When you treat others with kindness and appear happy, you can infuse the entire workplace with lightness.

Find the good in each situation. Each failure, delay and awkward moment can be a valuable learning experience. You probably won’t feel great while you’re immersed in the bad situation, but if you can position the situation positively you can keep your mind and emotions off your negative feelings and onto the work task at hand.

The singer, Lyle Lovett, once said that your good friends are the ones that you commiserate with, rather than celebrate with. If you feel that it’s important to allow a coworker to complain in order to preserve the relationship, you can agree on how long to allow the complaining to go on. But keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to maintain a positive attitude in every situation. Do that and you’ll find that a simple smile can transform your workplace success.


Barsade and Gibson; Why does affect matter in organizations? Academy of Management Perspectives, February 2007

Do positive and negative attitudes drive performance; Wharton Knowledge, University of Pennsylvania, April 2007.

Why boosting positivity ultimately equals productivity

If you’re a manager, you’re probably familiar with the established ways to increase skills and productivity in your team. Training, mentoring and company-sponsored tuition reimbursement are all traditional avenues to a higher-performing team, at least according to corporate wisdom. But despite your best intentions, the traditional route may not result in a corresponding increase in team productivity – at least not immediately.

Whether you decide to embrace those methods or not, there’s another effective way to help your team boost their productivity – and it doesn’t cost a cent. I’m talking about embracing positivity.

A recent study shows happy people are more productive

Not only do positive people influence the environment around them, which helps elevate happiness in the workplace, but they’re also more productive according to several studies.

A University of Warwick study found that companies who invest in employee satisfaction will see a more productive workforce; one professor said: “Companies like Google have invested more in employee support and employee satisfaction has risen as a result. For Google, it rose by 37%, they know what they are talking about. Under scientifically controlled conditions, making workers happier really pays off.”

The study showed that because happier staff use their time more effectively, workplaces that make a deliberate effort to be emotionally healthy will see business gains that range from employee retention to profitability.

Of course, it’s not as simple as snapping your fingers and telling your team to think positive. The natural team process – forming, storming, norming, performing – will snag different employees in different places. After coming together (forming), the team adjusts to each other’s personalities and work styles and negotiates responsibilities (storming). This is where cynical or unhappy team members can slide into negative thinking and assume the storming portion of the collaborative process will last forever – and that they’ll suffer as a result.

Those negative expectations can lead to a failure in building relationships, a stagnation in assignment completion, and ultimately a dismal impact on results. This can stop the natural segue to balance (norming) and finally working on collective goals together (performing). On the other hand, if the team begins the process with positive expectations, and set the standards for positive thinking and behaving, they’ll be more focused on achieving goals, working through conflicts and reaching the norming and performing stages.

So just how do you as a manager take your team to a positive place?

Establish a culture of optimism

Look in the mirror. One of the best ways to encourage a culture of positivity is to embrace an optimistic attitude yourself. Maybe it’s not in your nature; maybe you’ve got personal problems at home that have you a little preoccupied these days. Regardless, your performance as a manager will depend on how well you condition yourself to think positively and adopt an attitude of gratitude. Your staff will mirror your attitude toward the company and toward your specific department workload, so be sure to set the right example. When a pessimistic thought enters your mind, try to transition to a more positive mindset. Over time, it’ll become a more natural part of your character and your staff may be inspired to do the same.

Set healthy expectations. Even though you can’t mandate that your team be happy, you can help them by consistently focusing on the positive. For instance, start or end staff meetings with each team member sharing at least one “win” or new development for which they are thankful. Some managers even show a short film clip by a comedian, motivational speaker, or play music to kick off meetings. If the road to a certain outcome might get a little rough, prepare your team in advance so they don’t become discouraged by obstacles.

Be transparent. You can foster trust in your employees by being as transparent as possible about what’s going on in the organization. This includes giving your direct reports notice about upcoming large or high profile projects, being honest about any roadblocks and discussing any negative media reports or rumors. Also, being honest about your own vulnerability or saying you don’t know what the future holds can build a lot of trust with your team.Your team wants a leader they can turn to with their hopes and their fears – being open with them will help establish that rapport.

Appreciate your people. Lastly, remember to give positive feedback when it’s deserved. Call out good results and good deeds in a genuine way. Disingenuous compliments fall flat; your staff may question your motives and the purpose of the compliment is lost. Conversely, if you see that a team member is down, ask if there’s anything you can do to help. A caring manager who demonstrates concern for a staff member’s well being can make the difference between an employee who leaves the company and an employee who works through an issue and stays to become a top performer.

10 Tips for Men to Communicate Better with Female Coworkers

Gender Cooperation Workshops

It may surprise you – as it did me –that there are still times when men have difficulty finding common ground with their female colleagues. There’s always work to talk about, right? But many men feel they can’t connect with women like they can with other guys, by inviting them for an after-work beer or talking about last night’s football game.

Often they’re afraid of their approach being misconstrued or that other colleagues might look askance on them for mentoring emerging female leaders. As a result, some professional relationships suffer and the team doesn’t work quite as efficiently as it could. Men and women both miss out on opportunities to build advantageous new connections in their industries.

If that sounds familiar, here are ten tips to help men connect with female colleagues:

  1. Be authentic in every interaction. Nothing creates “awkward” like a coworker who thinks you’re trying to be something you’re not.
  2. Listen. Ask more questions in conversations, and comment to show you’re engaged and interested.
  3. Identify topics to talk about – like world news, culture and industry trends – rather than relying on typical small talk about work and sports.
  4. Family is always a safe area. Parents love to talk about their kids and this can provide you with common ground to bond over.
  5. Don’t view attractive female colleagues as something to be avoided. Think of them as sisters or girls you grew up with and treat them like anyone else.
  6. Don’t worry about how you’re being perceived by others. Focus on learning from your coworkers and collaborating to create the best possible results.
  7. Come up with networking goals before conferences and events. For instance, decide you’re going to meet three new professionals in your industry and learn three specific facts about their background and current position.
  8. Praise coworkers on their professional abilities or share a technique that’s brought you success. Remember tip 2 – listen more than talk.
  9. Don’t stick to your clique at work. Attend some of the social team-building events to meet new coworkers at all levels and build genuine connections.
  10. Don’t assume your new female contact is less accomplished or educated, or needs your assistance. What you might view as “help” might be perceived as condescension. Get to know her background and treat her as a peer, not a subordinate.

Remember, most of your coworkers want to minimize awkward moments, too. Authentic and positive work relationships benefit everyone – and if you reach out to women in your workplace and industry in a respectful way, that’s exactly what you’ll build.

Guys, some of you need dating help.

Recently, I had dinner with a friend in Palo Alto and at the table next to us a guy was on a first date with a beautiful girl. He was talking a lot, getting more and more worked up, his volume rising, and she wasn’t saying a word…

I said to my friend, “He’s blowing it, someone has to save him (and her) from this train wreck. If she goes to the restroom, I’m going to say something to him.”

A few minutes later, the girl goes to the restroom...

“Pssst, psst… “, I say in the direction of the guy. He looks over. I say, “Are you on a first date?”

“Maybe.” He says.

“Well, you’re gonna blow it. Calm down, show her your interested in her, ask her questions like, “What are your hobbies or interests?” or “What’s your family like?”

He says, with a glimmer of desperation in his voice, “Really? That’s great. What else can I ask her?”

This is a true story. I was a self-proclaimed “Dating Angel” for the evening and I’d do it again. It’s incredible how little the sexes know about each other, we often have no idea what makes the other gender tick. And even worse, its trial and error! Why don’t they give us dating manuals at confirmations, quinceañeras, or barmitzvahs? Maybe its a form of population control?

In this post, I’m going to focus on helping men. (Maybe next week, I’ll write one to help women.) These are my five tips for men to help them date successfully (Assuming success is getting a second and third date with the same woman.)

1) Slow down. Women like men who are calm, cool and collected. Speak and move calmly and slowly (But not so slow that you bore us to death.) It’s very attractive when a man “glides” around a room, taking charge assertively, yet smoothly, so as not to seem arrogant or demanding.

2) Ask questions. It’s amazing to me how many men have no idea that women want them to do that. (In fact, when women do it, men are annoyed by it.) They also don’t have a clue what to ask. The guy in my restaurant story above actually asked me, “What other questions should I ask her?” And I said, “What would you do if you won the lottery? What’s the last book you read? Movie you saw? Anything not overly personal or inappropriate.

3) Remember the 70-30 rule. She should be talking on the date 70% of the time. Listen, probe, chuckle, praise, and encourage her to keep talking. She’ll remember the date as fun and you as a sweet, attentive and attractive guy. Listening is the sexiest thing in the world for a woman. And its the last thing men think about doing. It beats flexing your muscles, talking about your Porsche, or even using humor. (However, if you’re funny, that’s a close second.)

4) Compliment us. This is a good sentence to use on a really innocent first date, (You know, the kind of outing where you’re not totally sure its a date yet?) “I hope I’m not being too forward, but you look lovely tonight.” Or the neanderthal version: “You look great.” Tell us we’re clever, smart, interesting, or funny and it will please us to the core. Another good phrase, “I never looked at it that way, you’re so insightful…” will get you lots of points. But make sure you mean it when you say it, so it doesn’t sound overly schmoozy.

5) Make her feel special. This may go without saying, but it astounds me how many men treat women on first dates as if they’re their best friend from college, a colleague from work, or a female gym buddy. Show her she’s special, bring a small gift or a flower, open doors, make your car smell good, wear something a little nicer than normal, order a special drink or bottle of something, share a dessert, walk her to her door, hold her hand, give her a hug, even go in for the (romantic) kiss. Let her know you thought about her and prepared for your time together.

So the end of my restaurant story goes like this:

The girl comes back to the table from the restroom and he quietly asks her, “What’s the last good book you read?” She starts chatting away, laughing… He asks another question and another… he’s speaking softly, chuckling at her answers.

They’re finished with dinner and the waiter comes over and asks if she’d like another glass of wine. Me and my friend, and I’m sure the guy on the date with her, all hold our breath for a moment,

“Yes, that would be great.” she says.

As we pay and get up to leave, I give him a thumbs up…