Global Leadership Blog

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.

Melissa Lamson

About The Author

Melissa Lamson, Founder and President of Lamson Consulting, is an author, consultant, and speaker who accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross cultural communication. More About Melissa Lamson