Building A Positive Culture In An Atmosphere of Fear

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Jun 14, 2016

Recognize This! – A strategy that includes evidence-based business cases and ground-up moments of positivity can help shift companies away from leaders who manage through fear or pressure.

Of the recent webinars that I’ve given and attended, there is almost always the inevitable question from someone in the audience: “how can an organization become more positive when leaders there believe that the best way to motivate people is through pressure or fear?”

That style of leadership, a holdover from the early days of scientific management and industrial thinking, can be a hard habit to break in an individual leader, not to mention when it pervades an entire culture.

Transforming it into a more positivity-driven approach requires two complementary approaches.

The first approach is centered on leveraging the available data and scientific research to make a business case for the benefits of more human ways of working.

Our own research, covered in this WorkHuman Research Institute report, has shown the impact that leaders can have when employees believe they care about creating a human workplace. They are more likely to work hard for the organization and to find solutions to any business challenge that arises. There is also increasing evidence that a culture of compassion can boost not only employee well-being but overall financial success as well.

And these examples are just a snapshot of the growing body of evidence that supports positivity- and human-powered workplaces as a business imperative.

The second approach is taking small moments and building them into a gradual cultural shift. For skeptics that doubt the research applies to their own unique situations, these moments are clear examples that positivity is both possible and actionable across organizations.

Employees don’t need to wait for formal change to begin making changes in the way they approach work and by extension, their relationships with coworkers. They can tell their colleagues that they matter and are valued, expressing gratitude for the work and contributions they make- whether the impact is personal, organizational, or community-wide. Over time, the collection of these positive moments begins to go viral, spilling over from person to person. Building a culture of appreciation from the ground up will also have positive benefits for individuals that engage in these types of prosocial behavior.

Together, both approaches have the potential to create a shift away from management-by-fear to management-by-recognition. The shift may not be easy and all employees may not join in, but those that do will reap the benefits of a more human workplace. As momentum grows, companies can further leverage social recognition solutions that amplify the positive interactions between employees.

Have you seen a shift at your own company towards more positive ways of working? What has been successful?