Why You Need to Build an Infectious and Positive Workplace Culture

By Eric Chester

A positive attitude at work is infectious, so the more you call it out to others and encourage it in key employees, the easier it will be for you to radiate it throughout your culture.

This starts with the small things you do, like calling out the guy who works the double or the receptionist who comes in when it’s snowing, but it continues with how far you radiate those kinds of things each day.

To create a positive culture, talk to your young people about the good things that are happening throughout your business. If you can’t share positive news about the company, shine the light on some-thing good that’s taking place in your community, the nation, or the world. Make it your mission to be a purveyor of good tidings. Go out of your way to be the beacon of light when everything else they may be exposed to drags them down.

Do you neglect your internal customers?

The manager of a large supermarket in St. Louis told me that she schedules an all-store meeting once each quarter solely to share success stories of employees — both work-related and non-work-related — with her entire team. Although the meetings are not mandatory and begin at 7 a.m. on Saturdays, she said the attendance at these meetings is always at or near 100 percent because all the dialogue is centered around the positive things her people are doing.

Many organizations put tons of effort into promoting the good news about their company to the outside world in an effort to attract and keep investors. But they neglect their internal customers — their workers.

I’ve seen customers try to strike up conversations with cashiers about a piece of news they read about the industry or even the specific company the cashier works for, only to have the cashier give them a deer-in-the-headlights look. Take it upon yourself to make your frontline staff feel like an important cog in the wheel of your operation by keeping them informed. Even if you’re giving these employees a piece of not-so-good news, they’ll be more positive because they feel important.

Make it your mission to help your young employees see that they are on a train that’s going somewhere important, and that they are part of something positive and good. Don’t stretch small victories into giant ones, but when good things happen, spend as much time telling your frontline workers as you do telling your potential investors.

Sure, you want to promote your brand to the world. But don’t leapfrog over your frontline employees. Outside investors look in the eyes of your employees every day and decide whether it’s a good company — a place they want to invest their money.

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Removing the negative

One of the most effective ways to radiate a positive attitude throughout your culture is to simply look for, and then remove, the things that create a negative attitude. Enter your workplace through the backdoor and see your operation from your employees’ perspectives.

Is your signage positive, or does it read like it was sent down from the principal’s office? There’s a big difference between a sign on the employee entrance that says, “All Employees Must Park in the Back Lot” and one that says, “Our Customers Pay Our Wages, So Let’s Save the Closest Parking for Them.” Carefully edit the negative language and overtones out of employee email, notices, and other forms of communication, and look for creative ways to present them in a more positive way.

Take steps to remove the drab and dreary signs, colors, and broken items that have a way of infesting back areas of workplaces. Managers often allow this to happen because “employees are the only ones exposed to it.” You can’t isolate your staff members from all the negativity that surrounds them, but you can take steps to remove some of the nastiness from your workplace.

Keep in mind that great employees are out there, but some first impressions can lead you to believe otherwise. They don’t need Zippo the Clown to give them a quick attitude fix. They need a leader who is determined to pull them up into the Valued Quadrant and do whatever it takes to keep them there.

Excerpted with permission from Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce, by Eric Chester. Copyright 2012 by Eric Chester. For copies, visit revivingworkethic.com. Published by Greenleaf Book Group Press, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at EricChester.com and follow him at @eric_chester