This past week I found myself working with a new team member on a biggish project with an imminent deadline. As we wrapped up key parts of it late Friday afternoon, he looked up and said, “Hey, thanks for all your hard work, I’ve really enjoyed working with you.”
Although I still had a fair bit of work to do, and despite the fact it had been thrown to me at the last minute, his comment went a long way to making the effort seem worthwhile.
Most of us spent large chunks of our lives at our jobs, so the conditions we find ourselves in there have quite an effect on the rest our lives. How we feel at the end of the work day then influences how we feel and react at home and other places (such as on the roads!).
Like school for kids, in any work there are two components – the relationships part and the task itself. We measure our sense of positivity at work from both. More often than not, it’s the people that make work miserable.
I was in the supermarket recently. As I walked around shopping I could hear yelling at the front of the store. When I went to pay, the supervisor was berating one of the checkout operators. The words coming out of her mouth were ugly. Personally attacking. Belittling. Bullying. Abusive. And constant. I reckon I heard at least 5 minutes of it. From a very minor part of her communication, I worked out that the person in question had arrived 15 minutes late.
Even if this person is chronically tardy, that is not the way to deal with a behaviour issue. The supervisor was entirely out of line. The checkout person was trapped. Everyone was on edge. I considered intervening but just paid and left instead (and haven’t been back!). I felt sorry for those who were stuck working there. Guess they didn’t have a good day…
The two experiences are strong contrasts. I know which environment I’d prefer to work in. So what can I do to increase my chances of experiencing positivity at work? As I reflected, I came up with these ideas:
1. Take ownership
Firstly, I can stop being passive. If I want positivity at work, I have to take some responsibility. It’s not ok for me to wait for others to stroke my ego and say nice things. If I want to work in a happy environment, I need to contribute. This is true whether I’m a manager or a pleb. I’m an adult – I can do something.
2. Drop the devices
Far too many of us walk around with our eyes on our phones. Put them away when you walk round your office (or wherever!). Looking people in the eye as you pass acknowledges them as human beings. Looking at your phone says they don’t rate. You don’t have to start a conversation. A smile or a nod or a “good morning” or a name will be an excellent start. I’ve been trying to do that lately – and to notice other people who do the same thing. I feel a lot more connected to a wider range of people because of it.
3. Notice the little things
Research tells us that most people really do have more good in their lives than bad – we just fail to appreciate it. If I define a good work environment as the absence of anything bad, then my measure of how positive my work is will rise. If I was that supermarket worker, once my supervisor had stopped yelling, I’d have been trying to appreciate each small good thing. ‘That customer said thank you,’ ‘The rush has slowed for a minute – I can relax a bit,’ ‘I like this lady I just served.’ These thoughts would stop me obsessing about the negative experience and help re-balance my state of mind.
Since many of us fail to appreciate these little things, stating them out loud can help others recognise the good as well. “We worked really well as a team today,” “Hey everyone, we finished before the deadline!” or even, “It’s nice to have comfy chairs in here” puts a simple small detail in a good light for others to appreciate. Savour those positives.
4. Speak positive words
When I’m tired or grumpy, I’m pretty good at whinging to my co-worker friends about everything that’s wrong with work and the other people in it. Perhaps I should decide to express some of the good things too. When I reflect on my last week, here’s some of the things I could have said to fellow workers (some of them I’m pleased to say I did!):
“Thanks for letting me know you were running late.”
“You were really gunning at that!”
“Good on you for helping that person – I know it wasn’t your job.”
“We did great!”
“Thank you for helping today.”
“I appreciate your confidence in me.”
As you think back over the last seven days, what could you have said that might have added to the positivity at work? I’m sure there’s something. Why not choose to speak some good into your fellow worker’s lives this week? You’ll feel good for choosing to do so. They might too. And your sense of positivity at work will increase. What’s there to lose? Other than some bad feelings?!?