20 May Let’s Make Work a Healthy Life Experience!
Would you describe the experience you have at work as a healthy life experience? I hope that’s the case, but for many it is not. There are still many organizations that prescribe to the overwork and overwhelm style of management, despite an ever increasing body of research showing that a more positive work culture creates the foundation for wellness, engagement and innovation.
And the benefits extend far beyond employee well-being; a flourishing workplace culture is good for the organization’s customers, as well as its overall success.
Here are some tips for building a positive work culture.
Create a Possibility Vision
“In the face of difficulty, we can despair, get angry…or choose possibility.” – Rosamund Zander.
In a positive work culture, the focus is on possibility versus constraint. As Robert Quinn describes in The Positive Organization: Breaking Free from Conventional Cultures, Constraints, and Beliefs, people flourish and generally exceed expectations in these types of organizations.
Quinn reminds us that organizations are never stagnant but are continually becoming either more negative or more positive.
When yours seems to be in a downward spiral, creating a possibility framework or vision to live into can release people from their focus on the ‘problems’ and allow them to see the big picture.
The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander describes the process of creating a possibility vision in the interest of a positive work culture. This process starts with getting curious.
Ask Transformational Questions
Asking questions is essential, and asking better questions might be what’s needed to investigate, discover and learn more about what’s required to make work a healthy life experience.
Transformational questions can help to create a new framework and engage people in moving toward the possibility vision.
Here are some examples
- Where do you want your team or organization to be in a year? 2 years? 5 years?
- Who are we when we are at our best?
- What assumptions are we making that we’re not aware we’re making?
- What do we want our culture to be?
- What might we now invent that we haven’t yet invented that will give us other choices?
- What are we striving to become?
- How can we build on our strengths?
- What guides our everyday behaviour?
Quit the “Crisis Culture”
Creativity increases when people are not chronically overworked, as does the ability to handle crises.
A healthy workplace culture — as opposed to a “crisis-culture,” where every day is about stress and crises — allows for the renewal, extra energy, and capacity to handle the real problems when they show up.
I realized this as a young person working in a very dysfunctional workplace with a 50% turnover rate.
The math was easy. We had about 35 people working in the office and I saw 17 of them leave in the first year I was there. I even had a friend who became the “toxic handler” – a person whose door is always open to lend an ear to those mistreated.
When no one with the power to change things will listen, these toxic handlers show up…that is until they burn out or leave from the strain of the toxicity, which my friend eventually did.
What was incredulous to me was that the people in power didn’t identify this as a problem.
Work can — and should — be part of a healthy life experience, not the exhausting and stressful experience that it often is.
Invite People to Flourish
“What we believe determines what we can imagine.” – Robert Quinn.
A vision of possibility is an invitation to flourish. In my early days of leading the Health Work & Wellness Conference, our team spent a day together crafting our mission and vision. The vision was “to see healthy organizations become ‘the expected’ versus ‘the extraordinary’.”
This was a vision we believed in and could see had possibility. It inspired our work as we brought together thought leaders each year to discuss ways to shift work cultures in a positive direction.
Inviting people to flourish means encouraging actions that increase positivity in your team. I recently read that most teams function at a positivity ratio of 1:1, meaning that there is a negative interaction for every positive one.
At a positivity ratio this low, the team will tend to languish because the negative experiences are so much more potent than the positive.
By contrast, according to Dr. Michael West, author of Effective Teamwork. Practical Lessons from Organizational Research, most high-performing teams have 5 or 6 positive interactions to every negative one.
Creating a possibility culture and inviting people to flourish are powerful ways to stop a downward spiral and shift your organization in a positive direction.
Reduce Gratuitous Negativity
A big part of creating a positive work culture is facilitating valuable and constructive conversations.
Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life, tells us that by reducing gratuitous negativity such as over-generalizing, ruminating on problems, and magnifying setbacks, our positivity increases.
Other ways of increasing team or organizational positivity include incorporating practices like appreciative inquiry, mindfulness, gratitude, and meditation into the workplace.
For example, starting a team meeting by asking members to share one win from the past week or something they are grateful for is an excellent way of boosting positivity and flourishing in your team.
Does your workplace offer a healthy life experience?
In organizations where work is a positive life experience, there’s more potential for excellence on every level.
The experience I had at the “crisis culture” workplace so long ago got me thinking that there had to be a better way, so I decided to make it my life’s work to inspire leaders to shift work culture in a positive direction.
If you have this dream too, perhaps I can help guide you in the right direction?
I love working with leaders to help organizations flourish. Get started by ordering your copy of A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture or booking a consultation.
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This article was originally published in 2015, but was updated for 2021.