Even for the most positive among us, contact with an infectiously negative person can change our mood and outlook on life. At work, toxicity has the potential to dramatically alter the culture. With mountains of data connecting negativity and stress at work to poor health, lower engagement and dwindling profits, negative people have become some of the biggest liabilities in today’s modern economy.
Engaging bright side
But our research in positive psychology shows an energizing picture: In fact, we have identified the key to influencing an organization’s culture and pushing it into positive territory. By activating what we call the Hidden 31, you have the power—no matter your role at an organization—to rescript the culture at work to enhance talent and achievement.
In a cross-industry study with Training
magazine, we found that a whopping 31 percent of respondents say that they are “positive but not expressive of it at work.” These people are one step short of being champions of positivity. These optimists are just waiting to be activated, and they are your key to success.https://livehappy.com/blogs/happiness-motion/be-happy-work
Air your positivity
We are all broadcasters, constantly sharing information with others. What we choose to broadcast predicts happiness and success for all. It’s the focus of Michelle’s upcoming book, Broadcasting Happiness
. To overcome the debilitating signals of negative people, it is important to be highly expressive of our own positive mindsets and can-do attitudes and to activate others to do the same.
We are often asked whether positive people or negative people have a more powerful influence on a group. The answer from the research is neither. The people who have the most power to influence are the ones who are most verbally or nonverbally expressive of their mindset. Too often, the very vocal negative person writes the social script at work. By broadcasting our optimism, we can tip our companies, families and friendships to positive. Get others to do it, and great transformation can occur.
The key is to get the Hidden 31 to speak up. We’ve identified three steps to do this: identify, acknowledge and activate.
The most important step is finding out who is in the 31 percent. This can be done through formal surveys or informal conversations. Ask where they stand on a topic and note how expressive they are of their approval or disapproval. Too often managers we have worked with focus on converting the most pessimistic person in the room to be positive. Instead, focus energy on those already primed to be positive broadcasters.
The best way to get someone to be more expressive of positive positions is to let them know that they are not alone. If you are a positive person but feel like the people around you are not, you might not act.
The research shows that plenty of others around you at work actually are positive, even if they are not expressing it. Once you acknowledge that a third of the people around you are also optimists, it can engender positive change.
Activating even a few optimists can tip the culture in your favor. You can activate them in two main ways. First, boost your own signal. As you demonstrate positivity verbally and nonverbally, you change the conversation and show others how to do the same in a rational way. Second, after identifying the Hidden 31, give them easy ways to express their positive mindsets.
Suggest sending a positive email praising a colleague or sharing goals with their team that they are excited about. Starting with small steps gives even the introverts safe ways to express their positivity.
While this strategy works well for companies and business teams, it works at the family dinner table, too. Customers can also become “enthusiasts,” spreading the word about the product or service they appreciate. And sports teams can recruit and develop the Hidden 31, thereby tipping balances to winning mindsets.
If you identify, acknowledge and activate the Hidden 31 by giving people clear ways to express their positive mindsets, you can inspire optimism and happiness to go viral. And that makes it much easier for us all to live happy.
What motivates you at work? Let us know in the comments section, below.
SHAWN ACHOR is the New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. After he spent 12 years at Harvard University, Shawn traveled to more than 50 countries, bringing positive psychology to schools and companies. He is co-founder of the happiness research and consulting group Goodthink Inc.
MICHELLE GIELAN is an expert on the science of positive communication and how to use it to fuel success. She holds a master’s degree in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and is co-founder of the happiness research and consulting group Goodthink Inc. Her first book is called Broadcasting Happiness
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