Positive Employers Make Positive Workplaces

Positive Work Series Contents:

My Workspace
Being a Positive Employee

So far, we've talked about making your workspace a breeding ground for positive energy and how to be a positive employee. We're going to switch gears slightly and talk about the employers out there and how you can help your entire organization be a positive working machine.

Most people think that it's the employees that make or break a business or organization. While that is partly true, it's important to realize that employers have the power to set the tone and attitude for the entire group. They're leaders and they can have tremendous influence on those that work for them.

The stereotypical boss is demanding, stressed, ungrateful and only cares about the bottom line. While these people certainly exist, it's worth noting that there are really all kind of employers in the world. I've had the extreme fortune of being able to work for some amazing people through the years. While not every boss I've had has been ideal, the majority of my employers have been gracious, encouraging, intelligent and humble. Here are some lessons I've learned from them and have taken with me into management positions as my career has progressed.

  1. Praise in public, criticize in private. This is crucial. No one is perfect (not even your all star employee) and everyone has things they need to work on. Whether it's something big or small, whatever the thing is, it's best discussed in private. Criticizing, ridiculing and yelling at someone in public is not acceptable. If it's something that needs to be addressed, go into an office, close the door and discuss the issue. If it's urgent and an office isn't available, take a quick walk away from the group for some privacy. But when it comes to giving praise or recognition for a job well done, this should be done in public.
  2. Lead by example. You should never ask your employees to do something that you are not willing to do. Being "above" menial tasks or other things that come with the job that many people do gives off a feeling that you're snobbish. I've had plenty of employers that don't mind making copies, starting up the coffee or giving credit where credit is due. They were the leaders in my mind without a doubt. They also demonstrated the kind of attitude that they hoped their employees would demonstrate.
  3. Lead, don’t manage. The phrase "manager" often leaves a bad taste in some people's mouths. When you manage someone, you're controlling their actions, making sure they fall into line with expectations and doing a specific list of tasks. Leaders don't manage. Seth Godin, in his book Tribes, makes some great points on this concept. Leaders allow their group to grow, offer new ideas, and test theories. If you want employees or team members who love to come to work, let them take ownership of their jobs. It will help with everyone's attitudes.
  4. Your team’s performance is a reflection of you. When things go right, it's easy to stand up and be recognized. But when things go wrong, the blame game inevitably starts up. The best employers are the kind who pass on credit but accept responsibility when they need to. Since your team's performance is a direct reflection of your leadership make sure you are empowering your team to reach their goals and end each day with a job well done.
  5. Open door policies should include an open mind. Just because you say you have an open door policy doesn't always mean that you're open to what the person who is walking through it has to say. What really matters is what happens after someone comes to you. Are you truly listening? Are you looking for both sides of the story or are you jumping to conclusions? Has this person come to you before? Are they emotional? It's easy to get distracted by office politics when it comes to conflicts or concerns, but the more you remain upbeat and objective, the easier it will be to find a solution.
  6. Keep your word, keep your team’s confidence. When you tell someone that something is confidential, it should stay that way. When you say that you will follow up on a policy or discuss an issue with someone else, you should do that. Yes, everyone gets busy and sometimes you forget to do things. But the more consistent you are in following up on things, the more your team will trust you to get things done.
  7. Remember you’re no better than your team. This goes back to #2 and #4, but it's worth repeating. Everyone has to start somewhere. And never forget that the person you're training could one day be your replacement. What is at the top of an organization travels down to the rest. This includes attitude. Set the tone that everyone is equal and your team will grow stronger together.
  8. Know when to say no. Some people say no all the time; some hardly ever say it at all. Learn to find the balance of when you should say no to people, to ideas, to projects and to change. Ask yourself why you would say no in a certain circumstance. Is it fear? Is it conflicting with other plans? Would it take you in a direction that you don't want to go? Saying no to someone all the time will crush their spirit, but never saying no will give people free rein to do whatever they want when the team should have a cohesive goal.
  9. Teach others to lead. Some employers are so afraid of others trying to take their jobs that they don't let others take the lead and learn new skills. What these people don't understand is that when they teach others to lead, they not only alleviate some of the pressure off of their own shoulders, but the empowerment of their team fosters a positive attitude.
  10. Fill your team with successful and positive people (then hang on for a wild ride). The more positive and successful people you have on your team, the stronger you will be as a group. But it should be a combination of the two traits. I'd rather have a positive and unsuccessful team member any day over a negative and successful person. A great attitude is more valuable than success and when the two are combined the results can be explosive.
  11. Bonus: Care about your people. Not just about their work. Here is another key. When an employer takes the time to really learn more about their team and their lives, a personal connection is forged and a team becomes stronger with each passing day. Yes, employers are there to make sure people stay on task and that a business is growing in the right direction. But workers are people and they have lives. Caring about both the work and the worker shows that you are a compassionate boss. Remember little things like their kids' names, their favorite restaurant, their birthday or anniversary... it all adds up.

Being a Positive Employee (Positive Work Series)

Last time, we discussed your workspace and how to make it a positive, welcoming place for you to operate in regardless of what type of work you do. Now it's time to focus on the person at the desk: the employee. Don't worry, we'll talk about employers in another post.

Being a positive employee is tough. Especially when times are hard. Whether it be due to internal conflicts, power struggles, economic strain or any other factor, negative circumstances can affect your performance and your general outlook on life.

Most of us that are employees of one kind or another can feel the strain of a frustrating a work environment. Keeping the following things in mind will help as you strive to be a more positive employee and improve your work performance as a result.

1. Don't Take Things Personally

This is rule #1 when it comes to working with others. When someone criticizes your work, especially when they are trying to be helpful, understand that they aren't criticizing YOU. Everyone with a strong work ethic wants things to go extremely well. Assume the best in these circumstances and take every opportunity to grow as an employee in these situations.

2. Try to See the Other Side

Let's face it. Everyone has bad days. Whenever I'm confronted with a negative co-worker I have to think that I don't always know what's going on in their personal life. I always think of my good friend Tonya on days like that.

She and I were going to the gym and as we were getting out of my car, the wind caught her door and it hit the car next to us. The woman who owned the car was sitting in it as she got out of her car, she asked my friend "Did the wind catch it or were you just being stupid?" I was stunned. But my friend, in a very calm voice said, "I'm so sorry. It was the wind. I'll pay for any damages." The woman stormed off (there was no damage) and I asked my friend how she could be calm. She said "Angela, I have no idea what she's going through. Maybe she just got some horrible news or she's in terrible pain. I'm just going to pray for her and not let her upset me."

To this day, all I can think is WOW whenever I remember that incident. I have a lot of growing to do.

3. Look for What you Can Give Rather than What you Can Get

It's the line that President Kennedy will always be remembered for. "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Same principle applies here. Instead of just worrying about what you are or are not getting from your company, focus on what you can give. Taking your mind off of yourself is a sure-fire way to lift your spirits. Focusing on the task at hand, ways to improve efficiency (either as an individual or as a group) and helping out others when you can will always make you feel better. Trust me. I know this for a fact.

4. Decide What you Really Want

Many people are frustrated in their working situations because they have no clear goals in mind. They have no idea where they want to go much less how to get there. Outlining both short-term and long-term goals will help you focus on progress and give you something to work for. Make your goals measurable (and realistic) so that you can mark milestones as you go.

5. Treat Others How You Want to Be Treated

This is something we all know, but many of us don't practice. It's the Golden Rule, right? We've all known it since kindergarten and maybe earlier. Many people tend to have a "get them before they get you" kind of mentality when it comes to the workplace. It's true that many people cannot be trusted and many play political games. But if you focus on how you are treating other people, the rewards will find you. Whether it just be through a more positive (and more peaceful) attitude or something similar, you'll certainly be much happier at work than if you don't practice this principle.

6. Have a Stress Reliever

I'm a stress junky. I admit it. As soon as life seems to get too calm, I tend to take on more responsibilities or brainstorm new ideas. It never fails. But I've also learned how to combat stress. I don't want to take that stress out on my family or the people I work with. That's not fair since I bring it on myself. So what do I do? I have a stress reliever. This can be in whatever form you need it to be. Some options include:

  • Exercise
  • Hobbies
  • Fun with friends
  • Funny movies

Do whatever works for you but certainly do something. You'll thank yourself as not only your attitude improves, but your mental health (and emotional health) as well.

7. Eat Well While at Work

For a long time while I was working in a particular office I had Pop-Tarts for breakfast at my desk. Every day. It suddenly dawned on me why I wasn't feeling the greatest come 10 or 11 in the morning. Lunches were often no better. Fast food, pizza and other greasy meals were filling my lunch hour and I was completely drained by 2 in the afternoon. Pack a healthy lunch (and/or breakfast if you need to) and you'll feel better throughout the day. Plus you'll save some money. Watch how much coffee and pop you drink throughout the day. Caffeine overload can leave you feeling jittery and cranky. I'm a common offender of this one.

8. Be a Team Player

This goes back to #3 and #5, but it's still worth highlighting. When a group of people have a "we" mentality, they tend to work better. It's evident in sports isn't it? When one player is causing drama in the media, the team suffers. It's called a "distraction." The same thing can happen in the work place. Focusing on the team's welfare rather than just your own will always prove to the more beneficial route to take in the long run.

9. Stay Organized

We talked about this last time. Having an organized workspace allows you to be more productive. But being organized in everything else is important too. Keeping your deadlines straight and your schedule organized is another extremely beneficial thing to do. I feel tremendous stress if I miss a deadline or have to postpone something because I have not been exercising good time management skills. It happens to the best of us. But make sure you clarify times and dates of meetings, deadlines and other items that you need to keep track of.

10. Unplug

Knowing when to unplug is a good thing. I try and take one full day a week where I am not at my laptop at all. I made a decision that I didn't want to live from my laptop, but let my laptop tell you about my life. I can't do that if I'm on the laptop all the time. Plus, my brain needs time to rest and decompress from the busy everyday activities of work. It's also a good time to do that stress reliever that we talked about in #6.

11. Bonus: Know When to Leave

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can't make a job work in a way that benefits everyone. But on the other hand, I've seen lots of people leave jobs before giving tips like this a shot. Knowing when you are leaving for reasons rather than excuses is a rare skill. Make sure you are operating logically rather than emotionally with decisions like this. It's never a good idea to leave a place on bad terms because you are just taking that negativity with you into the next place. Make sure you have checked your motives, you've gone through this list, and you've exhausted every possible solution before you go.

Positive Work Series: My Workspace

This officially kicks off a series I'm calling the "Positive Work Series" where I'm going to focus on how to stay positive as an employed worker. This can pertain to employees, employers, work at home or work outside the home workers, and even just stay at home moms (let's face it, you do work and it can get tedious). This series will be packed full of tips on how to both improve and maintain your positive attitude while trying to accomplish professional (or amateur) tasks.

We'll start with your working environment. When I'm at home, I spend a lot of time in my home office. This office used to be my art studio, but since I've gotten more into blogging and writing again, I'm back to using it as a office. Lately, I couldn't figure out why it was so hard to focus in here. But once I took a look around my space, I knew what the problem was. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out:

So, I took a couple of steps to make my office more suitable for the writing that I do in there. I invested in a filing cabinet which is something I've been needing for a long time. I filed all my paperwork away. Next, I sorted through my books. I took the ones I've already read and don't plan to read again anytime soon and moved them to a new location. I threw away two giant garbage bags worth of stuff that I no longer needed, had no idea why I had in the first place, or was just cluttering up my space. Finally, I organized the remaining parts of my office. My desk was de-cluttered, my book shelf rearranged and my paperwork filed away correctly. I can finally breathe in here again.

Here are the results:

If you are constantly stressed and frazzled when you are trying to work, your workspace may be the first place you need to work. I have three basic rules when it comes to my workspace(s) no matter where they are.

1. Everything has a place. When I'm done with something, I put it back. Pretty simple, right? But I'm naturally lazy, so this takes a lot of work on my part.

2. Keep things in site that make me smile. For me, that includes pictures of my family on my desk, fresh flowers every so often, and little trinkets that make me think of friends or happy times.

3. Straighten up at the end of the day. It's a little thing and yes, it ties into #1 on this list, but every day when you are done working, you should take 10 or 15 minutes and clean up your work area. That way, you are not greeted by clutter when you walk into your office, studio, or whatever workspace you have chosen.

Now there are other rules that I should follow but don't on a regular basis like not eatting at your desk or while you are working. These are natural breaks in your working day and you should separate the two. Not to mention it can get kind of gross. But, I'm not perfect. And tomorrow will be better than today so long as I keep trying.

Friends Make Me Warm & Fuzzy

I love this new award that I just got from Kristen at La Dolce Vita. (she makes AMAZING jewelry - I just ordered my first piece. I will totally model it once I get it. I also want the Serenity necklace she just featured. I do take Christmas presents - email me and I will send you my address. I'm kidding!!)

Anyway, Kristen was sweet enough to send this my way, so now I'm gonna pass it along to some of my friends. And it's tough - there are so many to choose from!!

Resourceful Mommy
Shake the Salt
Multi-Tasking Mama
Megan of TwitterMoms
Dr. Daisy (aka DrMommy)