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Cultivating a Happier Place to Work

Most of us perform better in positive environments, where we feel appreciated and supported and, perhaps most of all, relaxed and at ease. Unfortunately, human nature tends to fight this, with negativity creeping in to our daily lives, especially on the job. One bad mood can ruin the entire vibe of the office—nevermind when there are multiple sourpusses working around you! Sometimes it’s not enough to simply manage our own mood: we also need to be able to affect the mood of our environment to have a happy day.

Luckily, this is totally doable!

One Bad Apple Spoils the Bunch

Recently a member of the Seuss team was talking to a friend who was considering a prospective job opportunity—a role this friend was offered specifically for her positivity. The company in question hoped their new hire could change the attitude of the team, transforming them into a more glass-half-full kind of group. The friend wondered: is this even possible? Can one person change the tone of an entire team?

It is certainly possible for one person to infect the entire team with a negative tone. In the ensuing discussion in the Seuss Recruitment office, it quickly became apparent that everyone involved had experienced that one teammate who dragged the rest of the group down with a bad attitude and pessimistic thinking. It only takes one influencer to bring a team’s morale down.

Wondering why and how this was possible, we did a little research.

Viral Emotions

A recent article by Shawn Anchor and Michelle Gielan investigates how this emotional contagion works:

“Emotions spread via a wireless network of mirror neurons, which are tiny parts of the brain that allow us to empathize with others and understand what they’re feeling. When you see someone yawn, mirror neurons can activate, making you yawn, in turn. Your brain picks up the fatigue response of someone sitting on the other side of the room. But it’s not just smiles and yawns that spread. We can pick up negativity, stress, and uncertainty like secondhand smoke.”

So, that answers that. (Seriously, though, we recommend you read the whole article!) How can you prevent this, though? Or at least make sure it’s the positive emotions that spread?

How To Be a Good Apple

Our advice for this Seuss staffer’s friend (other than the reading advice above):

  1. Accept that negativity is inevitable in any working environment, and make it your mission to turn your team’s frowns upside down! Instead of being frustrated by negative people (or, likely, one particular person) around you or avoiding the situation, take the opportunity to develop your compassion and challenge yourself to help that person/those people become more positive.
  2. Radiate positivity yourself by finding reasons to smile and injecting warmth into your interactions, both in meeting settings and at the personal level. Start meetings and phone calls with “It’s great to talk to you/see you” and “I am looking forward to hearing your feedback.” Mean what you say (it will show).
  3. Pro-actively protect yourself against any negativity in your environment. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself get absorbed by others’ negative energy and the stress it causes. (Watch out for an upcoming blog on this point in detail, but for now we recommend checking out the aforementioned article which has tips to avoid second-hand stress.)

Most importantly: remember that anger and stress are contagious, but so are happiness and enthusiasm! AND they 100% affect workplace productivity and growth.