Leading the Way to a Happier Work Environment

Negative emotions can run rampant in a company. Any company! It can happen as much in small start-ups as large corporations. And it can especially happen in the often stressful pharma, biotech, and CRO industry. (We know how it feels: the pharma-recruitment industry is under a lot of pressure, too.) The problem with even a little negativity is that it tends to be contagious. Emotions spread, and so does the damage – to working relationships, satisfaction and morale, productivity and even the team’s physical health. This can lead to talent-acquisition and retention problems. The snowball effect can end up becoming an avalanche that affects the health of the company itself. We’ve previously discussed how individual employees can stop themselves from being dragged down with the ship, and even help bail out a bit of the flood of bad feelings. But ultimately it’s up to the captain to save the ship as a whole. When the tides turn toward negativity, the company’s leadership needs to steer the team back to more positive waters. But how?

Turning the Tides

Most of us have had some experience working in a negative or toxic environment. It stinks, and it seems almost impossible to turn around, no matter how enthusiastic you are. However, there are some things that people in leadership positions can do to plug the leak of positivity. At Seuss, we rely on the 6 tips below.

  1. First thing’s first: the leadership needs to acknowledge what’s going on. If you just plaster a smile on your face, your team isn’t going to feel like you are taking them seriously. Respect their intelligence and admit something is going wrong. You know what they say: the first step is acknowledging that you have a problem.
  2. Leaders should also avoid finger pointing and watch their own behavior. Could you be part of the problem? Even if you’re not, now’s the time to take extra care to lead by example. No matter how busy you get, remember to take a moment to warmly acknowledge everyone you interact with and make them feel heard.
  3. Don’t underestimate stress. If someone is having a tough time, showing them that you understand their predicament and looking for fixes together is much more effective than telling them why they should feel differently (which puts people on the defensive).
  4. Be proactive. Seek out the seeds of negativity and discretely pull those people aside for private conversations. Approach them with empathy and an open ear. Maybe they have stress in their private lives (which they may or may not want to discuss), or perhaps they feel stuck in a predicament at work that they don’t know how to get out of. Whatever it is, listening is the first step to helping.
  5. Set the tone. Company leaders have bad days too. But keep in mind that, when you make your bad day your team’s bad day, it affects the entire company. Learn to think more positively about your problems and you will be able to build a better buffer against other people’s stress as well.

Retraining the Brain

Why is it so common to get bogged down in negativity? Probably because we tend to look out for the dangers in our environments. It was once an evolutionary advantage, but now that most of us no longer need to worry about running from things that want to eat us, it’s the details of our daily lives that trigger the fight or flight response. It’s our work that wants to devour us, we think while sitting safely behind our computer screens. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The key is: retraining your brain. Yeah, sounds super simple, right? But actually, with a little (and we mean really not much time!) daily dedication, you can see changes in your attitude in about a month. You’ll start learning to pick out the positive in your environment and benefit from the brain and body boost that gives. This absolutely hilarious Ted talk outlines five tips to do this:

  1. Write down 3 things for which you’re grateful every day for 21 days. (You’re training yourself to scan your environment for positive information.)
  2. Each day, write a two-minute email praising someone you know/work with. Not only will you start looking for the best in others, but you’ll get that little bump of warm and fuzzies from doing a kind deed.
  3. Spend two minutes a day reliving a positive experience from that day by writing it down in a journal.
  4. Do 30 minutes of cardio exercise. (For the endorphins and stress release!)
  5. Meditate for just a few minutes to help clear your mind of clutter and anxiety.

We like to think that, for leaders, these tasks are as much a part of the job as monitoring finances or making executive decisions. In fact, we recommend making them a part of your company culture by sharing them with your team and encouraging them to work these practices into their days. The expected result: a happier team and a healthier company.