Thank goodness it’s Monday: three psychological hacks to boost staff morale

Here's how you can encourage your employees to love your business like their own

Here’s how you can encourage your employees to love your business like their own

Positive thinking has been said to cure cancer and turn paupers into princes. Here’s how positive psychology can bring the most out of your team.

People thrive when they are happier. Numerous studies in the field of positive psychology have identified that we set higher goals and work longer and harder in achieving them when in a positive frame of mind.

A positive attitude can also stave off fatigue and stress, and encourages collaboration and creative thinking.

While that’s all well and good, what’s the secret to making people happier? 

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude

You can’t force everyone who walks through your office doors to be happy, but brain scans suggest that gratitude is a the gateway to happiness.

When subjects are instructed to count their blessings, their brain activity reportedly increases in the part of the brain associated with happiness.

To get the gratitude ball rolling, kick off your weekly meeting by going around the table sharing something at work that each employee feels thankful for.

Or do what Plasticity Labs did, and ask your employees to devote time to writing down the things about their job that make them thankful.

Researchers saw immediate improvements in morale and lower turnover in the group that did the exercise regularly.

By listing ‘appreciations’ as a standing agenda item at the beginning of staff meetings, employee satisfaction is bound to increase. 

Build relationships

Evolution has ensured our survival is tied to our skills to connect with others. Our brains are literally wired to connect with our peers, and these connections have the power to affect how we feel.

According to the body of research on happiness, our moods are quite literally contagious. This happens because of mirror neurons in our brains.

One unhappy person can make for an unhappy office.

If our colleague next to us is gushing about something positive, the cells in our own brain that react when we’re happy start firing. 

Make sure your employees socialise with each other as much as possible without impeding the work flow. Off-site social outings are a great way to boost bonding, as are rotating seat plans and cross-department projects.

At Intel, it’s a simple case of encouraging chit chat, or pecha kucha. According to Intel’s Scott Crabtree, a pecha kucha presentation could help to break the ice.

“In Japanese, pecha kucha roughly means chit chat, but it’s a specific format of presentation,” he explains.

“Usually, each person brings 20 slides with just pictures on them, and they get 20 seconds to explain each slide…but we made the rule that people could only share things about their lives outside of work.”

Apparently, these sessions led to immediate and significant improvements in attitude, with colleagues beginning to treat each other less like competitors and more like collaborators.

Play up strengths, play down weaknesses

Traditional workplace feedback tends to adopt the ‘sandwich method’, cushioning negative criticism between positive comments.

However, there’s a high chance that the positives fall on deaf ears, according to Adam Grant, author and business school professor at Wharton.

When most people hear praise during a feedback conversation, they brace themselves for the other shoe to drop.

Following it up with negative criticism can make your positive notes seem fake.  

Secondly, research shows that people remember the first and last things they hear in any conversation.

The tendency to gloss over the “meat” in the sandwich could make the entire feedback process useless.

According to researcher Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, the best way to approach this may be having separate conversations around positive and negative feedback.

When we engage in work that uses our strengths in new and innovative ways, we experience higher levels of happiness and lower levels of depression, according to Seligman.

It would be counterproductive to be liberal with criticism yet sparing with praise.

Playing to your staff’s strengths rather than their weaknesses not only boosts their intrinsic motivation, but also how your business performs in terms of productivity. 

Remember that not everyone is aware of their strengths. As a leader, you could help identify where employees shine and help them recognise their merits through strength-based questions, like:

  • Tell me about a previous achievement of which you are genuinely proud.
  • Which top strengths do you think helped you achieve this impressive outcome
  • Which talents did you demonstrate at the time?

The field of positive psychology is rife with measured methods for business success. These three are in no way the holy grail of workplace happiness, but it’s a good start. 

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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