Have you ever had the cubicle next to a complainer? You know the type… the one who thinks the office has only two temperature settings… “Too hot” or “Too cold?” The one who thinks the boss is either “a micro manager” or “never available?” They take up your lunch break and your office time with a constant stream of complaints about their co-workers, their health, and their love life! Did you feel energized by this negative Ned or Nancy… or did their constant complaining drain the very life out of you, one negative comment at a time?
Drum roll please… the research indicates you’re not crazy. Complainers drain organizations of effectiveness and limit productivity. The way we as employees talk to one another can directly affect the bottom line. In a study of 60 top management teams engaged in annual strategic planning and budget setting activities, fifteen of the teams were ranked “High” according to standard factors of productivity, customer satisfaction, and 360-evaluations among peers. The secret of this high performance? Positive communication.
“The single most important factor in predicting organizational performance –which was more than twice as powerful as any other factor–was the ratio of positive statements to negative statements.” (Cameron, 2012, p.66).
Imagine that… you have the capacity to help or hurt your team at work, at church, at home simply by increasing the number of positive statements you make. You may be complaining your team to defeat! In research done through the University of Michigan Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship, high performance teams actually had a ratio of nearly six positive comments to one negative, while failing teams were at a 3-1 ratio of negative statements compared to positive.
Of course when you hear “positive” you may be thinking “shallow, Pollyanna response to reality; some optimist wearing a pair of rose-colored glasses that shield them from the harsh glare of the truth.” In the studies cited, “positive statements” were defined as those that express appreciation, support, helpfulness, approval, or compliments.” Positivity has to be grounded in the truth in order to be helpful… a false compliment for instance, falls flat, and a statement of support that is feigned or insincere will not be received as positive at all. Positivity doesn’t mean “fluffy” but “honestly helpful.”
Research by Baker, Cross and Wooten (2003) discovered that individuals can be classified as “positive energizers” or “negative energizers.” Positive energizers are those people others experience as optimistic, trustworthy, and unselfish. Further research indicates that positive energizers impact the employees around them in their job satisfaction, their sense of well-being, their engagement on the job, and even their performance as measured by company metrics. High performing organizations have been found to have “3 times the number of positive energizers” than average organizations (Baker, 2004). Do you want to transform your organization or your family? Stop complaining and start being positive!
For those with a Biblical worldview, such findings should not be surprising. Scripture speaks of the spiritual gift of “exhortation” or “encouragement” as a key to lifting the spirits of others (Rom. 12:8). Among the New Testament faithful, a man named Joseph from Cyprus earned the nickname “Son of Encouragement” because of his consistent positive words and his generous spirit towards those in the early Church in Jerusalem (Acts 4:36). To “be a Barnabas” means seeing greatness in those around you, and expressing to them the profound truth, “I believe in you.”
What might happen in your marriage, in your family, in your workplace if this week you set a goal to change your ratio of positive to negative communication? Could you change your speech patterns to have more positive words than negative? You can turn the tide of negativity in your office and help your organization’s performance. I’m positive you can make a difference.
Rich Kidd is the vice president of the Dingman Company, Inc., a retained executive recruiting firm. Rich served at Regent University, as Director of Campus Ministries and Adjunct Faculty. Before that, Rich had been a Vice-President of Operations of a multi-site high-end retail jewelry business.
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