What does creating a happier workplace take? Raises all around? A retreat where everyone falls backward in a trust exercise? Beanbag chairs? Nope, nope, nope.
The answer is surprisingly simple. To improve learning, resilience and adaptation as well as overall happiness and attachment to the organization and team, people need time and space to experience positive moments with each other, says Jane Dutton, Ph.D., professor of business administration and psychology at the University of Michigan.
Relationships are composed of micro-moments of connection, and positive moments give a big boost to people emotionally, explains Dutton, who researches the impact of positivity within organizations. “Positive emotions compound quickly, and these short-term meaningful interactions stay in people’s minds. It may be as brief as looking at each other with mutual positive regard.”
Dutton visits the same Starbucks every morning, and a barista named Norma knows her well. “The moment I walk through the door, she acknowledges me with a look that makes me feel good,” Dutton says. “I may have felt hassled from the commute, but then that melts away all because of how Norma looks at me. It’s a relational vitamin that recharges me.” This same dynamic of uplifting interpersonal connection can have a great effect in the workplace.
Be willing to share micro-moments, Dutton advises. “People feel more vitality and more positive regard in the moment when they feel like they are at the same level. This idea of mutuality is particularly important in business, where there’s a lot of power and status subordination.”
Consider these high-quality connections as vessels for personal growth. Some work organizations cultivate really good soil that allows these seeds to grow, Dutton says, and they make sure that every point of human contact between suppliers, customers and team members is a positive one. “Not only do people perform better there, but they feel like they are growing into better people. There are multiple payoffs.”
She adds that people who are relationally skilled and routinely create positive moments that lead to high-quality connections are more resourceful, stronger psychologically and more likely to have a better trajectory for their own growth.
How do you create a culture that fosters high-quality connections?
• Hire people who care about connecting with others and are sensitive to building relationships.
• On-board employees wisely. Rather than inundating them with information, facilitate meaningful connections with people who will be important to helping them do their work.
• Make it safe and OK to ask for help and reward those who give it.
Says Dutton: “We are hard wired to connect. Having a high-quality connection mindset opens up a bunch of ways to think about how to build human capability by the way you interact.”
“We are happiest when helping other people,” says Corey Keyes, Ph.D., a founding fellow of Life University’s Center for Compassion, Integrity and Secular Ethics and a sociology professor at Emory University in Atlanta.
But compassion, integrity and ethics can conflict—especially in the workplace, where the bottom line and merit are important. SUCCESS asked Keyes, an expert in positive psychology, how to practice compassion that’s aligned with our own inner compasses:
Q: How do we decide who deserves our compassion?
A: Everyone deserves our compassion, and that even extends to our enemies. There’s a large body of scientific evidence that those who serve others live longer, happier and more purposeful lives.
Q: How important is compassion in the workplace?