The Positive Power Of Three - September 17, 2015
I recently started a new job, and while I get along very well with my new co-workers, building rapport with one person in particular has been a challenge. It's a classic case of territorial issues, proving one's self and just being the new person on the block. One day, I was sharing with her my experience about another department, and suddenly my not-so-friendly co-worker perked up. She became chatty, and I quickly realized our shared negative experience had created a bond. While it wasn't as drastic as "misery loves company," we definitely bonded over this negative experience.
What if, instead of focusing on the negative, we had bonded over the positive? Is that possible? In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we learn that not only is it possible, it seems that three times is the charm.
Joyce E. Bono, a University of Florida professor, explained in a recent Harvard Business Review article that people tend to identify Pollyanna-type positivity as annoying, and they view managers with this type of positivity as inexperienced. Even so, what she and her colleagues discovered through their research was that positive experiences—even small ones—can be used to reduce stress, including physical symptoms such as headaches or muscle tension. Thinking positive thoughts also make it easier to unplug from work at the end of the day.
Here's how their experiment—known as the "three good things" intervention—worked. The experiment focused on employees of an outpatient family medical practice including nurses, assistants and receptionists. The employees were asked to log onto a website at the end of their workday and spend five to 10 minutes writing about three events large or small, personal or work-related, that had gone really well that day—and to explain why those things had gone well.
The responses ranged from reports of coworkers' bringing in delicious food, to the mere fact that it was Friday, to thoughtful stories about interactions with coworkers or patients that made them feel good about themselves. For example, one nurse wrote "a doctor gave me a compliment today. Why? Because I knew exactly what to do in an emergency situation, and I helped a patient who was having a seizure."
After three weeks, the workers reported lower stress levels and reduced mental and physical complaints. They also reported they could more easily switch off stressful job-related thoughts at home in the evenings.
By writing about three good things that happened, these employees were able to create a shift in mindset about how they perceived their work lives. They also shared more of the good things with others in their lives—family and friends—and this sharing created stronger connections. Ultimately, this exercise also improved sleep, leading to greater alertness and better mood—which, as the study concluded, leads to more positive things happening the next day.
On the flip side, complaining about coworkers and other negative comments can cause a ripple effect throughout the organization. The researchers point out that having some negative experiences at work is natural. However, by purposefully focusing on positive events, you have a better chance of achieving balance. There are some small steps you can take to create this culture, such as starting a meeting with a positive review before jumping into the issue at hand.
Before you head home from work today, give it a try. Think of three positive things that happened, and see if you start to feel positive results. We'll help you get started. First, you started your day with a dose of PCT…
Source: Joyce E. Bono is the Walter J. Matherly professor of management at the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida. Associate Theresa M. Glomb is the Toro Company-David M. Lilly chair of organizational behavior in the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.