ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - May 2001


Behind the Teams: We've provided you with the tools and resources that will help you in your fight to keep team efforts alive, to build a greater sense of community and unity in your organization.
Click here to check it out!

  In This Issue...

A Purpose And A Place
Do Upper Managers Earn Their Keep?
Pageturners: Effective Training Strategies
Proof Positive
Brief Cases

 One From Column B —
My Kingdom for a Team

Peter Block explores the durability of teams and why they remain fascinating after all these years.

  Behind the Teams:

Just What the Doctor Ordered
In Support of Teams
Cynthia Minor and Mike Levenhagen

Highlights of Winning Teams
Views For A Change
Pam Walsh's Unofficial Quality Tips

Return to NFC Index

Proof Positive
How Simple Motivation Techniques and Toys Can Improve Attitudes in the Workplace

Trust. Comfort. Friendship. Fun.

Do these words trigger any positive feelings about your workplace? Though the majority of people spend most of their time at the office, they rarely categorize it as a place they want to be. Shouldn’t you enjoy going to work? What can you do about your negative view of the workplace?

  It all boils down to attitude. If you bring a positive attitude into the office, you will be healthier, happier and more productive. Not to mention you’ll breathe new life into your organization that will be contagious to the people surrounding you.

  Deborah Jiang Stein, founder of Attitude Matters, Minneapolis, Minn., shares a few ideas and products that are sure to raise the energy level in any organization. Read on to see how a few seconds of fun and laughter can benefit your organization and your overall way of life.

“All work and no play makes John a dull boy.”

  ...not to mention unproductive, depressed, unhappy, unhealthy and stressed. Attitude is as important in the workplace as knowledge and experience, yet we spend little time developing a positive one. The majority of our lives are spent working and common sense tells us that our workplace should be the most comfortable place we occupy. The days of slumping into a cubicle, sitting at a desk all day doing menial tasks and accepting that as a part of life are over. While a select few are lucky enough to wake up in the morning with anticipation of starting the workday, most of us dread being stuck in the office all day. Attitude is not a given—it’s a choice. And we have the power to choose to be positive.

  There is a direct correlation between a positive attitude and enhanced work performance. Positive employees are content, hardworking and loyal to their organization. When employees view their job as exciting and fun, it can only mean positive benefits for the organization.

  It seems like a simple equation: A positive attitude equals productive, successful employees and increases staff retention. But companies are just beginning to acknowledge the importance of positive attitude training. Most organizations can not afford to send all of their workers to seminars, so what kind of an investment would it be for a company to help employees maintain a positive attitude? How can an employer create a comfortable, friendly and positive environment?

  Motivation techniques don’t have to be complicated or costly. A simple friendly smile by the water cooler could ignite a positive attitude in a coworker. Small gestures, such as telling a riddle or reading a quote, could have a profound affect on your organization.

  Deborah Jiang Stein, Chief Attitude Officer of Attitude Matters, Minneapolis, Minn., has created a business out of this concept and has embarked on a mission to bring positive attitudes into the workplace. “I recognized that people just liked quick motivation that was meaningful—that wasn’t frivolous—that wasn’t sort of a feel-good kind of thing,” says Stein. She has always enjoyed reading quirky quotes and odd eccentric facts about the world and has developed inexpensive gadgets and toys to help spark friendly conversation allowing employees some breathing room from the sometimes smothering office atmosphere.

Positive Performance
These simple ideas create a friendly community that encourages employees to forge friendships with their coworkers and encourage a productive atmosphere. According to Sanders and Sydney Careers Consultant Firm, friendship, like pay and benefits, is crucial to staff retention, employee happiness and productivity. However, friendships are sometimes harder to build than a solid business.

  It is important to remember that attitude not only affects you personally, it affects your coworkers as well. If you walk into the office already in a bad mood it will most likely rub off onto your coworkers. Why not take a few moments to read an inspirational quote to get your creative juices flowing? (see box on page 15) Stein uses this notion as a basis for her products and created a series of sayings and challenges that can help jumpstart casual conversation in the office and give employees a chance to give their minds a rest.

  The subtle spark of conversation is just enough to encourage interaction between two people that may rarely communicate with each other outside of the business realm. Employees will appreciate the gesture and the opportunity to take a little break from their work.

  These products can also be used as icebreakers for team projects or staff meetings. “They help begin conversation when it’s hard to know where to start. Even if it’s a quirky fact like, ‘walruses burn easily.’ I mean, what is that? Just laugh and then talk about something serious.”

A Little Goes a Long Way
“Casual employee interactions improve group cohesion and can build relationships across otherwise conventional boundaries,” says Stein. These suggestions and products inspire creativity and motivate positive attitudes by integrating play at work without a lot of time, effort or expense. The key is to create a playful atmosphere without a lot of time and disruption.

  She has designed her products to be a “jumping off point.” “People don’t spend all day using our products. You can pull one, use it to talk about whatever your theme is in a conference or a meeting or for teambuilding. We don’t expect that people will stay with whatever we give them. I hope the mood stays with them, but not the actual product.” Small gadgets are relatively non-interruptive mood boosters, whereas half-day retreats sometimes mean employees have to work later on another day at the expense of the time away.

  The idea is to spark interactions and conversations among employees in a casual, yet positively focused manner. “We believe that if people laugh and have a spark of motivation, that they go back to work easier, work harder and are more productive because they’re happier,” says Stein.

  In reality, most companies can’t afford to put a foosball or a pool table in the office for employees to let off steam. Yet the importance of breaks and casual conversation with coworkers can’t be diminished. Small conversation boosters, such as magnets with quotes, riddles and fortunes are durable, get passed around and can be used over and over again. It’s a small investment for a positive and productive workplace. Stein even has a room in the Attitude Matters office full of gadgets, toys and prototypes and encourages her staff to play throughout the day.

Jest for the Health of It
People are constantly looking for ways to combat stress in their lives, especially in the workplace. A recent study by the American Institute of Stress stated that 43 percent of all adults suffer poor health from stress. On the same note, another study by the William M. Mercer human resource consulting firm found that 55 percent of employers surveyed believe fun eases workplace stress. And a growing number of researchers say that the fun of noncompetitive play is a healthy way for adults to combat stress.

  “Attitude has a greater impact on health than some medical procedures. People with positive attitudes also have high self-esteem, better moral decision-making skills and a positive outlook on life,” says Stein.

  Healthy employees also contribute to the bottom line with higher performance and fewer sick days. The American Institute of Stress also found stress-related absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover and direct medical, legal and insurance fees cost U.S. businesses $300 billion annually. That’s a high price to pay for a bad attitude. Stein suggests reminding employees of the importance of balancing work and life by printing a message like, “I only stretch so far” or “Choose to be flexible” on their Attitude bands. These are colorful, wearable rubber bands designed to stimulate conversation and positive thoughts.

  Managers and supervisors also need to keep this in mind. “Supervisors need to maintain a positive attitude which translates to the people around them, both peers and direct-reports. Supervisors also need to be willing to take breaks, even during stressful and deadline-filled times, for a little laughter or to understand the outlook of employees,” says Stein.

  A positive attitude is projected throughout the workplace and it starts with just a few people. Stein believes that if employees know their employer is concerned with keeping them happy, they’ll perform and want to stay with that company. And in a day and age of high turnover rates and growing opportunity, nothing could be more important.

May 2001Homepage


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