Is negativity poisoning your company culture's well?

I recently went to a dinner at the South Florida chapter of the American Society of Training and Development (So. Fla. ASTD) that featured a speaker from O.C. Tanner speaking on The Carrot Principal. O.C. Tanner participated in research that focused on what employees want. More than money, more than job security they want recognition and praise. I have to say this was one of the best presentations I have been to in a while.

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But really, people want praise? To me this seems obvious. I think the real question that we need to ask is: Do people know how to give praise? It seems simple but people are far better at giving criticism than praise. So many reality shows seem to prove this point.

Why are we so negative? We all have heard since Sunday school that you attract more bees with honey than vinegar, yet it seems human nature prefers to spread the vinegar. So how do we get our organization past that natural behavior and promote honey? There is only one way to overcome this natural behavior and that is through creating a corporate culture that only allows the positive to flow. These are often forced early in the process as people move from the taste of vinegar to honey but once it gains adoption it works well. A positive environment creates positive employees which translates in to increased employee satisfaction which is what employees want.

There seems to be an exception to this negative trend and that is within a social network.  Negativity is the exception rather than the rule and people are far more likely to give a “great idea” or a “+1” to someone online.  Have you noticed how difficult it is to "dislike" or give someone a "-1" on a public social network?  So what does this say about human nature?  We tend to be negative face to face or in groups but when provided some separation from others we tend to be more positive.  A much different psychology is in play.  As the corporate world and the online network converge we will need to find new ways to promote a more positive work environment and give employees that feeling of worth.  The social network might just be the way.  In this environment people are more likely to support coworkers and join in on a discussion with valuable comments.  In turn people who use social networks are more likely to feel that their input is valued and their comments noticed, respected and affirmed.


-Steven Hornak

Steven is a co-founder and Managing Member of Collabor8 Learning, LLC, an instructional design and performance management consultancy.  His firm collaborates with organizations to enhance the way they develop their people. To learn more about Collabor8 Learning, click here.

Steven can be reached at 305-791-1764 , steve@collabor8learning.com or via Twitter @smhornak.-