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  • Writer's pictureDr. Neal Nybo

3 keys to a healthy work environment and how to achieve them

Being a part of a company that strives towards having a healthy work environment can make the difference between loving your job and being ready to move on. describes ten characteristics of workplace wellness. I think three of them are low hanging fruit supervisors can begin to develop without complicated surveys or strategies. And, from my book, Workplace Positivity, three ways to begin cultivating them immediately.

Part one: 3 keys to a healthy work environment

1. Open and honest communication

2. Cooperation, support, and empowerment

3. Positive reinforcement

Part two: How to achieve these three keys.

1. Change the narrative

2. Make Sure They Are the Point

3. Praise Publicly


Part one: 3 keys to a healthy work environment

Here are three significant components for a healthy working environment according to

1. Open and honest communication

Everyone communicates in a cards-on-the-table manner, solving difficulties in a positive way. They don’t play nasty revenge games when given difficult feedback. Instead, they view feedback as an opportunity for growth.

2. Cooperation, support, and empowerment

Can-do, go-the-extra-mile and win-win attitudes are evident signs of workplace wellness. Employees have a sense of camaraderie, cooperation, and empowerment. Healthy competition exists without vengeful, spiteful backstabbing.

3. Positive reinforcement

People need acknowledgement, appreciation, and gratitude to be motivated. Genuine compliments, rewards, bonuses, raises, promotions, and certificates of achievement are oil in the machinery. The company thanks employees regularly in these ways.

Part two: How to achieve these three keys.

There is a lot written about each of these three keys or characteristics of a healthy working environment. My writing partner, Nicole Phillips, and I have come to the conclusion that reading lots of information does not solve the problem. We have found it is better to give motivated people solutions in the form of some simple, easy, even micro-actions they can begin incorporating into their day immediately. Here are three of our thirty micro-actions from our book Workplace Positivity.

1. Change the narrative

Nicole makes the point that lots of people talk about wanting open and honest communication but shy away from opportunities to practice it. This is especially true when we think ill or critically about someone. The reality is, many of the times we shut down communication, its for misunderstood reasons that aren’t true.

We are constantly telling ourselves stories. When someone lets the door slam in our face or cuts us off in traffic or looks at us funny in a work meeting, we create a story.

We can choose to take things personally or we can refuse to be offended by changing the narrative. In other words, we are going to create a new, positive story to replace the negative one swirling through our minds.

Perhaps the person in the office meeting isn’t actually frowning at you. Maybe they are off in lala land thinking about how to discipline their teenager for missing curfew. Or maybe their face just looks like that. We can’t all be blessed with a positive countenance.

Instead of being offended by what we think their facial expression is saying, we

can choose to ignore it or rewrite what we’re telling ourselves about it. Maybe that

person is processing some tricky information and therefore furrowing their brow.

Maybe they just need us to smile a little to pull them out of their funk.

Sometimes we can ask people about their actions. When that’s the case, go for it.

Be brave and ask for clarity. The book, Crucial Conversations teaches people to do this with this request, “when this happened (for instance, the frown), I began to think you were mad or frustrated with me. Would you please tell me what you were thinking.”

Getting a person’s real story usually changes our reaction and opens up honest communication. We can ask someone about a situation that bothered us or we can rewrite what we assume is a negative interaction by changing the narrative in our minds.

Either way, the point is when we want to be set free of the negativity we are perceiving from

other people, we have to begin to assume the best about them. We can further the

positivity and extend grace for their cold or unkind words and actions by asking

questions or creating new stories about them in our minds. The great news is, when

we begin to give grace, we realize how often we’re also receiving it.

2. Make Sure They Are the Point

Creating an environment of cooperation, support, and empowerment requires mutual trust. It requires being personal in appropriate, encouraging, and consistent ways. Whenever Nicole and I speak about being personal, The question comes up, are we manipulating people by being personal? Is being personal just another tool we use to increase performance? I truly hope you have already answered: “absolutely not.” Let’s be clear. Nothing in this workbook is about getting something out of someone. We are not simply trying to increase productivity or decrease turnover. We are not talking about using kindness to get people to do what we want. Talk about creating negativity! That attitude and behavior is flat out toxic. And, none of what we are talking about would work if that were what we were trying to do. People can see right through disingenuous attempts to be friendly.

Of course, we want our peers and co-workers to be effective, enthusiastic, and motivated. Those are the happiest kinds of people. We want the same thing for ourselves. Ultimately, we work with other human beings. They are the point. They aren’t the only point. None of us are. But, their well-being, their happiness, is the point of how and why we act the way we do towards them. In the end, as an added benefit, all those other goals, like efficiency, creativity, and cooperation, will increase as well.

Nicole and I want to help people who truly want to bring kindness to the workplace and reduce negativity. So, when we say “get to the point,” we mean, the point is them, your co-workers, your family members, your friends.

I have a friend, Dave, who manages teams remotely with people spread out across the world. You can imagine this can inspire some employees towards being lone rangers, even rogues who go their own way. Dave had one of those he was constantly trying to reign in and be a team player. In fact, he had been working with this person about being more of a team player for the last three years.

Recently, the whole team came together at their headquarters, including the lone ranger who had to fly in the day before. Dave could easily have avoided him and postponed engaging with him until the meeting the next day. Instead, Dave took the opportunity to have dinner with the person. He did not set out to change the lone ranger’s actions or attitudes. Dave genuinely just wanted to get to know him better. Most of the dinner was taken up with personal conversation. In fact, they compared notes about a diet they were both on and what Costco foods fit the requirements of the diet.

Towards the end of the meal, the lone ranger changed the subject and asked, “So what's this meeting tomorrow really about?” Dave told him and shared some collaborative goals he hoped the person would support. The next day, the employee volunteered three areas where he could bring his work more into alignment with the rest of the team.

By making the other person the point, Dave was able to build enough trust in the relationship for the Lone Ranger to join the team to everyone's benefit.

3. Praise Publicly

People need positive reinforcement. I read recently that 79% of people leave their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated. It shouldn’t be so hard to show appreciation. Ken Blanchard, a leadership expert, and a mentor of mine makes this point to audiences by asking this question.

“How many of you are just sick and tired of being praised so much?”

Ken has spoken to tens of thousands of people and regularly asks his audiences that question. Of course, he gets a huge laugh and no one raises their hand. Somewhere science says every person’s favorite sound is the sound of their own name. Yet we so seldom hear our names connected with celebration or a job well done.

At home and in the office we may get teased, corrected, and questioned publicly but seldom praised.

To praise publicly means to celebrate, thank, or recognize someone in front of others, not in big, grand ways that might even embarrass them but in small ways. Just remember, it’s a micro-action. For example, when we are standing in the workroom at the office with a group of people casually milling about, we can do a micro-action of public praise by saying to one of them across the room, hey, I really appreciate how you jumped in on that project last week and the results were outstanding. By doing this we demonstrate we genuinely value what they do.

In the world of business, public praise is a manager’s easiest way to offer positive reinforcement and increase employee engagement by telling someone their values and the company’s are in alignment.


How to get started with positivity in your organization

A couple years ago, my writing partner, Nicole Phillips, and I turned our passions and interests in kindness toward companies and organizations. We combed through hundreds of suggestions and best practices we have received and developed during our speaking and coaching careers. We settled on 30 micro-actions of kindness any of us can do. These are actions so small they will fit into any busy manager or supervisor’s schedule. Some are self-reflective, some have instant impact on others and some are just fun. We collected them along with stories and data to support them. Then, we created personal worksheets for each micro-action. We took all of that and put it into an oversized guide and workbook called Workplace Positivity.

Workplace Positivity

Nicole and I devote much of our time to training management teams and leaders to eliminate negativity by personally practicing some of these micro-actions of kindness. These aren’t sleepy mandatory sessions. We bring the vibrant joy that comes with sharing kindness. We have more stories, more insights, and more micro-actions than any company, organization, or team can possibly use.

Every story, insight and action we share with your team will multiply until you are sharing and overflowing with your own.

Either of us, or both of us, will be happy to work with you to create a customized training and presentation for you weekly staff meeting, quarterly training event, or annual conference. We have presentations from an hour to multiple days.

Now it’s your turn.

In the comments, tell me your #1 takeaway from this post and how you plan to use it in your workplace?

Want more? Click here for a free excerpt from Workplace Positivity with three micro-actions.

Workplace Positivity will be published in early March 2021.

For a free excerpt or to learn more about the work I am doing, go to

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May 11, 2021

My takeaway "Perhaps the person in the office isn't actually frowning at you". Giving others the benefit of the doubt allows us to build positivity in our mind when we won't (ever) know the full story of what someone else is going through. Thank you Neal!

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