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  • Writer's pictureDr. Neal Nybo

3 keys to creating a culture of positivity at work

Forbes tells us “A positive workplace culture improves teamwork, raises the morale, increases productivity and efficiency, and enhances retention of the workforce. Job satisfaction, collaboration, and work performance are all enhanced. And, most importantly, a positive workplace environment reduces stress in employees.”

The Harvard Business Review says, “a large and growing body of research on positive organizational psychology demonstrates that not only is a cut-throat environment harmful to productivity over time, but that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line.

It is one thing to be a positive person at work. It is something else entirely to be a catalyst for change and a champion who helps shape a company culture towards positivity. The first makes a difference in you. The second, a difference in everyone around you.

It isn’t easy to change a culture. We have likely all heard the famous quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” When intentional positivity is not part of a company culture, implementing a new strategy would take substantial management buy in, tremendous effort, and probably won’t work. I recommend a quieter, grassroots approach.

As a public speaker, I’ve had the three components of a good speech drilled into me for years. They say it was Aristotle who first offered these. has summarized Aristotle’s thoughts this way.

1. Tell them what you will tell them.

2. Tell them.

3. Tell them what you just told them.

Its easy to remember the components but not always easy to remember to do them. I’ve learned from experience, leaving out any of them makes a speech less clear and compelling.

Extrapolating from these three ancient components for oratorical success, we can describe

3 keys to creating a culture of positivity at work.

I’m guessing the first one will surprise you.

1. Don’t express your intentions about positivity, just write them down.

2. Express positivity.

3. Encourage others to express positivity.

1. Don’t express your intentions about positivity, just write them down.

Does this one surprise you? Did you think it was going to be, “tell them how you are going to practice positivity?” That would have been my first inclination. But, there is surprising evidence that telling others our goals and intentions actually REDUCES the likelihood of us doing it. describes a study that compared students who shared their goals with students who didn’t. It turned out the students who did not tell anyone else about their intentions did far better at keeping them. It turns out,

Keep your good intentions to yourself. Don’t worry, you will have a chance to share your goals later in key three.

Be specific about ways you are going to express positivity. Specificity makes things easier. If you are looking for simple and easy ways to consistently add positivity to your day, consider reading Workplace Positivity Guide and Workbook. In it, my writing partner, Nicole Phillips, and I offer thirty micro-actions to increase positivity and reduce negativity wherever you work.

2. Express positivity.

This is the fun part. This is where you actually get to be positive. There are all kinds of ways and my recommendation is you find two or three that fit you style and work environment.

Here is our list of thirty micro-actions of positivity from our book, Workplace Positivity.

Reduce Negativity

  1. Think About What You’re Thinking About

  2. Find an Accountability Partner

  3. Snap That Rubber Band

  4. Change the Narrative

  5. Be Clear and Kind on the Phone

  6. Excuse Yourself From the Gossip

  7. Give Grace

  8. Get Curious

  9. Start With Personal

  10. Respect Their Time

  11. Respect Their Space

  12. Make Sure They Are the Point

  13. Say It in a Hallway

  14. Tell Them in a Text

  15. Make a Point in a Meeting

  16. Elaborate in an Email

  17. Write a Personal Note

  18. Phone a Friend

  19. Text a Holiday Greeting

  20. Offer One Message to Multiple People

  21. Talk to Yourself to Train Your Thoughts

  22. Pause and Catch Your Thoughts in the Act

  23. Reject Thoughts That Don’t Serve You

  24. Memorize a Mantra

  25. Look For the Good

  26. Expect People to Be Kind

  27. Smile

  28. Find the Silver Lining

  29. Acknowledge Your Part of the Trifecta

  30. Jump-Start Your Kindness

I have been moved by a quote from the recent presidential inaugural speech.

I can’t think of a better idea to keep before us as we begin to express positivity regularly.

3. Encourage them to express positivity.

I told you there would be a chance for you to tell others about your intentions. Wait until you begin to hear some comments from those who have experienced your positivity. Then, look for an opportunity to share your thoughts in a meeting.

  • Share what led you to be intentional about positivity.

  • Share some of the reasons positivity are good for the organization. There are plenty of articles about the benefits of positivity and the drawbacks of negativity. Check out past blog posts of mine to find plenty. Get their input and let them know you are going to be working on expressing positivity.

  • Share the specific micro-actions you have been practicing and demonstrating. Encourage others to consider doing the same.

  • Stop the group before they set a team positivity goal.

  • Share with them the surprising results of the study and encourage them to write down, but not tell anyone, about their positivity goals. Then agree to have time in a meeting in a month to see what people have noticed.

Are you motivated enough to find and try a new micro-action for positivity? Below is an excerpt from our book, Workplace Positivity.


Tell Them in a Text

We all appreciate tech support when we need it. How about a little text support?

This is an individual or group text to thank one or more people. Earlier today, I

watched a video presentation my team put together that blew me away. Our regular

team meeting isn’t for two days so I sent a group text telling them I couldn’t wait

until the meeting to tell them what a great job they all did. And, I attached a GIF of

Tom Hanks expressing great joy. Typed and sent in less than two minutes.

On other occasions, I’ve identified each person’s contribution and said something

that was praise-worthy about it. I highly recommend both the general and specific

texts. Just don’t miss anyone if you are mentioning everyone by name.

NICOLE’S PODCAST PERSPECTIVE (In the book, we take turns writing chapters. The other one gives some professional reflection.)

In Episode 108 of The Kindness Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking with Donna

Thomson and Zachary White about their book, The Unexpected Journey of Caring: The

Transformation from Loved One to Caregiver. They are part of the 45 million people

providing unpaid care for a loved one. I quickly realized what lonely work it can be to

be needed 24/7. A “team” text doesn’t just have to be with your work family. Using this

approach with our volunteer groups, religious organizations or the people helping out our

elderly relatives builds unity and keeps everyone motivated to do their best.

Now it’s your turn.

In the comments, tell me your #1 takeaway 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.

For more about Workplace Positivity, go to

For more about the work I am doing, go to

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