Creating an Enjoyable Work Environment to Foster Productivity
by Eric Levy
Sylvia Bryans is the manager of a small business in New York City. Her staff of seven all get along with each very well; there isn’t one personality in the group that is disliked—except, that is, for Ms. Bryans herself.
Most of the time, Ms. Bryans sits at her desk, number crunching throughout the day, making sure that the business stays afloat. The isolation she created between her and her staff has created a very tense atmosphere. She is of the school that a boss should not compliment the successful work of her employees; otherwise they would become complacent and not consistent in their outcomes. But there’s no holding back when an employee fails to get results for even one sale—and there it is, that infamous scowl and punishing voice that makes the employee cringe and takes home a depressed demeanor that affects his or her entire family. To escape the stress, employees call in sick when in reality they’re taking a “mental health” day off. Two employees, who are the most frequent victims of their boss’ barrage of insults, began going to therapy. More sales could have been made if the employees weren’t in such a negative state of mind.
When the boss is out at a meeting for the day, or even better—on a week-long vacation—employees crack jokes, laugh, and enjoy themselves with a camaraderie that’s otherwise stifled. But they don’t slack off; in fact, they’re more productive, a byproduct of better dispositions and a fear-free environment.
And then, when the boss returns, there’s an even greater malaise, now that the fun is gone.
But should there be such fun? After all, isn’t this a workplace? Shouldn’t fun occur after work hours?
The answer, says Donna Deming, a board certified life coach, is an unequivocal NO.
“Mangers need to
realize that employees are people too, with feelings, ambitions, and needs,” says Deming. “One of those needs is to reduce stress and boredom. An effective means for doing so is to create a more fun working environment. “
Fun in the workplace, research concludes, results in fewer absences and stragglers, and increases productivity. “If the work atmosphere is a positive one, employees are going to look forward going to work,” says Deming. “Otherwise, their negative mindset may lead to burnout or depression, which they will bring along with them to the job.”
Deming suggests managers ask their employees for ideas to lighten up what is often a stressful environment. “The best activity ideas are creative ones,” she says. “Then there’s a high likelihood that a creative mindset will transfer over to the way employees perform their jobs.”
Getting to the root of a stressful environment, however, will have longer-lasting positive effects at the workplace. Often, the source of that stress is the manager, who establishes a culture employees must function within. Too many managers rely on negative reinforcement, believing that their main function is to eliminate unproductive behavior. To the contrary, such an action can cause greater stress and unhappiness for an employee, directly affecting his or her productivity.
“Even if it goes against your nature, or what you firmly believe is an effective management style,” Deming advises managers, “recognize your employees for their good work, and do it frequently. Show your employees you care about them as people.”
Donna Deming is a board certified coach based in New York City, with an expertise in applying positive psychology in the workplace. She works with small businesses to design a personalized program to increase and sustain employee motivation and dealing with conflict. She may be reached at 917-463-4414, or visit her website at www.breakthroughlifecoaching.net.