In their words: Sue Langley & Creating a positive culture at work - Happy + Well : Happy + Well

In their words: Sue Langley & Creating a positive culture at work

Written by on February 5, 2016 in Wellness, Work with 0 Comments

cultureHow do you create a positive, thriving workplace culture that enables people to feel happy, engaged and fulfilled in their work and lives?

People spend so much time at work, and while many view work as a transaction, a means to an end, it doesn’t have to be that way. Work is where many of us have rewarding relationships, get to use our creativity and strengths, and find satisfaction and reward.

In fact, when people feel happy, valued, satisfied and purposeful at work they typically do far better than those who do not. This in turn leads to a more thriving and sustainable business culture – and a healthier bottom line.

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, makes a compelling case that the greatest competitive advantage in today’s business world is a happy and engaged workforce. Some of the business outcomes he cites in his book and blog are increases in sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%.

Organisational scholars SigilBarsade and Donald Gibson found that positive emotions, a hallmark of happiness, are critical to job performance, decision making, creativity, employee turnover, teamwork and leadership.

So how can businesses and business leaders, or anyone who wants a happier team, start building a positive work culture?

There is no single solution. Often it is the small things people do every day that make a difference to increase happiness and each positive action or choice has an impact that can spread happiness within the team or organisation.

Here are some strategies research has found can make a real difference.

  1. Increase positive emotions. Positive emotions enable us to think and act more effectively. Barbara Fredrickson found they broaden and build our repertoire and resources, increasing resilience and creating an “upward spiral effect” toward greater happiness and wellbeing. Positive emotions can also make us more likely to adopt new behaviours. When we enjoy doing something we are more likely to think about and feel motivated to do it again.

This does not mean we should ignore negative emotions and the challenging reality many people face in workplaces today. It simply means engaging in activities that increase the frequency and duration of positive emotions and decrease negative emotions so people can bounce back a bit quicker.

  1. Be a positive deviant. This means striving to be exceptional, daring to go against the grain, and looking for solutions that may not be accessible from a problem or deficit lens. This is the essence of positive psychology – focussing on what works well and can work even better rather than what is wrong. The deficit approach is all too common in workplaces, and often we are not even aware we are doing it.

Our brains have a bias toward the negative for our survival and negative emotions are more powerful, so it takes an intentional focus on the positive to counteract this and move people toward solutions.

  1. Develop positive leadership. Positive leaders focus on the best in people and encourage them to be even better. They do that in four ways: they foster a positive emotional climate, build positive relationships, engage in positive communication and reinforce values and meaning.

If leaders can maximise these four success factors they can create a positive work environment that boosts performance and wellbeing in individuals and the whole organisation.


Sue Langley will be sharing more insights and practical strategies about positive workplaces in her roundtable, CREATING A POSITIVE WORKPLACE CULTURE at the Wellness@Work Conference & Expo on Friday 1 April. You can learn more about Sue and her work at


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *