They did it again. The Olympics sucked me in. I am an admitted hard core sports fan when it comes to my professional teams, but like most people I’m not usually watching swimming, beach volleyball, or [fill in the blank with virtually any other summer Olympic sport] in my free time. However, I always get captivated by the Olympics, and this summer’s Olympics in Rio is no different.
Watching U.S. swimmers Michael Phelps, Simone Manual, Katie Ledecky, and many more achieve success in historic fashion had me on the edge of my seat. I haven’t screamed words of encouragement at my TV that much since Ramsey Bolton got his comeuppance in Game of Thrones this past season.
Watching the US women’s soccer team, the prohibitive favorite to win gold, lose to Sweden in penalty kicks was painful. I haven’t cursed at my TV that much since The Walking Dead decided to not tell us which character met his or her fate at the hands of Negan during last season’s finale (Yes, I’m still bitter about that). Those are just a couple of examples, as my viewing has taken me to uncharted waters, including archery (what if someone sneezes?), table tennis (strangely fascinating), and whatever sport Americans may have a chance to earn a medal (there are a lot of them).
Like many others, I’m obviously aware of the many problems related to these Olympics that don’t have your “warm and fuzzy” vibe. Whether it’s doping scandals, water pollution, Zika, violence in Rio, or the economic ramifications to the residents of Olympic host countries and cities, there are very important issues to be addressed. In fact, as an aside, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel did an interesting piece on the corruption of the IOC and the negative economic impact of Olympics upon their hosts that is eye-opening to say the least.
While the aforementioned issues are undoubtedly serious concerns that need solutions, and hopefully will be remedied, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t still enjoying watching our nation’s Olympians and learning about the journeys they have traveled. So why am I and so many others interested in the Olympics? While some simply love the competitive and thrilling aspect of sports, there’s a sense of unity and positivity when watching the Olympics. Americans are proud of their country. They want their athletes to do well, their country to do well, and rooting for something that is universally unifying is a positive experience. Deep down, everyone wants something that is positive and uplifting.
Employees want that, as well. You know the saying—a happy employee is a good employee. Well, it’s generally true. There are also numerous studies that show that a happy employee is a more productive employee. But you can’t make an employee be happy. Seriously, you literally and legally cannot make an employee be happy. The National Labor Relations Board has held on a number of occasions that workplace policies that require employees to act positively in the workplace, or to maintain a positive work environment, are unlawful. The most recent ruling, a May 2016 determination, held that T-Mobile’s and MetrocPCS’ employee handbooks were unlawful, including provisions that required a “positive work environment” because this broad requirement could infringe upon employees’ Section 7 rights to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment. In other words, employees would be afraid to say anything that could be deemed “not positive” for fear of reprisal.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you are saddled with negative employees. Typically, a “negative” employee acts out this frustration through behavior that may violate other policies and workplace rules, whether it be interacting appropriately with customers and coworkers, meeting job requirements and deadlines, or otherwise performing the essential functions of one’s occupation. It just means you cannot terminate an employee on the basis that they are not being positive at work.
So while you can’t require people to be positive at work, it of course is important for employers to take steps to create a positive workplace culture so that employees are in fact happy and productive. This comes down to developing and maintaining good morale through communication, motivation, and respect, which starts at the managerial and supervisory level. If you can find a way to create unity within the employees in your workforce, they will naturally be more positive and productive. It’s not easy to do and will take a lot of commitment and planning. But if the Olympics have taught me anything, it’s that commitment can ultimately pay off in the end.