Employers know that a negative working environment can quickly snowball and become unmanageable. It can impact not just morale but also eventually productivity and turnover, leading to escalating costs and problems.
As such, it’s easy to see how important it is for HR professionals and the rest of an organization’s leadership to pay close attention to the work environment and take proactive steps to maintain a positive atmosphere.
Here are some tips for creating and maintaining a more positive work environment:
- Encourage autonomy whenever possible. People like to feel trusted. It shows them they’re valuable and trusted to do their job well. By creating opportunities for employees to make key decisions, autonomy promotes that trusting atmosphere.
- HR teams can work with upper management to encourage leaders to set a positive tone for everyone. Leaders have an enormous impact on the tone and culture of their employees and how each day goes.
- Work with employees to set appropriate goals. Goals that are impossible are demoralizing, but appropriate, achievable goals can help people feel motivated and accomplished.
- Demonstrate how individual goals are tied to the organizational goals and vision. This helps people see how they impact the organization’s success.
- Be aware of how your communications come across. Tone in official company communications matters a lot. It can set the mood for everyone, especially when it is conveying information that will impact the entire workforce.
- Cross-train employees, and encourage them to help one another when possible.
- Assess the management team; pay attention to teams that have high turnover or high numbers of complaints, and see what could be happening in those teams that needs to be addressed.
- Recognize good work, and do so frequently. Try to be aware of how people like to be recognized—some people appreciate public praise, while others do not.
- Pay attention to workloads, and take action when someone has too much of a burden. Help take steps to avoid overwork and burnout.
- Be consistent with employee discipline. This may seem counterintuitive in a list about a positive work environment, but it can really hurt morale if someone gets away with things that others don’t. It can also impact morale if someone causes problems that don’t get addressed, so the key is to take action and be consistent.
- Besides discipline, be consistent in the application of other policies, too. This keeps things fair and avoids the negativity that comes from accusations of favoritism.
- Offer an employee assistance program (EAP), which can help employees get through difficult times and hopefully lessen the negative impact for the workplace, too.
- Encourage or even help plan teambuilding activities to help people get to know one another and work well together.
- Don’t tolerate disrespectful behavior.
- Encourage employees to take breaks. This shows you care about their well-being. The same goes for taking paid time off/vacation.
- Pay attention to when employees are being negative, and get to the root of the problem before it escalates.
- Invest in employee development.
What else has your organization done to encourage and develop a positive work environment?
Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.