How to build a positive work environment that increases performance, improves employee loyalty and staff well being.


A little bit of positive thinking can go a very long way . . . . 

So many companies foster and breed negative environments without realising the impact this has on their financial performance. So why do too many companies bet on having a cut-throat, high-pressure, and sometimes toxic culture to drive their financial success. It really defies logic and flows against how we humans work and respond to our environment.


There is a growing body of research on positive organisational psychology that 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.

For some, there is an assumption that stress and a pressure environment push employees to perform more, better and faster; however organisations fail to recognise the hidden costs that this culture can deliver.

Hidden Costs

Hidden costs that can really damage short-term performance and long-term growth. Hidden costs that materialise through a number of ways such as increased health care costs, increased employee sickness, real staff disengagement and lack of loyalty.

Research shows that workplace stress leads to an increase of almost 50% in voluntary turnover. People go on the job market, decline promotions, or resign. And the turnover costs associated with recruiting, training, lowered productivity, lost expertise, and so forth, are significant.

Engagement in work is associated with feeling valued, secure, supported, and respected and is generally negatively associated with a high-stress, pressure and toxic political culture. Disengagement is costly and systematic to falling financial performance, poor customer service and potentially terminal for any company.

Many companies have tried simple methods to bring change and they have established a wide variety of perks from working from home to office gyms. Google is well known for investing heavily into their workplace and their built environment in delivering an atmosphere that fosters creativity, positive energy and a feeling of employee collaboration.

However, some companies still fail to take into account the research. A Gallup Poll showed that even when workplaces offered benefits, such as flextime and work-from-home opportunities, the predicted increase in engagement was not present. Employees prefer workplace wellbeing to material benefits.

Wellbeing comes from one place, and one place only — a positive culture. Creating a positive and healthy culture for your team rests on a few major principles.


A positive workplace culture boils down to six essential characteristics:

  • Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends.
  • Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling.
  • Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes.
  • Inspiring one another at work.
  • Emphasising the meaningfulness of the work.
  • Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust, and integrity.


As a manager, as a company owner, as an employer you can foster these principles by following four simple steps:

  1. Foster social connections. A large number of empirical studies confirm that positive social connections at work produce highly desirable results. For example, people get sick less often, recover twice as fast from surgery, experience less depression, learn faster and remember longer, tolerate pain and discomfort better, display more mental acuity, and perform better on the job.
  2. Show empathy. As a boss, you have a huge impact on how your employees feel. Support your staff, don’t criticise or mock, but offer advice and alternatives. Empathise, without removing channels or accountability. 
  3. Go out of your way to help. Ask yourself, have you ever had a manager or mentor who took a lot of trouble to help you when he or she did not have to? Chances are you have remained loyal to that person to this day. When leaders are not just fair, but self-sacrificing, their employees are actually moved and inspired to become more loyal and committed themselves. As a consequence they are more likely to go out of their way to be helpful and friendly to other employees, thus creating a self-reinforcing cycle. Employees of self-sacrificing leaders are more co-operative because they trust their leaders more. They are also more productive and see their leaders as more effective and charismatic. 
  4. Encourage people to talk to you – especially about their problems. Not surprisingly, trusting that the manager has your best interests at heart, improves employee performance. Employees feel safe rather than fearful and a culture of safety i.e. in which managers who are inclusive, humble, and encourage their staff to speak up or ask for help, leads to better learning and performance outcomes. Rather than creating a culture of fear of negative consequences, feeling safe in the workplace helps encourage the spirit of experimentation so critical for innovation.

Empowerment, when coupled with good training and teamwork, leads to superior performance outcomes whereas a range of efficient manufacturing and operations practices do not.

When you know a manager is committed to operating from a set of values based on interpersonal kindness, he or she sets the tone for the entire organisation.

Harsh work climates are linked to poorer employee health, the opposite is true of positive work climates where employees tend to have lower heart rates and blood pressure as well as stronger immune systems. A positive work climate also leads to a positive workplace culture, which again, boosts commitment, engagement, and performance. Happier employees make for not only a more congenial workplace but for improved customer service. As a consequence, a happy and caring culture at work not only improves employee well-being and productivity.


In summary :-

A positive workplace is more successful over time because it increases positive emotions and well-being. This, in turn, improves people’s relationships with each other and amplifies their abilities and their creativity. It buffers against negative experiences such as stress, thus improving employees’ ability to bounce back from challenges and difficulties while bolstering their health. And, it attracts employees, making them more loyal to the leader and to the organisation as well as bringing out their best strengths.

When organisations develop positive, virtuous cultures they achieve significantly higher levels of organisational effectiveness — including financial performance, customer satisfaction, productivity, and employee engagement.

If you’re not happy, not supported or just feel under valued at work and you see no change in the leaderships style then you need to move. Don’t be taken for granted and don’t accept a workplace environment that does not foster a positive culture. We spend most of our waking hours at work so its critical we take control of our work environment and find a culture that breeds positivity, well being and collective growth. Time for Change.

Neil Presland

CEO at LJF Group & Consultant at The Great Run Company

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