It’s easy to picture a workplace in which the flu or a cold is passed around the office. However, attitude can also be contagious and a bad mood can spread just as quickly as the flu. Whether one refers to it as emotional contagion, positive intelligence, or my favorite, introduced to me by a fellow Toastmaster, “contagious inspiration,” the idea that a workplace boss or leader’s enthusiasm can be spread, resulting in more positive and productive employees is an attractive and useful one.
How does Contagious Inspiration Work?
The idea of social contagions in addition to biological contagions began in the late 1800s with research taking off in the 1950s.
Sinead Healy writes that a study conducted at the University of Rochester found that placing participants in the same room as a highly motivated individual enhanced their drive and performance. Conversely, when participants were placed in a room with an unmotivated individual, inspiration and performance dropped significantly. The participants did not recognize the “contagion,” but their behavior reflected the difference. A UK study did find that workers do intentionally imitate the behaviors of others in order to be promoted; 74 percent of people who copy the humor of their colleagues think it will help them work better with colleagues, 41 percent of people who imitate the creativity, inspiration or innovation of others are aiming to improve productivity. Ajay Malhan shares that “encouraging and fostering the employees to work in an environment that is positive, motivated, fun and inspires employees to take joy in their work can yield huge benefits and overall success.”
What are the Characteristics of a Positive Leader that Need to be Shared?
Whether they realize it or not, employees look to leaders for cues as to how to act and react. It therefore behooves leaders to be positive, enthusiastic, and respectful in order to keep morale elevated and to inspire employees to be loyal and productive. A good leader needs to show that she cares about the company, its goals, clients, and the company’s employees. The way to show employees you care is to listen to them and their opinions. A leader also offers constructive feedback so that employees can develop skills and grow in their roles. A leader will help to create opportunities for employees to be happy and productive; this can include collaboration, team goal-setting, and making sure employees are properly trained. A leader demonstrates loyalty to the company through hard work, consistency, and adherence to ethical behavior, all in pursuit of organizational goals.
What Motivates Employees?
Employees are inspired by a sense of independence and autonomy, backed by support and appreciation from their leader. While one may think that employees are inspired by money, they are more motivated by a sense of accomplishment, recognition, and when internal goals align with those with the organization’s. Employee motivation declines with perceived micromanagement, public embarrassment and reprimand. Success is also contagious and a sense of accomplishment can motivate one to work harder to achieve more.
Employees and management achieve more when working in positive, supportive environments. It is therefore the role of the leader to spread positivity and enthusiasm throughout the organization in order to create a healthy and supportive environment in which everyone wants to achieve success for themselves and the organization. Good luck and be positive.