How leaders can create a more positive--and productive--work environment

A less stressful work environment is a more productive one, and comes from leaders who create a positive workplace culture, according to an article in Harvard Business Review.

The alternative is dire, according to the article. Healthcare expenditures are 50 percent greater at high-pressure companies, and 60 to 80 percent of workplace accidents are attributed to stress. Cutthroat work environments lead to employee disengagement, the article said, with 37 percent higher absenteeism, 49 percent more accidents, 60 percent more errors and defects, and a 50 percent increase in voluntary turnover.

A positive work environment, on the other hand, fosters wellbeing on the part of employees, according to HBR. In a positive workplace, employees care for their colleagues as friends and provide each other mutual support; forgive mistakes and don't point fingers; emphasize the meaningfulness of work; and demonstrate mutual respect, gratitude, trust and integrity.

To achieve this type of workplace, the article recommends that leaders:

  • Foster positive social connections
  • Show empathy and compassion to foster a sense of resilience in challenging times
  • Go out of their way to help, which inspires employees to become more loyal and committed to the common cause
  • Encourage staff to talk to them about their problems

The advice echoes similar recommendations from Sydney Finkelstein, director of the Leadership Center at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, who says "amazing bosses" deal with their employees as individuals, not just teams. They also engage their teams in coming up with solutions to problems and challenges, and carefully listen to their thoughts and ideas, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Other experts note that good leaders foster cooperation and collaboration by demonstrating humility in what's known as the "servant model" of leadership, as FierceHealthcare reported. That model, too, involves listening to others' opinions and understanding their needs.

To learn more:
- read the HBR article