Making Your Workplace Great
By Megan Martin
What is the difference between a good workplace and a great one? According to research done by Gallup over 25 years, the best workplaces have a lot in common. They are places where employees are frequently praised, able to utilize their greatest strengths, encouraged to learn, and have friendships with their co-workers.
If this sounds like a Utopian dream to you, your workplace might need some help. Thankfully, the power to create a great workplace actually lies within you. Stop relying on your manager and co-workers to shape up, and take the initiative to make your workplace a great place to be.
Start With Yourself
Great workplaces are created by standout employees and managers working together, but being satisfied with your position has to come first. Being happy with your role within an organization will keep you connected, positive and energized—qualities that can affect the larger community.
Whether you’re looking for a new position or finding ways to enhance your current job, start by taking a personal inventory. The Life Optimizer column “Five Ways To Create a Positive Work Environment” advises: “Know what your key skills are; what type of work you want to do, what kind of role you would like, where you see yourself in five years, and what kind of environment you thrive in.”
If you’re in a position where you are unable to learn and grow, taking the initiative to make a change can reenergize you. Set up a meeting with your manager to discuss skills you’d like to learn or new challenges you would like to take on in your current position. If you have strengths that you feel aren’t being utilized, volunteer for projects that will help you incorporate what you love to do into your current role.
Be proactive: don’t wait for your manager to reach out to you. Keep your manager updated on what you’re learning and how that new knowledge is helping you to meet your career goals.
You’ve heard it before: enthusiasm is contagious. While it may seem hard to muster enthusiasm in a workplace that isn’t ideal, your energy can inspire others to do and be more.
Approach new projects and challenges with a can-do attitude. If a project isn’t going as well as you expected, think of it as a challenge rather than a failure. Concentrate on brainstorming and expressing solutions to the problem rather than complaining about a lack of progress.
If others express negativity, don’t give in to the whining: counteract it.
The Leadership and Motivation Training article “Top 10 Ways to Foster and Maintain Positive Attitudes in the Workplace” recommends: “Instead of walking around and grumbling about the fact that people's attitudes aren't where you would like them to be, focus your energy on creating and finding the positive in others.”
Don’t keep quiet - let team members know when they do something important to help the project or have a great idea. Receiving positive feedback from peers can foster a stronger bond between team members.
Expressing interest and excitement in others’ projects can also help improve employee morale. Ask questions about how others’ projects are going or offer support to a stressed colleague.
Make Friends at Work
According to The People Group article, “What is a Great Workplace? The Twelve Dimensions that Describe Great Workgroups” based on Gallup’s research, one of the hallmarks of a great workplace is tight-knit relationships among employees.
“Human beings are social animals, and work is a social institution,” says The People Group. “In the best workplaces, employers recognize that people want to forge quality relationships with their coworkers, and that company allegiance can be built from such relationships. The development of trusting relationships is a significant emotional compensation for employees in today's marketplace.”
Interacting with colleagues beyond a basic “good morning” can help forge relationships of mutual respect and trust. The simple act of going out to lunch or having after work cocktails with co-workers can create a bond that can carry over into the workplace.
It seems basic, but going out of your way to help your colleagues can significantly improve the work environment.
Bob Rosner and Sherri Campbell, authors of the PayScale article, “Maintaining a Positive Attitude in the Workplace” say: “If you practice asking useful questions, giving accolades and being gracious at work for two weeks, you'll notice a difference in the people you work with and in your own feelings about work.”
They recommend trying to do something helpful for a co-worker on a daily basis. “You don’t have to create elaborate situations; just keep your eyes out for opportunities to do a good deed.”
Bring a co-worker who’s busy a surprise cup of her favorite tea, offer to assist with a project that needs extra help, or cover a colleague’s shift so she can go to her daughter’s soccer game.
It’s easy to get busy with work and forget to say “thank you” for the small ways that co-workers or managers improve your work life. Sending a grateful email to someone who assisted you on a project or lightened the mood when you were stressed can make your peers feel valued and connected to the organization.
Rosner and Campbell recommend a great way for offering recognition to peers: give a monthly Most Valuable Player award. Have all employees take a vote and express on their ballot why they feel their nominee deserves the award. Tally the votes and pool money for a small prize like movie tickets or a gift card; at the “ceremony,” read the “results” aloud so the winner gets to hear them.
According to Ceridian UK, Google was voted the most fun workplace in Europe by the Financial Times. While fun and work may seem contrary to one another, the best workplaces are those where having fun is a priority. Taking breaks to do something enjoyable helps reduce stress and create bonds among co-workers.
"From dance competitions to treasure hunts and fun perks such as scooters, video games, lava lamps and hammocks, Google has created a campus atmosphere that has resulted in a high retention rate and increased productivity," says the Ceridian Online article, "Revealed--What Makes a Workplace Great."
Consider bringing a karaoke machine to the office to use during lunch breaks. Or clear a long lunch with the boss once a month where employees go out to a movie together.
Step up today and take the initiative to energize your organization; by setting a positive example for your peers, you'll transform your workplace from a good place to work to an amazing one.
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