The power of a positive emotional culture at work

30225446_MDoes your company have a positive emotional culture? A feel-good place to work can be a powerful business development tool, according to a 10-year study of the culture of companies in a variety of industries and locations.

Researchers Sigal Barsade and Olivia A. O’Neill found that companies that focus on creating positive ‘emotional’ cultures often have a competitive advantage over those that don’t focus on how their employees feel at work. The pair found a strong correlation between a positive employee culture and strong company performance, a high quality product or service and excellent customer service — and this has held true across a wide variety of industries.

Many companies focus their efforts on creating a corporate culture based on concepts such as innovation or top-notch customer service. But the researchers say that focusing solely on a so-called cognitive culture can mean a company never fulfills its true potential. Here’s how several of the companies that the pair studied work to achieve effective emotional cultures:

Vail Resorts has worked to create an emotional culture of joy, with ‘have fun’ being one of the company’s core values. The company’s managers are trained to create an upbeat and quality environment for their employees with special activities and events. Employees are allowed special skiing events and other perks designed to make them feel special. Managers also ask employees to ‘go out there and have fun.’ As a result, it’s not unusual to see employees cracking jokes or dancing around with guests.

Cisco Finance created a companywide initiative, ‘Pause for Fun,’ which encourages employees to take a break and, well, have a little fun. Fun videos are created to document the frivolity at the financial services firm. The company also surveys employees regularly to help gauge how they feel.

Censeo, a consulting firm, works to create a positive emotional culture by careful hiring and by letting employees know that negative interpersonal behaviors aren’t acceptable in the workplace. The company’s executives said they have passed on some otherwise highly-qualified employee candidates because they had difficult personalities and weren’t able to fit into the company’s positive emotional culture.

Ubiquity, a retirement plan administrator, studies what makes employees feel a sense of belonging and excitement to be at work. Company executives place a top priority on making the company a great place to work.

Interested in creating a more positive emotional culture at your company? The good news is that it’s an attainable goal — even in companies that have a lot of negativity woven into their cultures. Research shows that people easily ‘catch’ feelings from others. That means that your efforts to create more joy in your office can gain momentum much faster than you may think.

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