7 Hacks for Creating a More Positive, More Productive Workplace

You will spend more time at work than any other activity in your entire lifetime.

And you will spend more time with your customers and coworkers than you will with most of your friends and family members.

So for God’s sake, your work, your workplace, and your workplace relationships had better be positive and productive, or you’ll never be truly happy and successful.

I’ve found seven hacks that will make you and your workplace more positive and productive.


Hack #1:  Hire right.

As you know, one bad apple can spoil the whole cart.

But you also know it’s easier to get a bad apple or a bad employee than get rid of one. So approach every hiring decision with the utmost discernment.

In particular, focus your energy on recruiting, selecting, and retaining people who are technically skilled AND emotionally intelligent.  In fact, your employees and coworkers MUST have both characteristics or you’re going to have a troubled workplace.

My first boss, Dr. Karl Bruder, knew that.  I was only 23 and finishing three days of interviews for a university professorship. The last interview was with the imposing Department Chairman, Dr. Bruder.

I sat in his office, across from his desk, as he silently looked at me for a long moment.  He said, “I’ve heard some very good things about you.  I even watched you teach a class and quite honestly, I’m impressed with your abilities.”

So far so good.

Then he said, “We’ve got an excellent department here.  We’ve got great people and great spirit.  But you must know this.  If I hire you, no matter how good you are at your job, if you do anything to harm that spirit, you’re out of here.  Is that clear?”

I got the job and we had a wonderful, positive, productive working relationship.  But the biggest lesson I ever learned from Dr. Bruder came during that interview.  Hire right.

If you’re in the position of having to hire someone, look for ANY signals that tell you the new job candidate may be a drag on the positive culture you’re trying to create. You cannot afford to hire those kinds of people.


Hack #2:  Protect your positive norms.

If your organization has established certain norms of respectful behavior, reinforce those norms.

If, for example, employees are expected to acknowledge every customer within 10 seconds of entering the store, make sure they do it. Or if negative talk about your customers is outlawed in your organization, call someone on his violation of the norm if he is trashing a customer.

Don’t let your negative people dismiss your positive cultural elements by saying, “Oh, that’s just the way I am … That’s silly … That’s just plain stupid … or I’m too busy for all that nonsense.”


Hack #3:  Surface and honor negative feelings.

There are problems and there will always be problems in your organization and every other organization.

Don’t ignore those problems, difficult people or sticky situations. And don’t pretend they don’t exist. As best-selling author and psychologist Dr. Sidney Simon says, “The greatest danger in any relationship is to pretend not to know what we know.”

In other words, you can’t expect to bury the problems and have them somehow magically disappear. When you bury problems, you bury them alive and the rate of resurrection is almost 100%.

It’s much more effective to have a place where people can share their concerns and bring their concerns to the surface.

Let your people know it’s okay to feel what they feel. Take their feelings seriously. Listen intently. And honor their feelings by saying such things as “Of course you’re concerned about our new product line.  Who wouldn’t be?”

By contrast, don’t ever respond with some variation of “You shouldn’t feel that way” because it never works.  That dishonors the other person’s feelings and disrespects the other person’s humanity.


Hack #4:  Discover and share success stories.

But you’re also doing a lot of things right or you wouldn’t continue to stay in business.

So look for examples of what you’re doing right.  In fact, make it everyone’s responsibility to look for those stories of success and accomplishment. And then share a few of those stories at every meeting. Celebrate the positive.


Hack #5:  Don’t let the negativity of others bring you down. 

You might picture yourself as a battleship.  You were made to float across the water, in good times and bad.  But if the water gets inside the battleship, it begins to sink.

The same is true of you.  You were made to be positive and productive, but you might be floating in an ocean of negativity at work or at home.  You may work for a boss that seldom has a good word to say about your accomplishments but can instantly point out any mistake you make.  You may feel betrayed by a teammate who is not doing her share of the work.

Unfortunately, too many people let the negativity of others get into them and they begin to sink. Just like that battleship.

Don’t do it.

Visualize yourself covered in some non-stick coating, where the negativity of others slides right off your back.

I know it sounds silly, but it works.

For example, I may go into an audience to speak where I know instantly that some people automatically hate me.  Not personally.  But they hate the fact they have to be in my seminar and I become the target of their hateful negativity.

I simply imagine myself covered in a non-stick coating, not giving them the slightest indication that I am concerned about their negativity.  In fact, I’ll go out of my way to greet them and interact with them in a warm, caring way.

And 99% of the time I’m able to win them over, so much so that their bosses tell me time and again they’ve never seen those so-called troublemakers ever respond so positively.


Hack #6:  Conquer one energy-zapping issue at a time. 

Make a list of the things that bug you at work.  Make a list of the things that drain your energy.  Maybe it’s the grouch at work who never responds to your cheerful good morning greeting.  Maybe it’s someone at the staff meeting that always interrupts you.  Go ahead and make your list.

Then order them from the easiest issues to the most difficult issues to eliminate. And begin to conquer them in that order.

Start with a simple issue … where an easy victory is likely.  For example, the next time someone interrupts you at a staff meeting, simply say, “Excuse me.  I wasn’t finished.”

Once you’ve had a small victory and built some extra confidence, move on to a more challenging, energy-zapping issue.


Hack #7:  Realize when it’s time to move on.

Sometimes there is nothing you can do to change the situation. Nothing works, and your career stalls or even starts to go backwards.

When nothing works, don’t take it personally or blame others. Just make the decision to move on. I’ve noticed that the vast majority of people who do so do just fine.

As my hero Sir Winston Churchill put it, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip, Issue 934 – 7 Hacks for Creating a More Positive, More Productive Workplace