Everyone knows that a happier workplace is a healthier workplace. But is there a way to quantify that happiness so that management can boost the productivity of their workers?
Back in 2004, a study was undertaken by two employment experts at University of Michigan Business School. They wanted to know if there was an optimum level for positive and negative management feedback in the workplace. With this in mind, they studied management teams in a large information management firm to see if there were any patterns.
“The study is fascinating because it ended up providing a ratio for praise and criticism in the workplace,” explains Charlotte Gallagher of Hale-based P3 People Management, one of the UK’s foremost employment specialists. “The teams who performed best and made the company the most money shared around 6 instances of positivity or praise between workers and management to every 1 instance of criticism.”
The study soon drew the attention of national and international press, with the headline figure being discussed at length on both CNN and in the influential Harvard Business Review. But can you really put a number on how often you praise your workers?
“Good managers will tell you that employees work hardest when they’re enthused and happy,” continues Charlotte. “With that in mind, the result isn’t too surprising. Whether the number is exact and can be replicated in every type of business, that’s harder to know. But I’d certainly say that it’s in the right ball park.”
The study, carried out by Emily Heaphy and Marcial Losada and published in the journal American Behavioral Scientist, also chimed a warning for businesses who criticised their workers too readily. The teams who performed worst in the study were criticised three times for every positive comment, significantly hurting their productivity.
“Again, it’s interesting to have a ratio, here: it seems that it takes far less criticism to get the worst from your workers than it takes praise to get the best. The lesson here being: hang fire on the negativity or you may end up costing your company money.”
If you would like to understand how to get the best out of your teams, please call P3 People Management on 0161 941 2426.