Thriving WorkplacesUniversity of Michigan management and organization professor, Gretchen Spreitzer and Georgetown University assistant business professor, Christine Porath published a very practical article in the January-February issue of Harvard Business Review. “Creating Sustainable Performance” surveyed 1,200 white and blue-collar employees in several studies over seven years across a swath of industries.

They concluded that a better word to describe happy or satisfied employees was “thriving.” The researchers found that:

“people who fit our description of thriving demonstrated 16% better overall performance (as reported by their managers) and 125% less burnout (self-reported) than their peers. They were 32% more committed to the organization and 46% more satisfied with their jobs. They also missed much less work and reported significantly fewer doctor visits, which meant health care savings and less lost time for the company.”

Spreitzer and Porath broke thriving into two main components: Vitality — the sense of being alive, passionate, and excited; and Learning — gaining new knowledge, skills, and status as an expert.  The two in combination proved to be especially powerful. For example, people high in both vitality and learning were 21% more effective as leaders than those with just high energy. And those with high energy and low learning had 54% worse health than those with both.

The article provides the leadership lessons from their research for both our personal thriving and leading others to thrive. Their suggestions for individual thriving are:

  1. Take a Break – schedule a walk, a lunch in the park, watching a funny video or take a nap.
  2. Craft Your Own Work to Be Meaningful – watch for opportunities to connect to a deeper sense of purpose.
  3. Look for Opportunities to Innovate and Learn – break out of the status quo and look for new ideas and approaches.
  4. Invest in Relationships That Energize You – seek out people that help you thrive and minimize interaction with those who deplete your energy.
  5. Recognize That Thriving Can Spill Over Outside the Office – when you’re energized at work you can take that into your personal life and vice versa.

In “Creating Sustainable Performance” the main focus is leadership approaches with illustrative examples from a variety of companies to help others thrive. “The good news is that — without heroic measures or major financial investments — leaders and managers can jump-start a culture that encourages employees to thrive.” Their research shows this comes from four main mechanisms:

 1.     Providing Decision-Making Discretion

Employees at every level are energized by the ability to make decisions that affect their work. Empowering them in this way gives them a greater sense of control, more say in how things get done, and more opportunities for learning.

 2.     Sharing Information

Doing your job in an information vacuum is tedious and uninspiring; there’s no reason to look for innovative solutions if you can’t see the larger impact. People can contribute more effectively when they understand how their work fits with the organization’s mission and strategy.

 3.     Minimizing Incivility

… half of employees who had experienced uncivil behavior at work intentionally decreased their efforts. More than a third deliberately decreased the quality of their work. Two-thirds spent a lot of time avoiding the offender, and about the same number said their performance had declined.

4.     Offering Performance Feedback

Feedback creates opportunities for learning and the energy so critical for a culture of thriving. By resolving feelings of uncertainty, feedback keeps people’s work-related activities focused on personal and organizational goals. The quicker and more direct the feedback, the more useful it is.

The findings of this research align extremely well with our agenda for The Changing Workplace: Are You Ready?  on April 18 in Toronto.  Thriving in our own work and creating thriving workplaces is a focal point for our line up of experts and panelists. As conference leader, I’ll open and close the Conference while connecting the critical leadership dots throughout the day. You can find more information and register here. As part of our partnership with Your WorkPlace, we are offering a $100 discount on registration (discount code CLM100). Click here to register and be sure to use discount code: CLM100 to save $100!