Are you contagious?

Emojis - happy, sad, angryDid you know that your attitude is contagious?

So is everyone else’s.

A client noticed that when one of his consistently negative and cranky co-workers went on vacation, the whole office lightened up … until the co-worker came back.

And it wasn’t even anyone he worked with directly.

Everyone has days when they’re less than bright and bubbly. We’re human, after all, and that’s a good thing.

But you’re not imagining the impact of the consistent nay-sayer, complainer, or all-round gloomy employee. They really do bring everyone down. It’s called “emotional contagion,” and it’s a legitimate psychological Thing.

The good news is that the happy, positive, up-beat employee is also contagious… but probably not quite as effectively as the negative person, unfortunately.

So what can you do about this?

Start with yourself!

Self-awareness is a key skill for managers and leaders.

What are you spreading around? Are you generally positive, or are you always looking for the problems and anticipating the worst – or, more likely, something in between?

I’m certainly not suggesting you should always be chirpy and happy. Like I said, hello, you’re human. Plus, there are times as a leader that you absolutely need to be firm, stern, and even angry. But being aware of how you present yourself on an average day will help you understand how you can be a more positive influence for your team, your co-workers, and even your own boss.

(For more on the value of self-awareness, check out the short video “I is for Introspective” – click here.)

Support positivity

The chirpy, happy people on your team are sometimes perceived as too happy – especially by the more negative folks.

Don’t let that happen. Respond positively to others’ positivity. When someone says, “Isn’t it a great day!?”, agree with them instead of finding reasons why it isn’t so great. Thank them for being upbeat and cheerful.

Coach where necessary

Some people are naturally glum.

And some people have real challenges, including depression, ill family members, and so on. So be careful, be sensitive, but don’t allow criticism, carping, bad-mouthing, or gossip. (Here’s a quick video on dealing with gossip.)

Giving feedback on someone’s attitude, like anything else, should be done in private. Be curious about what’s going on; you may learn that there are meaningful concerns you’re not aware of. Encourage explanations for the behavior – but don’t allow it to continue. Set realistic expectations for improvement, and help the employee understand why it’s important. Explain emotional contagion!

It really is important

A positive, generally cheerful atmosphere encourages team engagement, higher productivity, and better-quality work. This is not just touchy-feely sparkle; it’s real.

After all, wouldn’t you prefer to work with positive, forward-thinking people?

As the manager and leader, it’s up to you to create that culture for your team. And for a few more ideas, here’s one more video: “U is for Upbeat.”