Working in a cooperative environment involves spending weeks, months, or even years alongside a collection of people, all of whom hold a range of purposes and motivations. When considering how success is created in this setting, one may realize that it doesn’t matter whether a worker’s contributions are subtle or massive, or whether an employee’s reason for showing up is primarily to advance their company’s mission, or simply to earn a living, or both, or neither—all this is irrelevant, because in the end, every team member approaches this collaborative dynamic with the same goal in mind: prosperity.
The degree to which a web can endure stress is synonymous with how purposefully its strands are intertwined, and every employee pursues workplace success along their own strand of motive, within this lattice of mutual prosperity. Just as the nature of a web makes its strands stand stronger and longer when effectively connected, the essence of teamwork means that every employee’s efforts are best achieved when most efficiently fed into, and propped against one another.
Therefore, it is in the interest of any team to build a cohesive, interlinked webwork of successive support and supportive success for security against peers’ workplace struggles, in a manner that ensures defense against the stresses of each team member. Luckily for us all, there already exists an efficient adhesive for tying individually driven workers into a effectively motivated community; we can achieve this by simply letting team members know that their unique functions, approaches, and talents are valued.
Those who have wrestled success from a harsh work environment might think it fluffy and idealistic to assume that simply sharing kind words could engender widespread success; they may wonder, wouldn’t breeding expectations of constant, biting reproach and carnivorous competition provide a powerful motive to perform? To anyone who thinks along those lines, I ask: would conditioning employees to fear and loathe failure be necessary, were they first taught to mutually produce the positive self-knowledge needed to succeed?
Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review suggests that exchanging positive remarks in a professional setting works wonders on employee performance. They conducted a study in which one team was encouraged to “relationally affirm” beneficial self-views by telling peers that their work had positively affected team performance, and the other was not. When given a set of creative problem-solving tasks, the team that was allowed to comment on their coworkers’ strengths performed best.
Researchers noted that because top-performing team members were placed in an environment of encouragement, they achieved an enhanced level of social worth; they understood that their contributions were viewed not just as some mechanized means to an end, but respected and valued as a prominent facilitator of a mutually bright outcome.
Whether creating a positive first impression when employees come aboard, or giving a great review when they leave, providing an accurate portrait of workers’ contributions to their companies’ prosperity provides them definitive proof that all their efforts are worthwhile. Thought patterns of worry, fear and self-doubt that may breed naturally in employees who never hear a kind word have a much harder time invading workers who are objectively shown their own merit.