Does Positivity Help Organizations Be More Successful?

October 20, 2017

On a really bad day, have you wondered what would happen if people had more positive attitudes?  Would your organization have significantly better outcomes?

The results are in. Positive practices produce good outcomes in organizations by increasing productivity, quality, customer satisfaction, employee retention, and profitability. In Practicing Positive Leadership, Kim Cameron reveals research that supports these results across 16 different industries that include both for-profit and non-profit organizations.  The big firms studied included General Electric, OfficeMax and National City Bank.

Smaller nonprofit organizations such as educational institutions and hospitals were also shown to be significantly more effective when they had high marks for using positive practices. Moreover, hundreds of studies show that positive practice workplaces benefit employee’s physical health, emotional well-being, brain functioning, interpersonal relationships outside of work, and their ability to learn.

Creating a Positive Climate

Cameron found four characteristics that create positive work environments: positive climates, positive relationships, positive communication, and positive meaning.  When all four elements are present, employees can “achieve their highest potential, flourish at work, experience elevating energy, and achieve levels of effectiveness difficult to attain otherwise.”

But do more positive work environments produce results in healthcare settings? One study Cameron conducted involved 30 healthcare organizations. It demonstrated that positive leadership practices differentiated performance between high- and low-functioning hospital units on a number of metrics, as seen in Figure 1. Topping the list of those positive outcomes were improved workplace “climate,” increased manager support, more staff participation, higher patient satisfaction, and an elevated quality of care.

Figure 1. Results of Implementing Positive Leadership Practices in 30 Hospitals

Cameron, K., Mora, C., Leutscher, T. 2011. Effects of Positive Practices on Organizational Effectiveness. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 47: 1-43.


Read more about how to apply positive psychology principles in PROPEL to Quality Healthcare: Six Steps to Improve Patient Care, Staff Engagement and the Bottom Line.

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Dr. Tom Muha is the Director of the PROPEL Institute. As the science of optimal human functioning has emerged, Dr. Muha has been at the forefront in the study of how people involved in healthcare systems can achieve the highest levels of success and satisfaction. Research at major academic medical centers has shown that applying the PROPEL Principles empowers healthcare professionals to achieve remarkable results.

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