Creating Small Positive Moments in Your Employees' Days

Updated: Jan 29

Everyone has those life-changing moments, such as a big promotion or a kind word from someone that pushed us in a new, more fulfilling direction. However, these moments are rarer than we'd like them to be. Even, for instance, if you get 15 promotions or have six kids, that's not a ton of days in your lifetime where you can say, "This happened to me today, and it's one of the best things that's ever happened to me." Also, while these events are happy, they also can add stress to your life.

So what about all of those other days of our lives where there is not a big moment?

The good news is that how we feel about our day is based on what happened today. Research is showing that the frequency of smaller positive interactions is equally as important as achieving major milestones. These smaller moments are what lead us to perceive our previous day as good or bad, and it's logical to think that the more positive our days are, the more likely we are to achieve those big milestones, creating good years, decades and, overall, a good life.

20,000 opportunities to make today a good one

Living in the moment is something all of us want to do, but that can be hard when you're working to meet deadlines, rushing to the next meeting, burning the midnight oil at the office, trying to fix a downed piece of equipment or working on routine items that result in you just going through the motions. However, if we can tap into these moments, be mindful and work with attention, then we can take back our day, and incorporate opportunities for employees to take back their days, as well.

How the research breaks out

  • We experience 20,000 moments a day, according to Nobel Prize Winning psychologist, Daniel Kahneman. That's 20,000 opportunities to make it a good one!

  • Moments are either positive, negative or neutral. For every negative moment, it takes three to five moments to get back to neutral. So that means if you have a culture where people interrupt or text at meetings or are perpetually late (things that raise exasperation levels), then begin looking to seed more positive cultural habits.

  • Bottom line, 80 percent of our daily moments need to be positive. Think back to yesterday...was your day 80 percent positive? If you have a negative interaction, then do what you can to create three to five positive ones to even it out.

  • Another study on teams in organizations found that a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions increased the productivity and creativity among the teams.

  • Things can worsen if the ratio goes higher than a 13:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions in teams - then the positivity is viewed as false or Pollyanna.

  • After viewing married couples for five minutes, using the 5:1 ratio, researchers were able to predict with 94 percent accuracy whether those couples would be divorced within 10 years. The more negative the actions, the more likely it was that couples’ marriages would dissolve into divorce.

So how does this information help us as communicators?

It reinforces that, when we're putting together long-term strategies, we need to consider and define as specifically as possible the daily interactions of employees that will be impacted, and we must ensure, as much as we are able, that there is the opportunity to make these interactions positive.

Here are some ways to have meaningful discussions and plant the seeds of change that will take root.

Plan small-group discussions

At DTE Energy, the executive VP shared this vision: "We believe that improvement is our daily responsibility and know those we serve have the right to expect that with us." He appointed a CI executive team and empowered them to engage employees with the vision. The team's initial two plans using top-down communications didn't do the trick.

The third time around, the team determined to focus more on socializing small groups with the new vision and trying more out-of-the box engagement materials. The new plan included huddle exercises, with employees in the field and call centers, and modified games, such as Jeopardy and BINGO to make learning CI terms fun. Brown Bag sessions were held during the day so that employees could come and ask questions around CI and other key initiatives. This new approach generated positive moments that created a CI movement that successfully engages employees around the company. These efforts resulted in achieving 10 of the 13 components in the CI maturity rating scale improvement. Click here to see a video documenting DTE's CI journey.

Tap existing ambassadors in your company

When Children's Healthcare of Atlanta needed to engage clinicians and non-clinicians in using communications best practices proven to improve patient safety by up to 90 percent, they tapped quality ambassadors in units to engage employees. Children's provided them with kits of online and printed materials that could be used by ambassadors at the best time depending on the situation. Each skill was associated with a saying to streamline and clarify communications. "I Have a Concern" was a way to get people's attention while in the moment. When people heard this, they knew they needed to respond. This was more than a campaign; the new skills became a grassroots effort, which created a cultural shift. This is a great example of how to connect a commitment to quality to the words employees use every day to make a difference and provide excellent care.

Encourage leaders to be deep thinkers about positivity

One study finds that the more mindful the manager, the lower the exhaustion level of employees. This is why its important for a company's leaders to have opportunities to think deeply and strategically about mindfulness and positivity. Below is example from Audible, but the types of companies included in the study were from the service, manufacturing, service and education industries, and included upper, mid and front line managers.

Audible's Chief Product and Marketing Officer, Louis Gagnon, held a mindfulness retreat engaging 18 of Gagnon's leaders in defining leadership. The group determined that 95 percent of the qualities they attributed to leadership were soft sills and not hard sills, such as goal setting. Gagnon says:

Audible's Chief Product and Marketing Officer Louis Gagnon:

"Our team was engaged, opened and excited to have the rare luxury to focus on themselves as individuals - individuals as a conduit and lever to ourselves as a team. We all felt deeply rejuvenated and at peace with each other. That, ultimately, built trust - the ultimate ingredient to teamwork."


Positivity is key to cultivate in change management projects. Positivity breads more positivity, and, especially during times of change, people are watching leadership for cues. There are some acts that are so easy to perform that have a positive charge - holding the door, not texting during meetings, listening, complimenting someone on a job well done and taking time to show someone how to do something. All of these smaller interactions cultivate our culture - good or bad, supportive or not supportive. So why not make sure that positivity is a part of your culture and strategic plans?

#Empowering #Inspire