5 Ways to Create a Culture of Positivity

Social connection in the workplace can enhance individual and organizational health.
By: | April 25, 2019 • 4 min read
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American workplaces are suffering from the effects of LSD—loneliness, stress and depression—and the best antidote is a culture of positivity.

That’s according to motivational speaker MJ Shaar, co-author of Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance, who led a discussion on workplace culture Thursday at Health & Benefits Leadership Conference in Las Vegas.

The stats Shaar shared on the pervasiveness of LSD were anything but positive: About 40% of American workers report feelings of loneliness (including half of CEOs); 80% say they’re stressed, especially younger workers; and 10% report depression, with older adults being at an enhanced risk. And those are only the employees who self-report these feelings—meaning the stats are likely even more grim, Shaar said.

“LSD highjacks our brains in a way that makes us less likely to perform well at work,” she said, noting these conditions stymie productivity, company profitability and job growth.


“We lose so many work days in the U.S. each year because of LSD, it would be the same as if the whole workforce of South Carolina decided, ‘Nope, I’m not going to work this year,’ “ she noted, adding LSD accounts for $1 trillion in losses every year.

Shaar brought those numbers to life with an on-site experiment at HBLC. After sharing the dismal statistics about LSD, she projected a series of faces accompanied by mournful background music and asked audience members to count how many of those individuals they’d want to be friends with. Then, she posed a simple mathematical equation on the screen, a word scramble and a photo-matching challenge and asked participants to solve them as quickly as possible—with few in the room able to accomplish the task.

A few minutes later, she had audience members at each table create a simple drumbeat together, then projected the same faces with an upbeat song—followed by another three-part challenge. At the end of this activty, however, more than half the room was able to solve the problems—and reported a much higher percentage of the projected individuals with whom they would want to be friends.

“When we are in a positive mind frame, we are more accepting of others and we are more likely to see them as part of a group,” Shaar said. “Imagine if we did that on the organizational level: What would happen to our relationships, to LSD, to productivity?”

Workers who are positive are better liked, better ambassadors for the company and better organizational citizens, she said. They are also better decision-makers, more creative, perceived as more competent, sell more, are higher performers and less likely to burnout.

The more positivity that spreads across an organization then, Shaar said, colleagues feel safer to share ideas outside of the box—leading to innovation—the organization is more adaptable to change, and talent retention, service equality and employee engagement flourish. On an individual level, organizations with a positive culture, in which workers feel connected to one another, report a wealth of positive health benefits for employees—less inflammation, less risk for cancer and Alzheimer’s, regulated blood pressures and reduced risk for cardiovascular events.