I’ve got a great big pile of magazines on my desk which are a bit of a challenge to get through, I must admit. But today I read an article in one of them by Michael West, writing in People Management (Oct 05) which really struck a chord.
An environment of positive emotions, he writes, encourages organisational citizenship. I like that phrase. Organisational citizenship – the ‘tendency for people at work to help each other and put extra effort in beyond what is required.’ He goes on to comment that researchers think that this is what makes the difference between the most profitable organisations and the rest.
If this is true, then storytelling is an ideal way of fostering these positive emotions and engendering discretionary effort. Positive emotions encourage us to solve problems more creatively, to negotiate more successfully, to be more productive, to learn from our own performance. So telling positive stories about what we are already doing at work can only serve to spark positive emotions, and so on and so forth. Negative stories do have their place as long as a positive solution is seen as the outcome. They strike at the heart strings, but only when presented in a particular way – negativity is corrosive and can cause hostility and cynicism too.
He finishes by saying ‘The idea that we can create effective organisations by focusing on performance and ignoring the role of our emotions is based on the false premise that emotions can be ignored at work. Positive relationships and a sense of community are the product and cause of positive emotions. We should work with human need, capacity and potential, rather than against them, if we are to create positive organisations that succeed and, at the same time, foster the health and well-being of those who work in them.’
Great article, Mr West.