A number of years ago now I came across the Losada Ratio that states that we need 3:1 positive to negative emotions to flourish. This research was conducted by Emily Heaphy and Consultant Marcial Losada who examined the effectiveness of 60 strategic-business-unit leadership teams at a large information processing technology. Effectiveness was measured according to financial performance, customer satisfaction, and 3600 feedback from team members. The factor that made the greatest difference between the most and least successful teams was the ratio of positive comments displayed by the highest performing teams. Comments included statements such as, “I agree with that”, “That’s a terrific idea”, or “Thanks!”. They provided encouragement, support and appreciation for others.
Negative comments reflected disapproval and cynicism and could go as far as sarcastic or disparaging remarks. When people and teams have 1:1 or less positive to negative they languish and decay. John Gottman showed that when couples show contempt towards the other person the relationship is generally “doomed”.
In positive psychology, flourishing is “to live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience.” Flourishing is the opposite of both illness and languishing, which are described as living a life that feels both hollow and empty.
Flourishing is a measure of overall life well-being and is viewed as important to the idea of happiness. Many things contribute to the overall concept of flourishing and the benefits of a life that can be characterised as flourishing. It incorporates many other concepts in the positive psychology field such as cultivating strengths, subjective well-being, positive work environments, and the like.
Research conducted by Barbara Fredrickson and later by Martin Seligman, the “father” of positive psychology, and others, has shown that positive emotions and interventions can bolster health, achievement, resilience, improve high performance, increase lifespan, social functioning, income, productivity, and can buffer against depression and anxiety and improve mental wellbeing.
Positive emotions boost our serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin and reduce our cortisol stress hormone. In general, the higher the ratio the better. However, there are limits – above 6:1 and especially above 11:1, which produces a negative sum effect.
For a system to be in a positive state, a significant amount of positivity is required to balance against the over-weighted power of negativity. Positivity lead to increased performance as an evolutionary adaption – happiness is a signal that it’s okay to make long-term investments.
There are dozens of ways to increase one’s positivity ratio. Laughing, gratitude, physical exercise, and self-compassion (being gentle with ourselves) are particularly effective. This also includes random acts of kindness, giving gifts and things like baking a cake and sharing it with colleagues.
The following 10 ideas can help nurture a workplace that flourishes:
- Recruit wisely
- Clearly communicate your organisation’s culture
- Nurture civility and respect
- Encourage creativity, and innovative thinking
- Catch people doing things well and tell them
- Find out what is important to the people around you
- Allow people the freedom to choose how they will work (within boundaries)
- Look people in the eyes when you speak with them, be present and really listen
- Say good morning, and good bye at the end of the day
- Notice what people are doing and inquire after it regularly and genuinely
I encourage you to consciously choose moments and activities that contribute to the flourishing of your workplace, and encourage others to do the same. Have fun!