New roadmap to a more positive work environment

BizConversationIN their book, Positive Organisational Scholarship, Cameron, Dutton and Quinn (2003) describe the nature of work life in the current decade.

Imagine there are but two types of organisations. The first kind is typified by greed, selfishness, manipulation, secrecy and a single-minded focus on winning at all costs. Wealth creation is the key indicator of success.

Members of such organisations are distrustful and anxious. They are self-absorbed and fearful. They suffer from burnout and feel abused. Conflict, lawsuits, contract breaking, retribution and disrespect characterise interactions and social relationships.

Were these kinds of organisations studied by academics, they would emphasise theories of problem solving, reciprocity and justice, managing uncertainty, overcoming resistance, achieving profitability and competing successfully against others.

The second kind of organisation, on the other hand, is typified by appreciation, collaboration, virtuousness, vitality and energy, and meaningfulness. Creating abundance and human well- being are key indicators of success.

The members of these organisations are characterised by trustworthiness, resilience, wisdom, humility and high levels of positive energy. Social relationships and interactions are typified by compassion, loyalty, respect and forgiveness.

In this case, academic researchers would concentrate on theories of excellence, transcendence, positive deviance, extraordinary performance and positive spirals of flourishing.

Positive Organisational Scholarship (POS) is a fresh lens and it offers new ways of looking at old phenomena. It advocates the position that the desire to improve and develop the human condition in organisations is universal, and that the capacity to do so is latent in most systems.

By unlocking capacities such as meaning creation, relationship transformation, positive emotion cultivation and high quality connections, organisations can produce sustained sources of collective capability that help organisations thrive.

Furthermore, POS has become a major focus for organisations and empowers leaders to create positive work environments, improving the culture of their workplace and helping them discover what is possible with their employees and within their organisations.

By bringing empathy, compassion and energy into the workplace, leaders are able to enhance engagement and performance, and inspire employees to innovate, find opportunity and strive for excellence.

Peter Drucker, the global management guru, was accurate when he said the task of leadership was to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make system weaknesses irrelevant.

POS provides the roadmap to a more positive work environment. Research has shown that high-performing companies have more positive employees than their negative poor-performing counterparts.

In South Africa there is a need to revitalise the role of leadership in focusing on unlocking positivity, excellence and wellbeing so as to ensure organisational sustainability and success.

POS helps organisations to appreciate the hidden potential of employees. By doing so, it will contribute to higher levels of productivity and, therefore, profitability.

Informal research with human resources managers in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth has shown that between 80% and 90% of employees in companies are not positive.

What does the future hold for the metro?

With the many public holidays and the general election behind us, business leaders can now regroup and focus on what is right in their organisations. It is not all that bleak for potential investors in our area. The metro has many opportunities to offer.

On May 22, NMMU and the Business Chamber will host the global icon and co-pioneer Professor Kim Cameron in Port Elizabeth.

Cameron, who hails from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in the US, will address business leaders at a one-day executive POS leadership conference in the NMMU Conference Centre on the north campus.

The topics to be covered include: “Leading Positive Performance”, “Extraordinary Positive Performance in Organisations”, “Positively Energising Leadership” and “Creating Positive Employee Engagement”.

On May 23, the Centre for Positive Organisations at the Ross School of Business will sign an association agreement with the Unit for Positive Organisations at NMMU.

This will mark the beginning of a unique academic and research partnership between these two institutions. NMMU is the first university on the African continent to have been chosen by the Ross School of Business as a POS association partner.

  • Dr Johan Schoeman is a senior lecturer and positive organisational consultant at the Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology at NMMU


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