Every leader wants a more efficient workplace. Employees benefit from a safe, supportive atmosphere that uses cutting-edge psychological tools to empower each person to make a meaningful contribution to the group.
When companies take the initiative to learn more about the people comprising the organization, they often learn to create a customized atmosphere that results in higher productivity, organizational cohesiveness, and, ultimately, higher profits.
Here are seven key psychological concepts that will drastically improve workplace performance:
1. Use positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement is a technique of operant conditioning, which was pioneered by psychologist B.F. Skinner. He found that, by adding a rewarding stimulus after a rat produced a desired behavior, the rat learned to repeat the desired action. In fact, the rats he studied learned faster from positive reinforcement than any form of punishment.
In the office, this means taking the time to say "thank you" to your co-workers and surprising people with gifts when they're doing a good job. As a leader, this means contemplating performance-based bonuses and providing other positive surprises when business is going well.
2. Cultivate a safe space.
An important part of organizational culture is making people feel safe and part of the group. Investing time and money in comprehensive multicultural trainings will result in an excellent return on your investment, because it will increase employee retention, decrease liability, and attract a wide range of employees to your company.
Learning more about other cultures (i.e., everything from LGBTQ, to race and ethnicity, to (dis)ability and socioeconomic status) will make more people feel comfortable in your environment, which will make them more productive and loyal to the organization.
3. Promote authenticity.
Authentic leadership results in more genuine social relationships, which increases feedback and personal accountability. When people get to work and then have to hide behind a masquerade, they are much less likely to give critical feedback that's needed for positive change, and are less likely to be engaged with their work.
As more individuals within the organization connect to their true selves within the context and overarching goals of the company, people will enjoy their work more and be more invested in the outcome of their effort.
4. Open lines of communication.
The more you value feedback and prioritize communication, the faster you will grow. When employees feel like they have a voice and that their voice matters to management, they are more loyal and inspired to provide their best effort. Open lines of communication, including transparency in decision making processes, helps transmit organizational values, goals, and philosophies.
Psychologists specialize in training people how to communicate with themselves and others. Most people enter treatment due to relationship difficulties, which often stem from poor communication. If you want your organization to succeed, master the art of communication.
5. Generate meaning.
When employees feel like their work is meaningless, they slack off and count the number of minutes until they can leave for the day. If you want to increase your bottom line, then increase productivity by helping employees generate meaning from their tasks. Translate how their individual work is critical to the organization's goals, and how their meaningful contribution will positively impact their life and the company's progress.
Psychology tells us that the more we can create a sense of meaning, the more responsible we feel for being the author of our lives. Empower your employees to write a story that fits into the organization's narrative, so that the entire group feels accountable for progress.
6. Implement mindfulness breaks.
Mindfulness isn't just a hot topic, it can create a serious boost to productivity. Instead of having the unrealistic expectations that people will sit in their desks all day and remain focused, take note of the psychology that informs us that humans now have shorter attention spans than goldfish.
We need to take short breaks to settle our thoughts and return to the here and now. The more that your organization prioritizes mindfulness from the leadership down, the better everyone will be able to focus, remain calm, and stay productive.
7. Validate, then inspire.
Psychologists know that most people want to feel heard and understood. Much of the world invalidates personal experiences and leaves people feeling isolated and misunderstood. If you want optimal workplace performance, follow simple psychology and validate people's experiences.
Empathize and convey that you respect their emotions and value their opinion prior to telling them that they are incorrect. First, listen and empathize, then redirect. Living by those simple rules will improve your workplace cohesiveness and your personal relationships.
Simple psychology works. Psychologists spend decades studying humans to understand their motivations and functions. Instead of ignoring their efforts, start incorporating current psychological research so that you can maximize your results and build the company of your dreams.