Three myths on what makes the ideal workplace

Don’t focus on stamping out conflict, but give your team the right incentives

Get the incentives right and you won’t need to splurge millions on it.

When we think of extraordinary workplaces, the offices of Google or Facebook – with their lavish amenities and juicy benefits – might come to mind. But you don’t need to invest in fancy furniture or hotdesking to create the ideal workplace. In fact, you’ll go some way towards improving your employees’ performance and your company’s bottom line just by tackling the three following myths:

HAPPY EMPLOYEES ARE THE BEST EMPLOYEES

Research in the field of psychology has produced several compelling findings that connect happiness with productivity and innovation. Indeed, many companies have tried to capitalise on this by making happiness an explicit organisational goal. But concerning yourself solely with the mood of your employees is not without its dangers. “When you’re in a good mood, you tend to be less careful about making mistakes, more gullible and accepting of arguments at face value, and more willing to take risks,” says Ron Friedman, author of The Best Place to Work.
In fact, a balance between positive and negative emotions is actually a sign of a healthy office culture. Friedman suggests that emotions like anger, frustration, and shame can direct attention to serious issues in the company and prompt leaders to make corrections, leading to increased performance in the long run.

CONFLICT IS RARE

The best places to work may also seem like they’ve stamped out conflict altogether, but it turns out they just have better ways to deal with it. Disagreement is not only welcome, it leads to more productive solutions, says Peter T Coleman, author of Making Conflict Work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement.
Not all disagreements are equal, so leaders should choose their battles carefully and weigh the potential solutions on a case-by-case basis. The best workplaces don’t have chronic co-operators or persistent bullies, but people who read each situation and react appropriately, says Coleman. 
In any event, those looking to turn conflict into cooperation should emphasise shared goals and similar interests, he adds.

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT DEPENDS ON REWARDS

When it comes to engaging employees, emphasis is often placed on motivators like bonuses, incentive plans and commission. But as a study by the OC Tanner Institute shows, highly engaged people are guided by their own incentives. After analysing more than 1.7m cases of what they call “great work”, they found that 88 per cent of successful projects began with an employee asking “what difference could I make that other people would love?”.
Indeed, psychologist Daniel Pink says that motivation is a three-legged stool: it takes autonomy, or the desire to direct our own lives; it implies mastery, or the itch to continue improving at what matters to us; and it’s built on purpose, or the desire to do things in service of something more meaningful than ourselves.

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