March 1, 2004
Energizing your workplace: New book shows how
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Business leaders and managers can energize their workplaces by building and sustaining high-quality connections that activate and renew the energy people bring to their jobs, says Jane Dutton of the University of Michigan Business School.
In her new book, Dutton provides strategies for building beneficial ties among people that are marked by mutual regard, trust and active engagement and suggests ways for dealing with low-quality, or corrosive, connections that diminish employees' performance and organizational effectiveness.
"Energize Your Workplace: How to Create and Sustain High-Quality Connections at Work" also outlines steps for designing and constructing workplace environments that energize people and enable organizations to excel. The book is part of the Michigan Business School's focus on Positive Organizational Scholarship, a revolutionary field of scientific study established as a center of excellence at the Business School.
"The energy and vitality of individuals and organizations alike depends on the quality of the connections among people in the organization and between organizational members and people outside the firm with whom they do business," said Dutton, professor of management and organizations and professor of psychology. "Every interaction with others at work—big or small, short or lengthy—has the potential to create or deplete vital energy, which governs whether you are going to achieve greatness, mediocrity or failure."
She says that when positive energy is activated through a high-quality connection, it can lead to "positive spirals" where people experience more energy and positive emotions, which increases their capacity to think and act in the moment and in turn enables them to build more capacity and desire to interact effectively with others.
The first pathway to building high-quality connections, Dutton says, is through respectful engagement, which involves interacting with others in ways that reinforce feelings of worth and value. Strategies for achieving this include conveying a sense of presence, being genuine, communicating affirmatively and listening effectively.
The second pathway—task enabling—utilizes teaching, job designing, advocacy, flexibility and nurturing to establish a positive connection by aiding the performance of a boss, peer or subordinate.
Creating trust, the third pathway to high-quality connections, is achieved by conveying through words and deeds a belief in the integrity, dependability and good motives of others. Sharing valuable information, using inclusive language, giving away control and responsibility, and soliciting and acting on input help to build trust, which ultimately strengthens personal ties and organizational cohesiveness.
Leaders and managers can confirm the potential for building high-quality connections through their own language and actions, Dutton says. They also can cultivate organizational settings where positive, life-giving interactions among people will flourish and negative, damaging behaviors will be discouraged.
Business cultures that value teamwork, the development of people, the "whole person" and the worth and dignity of every individual regardless of rank or position are more likely to foster high-quality connections than those where employees are devalued, disrespected, mistrusted or excluded, she adds. Formal and informal reward systems can affirm the values that promote beneficial ties among people in a workplace, and business practices and processes can equip and motivate people to interrelate more effectively.
"By making the attainment of high-quality connections a strategic objective that is pursued every day, you will progress down the path of becoming extraordinary both as an individual manager and as an organizational leader," Dutton said.
"Energize Your Workplace" is part of the Michigan Business School Management Series, which draws on the interdisciplinary research of faculty members. For additional information, visit www.umbsbooks.com. To learn more about Positive Organizational Scholarship, visit www.bus.umich.edu/positive.