The Atlantic's September cover story, "The Queen Bee In The Corner Office," takes a deeper look at why certain women undermine other women at work. A recent New York Times article on female CEOs suggests that no one (men or women) can reach the upper levels of management without being at least a little mean. The takeaway from both articles is definitely depressing. Want to be successful? Well, then you better be a jerk.
But before you start undermining your colleagues in order to get ahead, take a minute to read a new article from Harvard Business Review which finds that saying nice things to your coworkers can have a big impact on their work — and how they feel.
Research has shown that people have a tendency to dwell on thoughts that cause worry or distress. Some of it may be evolutionary (the brain's way of making you pay attention to that that terrible thing over there). However, in more modern times, staying stuck on concerns that aren't life threatening can erode our quality of life — and work.
The good news is that reframing your mindset can sometimes change your state of mind and other people's too. When focusing on yourself, that might happen by writing out your frustrations, looking at them objectively without letting yourself spiral, and then imagining how you'd handle it as your most-capable self. When trying to improve the days of your coworkers, you might pay them a thoughtful compliment that helps showcase why they are valuable.
After all, work is just as much about getting along with people as it is about getting your work done. The HBR article points to research showing that "stories we hear from others that highlight our unique contributions can help us find purpose in our relationships with our colleagues and our work."
The article's authors, Jane E. Dutton and Julia Lee, offer four suggestions for how to "cultivate positive self-meaning" among your colleagues: create positive first impressions, communicate a teammate's value, describe them positively when they're undermined, and send off colleagues on a high note. The advice isn't groundbreaking, but it's a much-needed antidote to all the negative workplace advice that seems to be everywhere these days.
Saying a few kind words to a colleague seems like a small thing, but it can make a big difference. That difference can result in a stronger team that benefits from your standout leadership skills — a winning combo for everyone involved.