Home / Applying Theory in Practice / Discussion and Commentary / The Pluses and Minuses of Positivity (and Negativity)


The potential power of positive thinking is undeniable. In fact, even just a positive demeanor can make a big difference in how we feel, how others perceive us, and how the world looks to us. Research on positivity has seeped into organizational and management research and it has a lot to teach us about being effective leaders, managers, and followers in the service of accomplishing collective goals. For example, the Center for Positive Organizations states that:

Positive Organizational Scholarship…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 organizations. By bringing empathy, compassion, and energy into the workplace, leaders are able to enhance engagement and performance, and inspire their employees to innovate, find opportunity, and strive for excellence. Positive Organizational Scholarship principles create a generative business setting and act as a catalyst in the discovery of human potential.

The benefits of positive psychology for leaders and organizations is taught in a variety of venues from youth leadership forums to forums for advanced practitioners and researchers.

But positivity is not always a good thing. It can at the least sap motivation and at the worst be experienced as a form of domination. Beyond that negativity can enhance motivation, improve strategic thinking, and help us lead healthier lives.

Ultimately, harnessing the power of both positive and negative thinking is possible only when people in organizations are able to recognize the potential benefits and drawbacks of both, and use them at the right the time.


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