12 Strategies to Cultivate Positivity at Work

What is one creative way you motivate your team to stay positive when things get tough at work?


1. Create Space to Play

“Our company is all about helping employees connect through fun, meaningful experiences, yet we sometimes, ironically, forget to have fun ourselves. In the grind of a startup, it’s easy for work to become all-consuming, so my co-founder and I have started intentionally building time into the week for our team to relax, release, share stories, and laugh together.”

- Martina Welke, Zealyst

2. Laugh, Smile and Look at the Bigger Picture

“At the end of an especially tough client call, long day or spirit-draining update, we find the best medicine is a smile. Whether that comes due to impromptu pizza (diets beware!), each person picking their favorite Will Ferrell clip or a dancing cat gif, it helps us put everything in perspective. Sometimes seeing the bigger picture allows the silver lining to shine through in rough situations.”

- Kim Kaupe, ‘ZinePak

3. Run It Out!

“Our team was facing a real rough patch when we launched a new service platform. We were working long hours and handling stressful client interfaces. One day, during our staff meeting, I asked everyone to meet me outside in their running gear. We did a “brainstorming session” while we ran. It’s amazing how many ideas you can come up with when you get the blood flowing. It’s instant motivation, too!”

- Aj Thomas, Infuse Entrepreneurship Foundation

4. Stay in It Together

“We think of our team like a family, and when one member is feeling the stress, we all try to pitch in and help. Our office is fond of writing inspirational or motivational notes to one another during tough tasks. We also like to surprise our employees with small gifts, like flowers or gift certificates, when key milestones are met during especially tough projects.”

- Brittany Hodak, ‘ZinePak

5. Over-communicate

“Every startup has tough times. You have to expect it to be a rollercoaster, but you can enjoy the journey along the way. Mutual trust is the only way to get through the rough patches. Your team needs to know that you’re being honest with them. Always over-communicate and err on the side of transparency. In the long run, this approach creates a positive team dynamic and company culture.”

- Mitch Gordon, Go Overseas

6. Organize Customer Calls

“When things get stressful at work, we try to refocus on ‘why’ we are spending our time at this startup. Calling customers has a centering effect: ‘This is why I’m working hard!’ But it also tends to bring a smile to our faces, as our customers-like customers of most startups-tend to be strong brand advocates. There’s nothing to staying positive like hearing ‘I love your team.’”

- Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

7. Offer Perks Related to Relaxation

“We know that there are certain periods during the year that will be incredibly busy for the whole team, and we try to make a point of rewarding our employees with perks, like spa or dinner gift certificates, once those periods are completed. These perks directly encourage relaxation, whereas a cash bonus alone may have the opposite effect at times.”

- Allie Siarto, Loudpixel

8. Watch a Disney Movie

“Nothing cheers us up like a Disney movie. So if it has been a rough week, get ready for some Beauty and the Beast.”

- Derek Flanzraich, Greatist


9. Make Your Measurable Goals Visible

“Tying the reason ‘why’ your team works with a measurable goal goes a long way toward keeping things positive. When a measurable goal is within sight-say, 1,000 customers-it motivates a team to keep working. Get creative in your measurable goals; post these goals in a visible place, and make sure to reward and celebrate the team when those goals are met. ”

- Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

10. Recognize Progress

“Failure is an inevitable part of starting a company; there will be a few potentially company-altering sales that will slip through your fingers in the beginning. It’s a good thing to have an invested team that feels the pain, but it’s equally important that you highlight the progress made, even if the sale wasn’t closed. Small process improvements in the beginning lead to big wins in the future.”

- Charles Bogoian, Kenai Sports, LLC

11. Keep Your Eye on the Goal

“During several tough phases in our company, we have handled the situation by over-communicating and being transparent, being available and collegial and by keeping our focus on the big goal-reiterating that a startup is meant to be tried through fire several times over if we’re to emerge winners. We also strongly believe in focusing on solutions, and not expending energy on the problem.”

- Shradha Agarwal, ContextMedia

12. Key in on Music

“They say music is the language of meaning, and it evokes a sense of overwhelming emotion. Inspire employees with music-give them more than just a high five; give them a beat. Our company sees few deals a month, due to our niche space. So, when a deal is brokered and the bell is rung, we play some inspirational music-for example, Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’”

- George Mavromaras, Mavro Inc. | Praetor Global LLC.

About The Young Entrepreneur Council

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.


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