Jan 10 2022
Kasia Sosin

What's the Role of Positivity in the Workplace?


This is the fifth in an 11-part series of blog posts that focus on Basis Technologies' corporate guiding principles, and how those values show up in the workplace and in the lives of our people.

At the beginning of the year, there is no shortage of work. Many people’s minds are racing as they try to keep up with their regular workload, while making big plans for the year ahead.

At the same time, there has been no shortage of stressors over the past two years. Outside of the workplace, concerns have included the pandemic, the economy, finances, and more. Professionals are continuing to feel these effects, with nearly half of employees surveyed by McKinsey & Company saying they’re feeling some symptoms of being burned out at work.

One of Basis Technologies’ guiding principles, Choose Positivity, has taken on a new meaning in this context, as there is a greater need for empathy and gratitude from individuals and employers alike.

In reflection on this past year, I asked John Botero (Director Platform Support), Ayse Pamuk (Platform Operations Manager), Mike Rizzo (Agency Lead), and Christine Kim (VP, Client Learning & Enablement), on how they keep a positive mind and what steps we can all take steps towards making work a little less stressful.

Kasia Sosin: How can professionals encourage more positivity in the workplace?

John Botero: Show gratitude. A simple “thank you” can go a long way. Gratitude helps build trust and appreciation amongst peers. Something as simple as verbal praise or a quick email can go a long way in making someone feel appreciated and that their contribution is valued.

Also, smile! Sounds simple but smiling is contagious and can change the energy in the room. A genuine smile can improve the mood of those around you. Fake smiling can have a negative effect (people see through the insincerity) so don’t do it, but a real smile can help strengthen relationships and contribute to a positive culture. 

Ayse Pamuk: I think it all starts with communication. This does not mean verbal communication per se, but the energy we are radiating while interacting with others. I remember reading once that mood is contagious and that we’re all affected by how others around us are feeling. There will be good days and some bad days so it is not easy to spread positive vibes all the time, but I think we shouldn't shy away from it when we can! Collaboration can also help. Learning from others' experiences, seeing that we're not alone in thinking/feeling certain things, or sharing our opinions and being heard can mean a lot. 

Mike Rizzo: This time of year always serves as a great reminder for me around the importance of gratitude, hope and empathy. Through empathy we develop deeper understanding and authentic relationships, while choosing hope and expressing gratitude allows for a more positive outlook and greater appreciation throughout our daily lives. 

Christine Kim: Work-life balance. I believe that when you give people the freedom & trust to create a flow that maximizes their work output, it creates a unique space. For example, do they need some flexibility because they have kids at home? As long as clients are happy and work is getting done and the employee is happy, what more can you want? This space opens up the opportunities for people to get creative and figure out what makes them happy and happy & creative people equals positive and outstanding work!

Recognition is also key. When it comes to my role, I work with so many different teams across the company from IT to Marketing to Customer Success to Product to the Media Services team. As you can imagine, this means that whatever I do in my role is really a result of collaboration, thus anything positive that is accomplished is a win for ALL and not just myself. That said, something that is always top of mind for me is making sure I take the time to say thank you and recognize the hard work that people do for the programs I work for. This comes in the form of thank you notes, remembering birthdays, sending small gifts, and always sharing wins with other people’s bosses so that they can see how much they helped! 

KS: What's something you’ve done this year to uplift those around you?

JB: With most people working from home nowadays, keeping in touch is a priority. To facilitate that I created a slack channel that my team all logs into every morning. We all touch base as we kick off the day and before leaving at the end of the night. Saying hello and goodbye seems like a small gesture, I believe it helps us to retain that team feeling while working remotely and that adds to a positive work environment.

I also try and reach out as often as possible to touch base. Whether that’s through a scheduled one-on-one or a quick “hello” during the day to check in, I believe these routines add to a positive team atmosphere, especially when working remotely. This way you’re not only reaching out when there’s an issue or you need something.

AP: I use humor to manage stress and stay positive. Jokes and laughter can really make all things more bearable. My yoga instructor encourages us to smile in challenging poses. There's something powerful about this attitude so I do my best to apply it everywhere in my life, workplace included. 

MR: Being present and curious in regularly scheduled one-on-ones. Our transition to virtual work environments has been an adjustment for us all and I’ve made it a priority to consistently check-in personally and professionally with my team, colleagues, and clients to ensure we’re supporting one another as best we can. 

CK: My hope is that I uplift people unintentionally by trying to live my own life authentically while striving to become the best version of myself. However, intentionally, I try to remember small things about people and try to find small moments to make them feel special. This can be in the form of a birthday cards, a small gift, coffee, a ping to say hello or to tell them about something that recently reminded me of them! 

KS: What’s something someone else has done to uplift YOU in the workplace? 

JB: I had a colleague recently send me a quick thank-you note after helping to solve a problem their client was facing that was causing a real issue with the account. When you work in a high-pressure, fast-paced environment it’s easy to overlook the niceties when dealing with colleagues, but that quick note made my day and helped to strengthen the positive relationship we already had. I know I said it before, but a simple thank-you note can go a long way.

AP: When I look back to 2021, I think joining the Women in Tech leadership group has made the most notable positive impact to my life. Connecting with women in our organization through events and the mentorship program, as well as attending recruiting events outside of our organization has empowered me beyond my wildest dreams. So I can't thank the WiT leaders (Victoria, Christine and Kelsey) for bringing me in! 

MR: Conscious Leadership trainings with Lola Wright. I am extremely grateful to Basis leadership for prioritizing these sessions as well as Lola and all of my colleagues for showing up, sharing their own unique perspectives and experiences while allowing the space to learn and grow together and individually. 

CK: Earlier this year, we brought home the award for Best Education Program by Ad Exchanger. When you’re such a small team, this type of recognition puts you on another level of glee! It becomes a direct output of the hard work you put into it. When this happened, I had so many people go out of their way to text, call, email to say congratulations. It truly felt like a company celebration and I was so proud of the entire team for bringing it home. 

KS: The term “toxic positivity” refers to the belief that no matter how difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. How do you move away from spreading this belief in your interactions with team members or direct reports? 

JB: It’s been said that positivity does not imply the absence of negativity and I believe this to be true. A healthy positive outlook can only be acquired when negative situations are confronted. To move forward on a positive foot, negativity must first be acknowledged.

To combat toxic positivity I feel the first step is to not ignore the issue or pretend it’s not a problem but to rather face the issue, acknowledge the situation and then find a solution that works. Ignoring the issue will not fix the problem, and acknowledgment is key; if you don’t acknowledge the issue you won’t learn from it, and you miss out on an opportunity to grow and better yourself and your team. At the end of the day, a negative outlook is never a good way to move forward but negativity can be the seed of growth that allows us to do better or be better and that’s always a positive thing.

AP: Thinking positively doesn’t mean we should block out all negativity. In the end, all feelings are valid and one of the worst things one can do to another is to ignore their reality. So whenever someone shares something negative about a situation, I do my best not to judge but just to listen. I also try to avoid giving advice unless I am asked to. I think this alone helps a lot with creating a safe space to further discuss what can be done to improve conditions that's causing stress. 

MR: While I do my best to always choose positivity, it’s vital to feel and work through all that life throws our way, the good and the bad. Lola shared a quote with our group by Dr. Michael Beckwith that really resonated here—“pain pushes us until our vision pulls.” Toxic positivity hinders our ability to push ourselves further and continue to grow as a partner, parent, colleague, and friend. 

CK: It’s almost easier and tempting to tell someone to look at the bright side or to highlight the silver lining. While usually not intentional, a response like that can feel dismissive or has a “get over it” tone. It’s important to validate and recognize people’s experiences. Unless someone is explicitly asking me for my input or another perspective, I try my best to simply sit and try to listen and validate what they are saying – even if that means sometimes I don’t have anything to add to the conversation. After all, it’s not about me and my response in those moments. I try to make it 100% about what the other person might be going through. 

KS: What's one thing that made you smile today? 

JB: Knowing that I get to work for a company that helps to facilitate a positive working environment where people feel appreciated, respected, and genuinely cared for not only puts a smile on my face every day, but it’s also one of the many reasons I love working at Basis! 

AP: I found my old journal today that I thought I'd lost while travelling 4 years ago! I read a few pages and realized that I am no longer bothered with most of the things written there. It gave me lots of hope that whatever I'm struggling right now shall pass as well. 

MR: Gratitude for my wife and our almost-four-year-old who’s silliness, curiosity and kindness always brings a smile. 

CK: My pandemic puppy—all day, every day!

Learn more about Basis Technologies' culture here.