10 Ways To Provide A Positive Work Environment (Part I)


This is part I of a two-part series on how managers can create positive work environments for their employees. Part I focuses on leadership and engagement strategies, while part II (here) will focus on communication norms. 

To build a cohesive, resilient, and high-performing team, leaders need to provide an environment that’s conducive for maximum team synergy. The problem is, this can prove to be an especially slippery effort; the norms that underpin work environments are largely invisible, though their effects are anything but.

Negativity in the workplace can easily fall through the cracks and miss the watchful eye of leadership. In many cases, leaders themselves might help to perpetuate and worsen existing tensions in the workplace, adding to the overall negativity instead of alleviating it.


Cultivating a positive work environment is vital for sustained company success. Research shows that positive work cultures improve overall productivity and employee happiness, elicit better collaboration, attract top talent, and reduce employee turnover.

Effective leadership and engagement practices are critical in the effort to create such environments; here’s how to do just that.

P.S. Give your leadership skills an ultra boost with SSA Academy’s WSQ course on leading workplace communication and engagement!




1. Provide psychological safety

When Google initiated Project Aristotle to find out what makes great teams tick, it found the unexpected. The highest-performing teams weren’t those that were necessarily made up of the most elite workers; they were those that shared a strong sense of psychological safety.

In a nutshell, people want to be able to bring their full, authentic selves to work, without fear of being negatively judged by others. When they felt psychologically safe, they were less afraid of co-workers seeing them as incompetent or ignorant. They were thus more willing to take interpersonal risks, including “admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.”


The presence of psychological safety fundamentally alters the way a team interacts with one another. It’s what makes them go from being wary and guarded to being interdependent, and from self-censorship to full participation and teamwork.

Leaders play a key role in this since they often set the tone for teamwork. It’s not easy for people to learn to be vulnerable around each other. A leader who shows vulnerability first before demanding it from others can make all the difference.


2. Get involved with your people, not with yourself

Managers who fail to provide adequate support to their employees are simply not serving their people well enough, regardless of their intentions. When those steering the ship aren’t looking out enough, negative work environments easily thrive.

Research has shown that people who report to self-serving managers are much likelier to develop mental and emotional problems like depression and severe burnout. Additionally, according to a 2008 Gallup poll, 75% of people leave their jobs for reasons that could have been influenced by managers, such as poor career advancement or a bad job fit. As it turns out, people really do leave bad bosses and not bad jobs.


Conversely, a 2018 study by leadership development company LearnLoft found that companies with positive, advanced work environments tended to have highly involved leaders. These companies had managers who [proactively] worked to shape and mould the culture daily.”

To inspire respect, loyalty, and dedication from their people, managers need to make it their mission to help others become their best selves at work and in life.

Serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, for example, practices the 51/49 rule; if you want people to perform at their very best, you need to provide 51% of the value in the relationship before you can ask anything of them.



3. Check in regularly

People need to feel valued. They want to know that managers are listening to them, looking out for them, and not taking them for granted. A huge part of this depends on whether or not a leader makes it a point to check in regularly with each employee. That, in turn, is influenced by the strength of personal relationships between managers and employees.


According to a 2016 Gallup study, employee engagement is highest among those who meet their managers at least once a week. At the same time, more than half of those in the Gallup survey said that they met their managers less than once a month.

One-on-one meetings are crucial in eliciting and giving regular, comprehensive feedback, set the stage of coaching opportunities, and set the tone of working relationships between managers and employees.


4. Cultivate a learning spirit

A forward-looking mindset is vital in dealing effectively with challenges at work. In contrast, a workplace environment that normalises excessive blaming and ruminating when things go wrong gets toxic fast.


It comes down to your people’s frame of minds. Those who are focused on learning and moving forward instead of finger-pointing are often better equipped to deal with failures and mistakes at work.

For that reason, managers need to build learning spirits and growth mindsets into each employee. Not only can this make them more adaptable and resilient in the long-term; it can also have a positive effect on job performance.


5. Grant greater autonomy

Micromanagement is the bane of an employee’s work life. Rigid, over-controlling managers are one of the most common reasons why people dread coming to work.


Through micromanagement, leaders create an atmosphere of distrust, stifle personal growth, and reduce motivation through depriving personal agency.

In contrast, leaders who grant their people autonomy create the right conditions for employees to engage in job crafting. This, in turn, promotes workplace happiness and increases job satisfaction.


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