The magic ratio is five to one. This is the recommended ratio of positive to negative engagements for all your relationships: home, work, and community. Five positive engagements for one negative. When we adopt the magic ratio, we create a chain of positive interpersonal events.
Tom Rath and Don Clifton researched the recommended ratio of positive to negative interactions. In their book, How Full is Your Bucket, the authors outline ways to fill up people’s buckets. In addition, they present findings on what happens to family and collegial relationships when there is excessive dipping from each other’s buckets. Rath and Clifton found that positive interactions can actually increase life span by 10 years, fuel resilience, and improve the overall performance of a group. Positive engagement can also increase individual productivity and increase retention in organizations.
Yet, 65% of Americans report they received no recognition for positive work in the workplace last year. The number one reason people quit their jobs is because of lack of appreciation. It’s not just the workplace either. For example, many parents look at their children’s report cards and comment more on the lower grades than higher grades. How can we shift to more positive interactions?
All too often, the quick fix approach to this is “star” or “employee/student of the week or month” program. These prescriptive programs often miss the most important aspect of positive interactions- they must be individualized. They can’t be forced.
How do we create the chain of interpersonal events we need in our workplaces, homes and communities? Rath and Clinton suggest we try:
- “Shine a Light on What is Right”– Make someone feel good, tell someone you care about them, listen to someone’s goals and ambitions, smile when you meet someone, give praise when you see good behavior.
- “Make a Best Friend”- People who have a “best friend” at work have more positive engagements. Listen to your office friends with unconditional regard. Learn something new about a colleague and create a flow of positive energy.
- “Give unexpectedly”- An unexpected card, email, or small gift creates more positive energy than an expected response. Surprise someone with a positive comment and it accelerates the chain reaction.
- “Customize your feedback”- Individualize your positive feedback. Find out how each person on your team likes to receive recognition and feedback. Discover what kind of recognition motivates your colleagues. Know who likes cards, gift certificates, memos, parties, and quiet appreciation. Not everyone likes a pizza party; not everyone likes a personalized card. Find out what each person needs and start the chain of positive engagement.
How can you fill someone’s bucket today?