In How Full is Your Bucket?, Donald O. Clifton and Tom Rath have partnered up in the hopes of helping people focus on the positive and not the negative. In his previous research and in his life experiences, Donald O. Clifton noticed that every interaction in life made a difference and profoundly shaped his perceptions.
The theory of the dipper and the bucket
To Donald O. Clifton and to Tom Rath, everyone possesses an invisible bucket and an invisible dipper. Filling your bucket would be synonymous to “boosting your well-being” and feeling engaged in your work.
An invisible bucket that can be emptied or filled depending on our interactions with others. When the bucket is full, we feel great, optimistic, energetic, renewed and strong.
An invisible dipper that can empty of fill someone else’s bucket. When the dipper is used to fill someone else’s bucket, we simultaneous fill our own bucket. When we use our dipper to empty someone else’s bucket, we empty our own bucket.
The power of Negativity
Negativity has the power to kill an individual. For most of us, negativity is common and harmless, but erodes our well-being and productivity. Negativity is also contagious and pushes us to start dipping in someone else’s bucket in the hopes of fulling ours.
In the workplace, daily multiple micro aggressions or the accumulation of negative interactions can cause people invisible and individual bucket to be emptied. An empty bucket has consequences on your well-being, on the well-being of your friends and family members, on your work performance, on your team’s productivity.
The disengagement and the negativity of employees are conveyed by “glazed looks”, counter productivity, a tendency to “stirring up trouble with whining, complaining, and even paranoia.
Fortunately, positivity is much more impactful than negativity.
As a leader or manager, how to make sure that employees individual bucket is full? How to get them to stay engaged?
Employees often lack recognition for their good work and “praise is rare in most organization”.
It takes a little initiative to create inexpensive and meaningful bucket filling experiences. For example, a short, motivating, positive conversation from leaders to increase employees productivity, alignment and engagement would suffice.
Leaders and managers have to:
- switch the focus on their employees strengths only,
- daily and positively interact with their team members.
Where is Negativity Rooted?
Our predisposition for either positivity or negativity is similar to our metabolism and our or disposition for weight gain. No matter how much someone eats, they will always remain thin.
Filling someone bucket should be unique, specific to the individual, appropriate to the work environment. Generic one size fits all approaches often backfire.
The american culture is to blame for the development and inclination toward negativity. In the American culture, we focus on what we do wrong instead of what we do right, on fixing weaknesses and dismissing strengths. “This focus is particularly evident in our school experiences” or at work where our natural talents and our skills don’t fit our roles. Also, we expect our employees to change their personality to fit the role.
According to John Gottman’s research on marriage, there is a magic ratio to respect in order to maintain positivity and to fill your bucket. The magic ratio is 5:1 which means that there must be 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction.
This magic ratio is critical for the workplace. For instance, teams with having more than 3 positive interactions for every negative interaction (3:1 ratio) gain in productivity and engagement. However, teams having more than a 13:1 ratio lose in productivity.
That is why, Rath and Clifton recommend grounding positivity in reality, but also acknowledging negativity and weaknesses and correcting mistakes.
The Benefits of Positivity
Positive or negative encounters are highly memorable and can change your life forever. Positivity creates a mindset that:
- becomes a buffer against adversity, depression, health issues,
- enables recovery from traumatic, painful experiences,
- improves mental physical well-being,
- stands as a coping and defense mechanisms,
- transforms and breaks down social barriers,
- generates optimal functioning in organizations and in individuals,
- Induced by leader, improves productivity and group performance in the workplace.
How to Increase Positive Emotions?
To increase positive emotions and positive encounters, apply the following five strategies:
Prevent any type of bucking dipping
- Stop poking fun at someone, focusing in their insecurities, chronically criticizing others.
- Encourage this change among people around you.
- Start pressing pause consciously eliminating unwarranted negativity.
- Keep track of your progress by scoring your interactions.
Focus on what is right instead of what is wrong
To know if your focus us centered around what is right or if you have some impact on your environment, take the Positive Impact Test from Gallup. The Positive Impact Test provides 15 statements to measure your impact and your progress. Don’t hesitate to print them, read them and encourage your friends to take the test.
Develop several good relationships
- These relationships have to be best friends quality with coworkers in order to increase your job satisfaction and productively and subsequently increase theirs.
- Actively listen to your coworkers.
- Acknowledge when someone is doing a great job.
Reverse the Golden Rule
How Full is Your Bucket? by Donald O. Clifton and Tom Rath is a brief, easy to read, encouraging and compelling book that gives tools to spread positivity in life or at work, to become a better leader, to develop values and character.
Furthermore, I found interesting that both authors share their personal adversities and explain how they have ingrained positivity in their lives and thoughts to overcome their health obstacles.
On a personal level, I wanted to read a positive book, that can stimulate everyone’s mind, inspire leaders to work on themselves and their leadership skills, to provide some tools to dilute the toxicity and the negativity in the workplace, to break the cycle of negativity in your life.
I believe that most of us can handle positive situations and encounters, but not everyone can handle difficult situations, that preparation is key and it is better to be safe then sorry, that it is better to be warned about toxicity than to be blindsided by it, and finally that knowledge is power.
In addition, Donald O. Clifton and Tom Rath are right when they claim that negativity stems from your culture and has become the norm. They are also right when they state that emptying someone else’s bucket will not make you feel better but only make you feel less then. So, you have to wonder: are you a bucket filler or a bucket dipper?
Most of us want more positive emotions in our lives. We want to feel like Tammy did in her brief meeting with Karen more often – and like she did after her performance review less often. Unfortunately, wanting a more positive environment isn’t enough. Most of us have grown up in a culture in which it’s much easier to tell people what they did wrong instead of praising them when they succeed. Although this negativity-based approach might have evolved unintentionally, it nevertheless permeates our society at all levels.
Recognition is most appreciated and effective when it is individualized, specific, and deserved.