By Steve Moran

We live in a world of negativity, particularly as it relates to politics and the 24-hour news cycle. As a backlash, there has been a tremendous push for positivity elsewhere. Nowhere is this more true than in the workplace.

The question I am asking today is: Is there too much affirmation?

First Things First

Looking at job satisfaction in North America, it is at an all-time high. No wonder this is true. COVID-19 made us pay a lot more attention to employee mental health and wellness. The data is also clear that doing this helps with recruitment and retention.

It is less clear that senior living is on the same bandwagon. I continue to hear lots of unhappiness that ranges from feeling not supported to experiencing burnout. The reality is that unemployment is low, which naturally forces employers to pay more attention to culture. And there is no doubt the staffing crisis has decreased, but the environment is still tough.

Too Much Affirmation

The problem with too much affirmation and positiveness is that it reduces accountability and the ability to learn from mistakes. Right now, as the industry is in a bit of a PR crisis, we are mostly making excuses — saying that we are being picked on by the media, or that the problem is not really that big, or that it is the other company and not us.

Perhaps we need to spend more time actually looking at our failures, the places where we are not doing as well as we could or should.

According to the book Right Kind of Wrong, by Amy Edmondson, your organization is likely missing opportunities to learn from mistakes if you are mostly hearing …

  • Good news rather than bad news
  • About progress rather than problems
  • Agreement rather than healthy dissent
  • “All’s well” rather than “I need help”

If what you are hearing is mostly the first part of each of the items above, or, even worse, you are rewarding the first half of those statements rather than the second, you likely have too much affirmation, which leaves you vulnerable to really bad things happening. And even if you never get slammed by something really bad, you are losing tremendous opportunities to be better.

Affirmation Is Good

Affirmation is good and necessary and important. It is absolutely essential. But facing the challenges head-on will help you get better and become more successful faster than affirmations. It’s that simple.