What makes a positive employee in the workplace?

Tim Baker


written on August 30, 2017

Having a positive attitude can make your work life (and that of others) much easier. Here are the three aspects of workplace positivity.

There are myriad clichés, quotes, and sayings about the advantages of possessing a positive attitude. We value this quality in others and it can be advantageous to everyone. Most of us spend at least a third of our lives at work; that’s a long time to choose to be negative and apathetic.

One would think that due to the length of time we spend at work, at the very least, showing up reasonably contented most of the time seems logical. It’s surprising, nonetheless, how many people don’t seem to want to do this.      

So, what specifically are the dimensions of a positive attitude. There are three:

  • being solution-focussed
  • taking responsibility
  • displaying positive energy.

When exercised together, this has a profound impact on workplace performance. But as you know, these traits aren’t universally exercised by all employees, and there are  also different interpretations  of these characteristics. What isn’t beyond doubt though, is that an employee who exhibits a positive attitude and enthusiasm is going to be an asset to any team, department, or organisation.

Here is a detailed look at the three dimensions:


Having a “solution-focus” basically means looking for answers to problems. It doesn’t mean concentrating attention on the problem itself, but is a preparedness to explore possibilities for resolving workplace dilemmas.  To  apply this readiness means considering alternative solutions and exercising appropriate initiative and enterprise, either on one’s own, or as part of a team, before simply “passing the buck “.

Being solution-focused means “How can this problem be resolved?”, Not “Why is this happening to me?” This doesn’t mean a solution-focused employee resolves all issues and problems on their own without the assistance of their colleagues But it does mean that when they involve others in the problem-solving process, they have at least considered possible solutions and resolutions. This means that colleagues have a potential starting point rather than beginning from scratch.

Taking responsibility

“Taking responsibility” implies not shirking a duty. It means taking on tasks willingly without first being told to do so by others. By doing this, the employee demonstrates self-reliance—they complete their responsibilities without being prompted. What’s more, an employee with this trait is going to initiate tasks, advance new ideas, devise methods, and think and act without being pressed by their manager. Taking responsibility also entails working constructively with others to get projects done. Apportioning blame and making excuses is the antithesis of a “taking responsibility” attitude.

An employee who’s keen to take responsibility, actively seeks out opportunities to exercise their initiative beyond the scope of their job description. They’ll offer assistance to others when needed, look for chances to help others, show empathy and offer suggestions.

Positive energy

“Positive energy” means engaging with fellow employees with an optimistic frame-of-mind and contributing to conversations and team meetings in a constructive manner. In interacting with others, an employee exhibiting positive energy is cheerful, respectful, and polite. They are also approachable and engaging as opposed to  inaccessible and despondent.

The attitude necessary for possessing positive energy is being grateful to be part of the team. and appreciating the efforts of others. This energy comes from having a general enthusiasm about the work that needs to be done.It’s enjoyable working alongside someone who possesses positive energy. They are ‘low maintenance’ and good company. They energise their colleagues and  understand that they have an obligation to be optimistic.

As an HR practitioner, you can use the three dimensions to gauge an employee’s attitude and enthusiasm. It is a framework to assess this important non-job role.

Dr Tim Baker is an international consultant and author.

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2 thoughts on “What makes a positive employee in the workplace?

  1. A great piece Tim – thanks for the outline. While straightforward enough on paper, fostering positivity and illiciting positive energy is extremely difficult in many contexts. And we can work out something worthwhile though.

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