Manpower: People are selected and placed in positions that fit their gifts, passions and callings and that align with the church’s objectives and culture

Positivity and Negativity – Two Church Staff Culture Shapers

In his book, How Full Is Your Bucket?, bestselling author, Don Clifton, shares a story about the perverse and devastating effects of negativity. Following the Korean War, 1000 American prisoners of war were examined to determine the cause of the 38% death rate in North Korean POW Camps, the highest rate in U.S. military history.

Surprisingly, they found the camps were not considered especially cruel or unusual by conventional standards. In fact, fewer cases of physical abuse were reported in North Korean POW camps than in prison camps from any other major military conflict in history. There was no barb wire barrier, yet no soldier ever tried to escape. Few bothered to make phone calls home when offered the opportunity. Furthermore, American prisoners regularly turned against each other and formed stronger bonds with their captors than fellow prisoners. It was not uncommon for a soldier to despairingly give up on survival, go sit in a corner in his hut, pull a blanket over his head and die. The soldiers called it “give up-it is.”

Negativity Kills

Why did so many American soldiers die in these camps? The answers were found in the extreme mental tactics that the North Korean captors used. The underlying tactic was to deny the soldiers of all positive emotional support and reinforcement and inundating them with negative emotions. They did so through discouraging interpersonal relationships, undermining a soldier’s allegiance to his peers and superiors, and encouraging self-criticism and informing on one another.

Moved by this story, Don Clifton decided to flip the equation and determine if people can be literally destroyed by unrelenting negative reinforcement, can they be uplifted and inspired to a greater degree by similar levels of positive reinforcement. Their findings were conclusive.

Recognition and Praise Create Positive Emotions 

After surveying over 15 million employees worldwide concerning the concepts of praise and recognition, the two critical components of creating positive emotions in the workplace, the results were clear. Analysis found that individuals who receive regular recognition and praise:

  1. Increase their productivity
  2. Increase positive relationships and interactions with their colleagues
  3. Are more likely to have longer tenure
  4. Receive better feedback from customers
  5. Have increased job satisfaction
  6. Have better safety records and fewer job related accidents

They also discovered that praise and recognition is rare in most workplaces as 65% of Americans reported receiving no recognition for good work in the past year. Furthermore, they discovered a magic ratio where 5 positive interactions are required to balance 1 negative interaction.

Other keys that were discovered include that praise and recognition must be grounded in reality, be specific, and personalized. In offering praise and recognition Clifton suggests reversing the Golden Rule and trying to “do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”

Learning how to create positive emotions in employees through effective praise and recognition is a powerful way to transform the culture of your staff team, church, or organization. And, the only way to know how to do this is to ask people how they like to receive recognition and praise.

How Do You Like To Receive Recognition And Praise?

Clifton suggests leaders, supervisors, and managers ask employees to complete this simple survey and refer to it regularly to improve the quality and personalization of the recognition and praise they give.


o   Tell me in front of a large group

o   Tell me in a written note

o   Tell me one-on-one

o   Tell me in front of family, friends, or significant other

o   Other________


o   Show me with a gift certificate

o   Show me with a new title or greater responsibility

o   Show me with a dinner certificate I can share with family, friends, or significant other

o   Other________


o   My peers need to know

o   My boss needs to know

o   A Senior Leader needs to know

o   My volunteers need to know

o   My family, friends, or significant other need to know

o   Other ________

Imbedding Positivity Into Your Church Staff

To ensure that positivity becomes a characteristic of your church or organization’s work culture, Clifton further recommends employees regularly take the following Positive Impact Test.

  1. I helped someone in the last 24 hours.
  2. I am an exceptionally courteous person.
  3. I like being around positive people.
  4. I have praised someone in the last 24 hours.
  5. I have developed a knack for helping other people feel good.
  6. I am more productive when I am around positive people.
  7. In the last 24 hours I have told someone that I cared about her or him.
  8. I make it a point to become acquainted with people I don’t know.
  9. When I receive recognition, it makes me want to give recognition to someone else.
  10. In the last week, I have listened to someone talk through their goals and ambitions.
  11. I make unhappy people laugh.
  12. I make it a point to call each of my associates by the name she or he like to be called.
  13. I notice and comment on what my colleagues do at a level of excellence.
  14. I always smile at the people I meet.
  15. I feel good about giving praise whenever I see good behavior.

For more ideas on how to implement the concepts found in “How Full Is Your Bucket?” checkout www.bucketbook.com

Posted on January 15, 2019

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5