Can Teams Have too Much Positive Attitude?

A positive attitude is often considered to be an important aspect of team performance. The right attitude can boost confidence, effort, and persistence—many times resulting in better outcomes.

 

Plus, people like this guy are just really charming.

 

In short, positive attitude is generally a good thing for teams. But here’s the question at hand:

Can you have too much of a good thing?

 

This certainly does seem to be the case with individuals.

A person with some amount of optimism and confidence is often better off than someone with little or none. But then again, a person who is overly optimistic or overly confident is likely to misunderstand risks and rewards, make bad decisions, and generally end up looking arrogant or foolish.

So…can teams also have too much positive attitude?

 

This is a relatively new question when it comes to actual research and evidence.

But so far, the answer seems to be yes…at least sometimes.

One recent study had some particularly interesting findings. The researchers measured positivity in 153 sales teams, and then tracked their levels of team effort and sales figures over time. The basic pattern that they observed was consistent with the possibility that there can be “too much of a good thing.”

This can be visually represented as an “inverted-U” relationship, where positivity enhances performance up to a certain point, and then the relationship actually starts to reverse direction.

team effort

Even more interestingly, this pattern emerged in some of the teams much more than others.

The key difference was how much the team engaged in goal monitoring behavior.

To the extent that a given team was really keeping track of their progress toward important outcomes, there wasn’t really such a thing as too much positivity.

 

This was just one study—and the findings are somewhat preliminary—but the likely conclusion is that positive team attitudes only get in the way when the team also loses sight of their current performance and their real goals.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik

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