U-M Study: Positive Co-Worker Connections Bring Good Health


Even just a short conversation with a colleague can have a positive impact on a person’s cardiovascular, immune, and neuroendocrine systems, providing energy and motivation during the workday, says new research from the University of Michigan.

“These short, momentary interactions with people at work are like vitamins — they strengthen and fortify you throughout your day,” says Jane Dutton, a professor of business administration and psychology at the university. “The good news is that these connections don’t take a lot of time to build. They happen quickly, and small gestures pay big dividends.”

Dutton will present her research — showing how these connections improve creativity, commitment, learning, and engagement — today during the Positive Business Conference at U-M’s Ross School of Business, a three-day event focusing on the latest positive business thinking, best practices, and implementation tools.

“I’m interested in how work organizations can structure themselves so it’s more likely that people will have more of these high-quality connections,” Dutton says. “And what’s so exciting about it is this doesn’t cost money. This is about unlocking resources from within people in the organization.”

Employers can help lead the way by simple actions, such as encouraging staff members to learn each other’s names or beginning meetings by taking 30 seconds to “turn off the machines and psychologically show up,” Dutton says. She adds that companies can also take a cue from Google and Southwest Airlines by implementing a rewards structure that allows employees of all ranks to recognize others when they’ve been helped, something often referred to as pro-social awards.

What’s more, companies can also make an effort to discourage bullying and disrespect, Dutton says. “Toxic connections have both a personal and professional cost. So some organizations, like Plante Moran, have a zero tolerance for toxicity, a ‘no jerk’ workplace.”

For more information about the Positive Business Conference, which will be held through Saturday, visit positivebusinessconference.com.