The Power of Positive Words: How They Can Inspire a Workplace Culture

© iQoncept -
© iQoncept -

One of my favorite blogs is Respectful Workplace. Posts are always thoughtful, well considered and inspiring.

A recent post on The Power of Wordsstruck a chord with me. Author Jay Remer uses the schoolyard taunt “sticks and stones may break by bones, but words will never hurt me” as a the launching point for the true power of words.

That childhood playground refrain brings back so many memories. Several years ago now, as an adult, I heard someone explain the truth of that phrase (which is born out in Jay’s post). The phrase should be:

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can break my heart.”

Jay goes on to emphasis the importance of thinking before we speak as well as the importance of conveying and hearing positive messages. A key point he made:

The words we choose reflect how we feel about ourselves and our place in the world. By making some mental notes about the words we use, we can begin to appreciate them even more and then begin to change them if necessary. We develop more compassion for our friends and for ourselves.”

Creating a culture of recognition and appreciation

In terms of the workplace, think how powerful it would be to create a culture of recognition and appreciation in which employees at all levels regularly express and hear positive words – words of commendation and appreciation with specific details on why that person and their efforts matter.

For too many years, the aphorism above has been allowed, if not actively encouraged, in the workplace under the false belief that “hardness” – cracking the whip – inspires employees to work more.

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This couldn’t be farther from the truth. When employees know their work has meaning and that someone has noticed their efforts and appreciates them, they are far more motivated to continue down that path.

Being thankful and appreciative becomes a habit. Employees who may not experience positive recognition and appreciation in their personal lives but begin to experience regularly at work often carry these new skills in appreciation and thankfulness into their home lives as well.

What words are more commonly used in your workplace? Words of affirmation and appreciation or “bully” words used to tear down and intimated?

This originally appeared on Derek Irvine’s Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


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