The Losada Ratio
Balancing Positive and Negative Interactions
(Also known as the Losada Line and the Positivity/Negativity Ratio) Note that the statistics behind this model are now in doubt – read on for details.
"I really liked how you interacted with the audience, and the examples you used were spot on. Plus, your introduction was really strong, which helped get everyone interested from the start."
"However, you missed out some key information about our after-sales service, and I didn't like how you rushed through the last few slides. So I think you have some things to work on for next time."
If you received this feedback, chances are that you'd be feeling downcast, despite the fact that there were more compliments than criticisms.
Most of us realize on an instinctual level that there's a point at which negative feedback can damage productivity. The Losada Ratio backs this up.
About the Tool
The Losada Ratio (also known as the Positivity/Negativity Ratio) was identified by psychologist Marcial Losada in 1999.
The ratio represents the number of positive interactions with an individual, divided by the number of negative interactions, measured over a period of time. As an example, if you made five positive comments for every negative comment you made when talking with a team member, your ratio would be 5:1.
The idea behind the ratio is that the more positive interactions people have, the better they'll perform. And, overall, Losada's research has shown that the larger the number of positive interactions that people (or teams) experience, the happier they'll feel emotionally, and the better they'll perform.
This is something that applies to friendships and relationships just as much as it does in the workplace.
In their paper, Losada and Fredrickson stated that the ideal ratio of positive to negative interactions was 2.9:1. However, Fredrickson later retracted the part of the paper stating this ratio, after researchers questioned her use of a particular statistical model in her work.
In September 2013, the journal American Psychologist, in which the Losada Ratio was initially published, also issued a correction withdrawing this part of the original paper.
How Positivity Boosts Performance
We all know that positive emotions and interactions are more pleasant to experience. But positivity brings many other benefits, too. For example, working in a positive environment:
- Increases our attention span, because we're not distracted by negative thoughts.
- Makes us more intuitive and creative, because we're not afraid to think in risky ways.
- Helps us to develop resilience, because we have more "mental capacity" to deal with problems.
- Improves our physical health, because we're under less stress.
These benefits can all lead to better performance, which is why it's important to foster a positive attitude in your team.
Using the Tool
You can use the theory behind the Losada Ratio to create a more positive workplace for your team. Aim to keep the ratio of positive to negative interactions high – in fact, some researchers recommend that you target 6:1.
To create a more positive environment, use the following strategies:
1. Manage Your Emotions
As a leader, your team looks to you for clues about how to behave. If you're having a terrible day, make sure that you don't take negative emotions out on your colleagues and your team.
Learn how to manage your emotions at work so you can interact with your team in a positive, professional way. Then teach these skills to your people, so that they behave professionally too!
2. Monitor Your Own Feedback
When giving feedback, it's important to give the right message. Make sure that you make plenty of positive comments (as long as they're sincere) when giving feedback, and, when appropriate, ensure that these significantly outweigh any negative messages.
A really good way of doing this is to practice "catching people doing things right" in the workplace (this is much easier to do if you routinely practice Management by Walking Around).
And, when you're reviewing someone's work, spend time on what the person is doing well, in addition to the areas where they could improve.
3. Start (and End) Positively
As far as you can, try to start meetings and interactions off on a positive note. Ask people questions that encourage some kind of positive answer.
For instance, instead of immediately focusing on problems that need to be fixed, ask people to list things that are going well. Or, ask them to talk about something that they accomplished during the week that they're proud of, or that they feel made a big difference.
If you subtly change the tone and energy in the room by starting interactions off on a positive note, the rest of the interaction is likely to stay on a positive note as well.
Remember that it's not just words that shape whether an interaction is positive or negative. Emotions such as gratitude, love, joy, satisfaction, curiosity, and creativity generate positivity, while boredom, anger or cynicism lead to negativity.
4. Build Confidence
Positive teams have confidence. So, try to build confidence in team members if they're lacking it.
For instance, try giving low-confidence team members more autonomy in their work. The sense of empowerment that they can get from this can create positive feelings and increase their confidence.
It's also important to celebrate people's successes. This not only helps build confidence, but it is also great for boosting morale!
5. Improve Motivation
One of the best ways to foster positivity is to motivate your team effectively. When your people feel motivated and are excited about what they're doing, their interactions are far more likely to be positive.
Take our "How Good are Your Motivation Skills?" test to find out how to build your skills in this area. It takes time and effort to learn how to motivate people, but it pays dividends many times over.
6. Help Your Team Connect
The more that your people can interact with each other positively, the stronger and happier your team will be. However, when people get busy, they can go for days without communicating with one another.
You can help members of your team connect with one another by organizing regular team lunches, away days, and in-house team building activities.
You can also encourage your team to communicate using tools such as Instant Messaging, Twitter and LinkedIn. These can be great for answering questions with minimal disturbance, and for providing tips and advice.
7. Encourage Mutual Support
People don't have to offer compliments to be positive. Actions such as asking intelligent questions about an idea (without malice and without shooting the idea down) can count, as can advocating another person's viewpoint.
For instance, Losada found that people in high-performing teams spent time finding out about other team members' ideas, and provided plenty of support for those ideas.
Encourage people in your team to promote and advocate ideas that they believe in. And make sure that they spend time understanding the work that their colleagues are doing.
Sometimes you need to give people negative messages: problem behavior needs to be dealt with, bad ideas need to be addressed, and so on. Make good use of the Losada Ratio, but don't let it stop you dealing with important issues.
Also, if a behavior is particularly bad, don't feel that you have to make positive comments – this may muddle your feedback and reduce its impact. Just be prepared to support the person and rebuild his or her confidence once the lesson has been learned.
The Losada Ratio was identified by psychologist Marcial Losada. It looks at the relationship between positive and negative interactions.
Losada's research found that the more positive interactions people have, the better they'll perform.
One of the most effective ways to use the ratio is to work on creating a positive workplace for your people. You'll then naturally increase the instance of positive interactions within your team. You can do this by using the following seven strategies:
- Manage your emotions.
- Monitor your own feedback.
- Start (and end) positively.
- Build confidence.
- Improve motivation.
- Help your team connect.
- Encourage mutual support.