Are You a Bucket-Filler?

In my professional career of more than 35 years, I remember best, and with great fondness, the upbeat and positive bosses for whom I’ve had the pleasure of working.

Unfortunately, the truly positive ones are a rare breed.

BucketGreenMany bosses lack the common decency, or perhaps even awareness, to be positive in their daily interactions with staff. They are quick to point out what’s wrong, but offer few if any words of appreciation — or they simply ignore you.

Most of their significant interactions with employees are, in a word, negative.

One boss in particular springs to mind. He was the failed television producer who snarled at the lowly daily newspaper reporters who occupied his downsized kingdom. His new post as a print editor was a career demotion, so he drank too much and spewed venom.

What I liked least about him, in retrospect, is that he emptied my bucket.

Yes, my bucket.

The “bucket” is a powerful metaphor for how we live our lives, and it’s presented in a best-selling book by Tom Rath and Don Clifton, How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Life and Work. It’s been around for ten years, but I just discovered it.

Here’s the metaphor. Each of us has an invisible dipper and an invisible bucket. Every time we initiate a positive interaction with another person, we use our dipper to fill their bucket and ours. Negative interactions empty our buckets, bit by bit.

How we interact with others has enormous implications not only for our personal lives, but also for our professional lives, where most of these interactions occur. Negative interactions wear us down emotionally and can even make us sick. Positive interactions give us confidence and inspire us to do a better job. To quote the authors:

“So, we face a choice every moment of every day: We can fill one another’s buckets, or we can dip from them. It’s an important choice—one that profoundly influences our relationships, productivity, health and happiness.”

Okay, you say, enough of this feel-good jibber jabber. If you really feel that way (could this be a negative reaction?), I dare you to stop reading.

How Full is Your Bucket is based on 50 years of research by co-author Clifton. If you have a positive bone in your body, you will be nodding your head in enthusiastic agreement as you turn the pages.

The authors say negative interactions and destructive behavior “can tear through a workplace like a hurricane racing through a coastal town.” I agree.

We’ve all encountered that negative boss or co-worker who spreads deep emotional distress throughout an organization. Research shows they can raise your blood pressure and even increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Other research shows how positive interactions — such as simple daily words of recognition and appreciation—help people thrive under otherwise difficult circumstances. They are a powerful antidote to the stress and overwork that permeates most workplaces.

Don’t take my word for it. Give it a try. Smile and give a big hello to your co-workers when you arrive in the morning. Stop to give a few words of praise to employees for jobs well done over the past week.

Soon their buckets will be filled — and so will yours.

Biddle’s Blog Bottom Line: Our positive interactions with others at work, our daily words of recognition and appreciation, can make an enormous difference in the happiness, well-being and productivity of our co-workers — and ourselves.

About Chris Biddle

With 35 years of experience as a hands-on communicator and PR practitioner, President Christopher Biddle is well positioned to help New Jersey-based companies tell their stories and get the results they want. An exceptional writer and editor, Chris is also a strategic thinker who has a proven track record in his ability to conceive and execute goal-driven communications projects both large and small. Chris was Vice President in charge of Communications with the New Jersey Business & Industry Association from 1992 until his retirement in 2012. Contact: Website | More Posts

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