Lesson 11: Behavior that Builds Positive Workplace Environments


Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this lesson's material, students will be able to:

  • Describe the importance of a first impression.
  • Describe appropriate dress in a professional setting.
  • Describe the imporatance of personal appearance including dress, body art, and personal care.
  • Identify ways to maintain good health and personal care.
  • Identify important mindsets to have as an employee.
  • Provide examples of effective communication and appropriate interaction.
  • Identify examples related to the importance of personal and professional growth.


Many employers have been asked over the years to list the most important skills and characteristics they look for when hiring new employees. Among the more common answers are good communication skills, positive attitude, and the ability to be dependable, punctual, and responsible.
Personal characteristics which are important include dressing properly, being polite, and displaying self-confidence. Employers have identified the personal qualities and skills that are needed to be successful in the workplace. These qualities and skills include:

  • Self-awareness – in relation to interests, abilities, values, and skills
  • Career awareness – knowing what career opportunities exist and what is required to pursue them
  • Career decision- making skills
  • Team-working
  • Problem - solving
  • Presentation skills
  • Ability to learn new ways of doing things
  • Job search skills including resume writing, preparing job applications, and interviewing

Important Terms

  • Attitude
    • The way you think, feel, and act. You can have positive and negative attitudes.
  • Career Management Skills
    • These skills include identifying  your values, skills, interests, passions, goals, and connecting to careers, having adequate self-esteem to take charge of our career planning and decision-making, understanding how work effects lifestyle, and understanding how continuous learning impacts job opportunities.
  • Conflict Resolution
    • Actions that include confronting the conflict or problem, communicating with the other person or group, and deciding an acceptable outcome.
  • Interpersonal Skills
    • How you get along with others. It may involve responding appropriately to the needs, feelings, and capabilities of different people in different situations; being tactful, compassionate and sensitive; and treating others with respect.
  • Personality traits
    • The qualities and characteristics that shape a person's unique character and identity.
  • Soft Skills
    • Desirable qualities of employment that do not depend on knowledge: they include common sense, listening, the ability to deal with people, and a positive, flexible attitude.
  • Time Management
    • Choosing how to spend one's time and creating a schedule for one's choices. Deciding when to do homework and study, preparing for a test, going to school, and planning activities after school and the weekend require time management skills.
  • Work Ethic
    • Usually associated with people who work hard and do a good job.

Aside from the job scope itself, one factor that significantly influences how employees feel about work is the environment. By work environment, I mean everything that forms part of employees' involvement with the work itself, such as the relationship with co-workers and supervisors, organizational culture, room for personal development, etc.

A positive work environment makes employees feel good about coming to work, and this can provide them with motivation to sustain them throughout the day.
Transparent & Open Communication

At its core, a transparent and open form of communication addresses the employee's need to feel that what they have to say has value. It is what makes employees feel that they belong in the organization. Work then can become meaningful because the employees know that what they contribute affects the organization with which they are affiliated.

Understanding the Agency's Mission & Vision

It is essential for staff to discuss the organization's philosophy, mission and values, to ensure that everyone knows what they're working for - other than their paychecks. Having open discussions to get people involved and allow them to share their views and perspectives on how to achieve company goals is pivotal in gaining 'buy-in' and providing passion and motivation to do one's work.

Give and Take

Two-way open communication can eventually break down, and the hurdles present in hierarchical or bureaucratic organizations can feel like barriers. At the end of it all, open give and take promotes trust in day-to-day interactions between co-workers, as well as between subordinates and supervisors. A sense of teamwork, affiliation and belonging, can become the key component in uniting employees and employers in the organization's mission and in mutual respect among all employees, regardless of their official statuses.

This is when employees will not be afraid to suggest ideas to improve the work processes, benefiting everyone in the organization in return!

Work-Life Balance

There has to be some sort of balance between work and personal life. In general, having that sense of balance will improve job satisfaction among employees because they will feel that they're not overlooking the other areas of their lives that are, if not more, important to them than work. When employees fulfill their various needs and goals in life, such as those of family, friends, spiritual pursuits, self-growth, etc, they can then feel more confident about themselves and perform their best at work. Apart from that, employees that are exposed to more experiences in life outside of work can use what they've gained and apply that to their work.

Training & Development-Focus

In a time when change is more rampant than ever before, it is necessary for organizations to be open and creative with the changes. Training their employees accordingly, is key. For instance, technology is evolving so rapidly that what organizations commonly used ten years ago could be made obsolete today (e.g. Zip drives, dial-up modems, etc). Adapting to change is never more crucial in this era because those who don't, get replaced. This applies to both the individual and the organization itself.

Strong Team Spirit

As social beings, we naturally seek support from our peers and seek to belong to a group. During tough times, the team should come together to deal with whatever problems are out there. This is where a sense of unity is evoked in the team and employees, and they no longer just feel that they're working by themselves. They are now working towards something bigger than themselves, and as a team.
Instilling a strong team spirit is not easy because it involves the acceptance and tolerance of differences in perspectives and working styles between teammates. There is a need for co-workers to see that they're working towards a common goal before they can look beyond the differences.

Positive Workplace Environment

A positive workplace is characterized by respect that supports employee engagement. It also creates a high performance culture that encourages innovation and creativity. Organizations seen as positive places to work will always have a competitive edge because they attract and retain highly skilled staff.

A positive workplace environment is likely to result in less absenteeism and employee turnover, fewer cases of fraud, better safety practices, and improved staff wellbeing. Positive work environments can also lead to reduced workers' compensation costs and health care costs.
Employers and employees have shared obligations for creating respectful and courteous workplaces. Employers want a productive workforce that manages its performance and achieves results. Employees want to work in a place where:

  • they know what is expected of them
  • the workplace is safe and they are treated fairly
  • their skills and contribution are recognized and valued
  • training and development support career progression
  • they can work harmoniously with others.

Tips for encouraging a culture of respect and courteous workplace behavior

  • make sure communication within the team is open, clear and friendly
  • maintain an 'open' door policy
  • monitor potential bullying, harassment or low morale
  • provide constructive performance guidance, including positive feedback and constructive opportunities for growth

Examples of failing to show respect and courtesy include:

  • promoting or expressing political, religious or social views at the workplace that offend other staff
  • questioning a supervisor in a raised voice, accusing them of bias, or claiming they are unprincipled
  • yelling and/or speaking all the time and not allowing others to be heard
  • ignoring and working around someone who should be involved in the process
  • displaying a contemptuous attitude towards staff, particularly new staff
  • attempting humor by diminishing the dignity of a co-worker or client
  • making belittling or derogatory remarks that diminish the dignity of other staff or clients
  • leaning toward or standing over a person so that they feel uncomfortable or threatened- proximity matters, and we may not even realize what we are doing!

Workplace Diversity

Workplace diversity is about recognizing the value of individual differences and managing these in the workplace.
The concept of workplace diversity includes the principle of equal employment opportunity and policies aimed at addressing any disadvantage based on sex, indigenous status, age, disability, race or ethnicity.

Diversity also relates to other differences (for example, working styles, socio-economic background, educational level, family responsibilities).
What are important employability characteristics?

According to the indeed blog, these are the traits that are mentioned most often in job listings:

  • Leadership
  • Interpersonal
  • Problem solving
  • Motivated
  • Efficient
  • Detail oriented
  • Prioritize
  • Teamwork
  • Reliable
  • Multi-task
  • Time management
  • Passionate
  • Listening
  • Outgoing
  • Honesty

They go on to assign percentage of importance to several characteristics that support that statement. Here are the skills NACE reports as most important to employers, in order of priority:

  1. Leadership
  2. Ability to work in a team
  3. Communication skills (written)
  4. Problem-solving skills
  5. Strong work ethic
  6. Analytical/Quantitative skills
  7. Technical skills
  8. Communication skills (verbal)
  9. Initiative
  10. Computer skills
  11. Flexibility/Adaptability
  12. Interpersonal skills
  13. Detail-oriented
  14. Organizational ability
  15. Strategic planning skills
  16. Friendly/Outgoing personality
  17. Entrepreneurial skills/Risk-taker
  18. Tactfulness
  19. Creativity

Why are customer service skills for students important?

Don't think of customer service, or using soft skills, as being the person who answers the phone, or operates the return desk at the department store.  The interpersonal skills that can be gained through soft skills training can be applied to interactions between employees and with suppliers, managers, customers and consumers, at all levels.

Customer service skills are often referred to as soft skills. Like soft skills, life skills are important to employability and success.

What are life skills for students?

It seems that life skills means something different to just about all of us. For some, life skills are similar to soft skills and employability skills. For others, they are more like traditional family and consumer science skills.

The Life Skills Handbook, defines life skills to include "decision-making, goal setting, problem-solving, coping with stress, coping with emotions, negotiating, friendship, interpersonal relationships, empathy (concern for others), critical thinking, creative thinking, resisting peer pressure, assertiveness."

The SkillsYouNeed site goes in depth, saying, "There is no definitive list of life skills, certain skills may be more or less relevant to you depending on your life circumstances, your culture, beliefs, age, geographic location etc. Perhaps the most important life skill is the ability to learn.  By learning new skills we increase our understanding of the world around us and equip ourselves with the tools we need to live a more productive and fulfilling life.  Life skills are not always taught directly but often learned indirectly through experience and practice."


In this section you will find a list of the required Assessments that accompany this Lesson. The Lesson Discussions are designed for the ONLINE and HYBRID versions of this course. If you are not in an ONLINE or HYBRID version of this course you can ignore these instructions unless otherwise guided by your instructor.

Lesson 11 Quiz

  1. What is the importance of a first impression?
  2. What is appropriate dress in a professional setting?
  3. Describe aspects of personal appearance?
  4. Identify 2 ways to maintain good health and 2 aspects of personal care.
  5. Describe the mindset of an effective and productive employee.
  6. Give examples of effective communication and appropriate interaction.
  7. Describe the importance of personal and professional growth.

Lesson 11 Discussion

Identify and discuss the three most important topics related to this lesson. Why? What would you have wanted to know more about?