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October 1, 2018 in

With the proliferation of technology and the increased frequency of employees working from home, human connection is of utmost importance. Employees need leaders that are relatable, motivating, and work to drive their engagement. Connection is not a human resources issue, rather a leadership issue. Employee engagement and meaningful relationships can heavily impact a company’s productivity.1 Most research published regarding the improvement of employee relationships focuses entirely on understanding and presence when times are tough. However, newer research shows that being there for someone when things go right is more closely related to higher levels of well-being and connection.2 As business professionals and employees, we interact with our colleagues five out of seven days a week, giving us plenty of opportunities to forge strong relationships.

Positive emotional exchanges with our coworkers play a role in building relationships and developing feelings of validation, understanding, and caring. Barbara Fredrickson, a leading researcher in positive psychology, proposed a theory for positive emotion called “broaden-and-build.” Positive emotions evoke individuals to broaden their scope of cognition, attention, and action. In which case, physical, intellectual, and social resources are built to better enhance an individual’s well-being or functioning. With increased feelings of well-being and productivity, companies stand to benefit from relationship building.

In order to reap these intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits, individuals must know how to capitalize on positive events.3 “Capitalization” is the “process of informing another person about the occurrence of a personal positive event and thereby deriving additional benefit from it.”3 It has been proven that people in close relationships who have been responded to, regularly, in a supportive manner felt generally more satisfied and closer in their relationships as opposed to those whose experiences were not supportive. With that in mind, think about how you would respond if a coworker or employee discloses good news to you. As you look at the matrix below, consider your tendencies to responding to good news from your coworkers, leaders, and team members.

Dr. Shelly Gable describes four types of responses. According to her research, there is only one way we as individuals can respond that would be considered supportive and able to increase positive well-being. That one, golden way is known as Active Constructive (AC) Responding. An Active Constructive Responder shows authentic interest and elaborates on the experience of the discloser by asking questions. However, there are three other different types of responses we give that do not enhance the connection with others. They are titled, Passive Constructive, Passive Destructive, and Active Destructive Responses. Below is matrix detailing the different response types:

Passive Constructive (PC) Responding is evident when the responder barely engages, to build upon the shared, good news. Passive Destructive (PD) Responding is when the positive event is sidetracked and typically overtaken by the responder instead of exploration of what the sharer chose to disclose. Active Destructive (AD) Responding is when the person actively emphasizes the negative or concerning implications of the situation. This is not done intentionally, but out of concern for the sharer and only wanting the best for that individual.

For example, if a coworker comes to you with good news that he or she got promoted. Here is what the four different types of responding would sound like:

  • PC: “That’s great for you.” Responder leaves it at that and returns to what they were doing before.
  • PD: “Wow, that’s amazing. Speaking of, did you know I just closed on that beautiful house I was telling you about? I am going to have a house warming party next weekend after we get settled in, I’ll be sure to pass along the details once I know!” Here the responder completely diverts the subjects.
  • AD: “Well, it’s about time! I bet it’s going to be a bigger work load for you now. You’ll probably have to work longer hours during the week, how does your significant other or family feel about that?” Here the responder points out the negative implications of the good news.
  • AC: “That’s great news! I know you have been working really hard for that. What all does the promotion entail? What are you most excited about?” Here the responder opens the conversation and speaks positively about the news.

The main component of active constructively responding is the HOW piece, and it is as simple as asking questions. Doing so, allows the elaboration of the good news to happen, along with highlighting and emphasizing the sharer’s strengths. Falling out of the golden type of responding (AC) is normal and getting back into it is something we can do mid-conversation. Remember the discloser CHOSE you to share their good news with, and it can take only a few minutes to respond in a supportive manner. AC Responding will in the long term benefit your relationship with your colleague and the team. Positive relationships boost overall morale and productivity, so as you go though your day-to-day work lives, be intentional about your contributions to the team and general conversation by always responding in and active, constructive manner.

If you’re interested in the impacts of how you responsiveness, feel free to reach out to HigherEchelon for more specific strategies.


  1. “All Business is Personal: Employees Need Human Connections At Work”: available the Entreprenur, Henry West, February 17, 2017, https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/288623
  2. “Will You Be There for Me When Things Go Right? Supportive Responses to Positive Event Disclosures”: available Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Gable, Gonzaga, and Strachman (2006)
  3. “What Do You Do When Things Go Right? The Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Benefits of Sharing Positive Events”: available Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Gable, Reis, Impett, and Asher (2004)