Telling employees not to worry these days or to "be happy and look on the bright side" isn't very helpful when it comes to motivation. The times right now are too uncertain, too tough, to think that such platitudes will work.
Still, it's also not good for business that employees mope around -- either on site or while working remotely -- and there needs to be some way to put some positivity into their lives if they're going to be effective. But how?
Maria Konnikova, author of "The Confidence Game," explains in The New Yorker that research shows you can't really mandate positivity because it ends up creating a negative backlash when "feeling happy" is being forced upon employees by a boss or a colleague.
In addition, when employees feel like they have to somehow "monitor" their positivity, it sucks up their mental energy and that can end up hurting their work performance.
When all is said and done, trying to force employees to be positive all the time has the opposite effect. Employees who are told to "smile" and "be upbeat" all the time -- and can't just be themselves even when customers aren't around -- may find it an emotional strain they can't handle.
One way that experts say you can help employees be more positive on their own is by giving them more control.
When employees are given instructions on how to behave, then they feel trapped and disrespected. But if you give them a framework of what they need to do, then they can figure out the specifics on their own.
For example, "make customers feel welcome" is a framework while "Greet customers with a smile, ask them about their day, ask them what they're looking for...." is too restrictive.
At a time when we're all trying to adjust to a new way of doing things, it helps if platitudes are put aside and we simply provide the support employees need so that they feel trusted and respected.
That's the way to put a smile on someone's face.