Employee motivation is a big deal. Every leader eats it and sleeps it; everyone in the trenches lives it.
My last post explored employee happiness, where it comes from, how to develop it, how to recruit happy employees and, importantly, playing to peoples’ strengths, whether yours or employees’.
This thinking reflects and illustrates the wonderful work of Prof. Martin Seligman at The University of Pennsylvania, particularly in his book “Authentic Happiness”.
Seligman’s thinking has important implications for workplace leaders. He speaks to the value of happiness and demonstrates what it is and how to develop it.
Employee motivation is often thought to be about “the vision thing”. Do employees have a positive, optimistic view of their organization’s future? Can they see themselves having a fulfilling, stable, rewarding future? In short, are workers optimistic about their workplace?
Employee Optimism = Motivated Employees.
Optimism (read: hopefulness), Seligman says, is well-studied and — great news for leaders — can be built; it can be learned.
The crux of optimism is the intersection of:
1. The perception of events as permanent or temporary, such that:
- Optimism is the state of seeing good events as permanent and bad ones as temporary.
- Pessimism is the state of seeing bad events as permanent and good ones as temporary.
2. And, the perception of events as universal or specific, such that:
- Optimism is the state of seeing good events as universal and bad ones as specific to a particular incident.
- Pessimism is the state of seeing bad events as universal and good ones as specific to a particular incident.
The net impact of this intersection of permanence and pervasiveness is hope:
More optimism = more hope
More pessimism = less hope
For leaders, are there proven ways to create more optimism and hope?
Yes! Seligman spells it out: A, B, C, D, E. Details are in his 1991 book, “Learned Optimism” . Here’s what he recommends: when there is an unwarranted, pessimistic thought, argue against it; dispute it! The argument can be with yourself, as Seligman proposes — or with others — to overcome pessimism.
- Adversity: When there is a pessimism, acknowledge it.
- Believe: Acknowledge your belief, opinion, or point of view that cause the adverse, thought; that it, the one that is causing the pessimism.
- Consequences: Recognize the consequences of your belief/point of view.
- Dispute: That is, argue against the belief/opinion causing the pessimism.
- Energize: Recognize, find optimism and support the disputation.
Adversity – Our company lost ground to a competitor during the past year.
Belief — Losing to competitors means smaller bonuses and could lead to downsizing.
Consequences — We’ve lost some valued employees to other companies during the past year, too; losing more could be a big problem.
Disputation — Our R & D group has product in the pipeline that will overcome the competitor’s gains. Besides, losing good people is a fact of life in a leading company such as our; plus, we have good people to take their places.
Energize — With new products in the marketplace and our younger people gaining experience, we’ll be back on top in the foreseeable future.
Optimism can be learned! Using (memorizing!) this basic 5-step approach is likely to have a substantial impact on leaders’ abilities to build workplace optimism and overcome adversity.
How do you turn pessimism in the workplace to optimism? Have you used Seligman’s process in your workplace? Please tell us about it!
Learn more about employee motivation and it’s impact on your bottom-line in our FREE eBook below:
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