Optimists get a bad rap, but the glass really is half full on the path to business success.
A growing body of research proves that workplace optimism develops happier, more dedicated, more engaged employees and acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy for success.
Optimism is linked to lower risk of coronary heart disease, better self-regulation and faster recovery from stress and an “energetic, task-focused approach” to goals.
But how does increasing workplace optimism build business success? Like all improvements to workplace culture, it requires dedication from leaders, consistent communication across the organization and positive reinforcement within the workforce.
Read on to find out why optimistic employees are happier and work harder (even in adverse circumstances), how pessimists self-sabotage, and why workplace optimism is a genesis for other positive workplace traits.
Finding The ‘Opportunity In Every Difficulty’
Winston Churchill summed up the power of optimism succinctly when he said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Pessimists will argue that it’s better to prepare for the worst and that optimism, while nice in theory, breeds mediocrity. On the surface it seems logical.
Jennifer Robison, senior editor of the Gallup Business Journal, explains the appeal of this logic.
“Pessimists have all the street cred. The office cynics are thought to be more realistic, rational and strategic. Optimists may be sweet, but pessimists, though often sour, are deemed shrewd. Optimistic managers may create a sunnier workgroup, but pessimists will prepare it for the worst,” Robison writes in her article, “It Pays to Be Optimistic.”
In fact, research shows that pessimistic managers who “prepare for the worst” often invite it.
Optimists, in contrast, invite success and very often get it.
Optimists frame reality in positive terms, but they aren’t blind to reality, Pollyanna in their approach or luckier than the rest of us. They just look for opportunity.
According to the research Robison analyzes, it appears optimism is the ball that gets a positive feedback loop rolling.
“There may be a circuitous path from manager optimism to employee engagement to productivity,” she writes.
Optimistic managers are more likely to be engaged managers who are more likely to engage employees — and engaged employees, in turn, are more optimistic and productive. The end result? Increased profitability, Robison writes.
Optimism doesn’t evaporate in tough times. In fact, it works harder than ever. People working in a culture of optimism are more resilient because they seek opportunities instead of dwelling on difficulties.
Optimism: The Genesis of positivity
[Tweet “”An optimist is the human personification of spring.” — S. J. Bissonette”]
Of course, there is danger to “unrealistic optimism,” as cognitive neuroscientist Tali Sharot points out in her TED Talk “The Optimism Bias.” Blind optimism can lead to overly risky and downright dangerous choices.
But true optimism is grounded in practicality and is essential to progress, she says, “because to make any kind of progress, we need to be able to imagine a different reality, and then we need to believe that that reality is possible.”
Workplace optimism grows when “employees are inspired by the possibility of doing good work,” writes Shawn Murphy of Switch and Shift. This inspiration is grounded in the belief that “the work employees do matters to the customer and to the employees themselves.”
Two aspects of optimism make is especially powerful in the work environment: a) it can be learned, and b) it is a seed for other positive emotions.
Unlike many traits and talents, optimism is one of the few emotions that people can acquire, according to Gallup’s Jennifer Robison. Even managers who aren’t naturally optimistic can learn to be more optimistic by understanding their leadership style and changing their cognitive habits and behavior.
From there, things can only get better. Murphy of Switch and Shift writes about the three overlooked benefits of workplace optimism: vitality, clarity and belonging.
“Workplace optimism is the genesis of so many of the desired attributes of great workplaces,” Murphy writes. “The beauty of it is a manager can directly influence its emergence.”
For a comprehensive guide to growing a sustained workplace culture of happiness and appreciation, download our FREE eBook: Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude.
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