Do you see the glass as half-full or half-empty? In other words, are you an optimist or a pessimist? There is an increasing awareness that your attitude can make an enormous difference to your life, as the current interest in such things as wellbeing and mindfulness shows.
There is no question that taking an optimistic view of life increases feelings of wellbeing: optimism is known to improve the immune system, help fight chronic disease and be of benefit whenever we're faced with one of life's challenges, such as coping with disappointment or bad news. Optimistic people also tend to suffer less from stress and depression.
What is an Optimistic Workplace?
An optimistic workplace is one in which every employee firmly believes that their hard work will lead directly to great results. Therefore, workers need to know what's expected of them and why their work matters.
If workers are able to share in the long view, to see how their individual performance can contribute to a successful, profitable outcome, they will feel happier and more optimistic, and a happy, optimistic worker is a productive worker. So it makes sense for every employer or manager to devote time and effort towards creating a climate of optimism.
How Managers Can Promote an Optimistic Working Environment
The polling institutions Gallup and Hay Group both reached the same conclusion about the working environment: the style of leadership employed by a company is responsible for how most workers feel about the climate of their organization. This means the level of optimism in the workplace is directly shaped by the actions and policies of management.
So how should leaders go about fostering an attitude of optimism among their workers?
Everyone wants to know that their work matters. So it is vital that each and every person in an organization, whatever their level of seniority, understands exactly why they are doing what they have been asked to do. We all need to know how our individual effort will contribute to an eventual outcome or goal. After all, every job exists for a reason
An important but often overlooked point which all managers should emphasize is that every role provides a service to someone else. You could be anything from a cleaner to a call center operator to a software designer - no matter what your job title, you have an essential part to play in the operation of your company, without which it couldn't function.
This why it is so important that leaders share with workers the news of every success which a company achieves, whether it's an increase in customer orders, a rise in profit or a well-received advertising campaign. Every employee needs to know - and (this is vital) to be directly told - that their individual effort has contributed to that success, either directly or indirectly.
Knowing that your role plays a vital part in the progress your company makes - in other words, to have clarity about the purpose of your work - leads to optimism about the possibility of more success in the future and a happier, more energized, more optimistic working environment.
2. A Sense of Belonging
When a company develops an ethos of sharing, of including its workers in every aspect of its operation and performance, the optimism it creates also generates a sense of community, a feeling of belonging to a group which has a shared sense of purpose.
Most companies nowadays have a mission statement which sets out their vision for the direction in which they are heading, of how their success will be measured, of their strategies and objectives, their standards and their principles.
It would create an even greater sense of community and shared motivation if, in addition to the company statement, each department or team wrote their own mission or vision statement. Every member could contribute their own view as to why their team exists, of its position within the larger organization, of how to achieve and measure its own successes.
A feeling of real belonging would be engendered by encouraging everyone to think about the deeper purpose and objectives of their team. By discussing and sharing with colleagues their thoughts on what needs they are there to fulfill, each team member will find they are increasingly optimistic about achieving success, both for the department and for the company as a whole.
We all do our best work, and gain the greatest satisfaction and sense of fulfillment, when we are doing work that best utilizes our strengths. So it is imperative that managers and team leaders encourage employees to discover, explore and use their strengths.
There are even tests available, on websites such as StrengthsFinder, which enable participants to find out exactly what they are best at, where their greatest strengths and talents lie - although of course most people instinctively know what they are happiest and most confident doing.
If employees are fully engaged in doing what they do best, in utilizing their individual strengths and skills, they will feel far more optimistic that the place in which they work is worth the wholehearted investment of their time and their talents.
So it is beneficial all round - for the individual worker, for the department and for the company - for managers to ensure that they have the right people engaged on every task. After all, we spend about a third of our lives working - inevitably it shapes our identity and influences how we feel about ourselves, so it is vital that our work and our strengths are in alignment, and a good leader or manager will recognize this.
Remember: Optimism is a Collaborative Effort
When leaders choose to cultivate a climate of optimism in the workplace, employees can bask in that climate and begin to see opportunities for fulfillment and success in every task, no matter how small.
Once the seed of optimism is sown, its benefits can be reaped in the positive attitude of managers and workers alike, with belief in the potential for both individual and company successes behind every task or project. When this belief becomes the norm, problems come to be seen as opportunities, not as obstacles.
As the renowned British statesman Winston Churchill famously said: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."