Magazine Article | January 12, 2012

Why Foster Optimism In The Workplace?

Source: Life Science Leader

By Shawn Murphy

Workplace optimism isn’t about training employees to see the glass half-full through rose-colored glasses. Fostering workplace optimism focuses on three outcomes:

  • renewing hope in the company’s future
  • adapting to the changing nature of work and expectations employees have of their employer
  • repairing fractured relationships between management and employees.

To bring about these outcomes, leaders can use three leverage points to foster optimism in the workplace.

Know your leadership brand. We’ve seen too many executive scandals exhausting trust. Leaders in the 21st century need to have crystalline clarity in their personal values. It’s not a matter of personal development to know your values. It’s a matter of doing work that matters to you and having a source from which you can draw to inspire others to contribute their talents. It’s a personal matter and a competitive advantage.

Tap into the need to make a difference. Trusted leadership expert Ken Blanchard recently published findings on employee work passion. Nearly 60% of employees said it was their responsibility to do meaningful work. Leaders tap into our human nature to do work that matters, to live a life that matters. Give employees meaningful assignments. No more tolerating the usual suspects trap (i.e. turning to the same employees to do high-profile projects). That type of activity signals an unintended message that favoritism and politicking are okay.

Repair relationships with employees. Organizations across industries and of all sizes had to take cost- cutting measures to survive this economy. It’s time to begin repairing the damage done to the relationship with employees.

Senior leaders can signal to the entire organization the shift by publicly acknowledging how difficult it has been. Then, follow up with actions that reinforce that the shift is genuine:

  • Share financials in ways employees understand. The goal is to authentically enlist their support for the company’s future growth.
  • Share successes and missteps related to the company’s growth plans.
  • Invite influential employees to participate in strategy setting.
  • Stop rewarding senior executives with large bonuses while reducing or eliminating employee pay increases and perks like holiday parties.

Business Value of Workplace Optimism
In our knowledge economy, leaders who can create an environment of optimism create a competitive advantage. When employees work in an environment that lets them contribute their talents, engagement goes up. In high-engagement companies, Gallup has found that companies have seen a 19.2% increase in their 12-month operating income, and these companies outperform low engagement companies in customer loyalty and profitability.

Shawn Murphy is president of Achieved Strategies. He has spent two decades helping leaders discover how to bring out the best in their people and positively influence business results during times of major change. He is a speaker, leadership blogger, and author.