3 Powerful Ways to Promote Workplace Optimism

You and your team deserve to enjoy work. The workplace should be a positive influence on people and their lives. Yet for too many it’s just not the case. In one study, 48% of employees frequently feel a lot of stress in their work. This adversely affects their wellbeing. Boutique consultancy Root found that 68% of workers feel that their managers are more focused on their own success instead of inspiring their employees. The workplace has become lopsided—too much negativity and not enough optimism.

I’ve written about workplace optimism here and here and here. In short, though, it is a mood in the environment that gives people hope that good things can come from their work. Furthermore, people have meaningful relationships and work that fulfill basic needs.

So what, then, can a leader do to cultivate such a vibe? Let’s take a look at some actionable ways to find some balance in the lopsided workplace.

  1. Repair the Relationship with Employees

For too long hierarchy has characterized the leader-employee role. This has prevented many leaders from learning about their employees’ aspirations, strengths, interests, or family life.

Family life is important here. Work influences a person’s family life. Most do not “turn off” work when they go home for the day. The stressors of the day linger, work emails beckon, and project deadlines loom. A powerful way to repair the relationship between you and your employee is to pay attention and do something about how the workplace affects your team’s family life.

  1. Help Employees Find Purpose

Entrepreneur Aaron Hurst wrote in Purpose Economy that “[purpose] is fundamentally fueled by our pursuit of the fulfillment of [connection and self expression.]”

A powerful way to repair the relationship between you and your employee is to pay attention and do something about how the workplace affects your team’s family life.

While most of us are familiar with understanding the organization’s purpose, it’s not enough. Optimistic workplaces encourage employees to uncover their own purpose.

The savvy leader harnesses this enthusiasm, the passion, to help people grow into who they are. While the Industrial Age leader may see this as “fluffy,” today’s leader recognizes that self-expression can be good for business.

Gallup has found that self-expression is a positive outcome when engagement, productivity and personal well-being are part of a person’s work experience. Gallup goes on to explain “focusing on that means working towards a more prosperous world—and perhaps a safer one.”

Helping employees find purpose in their work and personal life is key to workplace optimism. The place to start with this is ensuring you spend time learning about your employees aspirations and goals, taking you back to the first item listed here.

  1. Focus on Developing your Employees

While this may seem obvious, it’s not done enough. Sending people off to training is hardly the only solution. How do you integrate what was learned into the employee’s development plan? What on-the-job assignments are you lining up for your employee to deepen her knowledge, strengths, and abilities? And just as important, develop your employees by leveraging her strengths—work that energizes. Training is rarely the only solution to developing your employees.

The three items listed above are great starts to cultivating an environment marked by optimism. It takes persistence and a passion for people to thrive in their life, both at work and home. This shift in perspective is key to promote workplace optimism.

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#WorkTrends Recap: Overcoming the Symptoms of Destructive Management

During today’s first #WorkTrends show, we discussed how to overcome the symptoms of destructive management. #WorkTrends Founder and Host Meghan M. Biro was joined by Shawn Murphy, a well-respected author, keynote speaker, and CEO/Founder of the consultancy Switch & Shift.

Destructive management has been percolating in organizations for some time. Its adverse effects have become commonplace and too little is being done about it. Our guest, Shawn Murphy, discussed his debut book, The Optimistic Workplace, which defines the symptoms and many antidotes to overcoming destructive management. He also shared why and how to move towards building an optimistic workplace.

It was an extremely lively #WorkTrends podcast and Twitter conversation. Participants had a lot to share about the topic at hand, making for a successful first #WorkTrends show.

Want to learn more from today’s event? Listen to the recording and check out the highlights below:

Thank you to all the TalentCulture sponsors, partners and supporters!

The TalentCulture #WorkTrends Show is all new on Wednesday, February 17, 2016, from 1-2 pm ET (10-11 am PT). Join TalentCulture #WorkTrends Show Founder and Host Meghan M. Biro as discusses LIFEworking Experience with Tim McDonald and Ayelet Baron.

Join our social communities and stay in the know! The TalentCulture conversation continues daily. See what’s happening right now on the #WorkTrends Twitter stream, in our LinkedIn group and on our Google+ community. Engage with us anytime on our social networks or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

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Overcoming the Symptoms of Destructive Management

A problem has been percolating in organizations for some time. Its adverse affects have become common place and too little is being done about it: The problem is destructive management.

A Workplace Gasping for Air

Today’s workplace is hardly a reflection of our best work. Choking the workplace and creating intolerable work environments are outdated manager mindsets about the role work plays in people’s lives and in society. Making matters worse, moldy cultures and climates linger. Workplace fulfillment is absent.

Strategy firm Root found in their research that 68 percent of survey respondents believed managers are more interested in their own success than inspiring their direct reports. It’s no surprise that found that 65 percent of employees in their study would prefer a new boss over a pay increase.

It’s not just management malaise at the middle-layer of the hierarchy holding back organizations and its employees. It’s also low trust in senior management’s business intentions. Consider the findings in last year’s Edelmen Trust Barometer report. 54 percent of participants said that business growth or greed is the real reason behind innovation.

Symptoms of Destructive Management

The swirl of problems identified above makes it tough to identify their causes. Today’s managers need to look for symptoms in their own work environment. What’s more, they need to look for symptoms caused by them.

Symptom 1: Blind Impact. This is when managers are unaware of how their actions, attitudes, and words impact others. These managers consistently underestimate the value people have on the business.

Symptom 2: Antisocial Leadership. An antisocial leader doesn’t have the skills to encourage, build, and evolve a community of people united by a shared purpose.

Symptom 3: Chronic Change Resistance. This is a manager’s resistance to adapt to change, initiate it, or support it. It’s also an organization’s naivety or arrogance in recognizing how changing business conditions affect strategy and operations.

Symptom 4: Profit Myopia. Managers with this symptom habitually look to profit as the best measure of success. These managers don’t know of other ways to measure their team’s or the company’s impact on those whom they serve.

Symptom 5: Constipated Inspiration. This symptom infects managers’ leadership styles and prevents them from learning how to inspire their team.

Symptom 6: Silo Syndrome. A manager afflicted with silo syndrome cannot see beyond his immediate responsibilities and has no awareness of the impacts his decisions have on others.

Antidotes to Overcome Destructive Management

The keys to prevail over destructive management is to double down on how you relate to people and personally focus on your leadership style.

  1. Cultivate workplace optimism

Workplace optimism gives hope to employees that good things will come from their hard work. It’s a description of how it feels to work on a team.

  1. Magnify meaning

Three areas of meaning are important to people: social, work, and personal. Help your employees find meaning in the relationships they have and develop in their work (social). Connect your employees’ efforts to a bigger picture (work). We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Talk with your employees about what is meaningful to them in their careers and in life (personal).

  1. Know your impact

Your leadership style has the greatest impact on your employees’ work experience. Spend time talking with a trusted few to learn how your style enables and creates barriers to performance.

  1. Increase connection

As human beings, we crave connection with others. We’re social animals. Develop ways to intentionally help your team connect. A great tool is HopeLab’s Check-in Cards.

While organizations struggle to find ways to counter the influences of destructive management, you can act and improve your team’s work environments. Focus your work on creating energizing, positive work environments. It’s the context that significantly influences how people feel about work and go about doing it.

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Why Aspirational HR Drives Business

Experience outcomes.

We laughed as we said it, sitting together in the mothership executive conference room at Peoplefluent planning our global domination strategy.

We’d been meeting all week, meeting after meeting, a gaggle of senior leadership and marketing team leads, workshopping and brainstorming and collaborating over all that we’ve been, where we are and where we need to be.

We know we have to create aspirational experiences with our products for our customers, because today’s companies big and small are trying desperately to improve employee success, productivity, retention and loyalty. They want to move from today’s way – the talent management experience of one size that fits all – and move to the “next way,” a more engaging and perpetually positive talent experience for one that affects all. This perpetual positivity creates a culture of optimism and lights bonfires of celebratory growth.


Well, CHRO’s (Chief Human Resource Officers) and HR pros across the board are now evolving and they understand that the workplace should be talent-centric, not process-centric, and that is fundamentally changing the way they’re doing business. CEO’s love this, because they want the HR business to fundamentally change the way it rolls (as the kids say, or use to).

So what’s wrong with the aspirational?

Is the goal of creating an optimistic workplace culture simply too much marshmallow fluff? Or is it the yummy stuff that serves up long-term growth and success?

Of course it’s too easy to talk about all the bad workplace stuff today and poke fun at the happy workplace, so we should focus on what we can all do to make the workplace better.

Again, right?

According to the 17th Annual PwC Global CEO survey, only “32% of US CEOs agree that the level of trust with employees has improved in their industry over the last five years. That’s not encouraging at a time when business leaders need employees excited about the strategy and willing to take necessary risks to get there.”

Employee engagement is nice if you can get it, but the PwC CEO survey does validate that our captains of industry do want to make a difference by:

  • Getting people excited and connected to the strategy matters when CEOs make changes in their business model. Being transparent about what it will take to be successful and where the company is headed is important.
  • Equally, being clear about expectations about employee behavior, for example, in how to interact with customers or collaborate together with other people helps change the corporate culture. Leaders need to create the environment and back their employees as they go through the changes to improve employee engagement and raise the levels of trust.

Meghan Kevin 3-13-14So then I got to hang out with my dear friend and TalentCulture #TChat community co-founder, Meghan M. Biro, and her very nice husband while I was in Boston. We met at a great local pizza place / candlepin bowling alley called Sacco’s (something new for me). Everyone single employee I met was upbeat and positive when it came to every aspect of service. It showed all around us as the place filled to capacity with family and friends who were upbeat and positive.

One sign on the wall near the wood-fired ovens read: think good thoughts.

Right on. It pays off, which is the pay-off in outcomes, business outcomes that is. The positive experiences must drive business outcomes, which is the pay-off of the two things I want you all to take away today:

  1. Experience. It’s okay to be aspirational, to find more positive purpose and meaning in the world of work. Workplace optimism builds stronger relationships and empowers a culture that is positive for employees and management. Senior leadership must be involved of course, but managers and employees can also really help drive the optimistic culture that drives success that drives the right business outcomes. We can all help improve morale close to where all the work gets done.
  2. Outcomes. Managers and employees can create actionable ideas that create workplace optimism and meaningful work. And meaningful work drives productivity, growth and the many other business outcomes that keep us all in business. It motivates us to not just do more, but to do better. We’re more open to collaborative ideas, to being more efficient and productive, to continuously develop and invest in ourselves just as the best companies to work for do in kind, to generating more profitable revenue while reducing costs.

Experience outcomes. Sigh. Think good thoughts indeed.

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