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Companies that cultivate optimism come out on top in lots of ways. Research from Gallup shows optimistic people more engaged, successful, healthy, and happy that their pessimistic counterparts. Plus, it aids in creativity and perseverance and impacts morale.
The trait isn’t necessarily ingrained in people either. Although most lean one way or the other, it can be cultivated, meaning organizations have the ability to cash in on all the benefits and enjoy a happier, more engaged, and more productive workforce, by taking a few simple steps.
Optimism = Hope + Confidence
To put it succinctly, optimism emerges when hope and confidence fuse. In other words, virtually any step you take that helps people see that goals can be achieved or which steps will lead to success, will help you cultivate optimism.
How to Cultivate Optimism in the Workplace
1. Create real opportunity.
Opportunity was a recurring theme in McKinsey and Lean In’s 2019 Women in the Workplace report. The report revealed that the biggest challenge for women trying to develop their careers isn’t reaching the glass ceiling. It’s a “broken rung” that prevents women from even getting into management. Generally speaking, just 73 women are promoted into management roles for every 100 men who are. The disparity is even greater for women of color, with 68 Latinas and 58 Black women getting promotions for every 100 men.
To address this, organizations should establish guidelines for pools that require having a specific number of candidates from various backgrounds before selecting one for promotion. Establishing criteria for equitable representation within upper positions goes a long way too.
2. Demonstrate fairness.
Overt discrimination is thankfully less of an issue these days, but unconscious bias still reigns. Companies that don’t place focus on addressing unconscious bias through things like training and standardized evaluation criteria simply don’t have the diversity and inclusion their counterparts do. Employees pick up on this and it’s a major killer of morale.
To cultivate optimism, organizations should not only create policies that eradicate unconscious bias, but publicize what they’re doing and why they’re doing it to build confidence in the system.
3. Get managers on board.
Since we’ve been discussing returnships and returning to work quite a bit here on Pink Petro, we put out a poll on the Pink Petro members app asking whether people felt they’d be welcomed back to work if they needed to take some time away. Three distinct stories emerged about how maternity leave was handled for different women. One was given a year off without issue, another was pressured to return six weeks after a c-section, and another was expected to be on an international flight the first day back to work after an eight-week leave. “I feel like it’s always who the manager is,” says Pink Petro founder and CEO Katie Mehnert.
She’s absolutely right. The direct manager is the face of the company for an employee, and if that person isn’t giving people a reason to believe good things are ahead, enthusiasm and optimism plummets.
“Pessimistic managers may not only plan for the worst, but invite it,” says Jennifer Robison of Gallup. She calls upon the research of positive psychology expert Margaret Greenberg who explains that without optimism in managers, “there is no hope, no reason to stretch, and no belief that an organization can rally to achieve its vision.”
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