Optimism’s Role in Employee Motivation
Let me clear that workplace optimism isn’t about observing the proverbial glass as half-full. It’s also not about taking a Pollyannaish viewpoint that denies reality.
What Workplace Optimism Is
Optimism at work is a belief employees hold, including managers, that it’s possible to do good work while at work. Furthermore, employees are inspired by the possibility of doing good work. The inspiration comes from another belief that the work employees do matters to the customer and to the employees themselves. The work is valued, needed, and useful to those who benefit from it.
Researcher Al Gini eloquently summed up the need for workplace optimism when linking our identity to the work we do. He said, “. . . we have forgotten or never really appreciated the fact that the business of work is not simply to produce goods, but also to help produce people.”
Beyond the Factory Mentality
If going to work is merely about exchanging time and labor for money, workplace optimism will not likely emerge. Before this new era of work, the transactional perspective of money for time and labor was viewed as enough in the employee-employer contract. The viewpoint also came with the belief that employees were replaceable cogs on the factory line. It’s not possible to believe one’s work matters when the manager’s breath is on your back as he looks to see if the work is done satisfactorily.
Employees are inspired by the possibility of doing good work. The inspiration comes from another belief that the work employees do matters to the customer and to the employees themselves.
Employees want to see something good, meaningful, and useful come from their hard work. Without these elements, motivating employees is impossible. The following four factors are causes of motivation triggered by workplace optimism:
Workplace Optimism Motivating Factors
Workplace optimism is a motivator. But optimism alone isn’t enough. It’s also what emerges from workplace optimism that motivates employees to contribute their best.
Optimism Enables Connection, Which Enables Optimism
When employees believe they have the opportunity to produce meaningful work pulled from their experiences and what they are learning, it’s a motivator to share it with others. This fosters connection with others, particularly with those who experience workplace optimism.
Optimism Helps Create Friendships That Create Optimism
Gallup has long advocated, not without controversy, that having a best friend at work helps with employee engagement. Connection helps to build friendships. Friendships create a sense of belonging. In Gallup’s, 12: The Elements of Great Managing, the research firm explains that the question predicts performance and that “affiliation . . . drives him to do positive things for the business he would not do.” Healthy, productive friendships will struggle to emerge if the vibe of the team or workplace is negative, combative, or too individualistic. We are human beings. And we crave connection. We need friendships, even at work.
Optimism Emerges from Meaningful Work
I’ve written quite a bit about workplace optimism. And this post positions the importance of meaningful work and its relationship to optimism.
Employees want to see something good, meaningful, and useful come from their hard work. Without these elements, motivating employees is impossible.
What I haven’t shared is that meaning is a search we all take on. In this global, 24/7 world, it’s natural to wonder how what you do matters. Work is a significant part of our lives. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to seek meaning in your work. And why not. You spend 1/3 of your adult life working.
A conscious manager will tap into the human nature of meaningful work, and position her team to find it in their work.
Optimism Helps Quality Work Happen
If you combine the three previous inputs to motivation, quality work is a greater possibility. It also becomes a badge of honor plucked from the employee’s passion, focus and diligence.
Workplace optimism is contagious. When a person or a team begins to experience the hope or belief in something good that is bigger than themselves, people want to be part of it. They want more. Optimism’s role in employee motivation positions the team and each employee with the opportunity to experience work that drives them to do better, to be better. And our workplaces could certainly use the boost that workplace optimism can provide.
Art by: GuitarAtomik