Culture

Evaluating Your Workforce for Potential Troublemakers

Office SpaceReverse Engineering Internal Sabotage for Prevention [Part 3 of 3; Click for Part 1 and Part 2]

Remember Milton from Office Space? That poor guy. All he wanted was his red stapler to stop getting taken. AND, they kept moving him to the basement, AND, he stopped receiving his paycheck. I hate to spoil this movie for you, even though I’d have to imagine everyone has seen it, but let’s just say, neglect is a primary ingredient for sabotage.

(Fun fact: That Swingline red stapler didn’t exist until the movie and now it’s a best seller!)

Once you know that your hiring process allowed a saboteur to get through the screening process, how do you make sure that the rest of your workforce is on the up and up without insulting those of higher values and morals?

I suspect strongly that the majority of employees will also want to make sure that there are no additional internal saboteurs. After all, the mission they hopefully feel so aligned with is at stake, and so is their job, essentially.

But at a larger organization, there are, statistically speaking, going to be those who feel like they have earned trust and may feel as though measures to test trust are for other people who have not yet proven themselves trustworthy. Another objection will be any time it may take, especially in organizations like Elon Musk‘s that are already stretching their workforce very thin.

You have to be able to make the argument that everyone is subject to same evaluations, including the top level. As with everything else these days, transparency is the key to earning buy in from your talent.

What kind of evaluation could you use that would be fair and accurate in finding clues to values and behaviors that could lead to sabotage without making people feel like they’re not allowed to be human and make mistakes? There are several

I mean, someone who has an inherent bias isn’t necessarily somebody who will commit corporate espionage, and bias itself is human. It’s when bias is used to make decisions that it becomes a problem.

How many people could you really afford to lose all at once if your evaluations determine that the screening process let in multiple people? How much do you really want to know? Some people will leave before ish hits the fan, because every day will feel like a witchhunt, and even if they have done everything up to snuff, they might still wonder if a standardized test, which many have good reasons to be skeptical of, will pick up something anomalous.

According to Tesla’s Glassdoor reviews, it seems to employees perceive that people get let go on the spur of the moment, for no known reason [known to them.] So, you can imagine how pervasive this fear would become if suddenly the company wanted to dig deeper. [I’ll put a post on how fear for your job inhibits an organization’s growth on the “on deck” list.]

The evaluation for this situation is a core value assessment, but it’s usually given during the interview process, not after your workforce is onboarded, let alone tenured for any significant amount of time. As for which are the best for weeding out potential troublemakers in your workforce?

As I mentioned in part one, all humans have the potential for altruistic punishment. So, if you’re really going to weed out people with the potential to act on desire for justice, you’re going to lose your whole workforce

Are engagement surveys going to identify how unfairly employees feel policies and leadership are? They are designed to, but there are problems with engagement surveys, though – especially if people already fear for their jobs, they are not likely to be very honest, these are traditionally done annually, and there’s the issue of time that it takes to complete vs. how long a company actually executes on data gathered. [Contact us to identify the best employee engagement survey for you for help implementing a plan that will lead to optimal engagement improvements.]

Plus, do you even need an assessment or survey when your Glassdoor profile clearly expresses employee concerns?

Even if your Glassdoor profile isn’t accurately reflecting employee concerns, what would it take to be properly alerted to fringe behavior, but still maintain a culture that keeps talent engaged?

It comes down to resetting your culture.

In a radio interview on Executive Leaders Radio that I was invited to observe, Shal Jacobovitz, CEO of CiVi BIopharma, put it simply – talent issues are either based on will, skill, or values. As a leader he can develop skills and inspire will, but when issues were due to a mismatch of values, they had to part ways.

In my professional opinion and based on logic, you can’t expect that your whole workforce will comply with a values evaluation without diminishing your culture and trust at a critical time when trust really needs to be rebuilt.

The best way to lessen the chances that any individuals within your workforce inclined toward altruistic punishment are more inclined to leave peacefully, be rehabilitated, or identified and fairly eliminated without incident is to reset the culture to be based on commitment to the mission, shared values, and mutual trust and respect.

Core Value Assessments don’t do this, though they can help you hire people more in alignment, but engagement surveys might, as long as data remains anonymous and transparent action is taken to address workforce complaints and suggestions.

If suspicious activity is identified by employees, there needs to be a TRULY anonymous channel people can use and a thorough due diligence process to validate any claims.

Altruistic punishment can also be carried out between employees, not just from employee to employer. People will take matters into their own hands if they don’t feel they will be properly and adequately addressed.

All people make mistakes. Good people make poor judgments sometimes. Don’t expect to rid your workforce of mistakes or poor judgments, or even bias; you can simply raise awareness around them and ensure that bias doesn’t drive decisions.

Don’t punish employees for having opinions about how things could be better or feelings about how things are.

Instead aim to cultivate a culture where people can be authentic and imperfect, where it’s safe to bring problems out into the open so that they can be resolved, and then make all reasonable efforts to resolve them.

Be transparent about expectations and give people room to live up to them. Give them a reason to be their best, and show them faith that you know they will be. This isn’t fluffy hippie love I’m selling here – it’s science. In 1964, Harvard professor Robert Rosenthal conducted an experiment that proved that teachers’ expectations influence how students perform.

It does no good to label an employee as a potential troublemaker. Consider them human, first, because if they really are a threat, they can still be threat to you externally, and how handle their opinions and feelings will determine just how much of a threat they stay, inside or outside. Acknowledge effort over intelligence, and you will get your best efforts from your workforce.

Troublemaker- Weezer

1st song off of Weezer’s Red Album! Now I decided “Whoa, this need lyrics” so I drank some coffee, broke five pencils, and let the copy and paste process do the talking. God, that was a lot of work! (No, I’m just being easy. lol) Here’s the lyrics!

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play.

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales.

 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot.

 

She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and recently instructed for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Cabrini College, where her students won the national competition and were named America’s Top Young Entrepreneurs.

Think What Happened To Elon Musk Won’t Happen to You? Think Again!

Reverse Engineering Internal Sabotage for Prevention [Part 1 of 3]

SpaceX Discovery Fire

Discovery Fire Galaxy 2016

The Tesla sabotage incident Elon Musk made the world aware of last week raises a few great questions.

  1. How does somebody who would be inclined and capable of sabotaging your company get into your company, and how can you prevent that?
  2. How can you choose the right person for promotion, but still make sure that those who didn’t receive a promotion stay engaged and working in the company‘s best interests?
  3. Once you know that your hiring process allowed a saboteur to get through the screening process, how do you make sure that the rest of your workforce is on the up and up without insulting knows of higher values and morals?

All great questions, but we’re going to focus on #1 today and tackle the other two in subsequent posts.

If you took a look at Tesla’s Glassdoor profile, you’d see that they rate highly, at 3.4 out of 5 stars, but only 57% would recommend Tesla as an employer to a friend.

Overall, people are in it for the mission of disrupting the energy and transportation industries, and 85% approve of the job Elon Musk is doing. The common complaints, however, are lack of work/life balance – long hours with minimal pay and inflexible attendance policies. The benefits are not quite making up for the lack in fair pay, either. Plus, lack of procedures are making employees feel like they can’t even be efficient in the time they spend there.

Apparently, people get fired unexpectedly and are given little to no feedback on their performance. Also, one employee reports that it’s rare to be recognized, even if you’ve achieved the “impossible;” it just becomes the standard expectation from that point forward. They are letting go 9% of their salaried workforce (outside of production) to cut costs. They also are churning through people who find it hard to stay more than a couple years.

Musk knew when he decided to step up and disrupt very wealthy and powerful industries that he would become a target. However, with the workforce complaints piling up, I wonder why he didn’t see an internal attack coming.

Perhaps he isn’t familiar with altruistic punishment – a reaction embedded in our brain that gets triggered when a person believes he/she or someone else is being treated unfairly. Why did nature install this type of reaction in our brain? To promote cooperation that supports the evolution of our species.

In answer to #1, biologically, science has proven all human beings are capable of inflicting harm on someone who has treated others unfairly. It stands to reason that people have varying thresholds.

I think of Clark Griswold when I think of altruistic punishment. It hardly matters what National Lampoons movie you choose. He always had the best of intentions to show his family a great time and make meaningful memories. When other people’s shenanigans and acts of God threatened to sabotage his plans, he felt fully justified in breaking laws and violating other people’s safety and/or property to achieve his well-intentioned mission. In the end, people admitted that they were being unfair and Clark and his family got away without punishment and with amazing memories that brought them closer together as a family. Good times. I don’t see the Tesla employee enjoying such a happy ending, but maybe.

I’m sure Musk has his own justifications for keeping things the way they are – in order to be profitable, the company has to produce 5,000 Model 3s each week. People have proposed that he be stripped of his Board Chairman position. The company’s shares are worth 16% now than they were last year at this time. No doubt, Musk is under a lot of pressure to control costs and boost production to survive as a company and achieve his mission. I’m sure employee belief in the mission is the thing that Musk was depending on to get him and his over-stretched workforce through these challenges. Unfortunately for Musk and his mission, it wasn’t enough, and the costs have been extremely prohibitive, though he still remains certain that he will achieve his production goals.

Yes, Musk confessed to sleeping at the factory. I’m sure he wants his workforce to see him as a model employee, to see that he’s willing to put in every drop of his effort and time for the sake of his mission. Can he really expect them to show the same level of commitment AND perform, stay, endure with few perks to their lifestyle? Once they have been hired by any of his companies, they become premier talent for the taking.

He suspects the jilted employee was collaborating with someone associated with Wall Street or the industries he’s disrupting.

Here’s the thing: if you were losing or stood to lose millions of dollars with the widespread production and purchase of solar/electric vehicles, and you knew that many employees were unhappy with the conditions under which they work, might it occur to you to convert an employee into an accomplice?

Not all companies have such enemies, but they do (or will) have competition.

Out of curiosity, I scooted over to Elon Musk’s other companies’ Glassdoor profiles to see what was said about them. I had heard that a recent graduate I know received an offer to work for SpaceX, but turned it down because it required 70 hours per week. SpaceX is very highly rated at 4.4 out of 5 stars, and Musk’s approval rating is even higher at 97%! It seems that even though lack of work/life balance is still a very common complaint, improvements have been made since 2015. So far, though, it looks like the mission and the high caliber of talent is keeping the workforce going. It’s been rated a top place to work for 2018.

I headed over to SolarCity, which has been part of Tesla since 2016 and is being led by Lyndon Rive. As you might expect, lack of work/life balance is the #1 complaint, but other common complaints are also poor training and lack of communication from executives. It also seems that background checks are quite extensive. One employee waited 12 weeks for verification. This was while the company was part of Tesla, and before the saboteur came out with his confession. I wonder if the saboteur made it through the same comprehensive and stringent background checking, yet still wound up wanting retribution.

So, should you tweak your hiring practices to include measuring the altruistic punishment threshold of potential employees, or should you address workforce complaints to the best of your ability?

It seems to me that sound, fair workforce cultures and policies are the best way to prevent internal sabotage. These are fixable problems!

If I were a shareholder, I’d be highly skeptical that the company could become profitable by cutting the workforce outside of production while doubling production.

I wonder how the costs of attrition, lack of efficiency, quality issues, and extensive internal sabotage rack up against the costs of more flexible work days, increased monetary incentives, improved feedback and communication, and career planning. Could Musk have avoided quality issues, delayed launches, sabotage and having to do a workforce reduction if he invested in solving the issues affecting his people?

As much of a visionary as I can agree Elon Musk is, it seems his eyes are on the prize and not his people. This is a strategic failure I hope doesn’t result in the combustion of his company, especially as new competitors emerge regularly.

One employee already stated that he feels everyone fears that the company is one disaster away from imploding. Could it be?

Is your company at risk of a similar fate?

If you answer yes to any of the questions below, then your company is at risk.

Please nominate your company for a workforce audit (all submissions are confidential!) by e-mailing us with your company’s name and the name(s), direct e-mail address(es) and direct phone number(s) to any and all contacts who would be the most logical point(s) of contact. C-level executives are logical points of contact, but so are majority shareholders and Vice Presidents empowered to make workforce investments.

  • Does your company put profit above people?
  • Do your executive leaders seem inaccessible and lack transparency?
  • Would you consider the working conditions to be inhumane and/or counter-productive?
  • Do they fail to acknowledge achievements?
  • Are your performance evaluations lacking in clarity on what you can improve or how you can grow?
  • Do they fail to give you feedback or deliver it harshly?
  • Is unprofessional behavior tolerated?
  • Does it seem certain kinds of people always get the promotions?
  • Are initiatives lacking in funding while executives take home healthy salaries and bonuses?
  • Does your boss play favorites?
  • Is communication one-way or non-existent
  • Are you fearful of what will happen if you make a mistake based on a history of punishment vs. development?

Beastie Boys – Sabotage

Music video by The Beastie Boys performing Sabotage. (C) 2009 Capitol Records, LLC

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and recently instructed for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Cabrini College, where her students won the national competition and were named America’s Top Young Entrepreneurs.

10 Easy Ways to Infuse Optimism Into Your Culture and Life

Choose Optimism image by Aaron Davis with quote by Ray McLean

 

Part 2 of 2: Last week – Looking On The Bright Side: The Real Secret To Success

Generally, organizations and people find change arduous and overwhelming. So, I hope it’s encouraging to learn that there are many very small things you can do to increase optimism, as well as practices that you can encourage in your corporate culture that can make significant change natural and easy.

Allocate special time for these mini-practices and communicate clearly, but concisely, that the purpose is to increase optimism to enjoy the many benefits:

  • Improved problem solving
  • Enhanced motivation
  • Higher performance and productivity
  • Lower stress
  • Better mental and physical health
  • Longevity
  • Increased resilience
  • Better income

Perhaps at the beginning of each meeting, you could allocate 5 minutes, or you can send a friendly reminder each morning that promotes the benefit of a particular mini-practice. None of these practices take any more than 3 minutes. They work best when they are encouraged, not mandatory. Doing one ore many of these will benefit individuals as well as the organization as a whole.

I learned some of these mini-practices from Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, who I saw speak at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women in 2017 and I attended his online masterclass through MindValley. Others came from Dr. Mark Waldman’s book, NeuroWisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness, and Success. Others are the culmination of a lifetime of research and practice in personal and professional development, neuro-hacking, quantum physics, and mind-body research.

Each of these mini-practices has benefits that reach far beyond optimism. Experiment to find which of these practices are sustainable and have the most impact for you. Sustainability is key!

If you’ve tried one before and it didn’t work for you, you can either choose to try it in a new way, or move on to the next. It’s not all or nothing. Make modifications as you see fit!

  1. Meditation as a way to optimism

Before you roll your eyes and abandon reading the rest of this highly impactful post, remember that this is promoting mini-practices – things that take 3 minutes or less! I have spoken to so many people who have been discouraged by their experience trying to meditate. Listen, there are some very complex ways to meditate and there are some very simple ways to meditate. Here are the simplest ways I know:

  • Focus on your breath – the sensations of the air coming in and out. Set a timer. When your mind wanders, notice it without judgment and bring your focus back to your breath.
  • Focus on your muscles – from your head to your toes. Become present to each muscle and fiber and consciously instruct them to relax. I personally find this easier to maintain focus for 3 minutes. Actually, I can spend a good 5-8 minutes here and find it more helpful than a nap in restoring my peace of mind and focus.
  1. Visualization as a way to optimism

The key to visualization is using your imagination and acting as if what you want has already happened. We all used to do this as a kid a thousand times a day. When was the last time you allowed yourself to get into a fantasy where your life is exactly as you’d want it?

  • Imagine the most ideal outcome and let your senses in on the fun. Get into the details – What are you wearing? How does it feel against your skin? Who is with you? What are they wearing? Where are you? What is the weather? What do you smell? What all is possible for you in this magic moment? Who is happy for you or proud of you?
  • Spend 5 minutes per day imagining your best possible self. Optimism starts to increase from day 1 because it helps you shut down some of the chatter of negative self-talk that comes from your logical left brain and engages more of your creative right brain.
  1. Expansion as a way to optimism

Sometimes our growth happens so gradually that we hardly stop to reflect on just how much we’ve grown. If we’re only focusing on the gap ahead of where we are to where we want to be and don’t take time to see how we’ve grown, we take for granted our ability to grow and expand and underestimate what we’re capable of accomplishing.

  • Reflecting on growth is one way you can start to appreciate our own ability to expand and grow. This means looking back at a certain point in time, perhaps a year, or perhaps to the first three months on the job, and recognizing what skills or expertise did not exist in your repertoire. Perhaps there was an influential co-worker or mentor who helped you understand something or helped you gain a new perspective. Maybe you attended a conference where you learned a new practice or tactic. Start compiling a list and add a few at a time.
  • Another way to induce quantum expansion is to try something outside of you comfort zone. This can be, but doesn’t have to be, work-related. I recommend taking a look at the area of your life where you tend to feel the worst about where you are compared to where you want to be. This may be an area of your life you avoid for exactly that reason. For some people initiating a meeting with the CEO is an exercise in expansion. For others, attending an event full of strangers is a highly uncomfortable endeavor. Some need a little more thrill in their life, and may choose activities with a higher level of risk. These are intended to be mini-practices done first thing in the morning, but perhaps a lunch hour is delegated to hit the rock climbing or parkour gym.
  1. Kindness as a way to optimism

The more you practice helping other people without expectation or obligation of anything in return, the more you will expect this from others as well. Even when you experience people being selfish or unkind, you will be more resistant to adopting a pessimistic worldview, because you know that kindness is an individual choice, and if you choose it, others do, too.

  • Send a note of gratitude or praise. This doesn’t have to be a long note – a short paragraph will do. Even in a few short lines, however, be specific about the action or quality you are acknowledging and express how it made you feel or how it impacted you or others. Not only will this make you feel great, it will create positive ripples that continue well past the recipient.
  • Perform a random act of kindness. This doesn’t have to be extravagant. Maybe it means picking up someone’s favorite yogurt on the way into work and putting their name on a sticky note in the fridge where they’re sure to see it. You can choose to be anonymous, but there’s also nothing wrong in this exercise with choosing to be found out, either. In this case the note could read, “I noticed you like this, Jan. Enjoy! ~ Karen.” You could give the violinist in the subway a big tip, or let your waitress’s manager know that she’s doing a great job. It’s doing a little more than being polite, such as holding the door open. Politeness is also something that, when practiced, will increase your faith in people, but this is mini-exercise expects you to go a bit further out of your way, but not much further – 3 minutes.
  1. Gratitude as a way to optimism

If you can take notice and feel appreciation for good things, regardless of how small, and spend time in their significance, you will see how each good thing is really a tiny miracle, and if tiny miracles are possible, larger miracles are also possible.

  • Start and/or end your day thinking of 3 things you are grateful to have occurred over the past 24 hours, regardless of how simple they might be, such as someone letting you merge.
  • Take one thing that happened and “rampage” about it mentally, verbally or in written word, which is really letting yourself get wrapped up in all the good that something is, following one great thought to the next. For example, “I love that I got to spend time with my family yesterday, because when we spend time together playing games we get to know each other on a deeper level and create memories that we’ll cherish for many years to come, which is really what life is all about, and I love the time that I spend creating memories and feeling closer to my family, and knowing that we have each other; it makes me feel safe, secure, and loved….”

How to execute these mini-practices:

As I said above, you can encourage these mini-practices in small ways, such as taking 5 minutes at the beginning of each meeting for one or several, but you will enjoy exponential benefits if you can garner wider participation without obligating anyone while still supporting consistency.

I recommend that you do a 30-day challenge for yourself, and then promote a 30-day challenge for your workforce. It might look like this: Every work day for 30 days you will send an e-mail first thing in the morning that will encourage people to take 3 minutes or less to try a mini-practice, selecting a new mini-practice each day. You may opt to choose a focus for each week, or you can delegate a day of the week for each mini-practice category, e.g. Mondays are for meditation, Tuesdays are for Visualization, Wednesdays are for Expansion, Thursdays are for Kindness, and Fridays are for Gratitude. Have them also take 2 minutes at some point in the day to reflect on whether the mini-practice made a difference and send this to you. After this 30-day challenge for you is over, reward yourself for completing in a way that is meaningful for you.

Then, initiate a 30-day challenge for your workforce to pick one or several of the mini-practices that was most impactful for them and start their day with a mini-practice every work day for 30 days, allowing them 15 minutes after work begins to do this, though people can still opt to be done in less than 3 minutes, plus 2 minutes of reflection sent via e-mail. A standardized form for feedback will help you convert these reflections into usable data that may be very revealing! You may opt to reward all who participate with paid time off, or some other tangible reward, or choose one participant to receive a large reward.

At the end of the 30 days, aggregate and assess the most significant reflections and share the findings with everyone, whether they participated or not. If you find that these mini-practices made a significant impact in a way that is meaningful to your organization, consider instituting a permanent, consistent time allocation for them.

You can also engage Epic Careering to perform a morale and engagement assessment and conduct a more comprehensive participation program, including a workshop. By investing even a half-day immersing your workforce in learning the life skill of optimism:

  • You will send a strong message that their happiness is paramount to everyone’s success
  • They will understand at a deep level why it’s such a critical area of focus
  • You will get more buy-in to the mini-practices at a more meaningful level
  • Everyone will enjoy the exponentially increased benefits

Share with us your optimism initiatives past, present or future.

Beatles “Getting Better” (2015 stereo remix)

This is “Beatles “Getting Better” (2015 stereo remix)” by Lance Hall on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a career management firm specializing in the income-optimizing power of social media and personal branding, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify new trends in hiring and personal marketing. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and recently instructed for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Cabrini College, where her students won the national competition and were named America’s Top Young Entrepreneurs.

 

Looking On The Bright Side: The Real Secret To Success

Don’t Forget About The Silver Lining by JC Winkler on Flickr

[Part 1 of 2 – Next week: How to Infuse Optimism Into Your Culture and Your Life]

Optimism is a highly underestimated quality in workforce culture.

Optimism drives our global and national economy. It also drives our personal economy. Optimism increases the likelihood of success.

100 studies agree that optimism contributes to:

  • Improved problem solving
  • Enhanced motivation
  • Higher performance and productivity
  • Lower stress
  • Better mental and physical health
  • Longevity
  • Increased resilience
  • Better income

Lack of personal optimism leads to depression, illness, and addiction.

A lack of optimism, also known as pessimism, skepticism, or cynicism, is justified considering the widespread disparity between the world we want and the one we live in, which extends beyond our professional outlook and pervades all facets of our lives – health, financial, political, environmental, etc. However, it just doesn’t serve us to be more skeptical than optimistic, although there is critical place for realism, which you might think is the opposite of optimism, but it’s not.

The opposite of realism is idealism, and there is a distinction between idealism and optimism, but there is an application for both of them.

You can reverse engineer a better solution by assuming an ideal outcome is possible. Consider if Roger Bannister assumed he could not break the 4-minute mile just like all runners before him. Then consider how many after him aimed to run even faster, with well over a dozen succeeding.

Contingency planning, disaster recovery, cybersecurity professionals and other people in your workforce who assess and analyze risks, as well as those veterans in your workforce who have experienced prior failures can prevent future failures and losses. Every organization needs these people. However, our human nervous system was not intended to stay on high alert for prolonged periods of time. What an organization can do to protect the wellbeing of these professionals it to  train these employees on healthful stress management and to make sure give them ample time off. There also need to be protocols in place to make sure that, even in a culture of optimism, their expertise is tapped and considered during strategic planning and tactical execution. I will get more specific next week.

In an organization, a lack of optimism fosters an environment of distrust, which will inevitably leads to:

  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Unmet obligations
  • Unproductive suspicions and drama
  • Micro-management
  • Lower morale
  • More instances of mild to serious illness
  • Increased turnover

Careful of optimism bias. If you are oriented toward optimism, you will naturally create a bias that this orientation is better than any others. If you choose only to hire those who are optimistic, however, you have a talent chasm, not just a talent gap.

You’ll find it much easier to hire if your talent strategy is more based on candidate coachability, values, and skills (in that order) and then imbue your culture with training and practices that promote increasing optimism among your workforce. [We will talk more about this in the next post.]

All the places where optimism is critical for proper engagement and retention of your talent:

  • Optimism that there is a future career path in the company
  • Optimism that your company’s services/products deliver what is promised to clients/customers.
  • Optimism that vendors will deliver
  • Optimism that performance will be recognized and rewarded
  • Optimism that the organization’s leaders are ethical, moral and making good decisions

I’m not an optimism elitist, and I’m not always optimistic. However, based on the science, which I didn’t cite in my usual style because 100 studies were too much to cite, but I can point you to Dr. Mark Waldman’s NeuroWisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness, and Success for a comprehensive compilation of such citations, I make optimism a practice and aim to be more and more optimistic and less and less pessimistic. I have been accused of being idealistic before, and it was assumed when I was a younger professional that I would grow out of it, as if becoming more experienced and wise means being more pessimistic. Again, based on science, this just doesn’t serve me.

It is because of Dr. Waldman’s book and the science he has promoted that I know that there are multiple mini-practices that you can promote in your organization and in your life that will strengthen neural pathways for optimism. I will share a few of them next week.   Until then, keep hoping!

The Killers – Mr. Brightside

Music video by The Killers performing Mr. Brightside. (C) 2004 The Island Def Jam Music Group

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a career management firm specializing in the income-optimizing power of social media and personal branding, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify new trends in hiring and personal marketing. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and recently instructed for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Cabrini College, where her students won the national competition and were named America’s Top Young Entrepreneurs.