Business, ZingTrain

ZingTrain Speaker Series 7: Creating Optimistic Workplaces


We spend over a third of our lives at work! And even though it takes up so much of our existence, many of us never really flourish in that space—we just survive. At a recent installment of Season 7 of our ZingTrain Speaker Series, Shawn Murphy, author of The Optimistic Workplace: Creating an Environment that Energizes Everyone, shared his research and strategies for creating optimistic workplaces.

What is and optimistic workplace? Quite simply, it’s an environment where employees believe that good things will come from their hard work.

Here are some of the things we learned:

An optimistic workplace helps business and people grow
When profit isn’t the goal but rather the outcome, we can create workplaces that help people do their best. Work can be a positive experience if there’s a focus on the human side of a business. Success can grow from that.

It’s not about culture—it’s about climate
A company’s culture is how things get done; its climate is how it feels to be there. Seventy percent of an employee’s experience is based on his or her relationship with a boss, so how you show up and relate with people who work for you is crucial to creating a healthy climate.

We needs realists and pessimists, too
Natural realists and pessimists keep us aware of the threats to our business and help us make necessary changes. If we surround ourselves with only optimists, we run the risk of only seeing what’s going right. This narrows our perspective and limits potential. However, in an optimistic workplace, even the realists and pessimists should believe that they’re doing meaningful work with real purpose.

Violent work acts crush the human spirit
The term may seem dramatic, but “violent work acts” are actually quite common, and they can have an extremely negative impact on people. Not having enough time to recover is one—when people can’t unplug from work, they never re-charge and that can have terrible consequences for work performance, health, and personal lives. Shawn used BambooHR, which has an anti-workaholic policy, as an example of a company that’s dealing with this head on.

Others Violent Work acts include working without clarity, i.e. not knowing what the goals, priorities, and expectations of your team, or the organization as a whole, really are. A lack of feedback is part of that. Similarly, working without purpose or meaning stalls organizational and individual progress and potential. Workers who have little sense of belonging and don’t feel they can be who they are are also being done a real disservice.

There’s such a thing as too much optimism
Balancing harmony and discord in your organization is important. If there’s too much optimism, there might be a tendency to avoid acknowledging problems, which are inevitable and necessary—challenges help teams grow and get stronger. Not confronting issues can create a “country club effect,” an environment of pretense and an unwillingness to do things differently than how they’ve always been done.

If you’d like to learn more about creating an optimistic workplace, be sure to check out Shawn’s book, The Optimistic Workplace: Creating an Environment that Energizes Everyone. If you missed this great session, be sure to catch the next one! Here’s what’s coming up:

10/19: The ChillPill Guys : Get Going on Your Goals

11/2: Rich Sheridan : The Business Value of Joy

11/16: Roz & Hunter Keith : Call him Hunter

12/7: Ari Weinzweig : The Spirit of Generosity