Crushing work environments drain people of the energy and enthusiasm needed to do great work. Such environments infect the whole workplace, and what’s worse, they limit a business’s ability to achieve desired results.
I spoke to Murphy, and he explained that workplace optimism isn’t about one’s perspective as an optimist or a pessimist.
“It’s about people feeling hopeful that good things will come from hard work,” he says.
In short, the optimism Murphy describes emerges as a perception of the work environment based on how employees feel about it.
Murphy explains that there are six destructive management symptoms that stop optimism from emerging. These crush work environments, reducing them to negative soul-sucking places to work.
Symptom 1: Blind Impact
This is when a leader is unaware of how his actions, attitudes, and words impact others.
Symptom 2: Antisocial Leadership
An antisocial leader lacks the ability or drive to encourage, build, and evolve a community of people united by a shared purpose.
Symptom 3: Chronic Change Resistance
This is a leader’s unwillingness to initiate change to help a team and organization remain relevant.
Symptom 4: Profit Myopia
Leaders with this symptom cling to the outdated belief that profit is the best success measure. Leaders are unable to define success beyond making money. Short-term thinking dominates the leader’s actions to generate profit for the business.
Symptom 5: Constipated Inspiration
This symptom infects a leader’s style and prevents him from learning what and how to inspire his team.
Symptom 6: Silo Syndrome
A leader afflicted with silo syndrome cannot see beyond his immediate responsibilities and has no awareness of the impacts his decisions have on others.
The good news is that these symptoms can be overcome by shifting the way you lead. Murphy explains that the following actions can reverse the effects of destructive management that crush work environments. These actions can also help create the optimistic workplace.
1. Know and show your values
Your presence and leadership style has the greatest impact on employees’ performance. “To deepen your awareness of how you impact others, identify, define, and know what behaviors align with what’s important to you,” says Murphy. He recommendsIgniter from Luck Companies, a free tool to help identify your values.
2. Define your team’s purpose
“Not enough leaders know their team’s ‘why,’” Murphy explains. Too many leaders have fallen into a rut when it comes to inspiring their employees and connecting their work to the company’s strategies. He recommends spending time with your team to identify the reason they exist. Spend time uncovering why the team’s efforts are important. This is an iterative conversation that will take a few cycles to define.
3. Create clarity
Too often, employees are unaware of their goals, or don’t know which work is a priority. This type of ambiguity can be overcome by spending time talking with employees about what success looks like and what the team’s priorities are. “Team confusion over goals and priorities is a leadership problem,” Murphy says. It’s important to coach employees to prioritize their daily work by keeping in mind the company’s strategic and operational needs.
4. Network across the company
It’s not uncommon for leaders to spend 80 percent of their time in meetings, preventing them from developing or deepening relationships across the company. Murphy says, “Business has been and always will be built on relationships.” This includes the relationships you build with others within the company. To learn what’s happening outside your team, it’s vital to know what others are doing. Influential leaders can see both the forest and the trees.
5. Implement one-on-ones
The best way to learn what your employees’ needs are is to spend time in one-on-ones with them. “Learn what they want to accomplish right now in their work,” explains Murphy. “Learn what their personal values are. Get to know what they like to do outside work.” One-on-ones traditionally have been ways for leaders to check on employees. He advocates a more contemporary view of this critical leadership practice.
Murphy cited research from TellYourBoss.com that found that 65 percent of employees preferred a new boss over getting a pay increase. Today’s workplaces don’t need to be a negative influence. They can be energizing. In his new book, Murphy advocates that leaders should take action and create a positive environment for their teams. Given the low engagement numbers in businesses around the world, a little optimism can be a significant boost to morale.