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Why Optimism Makes a Difference at Work

By Armando Peña |


Bobby McFerrin’s chirpy lyrics to “Don’t Worry be Happy” encourage us to look at life from an optimistic perspective, even when things might not be going perfectly. In truth, seeing the world in a positive light does not mean that we will be naive about the challenges and harsh realities of life. Rather, it means that these adversities are accepted and approached with hope and confidence, knowing that everything will eventually work out.


Studies have shown that optimism can bring many benefits, including improved coping mechanisms against hardships and disease, a healthier heart, better overall and longer life expectancy, and stronger relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. In simple terms,  optimists function better socially, psychologically, and physically.   


A pessimist sees the negatives, or the difficulty in every opportunity, whereas an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” - Winston Churchill

Coping With Challenges 


Everyone can agree that some disappointments and challenges occur at work. For instance, being promised a promotion but then finding out that it was offered to someone else instead or when a top-performing co-worker unexpectedly quits. It can be easy to be cynical and get caught up in the negatives of these situations.


However, studies have shown that someone can better recover from disappointments and challenges by being optimistic in these situations. This occurs by attending to positive outcomes to a greater extent than adverse  outcomes.  This does not mean that challenges will not be accepted, but that the attitude in confronting them will change. Through the lens of optimism, challenges and disappointments become opportunities for growth and learning.  


In the words of Michael Bonnell, a well-respected counselor, “optimists still endure pain and struggle in life, but instead of allowing the pain and struggle to hinder their abilities, they look for the positives in every difficulty that they face.” This attitude makes it incredibly difficult to stop an optimist from fostering greater business ideas, having fresh perspectives, and showing increased creativity.


Increased Productivity


In 2018, Gallup reported that behaviors such as optimism result in a 21 percent increase in profitability for an employer. It increases productivity through motivation, fortitude, and resilience, which helps a company increase its productivity. In the words of Deborah Sweeny, CEO of Mycorporation.com, "The beauty of a positive attitude is that it is contagious. When you are optimistic and see the glass as half-full, others will catch on to that feeling. People want to be around positive individuals. They’ll stick around for a positive entrepreneur, and work with them no matter what.”


In contrast, a pessimistic and aggressive workplace won’t bring financial success for a company. In fact, having a pessimistic and stressful workplace will cost a company more money by creating increased medical claims,  lower productivity, and higher absenteeism. According to BMC Public Health, the average number of doctor visits is 26 percent higher for individuals with jobs that are high in stress. Additionally, pessimism in a work environment increases strain levels in a company, which decreases productivity.


Doors Will Open


Because of the ability to see the good in many situations, people, and challenges, optimists tend to be more successful. Optimism builds self-confidence and strength to see opportunities everywhere, whether that be receiving feedback from a manager or cheering up co-workers that might have had a rough day. The positive emotions created by optimism build others up, whereas negativity constricts and prevents people from seeing the opportunities that are possible,


There is no doubt that Bobby McFerrin did have some rough days; however, his attitude of how he confronted life is what became an anthem that is sung by many.


In every life, we have some trouble

But when you worry, you make it double

Don't worry, be happy.”


Doing your best to develop optimism will make a difference, not only at work but in life. 

Armando Peña

Learning Designer at Construct