Creating an Optimistic Workplace

By Sara White posted 01-24-2016 09:30


(Written by Allie Vecchiet*) In Sara White’s post last week, she discussed the importance of managing emotional culture within a group. She explained that a group’s emotional culture is typically conveyed by nonverbal cues, such as body language and facial expressions. Her post discussed different types of emotional cultures and interpretations of emotions we see expressed at work.

As leaders, if we identify a poor emotional culture among our teams, how can we improve it? What is the benefit of improving it? Shawn Murphy provides actionable suggestions in, “The Optimistic Workplace.” He writes that the best work is the product of a positive environment and that the immediate leader has the greatest influence on the climate. In fact, your leadership style impacts climate by up to 70%! Here are some tips from Murphy to create an optimistic workplace and drive results:

  1. Give people the freedom to express themselves. Meaningful work emerges when people know they can share what’s on their mind and that a pink slip won’t be on their desk the next day or they won’t be made to feel shame for speaking out.
  2. Hold regular one-on-ones. Meet one-on-one with members of your team and learn what’s important to them in terms of the workplace.
  3. Meet your employee’s basic needs. Do your employees feel secure in their work? Are expectations clear? Is there consistency in how you show up as a leader?
  4. Make room for autonomous work. Having autonomy means team members can rely on their experiences and use their ideas to leave their mark. The intrinsic motivation inherent in autonomy is a source of fulfillment and helps employees find meaning.
  5. Invite people to be “in on things.” Employees want to believe they are in on decisions and hear news in a timely manner.
  6. Avoid destructive management traits. Murphy cites 6 symptoms:
    1. Blind impact: a leader who is unaware of how actions, attitudes and words impact others and damages any opportunity for workplace optimism.
    2. Antisocial leadership: This symptom is all about one’s inability to encourage, build and evolve a community of people united by a shared purpose.
    3. Chronic change resistance: The seduction of the status quo overpowers rational thoughts and actions.
    4. Profit myopia: The outdated belief that profit is the only success measure.
    5. Constipated inspiration: The leader is unsure of how to inspire people. Often this type of leader can be too focused on his/her own needs.
    6. Silo syndrome: This afflicts a leader when he/she cannot see beyond immediate responsibilities and cannot see the impacts of work on other people’s lives.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Have you ever worked for someone with these destructive management traits? How did it affect your performance? How did others react to this leader?
  2. How often do you meet with your employees one-on-one? How “in tune” are you to your staff’s emotional culture?
  3. Think of the job where you felt the most optimistic and motivated to perform. What type of leader was your boss? Did your boss’ leadership style have a direct impact on your performance?

*Allison Vecchiet, PharmDPGY1/PGY2

Health-System Pharmacy Administration Resident
Nationwide Children's Hospital
M.S. Health-System Pharmacy Administration Candidate 2016
The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy



1 comment



01-29-2016 03:58

Hi Sara and Allison,
Great post. I'd be curious to hear from others on the topic of turning around informal leaders that may have become a negative influence on the team. If you have found yourself in this predicament, what are some strategies that worked for you?
Tim Larson