Even before it became stale and overused, the glass half full/glass half empty metaphor was a terrible way to think about optimism. The problem: it disguises the very feature that makes optimism so powerful in our workplaces (and elsewhere for that matter).
Knowing how to identify the traits of the perfect employee is the holy grail of HR but, like finding the grail, this challenge is not for the faint of heart. Of course, everyone has an opinion on the matter: a quick Google search reveals an overwhelming plethora of lists of desirable employee traits. Unfortunately, all of these lists differ in the details, leaving us in the dark about which employee traits are really the most important. So in this post, I turn to another approach to find an answer: I turn to the wisdom of the crowd.
If you ask someone not to think of a pink elephant for the next minute, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll spend most of the next minute thinking about pink elephants. So what do you think happens when you deliberately try to suppress bad thoughts because you’re trying to “think positively”? Richard Wiseman, in his excellent book 59 Seconds, says there’s some evidence that the pink elephant problem rears its head and you end up thinking even more negatively than you would otherwise have done and, as a result, end up making yourself less happy. So if positive thinking is a dangerous route to happiness, what’s the real happiness secret? And how can we use this secret to increase employee happiness? This post will discuss both of these questions.
Guest post by Adrienne Erin
When your employees work hard for you, it’s natural to want to reward them in simple and meaningful ways. Despite common belief, rewards can come in various forms outside of a simple raise or promotion. Further, while it may seem impossible to compensate employees without spending copious amounts of money, frequent recognition is ranked as one of the highest valued assets at any company. In order to provide this on a budget, handing out humorous awards is a great option.
The old saying that we should work smarter not harder undoubtedly captures an important truth: inefficient work is time wasted. However, a growing body of psychological literature suggests that the ability to work hard in a focused, consistent manner is more important than intelligence in determining who will succeed in the long-term. There’s an important lesson here: working smart is important but we must not forget the value of hard work when we hire and when we try to develop our own skills and the skills of our employees.
As a species, we’ve spent most of the last few thousand years outdoors doing physical labor so it’s perhaps no surprise that sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day, with just one break for lunch, doesn’t really come naturally to us. That’s not to say we can’t do it. In fact, I’m sure most the people reading this blog have pushed on through an eight hour day on more than one occasion. The problem is that when we do so we’re less productive and we’re likely to produce a lower quality of work than we would otherwise. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to this problem: regular breaks. Even a short break can improve focus and performance.