Optimism vs. Pessimism, what side is your business attitude on?

By Janel Lubanski, Media Relations & Client Services
What is the correct way to handle business hardships? When you lose a client, do you consider it a failure or an opportunity? How does your team bounce back from disappointments?  When it comes to the aspects of your job, are you an optimist or a pessimist?

In January, Harvey Mackay, New York Times Bestselling author of “Swim with the Sharks,” and regular columnist for Inc. Magazine wrote about business attitude and how optimism outperforms pessimism.

Merriam-Webster defines optimism as “an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events”.  Pessimism is contagious and ultimately, your attitude is the foundation for your employees’ sense of reality.  Business owners and employees who are optimists choose to find the silver lining of all business struggles and focus on how to learn from setbacks and create a productive path forward. 

Let’s say for example, that you are a business owner who is coming to the end of a contract with your biggest client.  A pessimist would only see the loss of the client and income.  On the flip side, an optimist would see the door opening to new clients, the opportunity for bigger accounts and think about the value offered by the experience, connections and knowledge gained from working with that former client.

No business owner or manager can inspire a team with a consistent negative attitude on the inevitable struggles that arise at work.  Great team leaders find ways to rise above the negativity and identify what can be improved and seek opportunities elsewhere. According to Mackay, it’s all about having a positive attitude even when faced with hardships or setbacks.

Dana Lightman, author of “Power Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have…Create the Success You Want” provides a great example of optimism in the work place: “The optimists who are needed in today’s workplace embody qualities that include self-awareness, flexibility, self-confidence, initiative, resiliency and adaptability.” 

Whether CEO, manager or line staff, these optimists employ a system of thinking, feeling and behaving that creates conditions for success. Their optimistic attitude allows them to recognize and redirect unproductive reactions, to think before acting, and to choose beneficial responses.  Optimism equips practitioners with a perspective that fosters personal accountability, innovative thinking and appropriate risk-taking.” 

After reading Mackay’s article, I thought back to when I first relocated to Oregon from Hawaii trying desperately to land a job as quickly as possible.   My first job offer, like a good portion of recent-college graduates, was working in a field that had nothing to do with what I majored in.  Learning the ins-and-outs of a new industry was a lot more difficult than I anticipated and looking back it could have been so easy to say this job really wasn’t for me – but that was just the fear talking.  Instead of listening to my fear, I stuck with my job, taking on unfamiliar, tasks, reminding myself that one day, I would understand all of this.  

I like to think my optimism was a result of a former co-worker and friend telling me that by taking this job, I would learn the business from the ground up – that I would learn so much more than if I took a writing post at a local publication.  Looking back, that was exactly what I wanted: having a job where I could learn all aspects of the business, not just become a one-dimensional employee.

Maintaining a strong optimistic perspective and checking the pessimism at the door is what pushes me to do the best work I can, even when that work doesn’t reach my desired outcome; I keep the hustle.  After all, trials keep you strong and failures keep you humble.  Perseverance goes hand-in-hand with this mantra.  It may not get you to your desired outcome 100 percent of the time, but it will take you a lot further than not trying at all.

Mackay stated, “You need to be able to look on the bright side of tough situations in order to take risks, and survive both successes and failures.” -- And I agree.