Optimism Can Be Contagious
Recently, as I’ve been doing some research for Millennial-related projects and thinking about how my generation is posed to influence organizations in the future, I’ve come to an interesting conclusion. While the Millennial generation has many important attributes that employers will need to consider as it enters the workforce in droves, one of the biggest strengths this generation possesses is their shared hopeful and optimistic nature. While these two descriptors could easily be dismissed as naïve or “green” by someone more seasoned; in my humble (Millennial) opinion, I think this positive mindset could have an important impact on the workforce.
Do you know people who are always optimistic and hopeful, even in the face of dire or less than desirable circumstances? How do things normally go for these super positive individuals? In my experience, things seem to work out and just fall into place for these types of people. Call is karma, call it kismet, call it whatever you want. It’s as if their positive attitude has actually influenced the actions of the universe and lead to a positive outcome for them. I realize that this phenomena sounds kind of outlandish, but I think there is something worth exploring about this type of positive mental behavior.
Without sounding too much like a self-help book, I do think there is power in keeping a hopeful and optimistic frame of mind, because it can help influence life’s outcomes. Let me explain. Other than fear, hope is one of the strongest human emotions. Both emotions cause people to act, but hope often prompts people to act positively and reach for something better. In this way, hope is a huge source of motivation and betterment. Now imagine these attributes of hope and optimism in your younger workforce and what that attitude can mean for your company. That spark of fresh excitement can impact everyone they work with, which means those positive qualities can permeate your entire company as they spread and grow.
What I find truly amazing is the continued spirit of hope and optimism in this next generation posed to make a HUGE entrance into the workforce (we are talking millions of Millennials entering for the next 10 to 15 years.) Even when they are faced with an unemployment rate of 13.1% for 20-24-year-olds (as of April 2013), they remain positive. They know they can make a difference and are excited to be given the chance to prove it.
Why is this a big deal? Close your eyes and picture your current employees. Do they come into the office each day with enthusiasm and an overwhelming passion for their work? Do they have boundless energy? Do they seem engaged? Or are they dragging themselves in each day, desperate for coffee and resigned to the fact that they have to just make it through the day.
The current workforce has experienced so many troubling and disillusioning times in recent years that they are quite frankly tired. They’ve had no choice but to persevere through events like the Great Recession, the housing crash, two wars in the Middle East and an increasingly polarized and economically wobbly nation. Depressed times naturally affect people negatively, so it’s no wonder why employees have been left feeling fatigued and downtrodden. With this in mind, an interjection of a hopeful and optimistic employee mindset may be exactly what today’s organizations need. Millennials are forward facing, and they don’t have the same lingering pessimistic or bitter feelings toward an uncertain future as some of their older colleagues might. They are highly educated, diverse and full of hope and motivation to make their world better.
Maybe this is a bit opportunistic, but doesn’t this seem like the perfect opportunity for business leaders to infuse some positivity and motivation into their corporate culture? Positivity is contagious. Let it permeate or at least brighten the dulled color of a corporate culture that may have been tarnished by tough times. Millennials are up to the challenge.