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Optimism is contagious

Date: October 01, 2021

Author: Louise Sinclair

Looking around your workplace, it’s not hard to spot the optimists. They breeze into work with a smile, tackle every challenge with a can-do attitude, and strike up an easy rapport with everyone they meet. Research shows that these “glass half full” team members are integral to a happy, healthy and productive workplace. With that in mind, we discuss how dental hygienists can lead the way and become a champion of optimism in the dental practice.

What is optimism?

An optimist is somebody who generally focuses on the good in any given situation and has confidence in a positive outcome. Their opposite is the pessimist, who tends to dwell on the negative and expect the worst.

Some people who lean towards pessimism often call themselves realists instead. They believe that unconditional optimism is naïve, and that in many situations, it’s more realistic to expect a poorer outcome.

However, a real optimist isn’t blind to the downsides. They acknowledge that obstacles exist, but they believe that they can find a way around them. They accept that success may be difficult, but they’re prepared to rise to the challenge. Unsurprisingly, this makes optimists an asset in the workplace.

The benefits of optimism at work

If you’re lucky enough to have worked with an optimist, you’ll probably agree that they tend to be easier to collaborate with, more confident and pro-active, and more resilient to the day-to-day stresses of the job.

A study by Leadership IQ found that employees with optimistic mindsets were more likely to be engaged and satisfied at work. When asked how inspired they were to give their best, optimistic employees reported being more inspired than their pessimistic counterparts. This was echoed by an article in the Harvard Business Review, which also stated that optimists were five times less likely to suffer burnout.

When you cultivate optimism in your team, you’re also cultivating productivity, commitment and job satisfaction. This leads directly to better employee relations, healthier practice revenue, and a higher standard of customer care. It also leads away from stress, exhaustion and high staff turnover. So how exactly can you promote optimism in your workplace?

How to be a champion of optimism

1. Be the example

Research shows that this is indeed true, with one Harvard Medical School professor describing optimism as a “collective phenomenon.” In other words, if you practice optimism in the workplace, your team may well be inspired to follow your lead. Truth be told, optimism is contagious.

When a problem presents itself, encourage the team to focus their attention on solutions, rather than potential ramifications. If you find yourself complaining, predicting the worst, or dwelling on negative outcomes in front of your team, make a point of reframing your words. For example, you might say: “Wait – that was pessimistic of me! It wasn’t the outcome we hoped for, but I’m so proud of our hard work.”

2. Inspire goal pursuit

Setting goals gives employees a sense of direction and purpose in their work. The most effective goals are intrinsic goals, which appeal to one’s needs, values and sense of autonomy, as opposed to extrinsic goals, which are rooted in external pressures and expectations.

Encourage each team member to set an intrinsic, win-win goal – one that not only benefits the practice, but also matters to them on a personal level. It should be just challenging enough to inspire growth, while still feeling achievable. Examples in the dental office may include learning a new skill, working towards a more senior role, or taking the lead on an important project.

3. Highlight successes

Sometimes, employees need a helping hand to feel positive and confident about their work. Assign them tasks that allow their unique skills and attributes to shine, while offering training or mentorship to improve on their weaknesses. Balance constructive criticism with positive feedback, emphasize the impact their work has on co-workers and patients, and be sure to recognize and reward their accomplishments.

4. Encourage gratitude

The simple act of gratitude can make a big impact on your team’s morale. According to United Concordia Dental, employees with a daily gratitude habit are more optimistic and up to 25% happier. Build this into your team’s daily routine by asking each member of staff to acknowledge three things they’re grateful for each day.

5. Nurture work relationships

The relationships you form at work can have a significant impact on the way you feel about your job. When co-workers truly enjoy spending time together and feel respected and supported by each other, it’s much easier for them to start the day on an optimistic note!

You can nurture these “workships,” as United Concordia Dental calls them, by creating plenty of opportunities for your team to bond, such as mentorship programs, encouraging collaboration, having two employees work together on projects or task forces together, and by holding after-hours social events.

There's no doubt about it, optimism is key to a happy, healthy and productive workplace. These are just some of the ways in which you can become a champion of optimism in your dental office.