Saturday, February 2, 2013


Have you noticed that some folks are just happier than others?  We earnestly hope that everybody knows at least one person who embraces an honest and consummately positive and enthusiastic approach to life. These optimistic and beaming souls ply their mostly involuntary style on us just by their mere presence.  Whether birthed out of misfortune or an indefatigable, seemingly genetically driven positive attitude and demeanor, their example allows us a window to see and experience (pragmatism and scientific approach aside) that proverbial half-full glass approach to life.  They encourage, motivate and inspire all they encounter and I’m lucky to know several such souls and know my life is better for knowing them.

Then you have their negative twin.  You see them in the hallway, heads down and always bitching and complaining about something in an “orgy of self-pity”.  Their glass is always half empty and they are willing to share their pain and suffering, drawing you into their web at the drop of a hat. While they are adept at identifying problems they never or rarely offer any solutions. While it’s good to relate to reality and understand challenges and opportunities, the consistent, constant barrage of negativism can drag an organization down and out.

And that doesn’t mean we should ignore or whitewash our weaknesses, rather once identified - treat them as opportunities to strengthen our organizations. If we can have a CEO and CFO, perhaps all companies should also have a CMO, a Chief Morale Officer, responsible for building modern, relevant corporate workplace cultures which in turn nurture and support high performance teams.  They’re out there in private consulting firms and in those more rarified software/hardware and IT companies. The concept works. The medical community tells us that positive attitudes have been consistently linked with reductions in the risk of heart disease and stroke. This fact hasn’t escaped HR professionals intent on building healthier and more productive Employee populations.

God knows, there will always be opportunities to assist organizations to remain inspired, positively energized and directed.  We used to call that one of the primary roles of Employee Relations though that task/function now seems more presently directed at Employee communication and discipline.   That’s too bad because the maintenance of an optimistic and positive attitude can be one of the key attributes of success.   If we continue to entertain and tolerate the bad apple(s) in our midst then we do create the potential of spoiling the whole barrel. If an employee engages a critical (or any) task from a negative perspective the chances of a successful outcome are substantially diminished.  We need to identify and effectively manage all the drivers of engagement and then understand morale as a key part of an Employee’s overall performance.

Now having said all that, it’s just not that simple.  Behavioral analysts like Dan Pink are adamant that workers need three things: mastery (tools to get the job done), autonomy (independence), and purpose (rhyme, reason, direction & self-esteem) to be successful.  We believe more drivers exist but also that morale is that intangible X-factor component of all of the above that when righteously addressed, contributes to the continuing success for those enlightened companies.  Likewise, companies who fail to approach the marketplace with a positive attitude and demeanor will do their clients a great disservice and probably won’t stay in business very long. We have long known that athletic teams with a high confidence factor (and with all else equal) win more games with that applying equally to the workplace.

There are many great resources available that relate to company morale issues with most readily identified on the Internet.  Just go surfing and they will present themselves.

The point of this post is to acknowledge this X Factor and thank the special Lady from a special company for the above graphic and reminder that we always need to put our best foot forward.  If the role of CMO were ever established – she would at least be the Head Cheerleader.  She always sees the silver lining - the positive in every situation without overlooking the reality of the workplace.  You see, she has seen enough pain and heartbreak in one short lifetime that would challenge even an entire community.  But she is a Lady of consummate faith and optimism who is always willing to share her positive message even with just a smile and hallway greeting.   She has demonstrated to this writer and others of our ilk the message that one blogger recently stated, “It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.” Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s all about perspective and persistence.

As Jane Brody of the NY Times opined when reviewing Breaking Murphy’s Law by Dr. Suzanne Segerstrom, professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, “Optimism is not about being positive so much as it is about being motivated and persistent.  Dr. Segerstrom and other researchers have found that rather than giving up and walking away from difficult situations, optimists attack problems head-on. They plan a course of action, getting advice from others and staying focused on solutions.”

Brody continued, “Dr. Segerstrom wrote that when faced with uncontrollable stressors, optimists tend to react by building “existential resources” — for example, by looking for something good to come out of the situation or using the event to grow as a person in a positive way.  If you behave more optimistically, you will likely keep trying instead of giving up after an initial failure. ‘You might succeed more than you expected,’ she wrote. Even if the additional effort is not successful, it can serve as a positive learning experience, suggesting a different way to approach a similar problem the next time.”

Dale Carnegie once offered that the great ones among us can always find that silver lining, that when life hands them a lemon they turn it into lemonade. Thanks Mother T…


Ned Buxton

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