As stated in “The Optimistic Workplace: Creating an Environment That Energizes Everyone” the mission of the book is two-fold. The first “is to show that work can be a source of fulfillment, joy and happiness.”
The second is to show that creating happy human beings leads to a better business.
Sounds like an impossible mission? Not according to Shawn Murphy. Murphy, an organizational development consultant, believes that happiness is within the reach of every single business. The path, his book explains, starts from an unlikely place. It starts, Murphy argues, with management.
What “The Optimistic Workplace” is About
Dealing with staff, time sheets, and keeping the office running smoothly rarely creates a feeling of optimism. Yet that is the mindset that “The Optimistic Workplace” wants to challenge. Murphy writes that, under the right conditions, every work environment has the capacity to encourage and foster happiness.
Work environments, according to Murphy, have suffered from an antiquated and authoritarian management paradigm that only focuses on getting results. In this kind of environment, creating a happy workplace is an afterthought. That approach, however, has come back to haunt a lot of managers. Research has shown that businesses suffer from decreasing productivity, declining morale, and increasing dissatisfaction (a.k.a. the “I’m only here for the paycheck” syndrome) among employees.
Instead, “The Optimistic Workplace” focuses on helping managers actively create a positive, collaborative environment that focuses more on employee happiness than has been traditional in business. The book features a plethora of insights, based on psychological research, which demonstrate that happy employees are also more productive. The research goes on to suggest that fostering happiness in your employees doesn’t always require giving them a raise or a bonus. It could be as simple as giving a compliment, entrusting them with a challenging project or asking for their input.
What Murphy is trying to push managers (and ultimately society) to do is question the core beliefs about work and happiness. It should be common practice, according to Murphy, not an exception, for employees to be made to feel that they matter in the workplace. Work should be a place of innovation, not unnecessary limits.
The shift Murphy is looking for begins when managers step up to the challenge of transforming our words and actions with the employees that work with them. It continues when that shift becomes a way of life for all of us.
What Was Best About This Book
The best part of “The Optimistic Workplace” is the book’s focus on more than the “You need happy employees” message that can be found in other books. And it provides more research and a deeper analysis of what goes into creating a happier workplace.
The book also challenges readers to go beyond traditionally accepted beliefs and management practices. For example, research discussed in “The Optimistic Workplace” shows that ostracism is actually more harmful than bullying. How many of us would have thought the opposite? This kind of challenge to a reader’s thinking is exactly what the author needs to inspire change.
What Could Have Been Done Differently
The book places a lot more attention on the extremes in the case studies. Murphy talks about big companies, like Bamboo HR and others, with larger resources than the typical small business owner or entrepreneur. This can lead to the perception that companies with big pockets are the only ones that can afford to create change. The book attempts to refute this notion, but could do it better with case studies and advice geared to the small business.
Why Read This Book
“The Optimistic Workplace” provides a more detailed discussion of the “How do we improve employee morale?” question. It goes further than the typical advice about better employee appreciation and challenges managers to create and actively maintain a positive work environment over the long term rather than short term.
Murphy also provides more of the research behind what it takes to maintain a productive work environment, which sometimes contradicts traditional beliefs about work and happiness. It is crucial to challenge these key beliefs in order to truly improve employee morale and loyalty over the long term.
About the Author
Shawn Murphy (@TheShawnMurphy) is an author,speaker, Huffington post blogger, CEO and founder of Switch and Shift, an organizational transformation consulting company.