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Six Rebellious Beliefs That Can Change The Workplace

by Shawn Murphy, author of “The Optimistic Workplace: Creating an Environment That Energizes Everyone


To change the world through your work, you need to be grounded in beliefs that unleash human potential. After all, changing the world isn’t a solo endeavor. It takes a group of purpose-oriented people to shift realities. You could say it takes a rebellious mindset to even believe it’s possible to change the world. No great shifts in this world were born from accepting conventional wisdom as life’s unchangeable truths.

One of life’s unchangeable truths that is crumbling before us is the belief that the workplace is where our souls go to die. This was our grandparent’s reality — outdated and outright ridiculous by today’s standards.

Let’s get back to changing the world. If you are going to change the world through your work, you need an inspiring, motivating place to do that. You need an optimistic workplace.

Workplace Optimism.

Workplace optimism has nothing to do with your perspective on life as an optimist, pessimist, or even realist. The optimistic workplace is a vibe that gives you hope that good things will come from your hard work. It emerges when people dare to look for what’s right at work, and in what’s working.

Workplace optimism is an enabler: It enables purpose-oriented people to do their best work. It unleashes human potential. These are what you need to change the world.

Beliefs for Cultivating Workplace Optimism.

Belief is the genesis of your actions. It makes sense, then, to examine what you believe to better direct your leadership. The savvy leader spends time reflecting on what she believes in order to positions herself to have the greatest impact.

At its core, workplace optimism has a chance to emerge when six fundamental beliefs consciously mold how you lead:

The team is more important than any individual.

It’s a fact of neuroscience: our brains are wired to think about the thoughts, feelings, and goals of other people. Working as a team to achieve desired outcomes makes people feel good about work. The emphasis, however, needs to shift away from the rugged individual to collaborative efforts by teams of people unified by a shared purpose. 

There’s value to experiencing joy at work.

Joy can open brains to better see connections and more options to solve work problems. In a joyful workplace, people are more likely to contribute their best. Known for its joy-making philosophy, Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has made Inc. magazine’s fastest growing U.S. companies list multiple times. This is due, in part, to the joyful work environment at Menlo. 

Doing good is good for business.

It’s not just about philanthropy. When leaders adopt business practices that contribute to improving employees’ lives, business prospers. For example, BambooHR, a software development company based in Utah, has an anti-workaholic policy. The small start-up has found that when its team members have time to pursue personal interests, they are more productive and satisfied at work. 

Relationships with employees need to be richer.

Relationships are central to cooperation, collaboration, and successful outcomes. Take, for instance, the remarkable 2014 events at Market Basket, a 73-store grocery chain based in Massachusetts. When the board of directors ousted the company’s CEO and steward, Arthur T. Demoulas, in favor of his bottom-line driven cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, employees responded by orchestrating a massive boycott. Strong relationships between employees, suppliers, and customers resulted in a collaborative effort that restored a beloved CEO and saved a company.

Work should align with purpose and meaning.

Why does work matter to your team members? For workplace optimism to thrive, you must strive to find the answer to that question and then continually invest in making sure that work remains meaningful. Be wary of a trap related to this belief. Too often leaders assume money is considered to be the most meaningful benefit working for a company. Falling into this trap will blind you from seeing what matters to employees beyond external motivators.

Leaders need to actualize human potential.

Luck Companies, an aggregate business headquartered just outside of Richmond, Virginia, believes, to quote CEO Charlie Luck, that “all human beings have extraordinary potential to make a positive difference in the world.” For Luck, this belief shapes how its leaders treat one another, develops their associates, and spreads the message globally. Actualizing human potential puts the spirit into workplace optimism.

There’s a revolution percolating in today’s workplaces. No longer are employees satisfied with the transactional nature of work—time for money. Instead employees want work to be fulfilling and to have impact. This revolution is throwing out outdated beliefs. It’s replacing them with beliefs that rouses the human spirit, encouraging people to take their shot at making the world a better place. Given that we spend more than half our lives working, making the world a better place through our work is a natural extension of who we are and what we do. It’s your beliefs about your role in work and in changing the world that will make a difference.


Shawn Murphy

Shawn Murphy is an independent consultant with 20 years’ experience working with organizations to create workplace optimism. He is the co-founder and CEO of Switch & Shift, an advocacy and consultancy focused on the human side of business, and host of the popular Work That Matters podcast. He is the author of “The Optimistic Workplace: Creating an Environment That Energizes Everyone“.


This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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