Will I still be employed at the end of the year? Will my children be able to attend school anytime soon? What if there is another phase of complete lockdown? Will my son have a normal childhood? What if the business doesn’t pick up? When will I be able to travel to my hometown to visit my parents? How will I repay the car loan? Who will buy my car even if I decide to sell it? Innumerable questions like these plague the minds of employees amidst the pandemic. News of layoffs, retrenchment, downsizing and furloughs on a daily basis only adds to their worries.
At a time like this, it is the responsibility of the leaders to teach their employees to be optimistic.
Haven’t we heard that creative people are the ones who think with the right side of their brain, while the logical and analytical people are the ones who think with the left? Well, a similar theory exists for pessimists and optimists too. Research has shown that those whose left side of the brain is more active tend to remain positive, while those who use the right side of the brain more tend to get angry or depressed easily, that is, they are inclined towards negative emotions.
However, thought processes can be consciously altered. Yes, optimism can be learned and taught, just like any other skill.
How can leaders drive home the fact that optimism is the key to happiness in these troubled times? Simple. By helping employees rewire their brain and thought processes. Here is how.
Purpose in life
A feeling of fulfilment in life is experienced when there is a purpose. People with families and children work with the objective of ensuring that their children get the best of education, and are able to have a bright future. Right now, during the pandemic, the purpose in life for everyone should be to survive.
Let your employees know that they are not alone in this mess. Their sole purpose in life should be to get through this crisis and somehow survive. They should focus on getting their families through these troubled times. Once they live through this temporary phase, there will be endless opportunities to better their lives and that of their children.
Glass is not always full
Redefine optimism for your employees. Optimism does not mean pretending that the problem does not exist. It simply means accepting the issue and approaching it in a more effective manner. Tell the employees that optimism will help them cope with their troubles in a more effective way, without letting the stress affect them too much. After all, life is all about facing realities. It is true that this time, the reality is rather bitter, for everyone around the globe. Accept that there are certain things that human beings cannot control. That realisation itself will relieve a person of a whole lot of stress. For the first time, humanity has learnt that the virus does not choose its prey or distinguish between the rich and the poor, the successful or the failures, the educated or the illiterate.
Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. This quote could not have been more relevant. If the employees complain about being holed up at home, tell them to enjoy the time spent with the family. Encourage them to use this time to learn something new. Once things return to normal, which will eventually happen, they will yearn for such quality family time or the leisure to read or watch television and play with the kids. This is just a temporary phase — they should enjoy and make the most of it, while it lasts.
Negativity is contagious
Ask your employees to avoid reading the news or watching the news channels for a couple of days. With hardly anything positive happening in the world, and channels highlighting the increasing number of COVID-cases in the country, not much good can come from following them. Also, negativity spreads more easily and at a faster pace than positivity. Therefore, tell your employees to interact with positive people; friends who look at the brighter side of things rather than focussing on the negative side. Encourage employees to call up their positive and optimistic friends more often to uplift their own mood. They should also encourage their families to do the same.
Being surrounded by a positive husband or wife and smiling kids can infuse optimism. This positivity can be passed on to friends and co-workers. Gradually, the entire network will embrace positivity and be optimistic. Imagine how much good that can do!
Millions of people have lost their source of livelihood. Many are facing hunger and starvation. Tell your employees how lucky they are to have a roof over their heads and food on the table. Encourage them to pray together with their families and thank the Almighty for being so kind to them. Ask them to put up a list on their refrigerator and encourage their family members to write just one thing at the end of each day, for which they are grateful. Just a look at that list will be enough to lift their spirits every morning.
Studies have shown that optimists are more resilient. After all, they have the will to survive and do good. This also makes them proactive and more focussed on their own wellbeing. As a result, they turn out to be healthier — with active minds, healthy bodies, and even healthier and happier hearts. Naturally, they enjoy more successful relationships. Imagine having a workforce full of such people! This is reason enough for leaders to work towards rewiring the brains of their employees so that they become optimistic. So, go ahead and make your employees take a swig of the ‘optimism tonic’.