Are Optimistic Employees More Successful?

Optimism in the workplace has numerous benefits for employees including financial, health, and overall success in their careers. Optimism also contributes to higher performance on teams and, ultimately, a more positive work environment for companies. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of being an optimist at work, as well as the how-to for employers looking to cultivate more optimistic leaders. Are optimistic employees more successful? Let’s dig into the conversation.

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Benefits Of Optimism

First, what are the benefits of optimism? Being optimistic sets a precedent in the workplace. Optimistic employees tend to be solution-oriented and more pleasant to be around, which boosts overall productivity. In fact, highly optimistic people are 103% more inspired to give their best effort at work, according to a study by Forbes.

Optimism also helps build confidence, better relationships, and a healthier mental and physical environment for employees. Optimism fosters an environment that places a premium on mental and physical wellbeing that has long term effects on employees. The American Psychological Association estimates that the U.S. economy loses more than $500 billion and 550 million workdays a year because of workplace stress. By cultivating an optimistic workplace, employers are able to boost engagement in the workplace and reduce turnover that results from unhappy employees.

Balancing Optimism Bias & Real Data

Optimism faces two opposite but equally salient shortcomings. The first is the inclination to equate an optimistic outlook with a rose-colored or unrealistic mindset, which is inaccurate. Optimism is simply a mindset that positions people to work towards a solution. The inverse is pessimism, which is easily knocked down by problems. Optimism is a mindset that sets you up to respond to anything life may throw at you.

For this reason, not all is lost for employees who tend to veer towards pessimism. Learned optimism can shift mindsets by eliminating negative language in respect to your work or ideas. This approach is similar to adopting a glass half full mentality to problem solving.

The second shortcoming with optimists is a propensity towards optimism bias. This describes the likelihood of an optimist to underestimate a negative outcome because they are overly focused on the positive. This could cause optimists to take risks that lead to failure instead of success. To counter optimism bias, optimists should temper their outlooks or solutions with real data and create proactive strategies that weigh all possible outcomes.

Optimism And Success: What The Data Says About Optimism

A study by the Harvard Business Review found that optimists are 40% more likely to get a promotion over the next year, and 6 times more likely to be highly engaged at work. They are also five times less likely to burn out than pessimists!

Burnout and lack of optimism also creates disengagement, which negatively impacts work environments in a tangible way. According to a studies by the Queens School of Business and by the Gallup Organization, disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects in their work. This in turn led to 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time, the studies indicated. Disengagement also creates the risk of employees quitting, turning down promotions, or leaving the industry altogether. High employee turnover is costly to companies, who incur an estimated 20% expense of an employees’ salary to replace them.

Do Optimistic Leaders Have Happier Employees?

Optimistic leaders lead by example and set the tone in the workplace. It’s no wonder then, that these leaders tend to have happier employees. As discussed above, learned optimism can be reinforced to employees by optimistic leaders who encourage their teams to eliminate negativity from their jargon and reshape their thinking towards more optimistic solutions.

Optimistic leaders help employees acquire traits and skills to make them more optimistic and productive in the workplace. The mathematician Marcial Losada found that high-performance teams have a 6 to 1 ratio of positive to negative statements, while low performing teams were under 1 to 1. In addition, a study by Anna Nyberg at the Karolinska Institute indicated that bosses who exacerbate stress on their employees increase their subordinate’s risk of developing serious heart diseases.


Numerous research studies have pointed to the benefits of optimism on employees and workplace culture. Optimism challenges people to eliminate negative thinking and replace it with creative, solution-oriented thinking that boosts productivity in the workplace. This sort of optimism is not prone to optimism bias because it is rooted in data and strategic planning. Optimistic leaders are also at the core of driving optimism as a benchmark on teams and leading employees towards learned optimism – a behavior that is both acquirable and trainable. By boosting optimism, companies lower the risk of high turnover, employee dissatisfaction, and low productivity levels.


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Filed Under: Corporate Training, Leadership & Management