How to Be More Optimistic at Work: Strategies of Charismatic Leaders

Charismatic leaders model optimism without falling into the trap of toxic positivity. Consequently, since nine out of ten employees report that workplace stress has adverse effects on their mental health, demonstrating optimism in the workplace deserves a daily spot at the top of your to-do list.

Take a leaf from sales managers, faith leaders, and life coaches when you ask yourself how to be more optimistic at work. The following strategies will increase your ability to reflect optimism while ensuring that you validate your employees’ and coworkers’ feelings and lived experiences. These ideas fit into seven categories: hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, and as needed.


Load Your Lips

Borrow this salesmanship strategy today. When salespeople encounter objections, excellent managers load their agents’ lips. In other words, they tell the sales agent the exact words to say to close the sale. Accordingly, picture yourself like your life coaching customer. List inner monologues to help you identify the cause of your flagging spirits, acknowledge your feelings, and restore your emotional equilibrium. The book Powerful Phrases for Dealing With Difficult People by Renee Evenson provides 325 words and phrases to use, based on scenarios about 20 coworker behaviors and ten chain-of-command personalities.

Keep Gratitude in Your Attitude

  • Catch Coworkers Doing the Right Things
  • Provide Effective Praise
  • Invert Your Umbrella

Isolation, due to a hostile workplace, affected 63 percent of respondents surveyed in 2020. One major contributor to workplace hostility springs from being micromanaged coupled with being criticized immediately and rarely thanked. Excellent leaders thank first, publicly, and criticize sparingly and privately. To borrow from Native American folklore, the wolf you feed is the wolf that grows, so sustain the correct one. Catch coworkers following procedures, going the extra mile, or working through challenging situations instead of grumbling about them, and thank them immediately in full view of everyone.

Invert your umbrella, meaning turn that frown upside down. Due to social conditioning and innate survival instincts, most people mirror the mood they see others portraying. For example, people usually return a smile or make a sympathetic face at someone frowning or crying. This physical empathy reaction tells the other person that we see and acknowledge their mood.

Surprisingly, however, those who smiled at sad or angry faces in photos reported elevated moods. In contrast, those who frowned or cried along with the modeler reported becoming sad or angry themselves. Even more startling, participants in the third phase of a study in Uppsala, Sweden, confirmed ongoing positive mood changes while smiling at photos of sad or angry people.

Trade Shoes

  • Eradicate Micro-aggressions
  • Practice Acts of Kindness
  • Exhibit Your Strengths and Help Others Do Likewise
  • Fake It With Care

Micro-aggressions consist of seemingly innocuous interactions that target people based on characteristics or situations they do not control. Willful denial of the existence and effect of micro-aggressions on the targeted person or group constitutes gaslighting: a particularly toxic form of erasure and invalidation. Examples of micro-aggressions include people piling onto a request for under-represented group member participation in a survey to call potential respondents of the poll whiners and dividers or to tell them to go (back to) somewhere else.

Company policies sometimes codify micro-aggressions, such as photos of professional versus unprofessional dress and grooming standards based on impossible to achieve hairstyles for people with natural curls.

Moreover, clothing requirements centered on their perceived level of distraction also represent micro-aggressions when females receive dress code violations for bare shoulders while males do not. Similarly, writing up male employees for their hair length, failure to wear a tie, or having too much facial hair may also constitute micro-aggression. Check for these unconscious biases and eliminate them as they occur.

Practice acts of public and anonymous kindness. If your kind act could embarrass someone, such as making sure a new hire has lunch until they receive their first paycheck, make it anonymous or do it discreetly. However, helping carry the new office furniture onto the work floor should happen when everyone can see you. If anyone steps up to help, allow them to do so. Their offer proves that your example has taken root.

Likewise, provide ongoing opportunities for people to work from their strengths. Make a sincere effort to encourage people to talk about their experiences, especially anything relating to leadership. Finally, resist pigeonholing people according to what they put on their resumes. You may never know what they omitted until their exit interview. For example, just because someone listed custodial experience to land an entry-level position after a long and fruitless job search does not mean they have never led their own million-dollar company.

The phrase Fake It Till You Make It does not always lead to the best outcomes if your efforts appear less than sincere. So rather than engaging in backslapping and booming belly laughs when things have gone wrong, acknowledge the truth of the situation first. If you know that staffing changes or cutbacks loom, provide advance notice. Take a pay cut yourself to show that you mean it when you say We’re All in This Together. If you have a death in the family, acknowledge your grief. Openly sharing the pain demonstrates that employees can safely express the realities in their lives before being asked to shrug off their feelings to prove their professionalism.


Routines, not Ruts

Routines provide a set of actions that everyone can perform without seeking guidance or permission first. Whether you provide startup and shutdown checklists or post examples of sales rebuttals, routines empower everyone to take action in typical situations. These practices offer time to prevent a crisis. In addition, the easy wins build confidence, boost satisfaction, and increase positivity.

Keep the Buck

This reboot of The Buck Stops Here means defusing situations right away rather than waiting for others to take responsibility for eventual outcomes. For example, spend a reasonable amount of time gathering information and soliciting input without allowing a situation to fester. Encourage positive actions rather than scapegoating or punishing parties to the problem. Progressive discipline strategies should start here rather than at the reprimand or firing stage.

Prioritize Personal Health

  • Rest and Recharge Yourself and Others
  • Live Outside Workplace Walls

Once you think the company cannot function without you, it sets unrealistic attendance and performance expectations that put everyone’s physical and mental health in jeopardy. Your decision to work while sick means someone without the option to stay home catches what you have. No matter what other precautions take place, the entire workforce winds up ill. A good night’s sleep increases alertness and reduces sadness and irritability. Taking days off to recharge helps the company more than acting as if the place will fall apart if you stay home.

Having a life outside your workplace prevents burnout. Seek opportunities to attend community events, play sports, engage in lifelong leisure activities, and spend time with friends and family. Of course, life outside the office does not mean you cannot devote after-hours time to coworkers, but always budget that time carefully.

Weekly, Monthly, or Quarterly

Celebrate, decorate, and create. Holding special events breeds excitement and anticipation. Solicit input on event planning and allow everyone to assist with decorating, setup, serving, entertaining, and cleanup. Allow people to decorate their workspace with photos, plants, and other items of personal significance. Whenever time and budgets permit, hold team-based decorating contests or spirit weeks. Have a talent show or hold an after-hours karaoke party, for example.


  • Make a Vision Board
  • Have a Mission
  • Set Fulfilling Goals

Whether you use pictures from a magazine, digital images, or memorabilia such as convention badges, movie tickets, or award ribbons, a vision board helps you solidify the future you wish to create. Arranged in a collage, vision boards provide a jumping-off point for setting goals by giving dreams deadlines. In addition, your vision board helps you identify your short-term, medium-range, and long-term goals and makes it easier to formulate your personal and professional mission statements.

Fulfilling goals are SMART: Simple, Motivating, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Sensitive. Simple means expressing the purpose in a single sentence. Motivating means your plan provides internalized incentives to carry you through challenges. Attainable goals use the resources you have at hand rather than requiring something out of your reach. Relevant goals pertain to your life as it stands today while moving you toward the life you desire. Finally, the essential component of a fulfilling plan, time sensitivity, separates it from mere pipe dreams.

As Needed

Polish your problem-solving skills by implementing the three solutions rule. Every time a problem arises, instead of complaining, brainstorm at least three possible fixes. Then, if you have the authority to do so, implement one of these solutions right away. If you do not, rather than adding to your manager’s already-overflowing workload, you’ll reduce it.

In conclusion, when you ask yourself how to be more optimistic at work, these strategies help reset your attitude when it veers into self-defeating thoughts and actions. Change takes time. Creating new habits works better than eliminating old ones, so start today.

About the Author
Hi there, I'm James, founder of Melbado. I have over 20 years of experience as a leader and entrepreneur. Recently, I turned to leadership coaching and writing to pass on my knowledge to the next generation. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me via our contact page.


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