Leaders are responsible for creating an environment that encourages employees to overcome negative emotions and obstacles in the workplace.
Moods can be contagious. A single person can make a huge difference in a company’s mood. It’s our responsibility as leaders to determine which mood is dominant in our company — pessimism or optimism.
We should strive for the latter. However, if you want to foster a culture of optimism in your workplace, you must empower employees to choose to be more productive than to be helpless.
What is the difference between helplessness and industriousness?
Learning helplessness is when someone experiences setbacks and assumes they will never win. They give up on improving their situation and get stuck in a cycle that leaves them unable or unwilling to accept responsibility for their current circumstances. This type of attitude can be detrimental in the workplace and to the health of the employees and the company. It can also lead to poor communication, reduced productivity, and other negative effects.
Learning industriousness refers to the belief that if we work hard to overcome a problem and achieve success, it builds our endurance to face future challenges. Because we can put in the effort to overcome difficult situations, we lose our fear of difficulty. As we build a track record that shows resilience, we start to believe in our potential success. We take on tasks we thought were impossible and have faith we can accomplish difficult tasks.
Is it possible to turn our learned helplessness into our learned industriousness?
It’s easy to distinguish between learned helplessness and learned industriousness when you consider the effects on the workplace. What do you do when confronted by a team that has fallen into learned helplessness. Is it possible to overcome this and instead build learned industriousness?
Some people may not have the skills, talents or resources to accomplish this. However, I believe leaders can teach their employees to avoid learning helplessness and encourage them to be more productive. Here are six steps that will help you get there.
1. Make a plan.
Help employees create a plan for each project or goal and stick to it. Employees will feel proud when they have met their expectations. Employees can refer to a plan when they feel stuck. They can turn their eyes to the future and the next step to achieve their goals.
2. Find mentors.
For building persistence and learning, a mentor can be invaluable. Mentors are living proof that hard work is possible. Mentors can offer support and guidance to employees who feel lost or discouraged.
3. Be patient.
Employees may be influenced by past experiences that made them feel helpless. This can take some time to reverse. Please encourage them to be patient and take each step one time. Don’t rush to take over work from an employee with difficulty. Instead, give them resources and show them that you are there for them. No matter how small or large it may seem, every step we take builds resilience and perseverance.
4. Concentrate on the solutions.
Encourage optimism by steering employees away from the worst-case scenarios, “what-ifs” and towards future solutions. Instead of dwelling on past failures, ask questions that encourage employees to pinpoint the problem and develop creative solutions.
5. Tell it.
Don’t allow a person or team to spiral into helplessness. You can help them get out of helplessness by naming the problem and guiding them to take action. It will be easier to root out helplessness if we act quickly.
6. Get started early.
However, optimism does not mean that we believe everything will turn out in our favour. True optimism believes that any setback can be overcome and that each challenge can be used as a learning opportunity. It is born when we stop allowing our past failures and begin to believe in our future success, despite any challenges that may come our way.