Management Attitudes Affect Productivity

March 1, 1998
WHETHER managers are optimistic or pessimistic affects a company's bottom line, said Casey Brandson, a public relations consultant with AllenBrand Public

WHETHER managers are optimistic or pessimistic affects a company's bottom line, said Casey Brandson, a public relations consultant with AllenBrand Public Relations in Jackson, California.

"Optimistic organizations are powerful and pessimistic organizations are helpless," said Brandson. He was the keynote speaker at the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers 10th annual convention and exhibition in Las Vegas.

Brandson said optimism is not simply positive thinking and affirmation. Optimism is a way of looking at the world.

"People are not born optimists or pessimists," he said. "We learn these behaviors based on experience with role models."

In a study by Martin Seligman of Temple University, optimism and pessimism are defined by the words permanence, persuasiveness, and personalization.

Pessimists believe bad situations are permanent, and that makes them discouraged. For a pessimist, there is always some kind of a problem.

"A pessimistic person will say, `I never get a break,' Brandson said. "Always and never are words that pessimists use all the time."

On the other hand, optimists view setbacks as temporary, he said. An optimist is more likely to say, "`Today was rough, but tomorrow probably will be better." Viewing Problems Differently

Pessimists view problems as permanent, Brandson said. Therefore, no motivation exists to solve those problems. If problems are seen as temporary, "An optimist will say, `Hey, solving problems is what I do.'"

That mind-set makes an organization powerful. On the other hand pessimists generalize one bad experience into a catastrophe.

"A pessimist will say a whole process is worthless if only one particular function fails," Brandson said. "But optimists will compartmentalize a negative experience. Optimists will say one function failed, but the overall process is working. All we have to do is fix one function."

When things go wrong, pessimists tend to blame someone, Brandson said. Optimists on the other hand, tend to blame the situation.

"They may say, `we did the best we could. It just didn't work this time,'" Brandson said. "`But next time, it will work better.'"

To increase productivity and create an optimistic environment, managers must treat problems as temporary and compartmentalize negative experiences, Brandson said. Focus blame on situations, not people.

One of the top factors stressed by several large successful corporations over a 20-year study was employee morale, Brandson said. The corporations studied were American Airlines, Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods, Circuit City, and Plenum Publishing.

Successful Work Environments Other factors stressed by these corporations were long-term employment, increasing employees' skill levels, employee participation in management, and sharing information with employees.

The Dana Corporation organizes employees into work teams that elect their own captains, Brandson said. The employee teams always have an improvement project aimed at increasing morale.

"Whether you are an owner, manager or employee, it's everyone's job to be a thermostat and set a productive environment in your company," Brandson said. "It's good for you, the people that work for you, and for morale. And we all know the 'M' in morale stands for money."