The Role of Hope in the Workplace

The Role of Hope in the Workplace
Think how often you hear the word “hope” at work—I hope we win that contract. I hope we get bonuses this year. I hope the boss is pleased. Or, more negatively, that old adage, hope is not a strategy.  Hope may not be a strategy; it is actually much more.

Some people equate hope with wishing, but wishing lacks the critical components of hope. The Greek origin of the word “hope” means confident expectation, not merely wishing. The distinguishing factors of hope are a future orientation, action, and being reality based (which means there is a probability of attainment).

Many experts would emphasize that hope has an important place in the business world. We know from experience that hope is essential for articulating a company’s vision or mission statement. We also use hope when forecasting. We need hope to energize our boards of directors, or to attract important funders. All of these require that hope looks to the future and that it must have a realistic basis—that what is hoped for can be achieved.

Well-known hope researcher C.R. Snyder noted that hope involves a goal, a perceived path to the goal, and what he calls agency or the ability to move toward that goal. By this definition, a vision, in and of itself, is not sufficient. You also need organizational and self-efficacy. This is a recognition of what you and your team can accomplish. In short, then, hope is a way of thinking, feeling, and acting.

Optimism also differs from hope because optimism focuses almost solely on the positive.  Optimism can, however, be an important leadership trait. Optimism means you believe in the ability to make the necessary changes and that you believe the desired future is feasible. Both hope and optimism have a positive effect on co-workers and staff. They highlight the possibilities and create energy and enthusiasm. People who are hopeful and optimistic are resilient. They see opportunities, and they find ways to overcome obstacles.

So the next time you are asked to participate in a strategic planning activity, or when you can have input into your organization’s vision statement, or are writing a proposal, stop and think about the importance of hope and the role it can play in the success of your program or organization. Hope may not constitute a traditional strategy, but without hope, little will change or be accomplished.

Dr. Clark’s newest book, Choose Hope (Always Choose Hope)  can be found at
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