The Business Case for a Happy Face

by admin 11. June 2013 09:42

A quick chat with author and career coach, Vicky Oliver, who talks with The Legal Balance about finding success by being ... happy.

Vicky, you maintain that optimism provides a career advantage—that being happy at work can boost one's bottom line. How so?

Moods are contagious. If you're happy, those around you pick that up. If you're disgruntled, those around you feel it as well. As a general rule, even pessimists would rather be around optimists. So it helps to distance yourself from your bad moods to the extent that you can. When it comes to figuring out who to promote, generally people prefer to work with those who they enjoy being around. Complainers may be just as talented as optimists, but they may not go as far.

So, one could make the argument that a happy lawyer is a better lawyer?

No. I'm saying that personality is a factor in one's career advancement independent from how well one performs the tasks. A pessimistic lawyer could be a much better lawyer than an optimist, but people skills do count.

Does acting happy count? In other words, if you're not feeling particularly joyful or optimistic, can you fake it 'til you make it?

There is a benefit to "putting on a happy face." It's funny: I don't think of it as "faking it." I think of it as behaving professionally. Each and every one of us has issues—there are moods, health issues, family issues, work issues, you name it. But we are being paid to solve problems, and having an optimistic demeanor inspires more confidence.

We know a few lawyers who've argued that there's a professional upside to pessimism—being able to envision to the worst-case scenario and such. Is there a time and place for a less-then-cheery outlook at work?

Dale Carnegie would agree with that. He makes the case that it's a good idea to envision the "worse case scenario" and see how you can improve on it. But even with that advice, there's the sense of the person moving from pessimism to optimism.

Let's finish up with a few tips. Any advice for putting on a happy face at work?

1. Look for the silver lining. Maybe the client didn't agree to everything you asked for, but were you able to move the project forward? If so, don't be so hard on yourself on some of the incidentals.

2. Think of your long-term career goals and take baby steps toward them. We all have a lot of goals. There are financial goals. There are family "balance" goals. There are project goals. If you are moving forward on some of your goals, you have cause to be optimistic.

3. Hang around people who like you and want you to do well. You may not be able to help who you work with at the office, but in your personal life, you have more control. Be with people who support your career ambitions.

Vicky Oliver has written five career development books, including the international bestseller 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks, 2005). She has also written Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks, 2008); The Millionaire's Handbook (Skyhorse, 2011); Power Sales Words (Sourcebooks, 2006); and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions (Skyhorse, 2010).

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