In April, the National Labor Relations Board presided over a conflict between T-Mobile and some employees who felt that the company was asking too much by demanding that workers maintain a “positive work environment” at all times.
In its ruling, the NLRB concluded that workers have a right to address concerns about their jobs and that for businesses to require workers to be relentlessly positive all the time amounts to a stifling of free speech. Dissent and criticism, the board noted, are an essential rallying point for workers who want to address unfair working conditions or other workplace issues.
Studies of businesses and human psychology have shown us that in spite of our professed cultural love for optimists and a sunny, can-do attitude, the people who actually meet with success are those who approach life with a “defensive pessimism”: a willingness to embrace and factor in all of the ways that a plan can go wrong before they implement it.
Highly optimistic entrepreneurs, on the other hand, often take on risky debts and “swing for the fences”, placing their companies and employees in the line of fire by way of their own reckless faith that everything will break their way.