optimisim pessimis Is it better to hire optimists or pessimists? This is a discussion that has gone on in Human Resource recruiting and hiring for some time. Unfortunately, this distinction is not actually very relevant to making a good hire. Instead, the single most relevant factor in making a good hire is: Is the candidate driven by a compelling purpose that aligns with the organizations’ purpose or does the candidate either lack a compelling purpose or is misaligned with the organization’s purpose? We discuss this at some length in a recent guest blog for HR.com. In this optimist/pessimist debate, pessimists are seen as focusing on safety and security. They seek and find safe havens, establish clear advantages, protect resources and thrive on fixing errors. Because of these qualities pessimists are perceived as being good operational leaders Optimists prefer to think about how they can advance and grow. They seek large social networks, solve problems cooperatively, and seek help in tough situations. Optimists are energized and motivated by positive feedback. But does it really matter if people are optimistic or pessimistic if they are highly motivated by a compelling purpose? If someone is highly motivated about achieving a great purpose, they will do everything required to be an excellent employee, regardless of their role. If they are not motivated, then there is little the organization is going to do to make them successful. Optimism versus pessimism just isn’t very meaningful when compared to purpose-driven or not. There is, of course, some correlation between optimism/pessimism dimension and the purpose/no purpose dimension. In general, someone whose purpose is to create a greater social good believes that the world can and should be a better place, which sounds a lot like optimism. They may get discouraged at times by the challenges of trying to achieve their purpose, but their fundamental premise is that they can and should make a meaningful positive difference. Being optimistic in the sense of being purpose driven, however, does not mean they are un-realistic. Purpose-driven people can be completely realistic without being pessimistic. Instead, purpose-driven people are in control of their destiny, which makes them generally more positive. Conversely, someone lacking a meaningful reason for being is likely to feel more negative about life in general and therefore is likely to be more pessimistic. It is not that people are naturally pessimistic; they just don’t have a reason to be optimistic. We have sometimes encountered people who were so negative and performing so badly that they were about to get fired, and it is safe to say they were seen as “pessimistic.” When they learned about the star performer’s purpose and saw a path to mastery to achieve the purpose, all of them switched from being pessimists to purpose-driven optimists. By focusing on optimism versus pessimism, hiring managers are focusing on a superficial and therefore minimally useful characteristic. Purpose or its absence drives optimism or pessimism. Hiring for purpose is the most meaningful hiring criteria, and it brings lots of other benefits to the organization as well.]]>

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