Hope is such an important word. It’s something we might expect to hear uttered in a hospital or social institution. But we don’t often hear about hope in the workplace.

I remember my earlier days in P&G doing monthly business reviews – one particular boss was known for declaring, “Hope is not a building block!” Perhaps hope is perceived to be an unrealistic, overly optimistic concept, not grounded in data or reality.

In fact, it almost feels unprofessional to reference hope in the context of business. And yet…

The workplace is filled with humans…

… and how would humans feel without any hope? Hope that we can rise to the occasion and be successful in this job. Hope that the marketplace will improve. Or hope that our boss will see our efforts and contributions.

Once we consider what a hopeless workplace might look and feel like, we stumble upon the important reality: 

We cannot live without hope in the workplace.

This last year, I watched someone struggle to adapt to a new industry, new pace of work, and new people. I watched as he struggled with whether he believed in himself. Whether he had hope for himself in this job. And I realized that no matter how much his peers or even his boss believed in him, if he lacked hope or didn’t believe in himself, it would be impossible to thrive in the workplace.

I also experienced the troubling sadness of watching someone who looked to her boss with initial hope, but whose light dimmed with each disappointing day. Ultimately, a high flyer found herself trudging dejectedly into work, her joy diminishing as her hope for her boss to support and lead, evaporated.

Is someone in your workplace struggling, or worse, stuck in a vicious cycle? Perhaps they’ve lost hope. 

Here are three simple questions to bring hope back into the workplace:

  1. Can I buy you a coffee this week? Don’t settle for a superficial “How are you doing?” Rather, show that you really want to hear what’s going on.
  2. What’s your biggest challenge right now? Don’t assume they’re struggling, but seek to understand their pain points.
  3. How can I serve you?  Not “how can I help you”… because maybe they don’t need (or feel ready to accept) help.

In fact, I challenge you to make this part of your New Year intention. As you head into this new week, identify someone who looks like they could use a little hope, and offer a little light. If you feel that person is you, reach out to someone you trust. Or leave me a note below – I’d love to have a virtual coffee with you.

Photo credit: hopeful mug