Does Your Workplace Need A HERO?

Are people in your workplace feeling increasingly overwhelmed, exhausted, and at risk of burning themselves out? They’re not alone. In fact, recognizing the growing pressure that comes from the complex, dynamic, and connected nature of many jobs, the World Health Organization recently declared burnout – the feeling of depleted energy and exhaustion, increased mental distance from your job, and reduced professional efficiency − as a workplace phenomenon.

So how can you help people to avoid burnout and improve their wellbeing and performance at work?

Empirical studies have found that there are four components that comprise our psychological capital (psycap) and help to lower stress, burnout and depression, whilst improving performance, job satisfaction, and wellbeing,” explained Professor Fred Luthans from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln when I interviewed him recently. “The components include hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism. We call it the HERO effect.”

For example:

  • Hope − When you’re hopeful you believe you are able to do something or have some influence in the workplace, you can see multiple pathways to achieve what you want to achieve, and you are able to set realistic goals and focus on achieving these goals.
  • Efficacy − Researchers have found that self-efficacy gives you the confidence to take action, the perseverance to give things a go, and the ability to learn from your challenges and setbacks. And in turn, the successes you’ll achieve will bolster your hope.
  • Resilience – Having resilience means you are not only able to successfully navigate the adversities and threats that occur in your career, but that you are able to bounce back from these stronger than before.
  • Optimism − When you’re optimistic you look for explanations for uncomfortable or negative experiences that don’t attribute yourself as the primary cause. And you see the event as temporary and specific, rather than an indication that everything is always bad in your life. Optimism gives you a sense of hope for the future, and the ability to navigate through life with a confident and positive attitude.

So how can you build psychological capital in your workplace?

Jo Murray, a leader in teaching psychological capital in Australian workplaces suggests trying:

  • Understanding HERO – Introduce the HERO framework to your team and help them understand how cultivating hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism can impact their performance and wellbeing at work. Create some common language, understanding, and practices around the value of these approaches so they become part of the way you work together.
  • Be your own HERO – Invest in your own practice of the HERO mechanisms. What are you doing to cultivate hope in your own work? How are you building your own sense of confidence? When you fall down or fail at work, what makes it possible for you to get back up again? Are the stories you tell yourself and others optimistic explanations of what’s unfolding and what might happen next? How are you mindfully building a daily HERO practice and sharing your learning with others?
  • Bring out the HERO in others – Use questions that tap into the psychological capital of your employees in your coaching and performance conversations. For example, how can you help them find their own pathways and sense of agency when it comes to solving problems? Do you give them strengths-based feedback that genuinely builds their confidence? How do you help them adopt a growth mindset that allows them to learn from their mistakes and get back up to try again? What are you doing to gently challenge the stories they tell themselves and to help them find optimistic explanations for what’s unfolding?

How can you help people to discover their inner HERO to lower the levels of burnout at work?

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