4 Ways to Leverage Positive Psychology at Work
By Lynne Levy
How many of us love going to work? How many of us find joy in our work? The reality is we spend more than half our waking hours at work. How can we cultivate a state of positivity and wellbeing?
When you think about positive emotions, what comes to mind? Positive emotions can be high-energy states, such as joy or elevation or lower-energy states such as relaxation.
In the workplace, leaders can benefit from increasing positive emotions for several reasons. People in a positive state feel safer, and therefore are more open to learning and new experiences. They may be more creative and collaborative. People thrive when they are happier. When our mood becomes brighter we set higher goals and persist longer toward them.
Positive psychology, which provides insight into tools to build a culture of positivity and happiness, is based on the principle that people want to live purposeful lives, be happy, and be their best selves in all aspects of their lives. When an organizational culture is based on positivity, then innovation, productivity, and creativity abound.
How can organizations leverage the concepts from positive psychology to build a happier and more human culture?
One positive psychology tool is to “count our blessings” to increase happiness and wellbeing. University of Pennsylvania found that when we count our blessings and have gratitude, there is increased activity in the part of the brain associated with happiness. How can an organization cultivate a gratitude mindset?
Build a culture of recognition. Just saying “thank you” fuels a sense of gratitude for the receiver of the recognition, the giver of the recognition, and others who know about the recognition moment. Through recognition, you are “counting your blessings” by saying thank you to others.
Express gratitude during check-ins. When you start out meetings and check-ins, begin with a sense of gratitude for what is going well. This establishes a positive manner and gets the happiness part of the brain to light up, setting up the rest of the meeting with a positive frame of reference.
According to happiness research, our mood is contagious. If you are in a bad mood, it may bring down those you work with. If you are full of positivity, it can lift those around you.
The following are tools based in positive psychology that will help connect employees to those around them in a positive manner.
Celebrate. There is nothing better than celebrating events, successes, or personal achievements to increase positive emotions and bolster connections within the organization. These can be personal events like a wedding, or a cultural event like St Patrick’s Day. Celebrating with your peers gets the positive emotions flowing.
Seek out your cultural energizers. Some people are naturally more positive in their disposition – those who embrace change, drive innovation, and build positivity throughout the organization. Understand who these people are. Who consistently gives recognition to those around them? Who do others go to for support and problem-solving? Leverage these cultural energizers to support programs and events that build happiness and positivity.
Recognize teams. Just like a football team celebrates together after a win, teams should be recognized as a group to create community and connections, demonstrating how working together results in great outcomes.
Embrace Strengths and Values
Leveraging strengths is a key aspect of well-being according to positive psychology. The potential for growth significantly increases when employees invest their energy into developing their strengths instead of correcting their deficiencies. When strengths are leveraged it:
Enables employees to do their best work. When employees can apply their strengths, research tells us that their wellbeing is enhanced. Understand how to leverage the strengths of your employees for the benefit of the organizations and the employee. Allow them to explore activities outside their role that leverage both their strengths and the needs of the organization.
Creates meaningful opportunities. Leaders should understand what is meaningful to each employee. When day-to-day tasks are aligned with personal values, meaning and positivity increases.
Reflects on strengths and goals. When it comes to giving positive feedback or looking at goals, collaborate with your teams on which strengths helped each person achieve the outcome. Which talents were demonstrated when the goal was accomplished? By taking an interest in the strengths of your team members, you can help them leverage these strengths toward organizational goals and developmental challenges.
Instill Purpose and Meaning
When work becomes merely a task or daily transaction, it’s not typically thought of in a positive light. When employees find meaning in their work, it becomes a calling. It becomes part of who the person is. When work is a calling, studies tell us that we become happier, more satisfied, and more engaged. How can leaders create this sense of meaning?
Build a mission statement. Your leadership team should outline the true mission of the organization. This isn’t the financials or the product strategy, but the true calling of the organization. Your mission must be aligned with your values. For example, the mission of Apple during Steve Job’s tenure was: “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” If an organization has a mission statement aligned with values and social good, then an individual, daily tasks become infused with meaning.
Looking at organizational culture through a lens of positive psychology can give leaders and HR organizations insight into how to improve happiness and wellbeing within the organization. This, in turn, leads to increased productivity and engagement.
Lynne Levy is the director of product management at Globoforce.