Today, positive psychology is more than just a self-help concept – it’s a powerful tool that has the power to transform workplaces.
Defined as psychology that “shifts the focus from what is clinically wrong, to the promotion of wellbeing and the creation of a satisfying life”, positive psychology has been a game-changer for workplace dynamics worldwide.
Today, more and more employers see positive psychology in the workplace as a critical part of hiring employees, keeping them, and meeting organisational goals, and with good reason. Research suggests that positive psychology can help staff be friendlier and happier with one another and increase productivity, original thinking, conflict resolution, and performance. It also helps staff settle into an organisation and stay longer – something that’s critical in posts with global shortages.
It’s a trend that’s seen a Canadian brokerage firm offer ‘happiness training’ to help employees learn simple positivity habits such as “gratitude emails” to colleagues. In the United Kingdom, Southeastern Railway made a public “Mindful Employer Pledge” and trained all line managers in mental health first aid.
As the Black Dog Institute puts it, “When our workplaces are mentally healthy, we see enormous benefits to individual employees and to the business itself.”
Now, more than ever, it seems that understanding workplace positive psychology will help you perform better and show your leadership potential. People are returning to offices post-pandemic or continuing to operate remotely, teams coping with working in different ways due to COVID-19, and staff who’ve been affected by the virus in some way. All these issues indicate a need to prioritise workplace psychology when making strategic plans for the company.
How do you introduce positive psychology to the workplace? Here are five key ways that you can start to implement positive psychology today.
Strategy 1: Celebrate success
Organisations can create processes to recognise and value employee contributions, creating those essential positive emotions that keep people getting out of bed every morning. For example, managers should regularly (but genuinely) acknowledge individual staff members and teams for their excellent work. It could be via email or in team meetings, recognising how individuals have made a difference through persistence, collaboration, or creativity. Encouraging staff members to present their work at conferences or publish a project in a professional journal or company newsletter are ways of not only celebrating success but also promoting the organisation to others in a positive light.
These practices create positive goodwill at work and encourage people to repeat those successful strategies in the future. Therefore, after challenging projects, be sure to allow staff to mark the occasion and reflect on how it overcame hurdles.
Strategy 2: Play to strengths
Positive psychology encourages organisations to work with their employees’ strong suits and create opportunities to build their talents. Strength assessment tests can assist you in working with staff in this pursuit. Annual appraisals and objective setting are opportunities to build on strengths to maximise personal and corporate benefit.
Research suggests people enjoy their work more if they can use as many of their capabilities as possible, including teamwork, judgement, and leadership.
Of course, ignoring weaknesses isn’t good business, and there needs to be a balance between managing performance, focusing on strengths and being self-aware. By deliberately putting staff in more situations to succeed, organisations can reap the benefits and build a more engaged workforce. This approach can require some flexibility on behalf of employers, as they make the right balance of strengths in their workforce.
Strategy 3: Relationships at work
Relationships are crucial to working attitudes. In particular, organisations need to build secure connections between managers, individual staff and teams. As well as celebrating success in teams, employers could consider team-based activities, such as lunchtime exercise, mindfulness training or other activities with wellbeing benefits. Ensuring that team members understand their own and each other’s role in a shared goal is essential. Organisational leaders need to be inclusive, recognising that everyone from the cleaner to the MD has a role to play regardless of their job in the company. By including all employees, a sense of belonging is achieved, and people feel valued.
Managers should be trained to see themselves as “coaches” and be accessible to their staff – in group and individual settings – allowing staff to discuss challenges and ideas. Frequent and informal conversations are crucial. Open-door policies work but need boundaries so that they’re not disruptive. Having drop-in sessions to be accessible as a manager is another option. Encouraging people to be curious and ask questions enables issues to be raised, assurances to be given, and staff to feel that someone is listening.
Strategy 4: Have the cultural conversation
Help people see that their work has meaning by actively talking about organisational goals, values and culture.
Suppose an organisation is clear about its purpose. In that case, individuals can decide whether their values align with their employers’ – and either feel motivated to contribute or decide to move on to an opportunity that better aligns with their values. Communicate this purpose at every opportunity: in the physical work environment, via public and internal communications, at events, and in staff meetings. Even job descriptions and employee work plans should explicitly align with broader organisational goals.
Of course, an organisation needs to be clear on its objectives to share them with staff. The best approach is collaborating with the team to develop and refine this workplace culture over time, creating the maximum opportunity for individuals to own their work.
Staff can be engaged in this culture-building process via online surveys or group forums. Seeing its input in action is an excellent morale builder. Conducting a cultural audit gives insights into the current culture and areas where the focus is needed to change behaviour. It’s also a good marker to show an organisation’s journey implement positive psychology in the workplace and its impact on the culture.
Strategy 5: Invest in people
Creating opportunities for learning and accomplishment builds your workplace skill base and shows employees that the organisation values them. Consider ways you can sponsor employees to grow their skills and ensure that these opportunities are visible. There are various options with varying levels of financial investment:
- - Professional development
- - Mentoring (share expertise ‘up, down and across’ the organisation to give all staff leadership experience)
- - Short-term promotions to cover senior staff on leave.
As well as building loyalty and fulfilment in your workforce, regular opportunities to learn can help people develop a growth mindset for their career journey. We know this is vital in today’s workplace, as organisations face rapidly developing technologies and work practices. Learning and development add new skill sets to a team, so it’s a win-win for both individuals and businesses.
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