We’ve all heard the saying “The Good Life”. Leading the good life is different from one person to the next and depends on what makes a person genuinely happy through using their signature strengths effectively. As we spend more time in the workplace, or connected electronically with the workplace, employers are now looking towards positive psychology to create a low stress and inspiring work environment to increase people performance. Positive Psychology focuses on identifying people’s strengths and virtues to help them enhance their life experience.
Applying positive psychology in the workplace involves shifting attention from negative aspects like bullying, stress, burnout and job insecurity and focusing on positive effects and creating a fun and motivating environment through applying positive organisational forces. To achieve this, employers need to understand the importance of team building exercises, providing necessary job resources, job security and work support. Interacting with others and your environment in a positive way is known as positive affectivity. These positive effects are intrinsically linked to developing a positive company culture and employers have been using various models to manage their organisation’s behaviour and increase people performance.
Humanistic Psychology focuses on the positive potential of people and was developed by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow and looks at ensuring people fulfil their true potential. This comprehensive approach encourages self-exploration through creativity and merits a place on top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs under self-actualization, which is the motivation for people to realise their full potential.
The Demand Control Model focuses on designing jobs with an emphasis on physical and psychological wellbeing. The DCM model works on the assumptions that people “with active jobs are more likely to seek challenging situations that promote mastery, thereby encouraging skill and knowledge acquisition”. Robert A. Karasek recognises the need for social support between colleagues and managers to foster an environment that encourages learning and autonomy.
The Job Characteristics Model is based on five key characteristics; skill variety, task identity, task significance, task autonomy and task feedback. When applied correctly, the JCM model should accurately identify the general content and structure of jobs, ensuring colleagues and managers having matching expectations of job role. The JCM model, developed by Hackman and Oldham, aims to reduce absenteeism, improve productivity and increase job satisfaction. Greater job satisfaction and higher performance can be achieved through applying these five traits and understanding that feedback and task evaluation are two essential elements for increasing work performance.
Positive Affectivity can also be connected to intrinsic motivation. Through the use of game mechanics in a non-gaming environment, people can still remain optimistic and motivated when completing mundane tasks. They recognise the necessity of the short term wins in order to achieve greater results, and the opportunity to participate in more enjoyable tasks. This increased acceptance and focus results in better task performance.
The workplace atmosphere is also an integral part of positive psychology. Creating fun activities in the workplace is an important consideration when looking at improving culture, increasing retention rates and promoting workplace wellbeing. The challenge for employers is finding activities that the team will all enjoy while encouraging engagement with colleagues. Feedback and employee driven activities are hugely important to participation rates and give employers great insights into their team; identifying the mood of their people and discovering new skillsets and ideas.
Creating that proactive environment in an organisation also empowers people to get more actively involved in the organisation, contribute to its growth, take more leadership roles and also results in reduced stress and people turnover. Workplace activities should be staff, supervisor, social or strategy orientated. Staff orientated activities look at making work as fun as possible for the team whereas supervisor orientated activities look to build the relationships and trust between supervisors and their teams. Social orientated activities focus on creating social events to bring the organisation closer together and finally, strategy orientated activities allow employees more freedom and autonomy with the aim of developing employee strengths. Regardless of which activity is decided upon, the objectives should always be to create an environment that improves employee wellbeing and fosters creativity, enthusiasm and communication among the team.
The models discussed are continuously evolving and are helping employers understand the possibilities of implementing positive psychology and positive affectivity in the workplace to ensure people meet their basic needs to achieve the good life. Creating this kind of an environment can directly provide and contribute to improved work ethic, mastery and people performance.
Laoise O’Riordan B.A. (Psychology), Trinity College Dublin