Positive psychology is an area of behavioural science which focuses on individual strengths and explores how these can be used to help people build fulfilling lives. For a long time, the study of psychology has examined techniques for fixing what’s wrong with people in an attempt to make it better. Positive psychology concentrates on what’s right and seeks to build on that in a way that enhances life satisfaction and fulfilment.
How can we use positive psychology to ensure wellbeing and satisfaction in the workplace?
How often do Managers give feedback on people’s work by focusing on what’s wrong and needs to be improved or what they think could be better? The problem with this approach is that it’s very subjective for a start – what one Manager thinks is amazing, another could see as not good enough – and it also zooms in on failure & shortcomings. Individuals easily become unmotivated and disengaged if all they ever hear is what they are not doing right.
Positive psychology requires that we turn this on its head to focus on the good things and how they can be improved even further. For me, it requires that we identify what that individual does really well and what skills or expertise they bring to the team and how that can be maximised to enhance organisational performance.
A popular formula within this school of thought is know as ‘the golden ratio’, developed by Barbara Fredrickson who believed that in order to thrive, we must have three positive emotions for every negative. That means the balance of feedback when speaking to staff should be three positives for every negative. When energy is concentrated on the good, the not so good is less noticeable and easier to handle with out impacting levels of satisfaction and motivation.
Managing people in this way makes them feel great. When they feel this way, they will work harder, be more loyal, have greater respect for Management and perform at their best for the benefit of the organisation. Doesn’t this sound worthwhile?
So why do so many Managers still insist on highlighting weakness and telling people what they should do better?
Personally, I think there is a link here with hierarchy and the inherent need to reinforce power. To hold power in a hierarchical system, you need to create a dynamic where you know more than others and the way to achieve this is to tell them how they should be better.
As a Manager, I see my role as one of supporting others in the team. My aim is to help those individuals to be the best they can be and make sure they can use their strengths to contribute to the organisation’s overall objectives. That for me is the starting point; I am equal to the others and my role is to support, facilitate and coordinate so that the team as a whole delivers for the business.
Imagine this conversation in your monthly 1-1’s: ‘Wow Sam! You have done fantastic work this month, you must be really proud of your achievements! What are you goals for the coming period and how can I support you to smash them?’.
Do you have conversations like that with your team? If not, could you try and see what difference it makes? Let us know your thoughts and findings by posting in the comments below.