THERE are several misconceptions about positive psychology, so let me begin by debunking some of them. Positive psychology is not simply positive thinking. It is not a feel-good motivational tactic. And it does not cure mental illness.
Positive psychology is, in fact, a very methodological, science-based study of the factors and conditions that lead to humans flourishing.
By identifying and focusing on individual positive personality traits or strengths, positive psychology provides an effective framework for managing emotions and strategising communication methods.
Thus, it improves relationships and helps people achieve a greater sense of well-being and even work-life harmony. How does this apply to the workforce?
There is always an element of risk in the recruitment cycle, as you go through the process of elimination and finally select a candidate.
Sometimes, despite taking the utmost care in ensuring a stringent selection process, the individual may turn out to be a wrong fit for the job or the organisational culture.
Now imagine if you had access to a tool that could be deployed to increase the chances of a successful hire.
Using positive psychology, the recruitment process takes on an added dimension of assessing candidates on other factors such as their strengths and resilience, and is not just based on their qualifications, experience and personality type.
Many companies do administer psychometric tests and, while such tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® are certainly useful, it is more effective to select and recruit people based on their strengths, that is, what they are good at, as they are more likely to succeed in the role if they already enjoy it and are good at the job.
Employee engagement has been a key focus of strategic human resource (HR) management, in a bid to create a positive company culture and optimise productivity.
But for the most part, the formula for cultivating truly engaged employees remains the “holy grail” of HR practitioners.
Positive psychology can bridge the gap between a worker who only does the bare minimum so as to keep his job and the star employee who goes beyond the call of duty — the “discretionary effort” that remains largely absent in many workers and organisations today.
Positive psychology can be harnessed as a powerful force to create a culture where the workplace feels like a second home because people feel a sense of belonging and appreciation there.
It can be used to create cohesive relationships among co-workers as the team and company work towards common goals.
This helps to align individuals with the overall organisational identity and leads to greater employee satisfaction, which results in higher employee engagement.
According to the VIA (Values in Action) Character Strengths in the Workplace model by the VIA Institute on Character, employees who are able to utilise their natural strengths in the course of their work tend to report higher job satisfaction and engagement.
Thus, HR personnel ought to sort and match individuals to teams based on the different strengths of employees. You can spend more time and resources training them in these areas to grow their strengths rather than try to improve their weaknesses, which most organisations tend to do.
Assigning employees roles and tasks that are aligned with what they are naturally good at will increase the chance of them succeeding — and feeling more fulfilled — in the role or task.
As positive psychology works to help people develop resilience and communicate more effectively, you can expect that your employees will also be able to manage family problems and work stress better.
Additionally, positive psychology increases social intelligence. People who have gone through positive psychology training are better equipped to instil fairness at work, foster a spirit of collaboration, and create more harmony with the people around them.
With more positivity and less toxicity in the workplace, people will be happier and more engaged with their work and this will undoubtedly lead to a more productive workforce.
Speaking of productivity, if you want your staff to stop spending so much time on Facebook or other social media, send them for positive psychology training. You need to understand that the top reason that employees choose to spend time on social media during office hours is sheer boredom.
They are simply not engaged in their work and are looking for external stimulation. Here’s where positive psychology can be used to activate and redirect your employees’ energy and attention towards work activities, leading to greater engagement and higher job satisfaction.
Ultimately, positive psychology can have a fantastic effect on employee retention. Positive psychology advocates the expression of gratitude and appreciation among teammates, so create platforms that encourage employees to show their best at work.
It can be something as simple as having regular “Gratitude Sessions”, where employees write down what or who they are grateful for without signing off and the team leader will read these out during the session.
Feeling a sense of appreciation can do wonders for anyone’s morale, and employees who feel appreciated will be more loyal to their company and stick around longer.
This article was first published in Entrepreneurs’ Digest.
Article by Stephen Lew, the Founder and Director of The School of Positive Psychology, which is the only educational institution of its kind in Singapore offers academic and professional positive psychology and psychotherapy courses, training programmes and seminar workshops for undergraduate, post-graduate and executive level. The school is registered with the Council for Private Education (CPE) under the Enhanced Registration Framework by the Ministry of Education. Tel: 6884-5161.