Generally speaking, positive psychology espouses the good life. It takes an acute interest in positive subjective experiences such as well-being, joy, optimism and hope. It is also interested in the study of the personality traits of thriving individuals, with a particular focus on character strengths and virtues like courage, perseverance, open-mindedness and wisdom.
The foremost advocates of positive psychology, like Dr. Martin Seligman, had stated that “the aim of positive psychology is to begin to catalyze a change in the focus of psychology from preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building positive qualities.” When applied in the workplace, such a concept encourages leaders to reduce the use of fear-inducing motivation methods and promote more positive ones instead. Given the current work stress situation aided by longer hours and greater job expectations, it is only humane for managers to offer more of the carrot than the stick to their subordinates. In addition, simple positive psychology-based techniques are also available for you as an individual employee to simply enjoy your work more and never have to watch the hours go by on a typical weekday.
So how can we help to inculcate workplace happiness? Here are some tips:
1) Get Into The Flow
Mihalyi Csikzentmihalyi, a University of Chicago psychologist, who has studied the psychology of engaged workers at all levels, found that they create a hyperfocused state of mind that he calls “flow.” People in flow are exhilarated and are remarkably unstressed even when doing challenging work. They lose themselves in a task they love and feel “out of time.” Their brains work efficiently and precisely, and interestingly, Csikzentmihalyi discovered that people are much more likely to be in flow while working than while involved in leisure activities.
One way that managers can engage their employees better is to ensure that an employee’s key performance indicators are clearly defined because flow occurs most often when tasks are tightly aligned with the person’s goals. Even as an individual, from simple actions like switching your mobile phone to silent mode to temporarily removing any instant messaging notifications, flow levels can be heightened. Sometimes, even pouring and losing oneself in a project, especially one that you are passionate about, can allow you to look forward to even Mondays.
2) Reframe Your Perspectives
Is work good or bad?
Essentially, whether it is good or bad, this is ultimately a choice. Many of us choose to entrench our minds in a negative perspective of work simply because it is often easier to do so. Reframing is essentially a technique that allows us to adopt different ways or perspectives of looking at the same thing or situation. Often unwanted stress happens and worries creep in when we let ourselves be seduced by an easily framed meaning of a situation when we should also be looking at the same situation with another frame as well.
Thus, for example, you could view the dreaded situation of communicating with a difficult customer as an opportunity for professional growth rather than an undesired chore. Similarly, if I can bring the Emergenetics Profile into this discussion, punishing yourself by lamenting your lack of a Yellow/Conceptual preference and the reality of having a Green/Structural one instead is unjustified because being detailed-oriented and schedule-focused can be so critical during a project management task. So if you could identify the part or parts of your job that could be enjoyable, focus your attention on them and reframe the entire perspective, it may be your salvation for workplace happiness.
3) Praise Generously And Sincerely
In a recent research conducted by a team of Japanese scientists, three groups of adults were asked to learn a simple task and then were required to perform it. One group included an evaluator who would compliment participants individually, another group involved individuals who would watch another participant receive a compliment while the third group involved individuals who evaluated their own performance on a graph. When the participants were asked to repeat the task the next day, the group of participants who received direct compliments from an evaluator the day before performed better than participants from the other groups.
Professor Sadato, the research team leader, remarked that “To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money. We’ve been able to find scientific proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward after completing an exercise. There seems to be scientific validity behind the message ‘praise to encourage improvement’….” These results simply echo the far-reaching mutual benefits that an organisation’s leaders and their subordinates can enjoy just by effecting pride, joy and intrinsic motivation through the adoption of a regular and sincere praise culture.
Defintely, life in the ever-changing corporate world today can bring about many challenges and disappointments, which are indeed inevitable. However, as we have seen, the latest scientific discoveries have shown that there are strategies that allow us to navigate those challenges more effectively and enjoy work more. Although positive psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology, it helps to promote the well-being and the creation of an enjoyable workplace, filling it with accomplishment, engagement, and pleasure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andy Pan is the Training Director and a Principal Trainer of Right Impact Training, a Singapore-based consultancy that specializes in organizational team development. Being a dynamic, eloquent and insightful corporate trainer and consultant, Andy has been designing and delivering people-centred corporate programmes for almost a decade.
Thus far, he has personally conducted more than 500 corporate learning programmes with major clients from a myriad of industries such as Electronic Arts, Legg Mason Global Asset Management and Chanel.
Andy is also the author of Unleash The Public Speaker In You!, a self-penned published book that aims to transform anyone into a competent public speaker using Neuro-Linguistic Programming; and Happy Companies, Healthy Profits, his second book that advocates the practical application of positive psychology strategies in organizations for bottom-line results to be enjoyed efficiently.