When times are especially challenging, there is an extra emphasis on positive psychology. In fact you can get a degree in positive psychology!
There is no magic to positive psychology; it’s a focus on the things that improve people’s lives. Good old Abe Maslow might be the first person to use the term back in the 1950’s, although Martin Seligman is the guy who gets the modern day credit. But as long as there has been the study of psychology, its’ practitioners have examined people’s aspirational goals, intelligence, creativity, curiosity, imagination, and peak performance.
When times are tough the field of “positive psychology” gets extra attention. Many people try to balance the continuing deluge of bad news with an optimistic outlook. Given today’s headlines, a difficult workplace climate, or hard personal challenges, our ability to find hope can certainly be tested.
Happiness feels better than anger or depression. There are studies that actually measure the positive effect an upbeat attitude can have on the bottom line. There is research that suggests that being happy at work can improve revenue, employee engagement and retention, customer loyalty, and even creativity. I don’t advocate acting as if a bad situation isn’t happening but I do think it makes sense to focus on what you CAN do, what you are good at doing, and what brings joy into your life.
Upbeat professionals and optimistic organizational leaders behave in ways that generate positive energy. Apply some of these tactics at work when you feel things dragging you down:
- Communicate positive stories from customers. Not only are you focusing on the people who support your firm, you are providing reinforcement feedback to employees who want to know that what they are doing matters to the recipient of the goods and services of your firm.
- Acknowledge someone who made you more effective. Gratitude and attention improves productivity.
- If someone’s strengths don’t align with their job responsibilities, see if you can adjust the job. People like to ‘go to their strengths’ and tend to solve problems faster when they are feeling capable of doing so.
- Hire for fit rather than skill. Skills can be taught but a good cultural fit is worth more to your firm in terms of positive energy and emotional strength, both critical attributes in tough times.
- Focus outward rather than inward. Helping others can be empowering and keeping your attention on what may be going wrong tends to drain. Complaining may be the default mode of choice, but it IS a choice. Choose to concentrate on ways you can take action or support others.
- Do something that is fun . “Wacky Hat Day,” “Ugly Sweater Day,” or even a scavenger hunt won’t change the business climate, but they are the kinds of things that can create an opportunity to lighten up, have some low-cost fun, and help people focus on having a good time. Smiling can be contagious and the physical act of laughing is an exhale that relaxes the muscles.
- Take time to inspire and create. Retreats that focus the team on their work can keep them focused on how their contributions fit into the larger purpose of the organization. When the retreat is over, you’ll be poised with new ideas, strategies and a fresh focus.
Hope can vanish if left to flourish on its own, so doing nothing at all can make the workplace a drain on people’s psyche. If you want to impact climate in a positive way, be intentional about it. Your goal should be to help folks stay focused on doing what they CAN so they will be more upbeat. Since each person is unique, employees will define happiness at work differently from each other. There is no ‘one size fits all’ but there is an outlook that communicates:
It can be better, it will be better, and we can do it together.