In the early 21st century, prominent American psychologist Martin Seligman stated that we know so little about our attitudes, and stressed that recognizing their nature will help us change for the better. Seligman is considered one of the founding fathers of the trend known as positive psychology, which focuses on the study and promotion of such aspects of human life as happiness, well-being, personal development, or mental health (while traditionally the whole science emphasized primarily pathological conditions such as depression, chronic stress, etc.). Very quickly, thinking about these types of aspects was recognized as relevant to the individual as an employee and translated into business. The following explains what positive psychology is and what it encompasses in an organization.

Positive psychology in organizations – or what?

Positive psychology in organizations involves applying the principles and techniques of this trend to the context of the company. It emphasizes that employers (including direct supervisors) support workers in developing a sense of joy and satisfaction with their work lives, so everyone can contribute to and cherish greater success for the company as a whole. Thus, its goal is to improve employee well-being and effectiveness, as well as to establish supportive work environments – in tribute to the belief that what attitude we have toward work affects how we carry out our responsibilities.

Psychological capital – the key elements of positive psychology

We consider psychological capital to entail all the personal resources an individual possesses that are relevant in the workplace, i.e. a sense of self-efficacy, optimism, motivation to carry out one’s duties, or the ability to self-regulate after effort (understood as an individual’s ability to cope with stress, adversity, and life difficulties), among others. All of these resources impact employees’ performance of their duties and the results they achieve – and consequently, which in turn influence overall job satisfaction, commitment, or mental health. The fundamental assumption is that psychological capital is a resource to build, develop and put into practice (both at the individual and organizational levels).

Positive psychology in the workplace – what does it include?

What is necessary for positive psychology to be implemented in the workplace? Ed Diener and Robert Biswais Diener, in their book “Happiness at Work. “Happiness at Work: Maximizing Your Psychological Capital for Success” identified 6 main elements that should necessarily be present in a company. These are:

  1. Independence
  2. Organizations should promote autonomy and give employees a degree of freedom to make decisions and perform tasks (empowerment). Such behavior makes people feel more responsible for their work and increases their motivation and creativity, eventually translating into better well-being and attitude towards the duties at hand.

  3. Supportive relationships (with superiors/team)
  4. pThese types of organizations focus on fostering the right relationships among employees and providing social support. Putting effort to set up and keep a work environment where respect and empathy prevail and employees help each other (in line with the idea that they are working for mutual success), and in turn, everyone’s well-being significantly improves.

  5. Duties performed
  6. The concept also implies that employees should have the opportunity to make the most of their skills, talents, and competencies in the workplace. The organization should therefore provide such conditions for employees so they can thrive, enhance their skills, and practice their strengths in a variety of duties A fitting solution to this is job crafting, which allows people to design their jobs.

  7. Benefits and perks received
  8. Salary, benefits, or additional incentives undeniably influence how employees feel about their duties. Still, let’s note that until recently people believed that salary is the fundamental drive for employees. Nowadays, other factors like mutual relationships, health concerns, or a sense of belonging are considered no less substantial than the salary.

  9. Respect and social recognition
  10. Employees – regardless of their position or level in the hierarchy – need constant affirmation of their worth. Receiving recognition for achievements and contributions to the organization enhances self-esteem and job satisfaction, leading to greater motivation and satisfaction. Social recognition also fosters positive interpersonal relationships, contributing to an individual’s overall well-being.

  11. Clear expectations of the employee
  12. The core values underlying positive psychology in the organization follow clear guidelines with outlined duties to perform and how to function at work for everyone in the organization. Confusion or misunderstanding in that matter may end up with feelings of overwhelm will not adequately affect the attitude to the hours spent at work.

Positive psychology in the workplace-summary

Work is an essential part of everyone’s life – and the common attitude people have towards it is filled with complaints about the number of duties imposed, the need to get up in the morning, bad relationships with co-workers or superiors, or dissatisfaction with working conditions (especially in the areas of pay and flexibility of time and place of work).

Positive psychology in the workplace confronts this attitude and recognizes that the achievement of success by an organization goes hand-in-hand with employee well-being. The key to it lies in the right attitude which can be worked out by both parties – both the employees and managers or employer. On the part of the organization, it is necessary to tailor the conduct to each employee and respond to their needs in terms of job satisfaction factors.

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Author: Nicole Mankin

HR manager with an excellent ability to build a positive atmosphere and create a valuable environment for employees. She loves to see the potential of talented people and mobilize them to develop.