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Positivity (Happiness) in the Workplace and Organizational Change

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Technique 7: Apply Strengths in the Workplace

I am a strong proponent of the “strengths-based leadership” philosophy of Tom Rath and Barrie Conchie (2008) as well as the work of Zenger and Folkman (2002). People that have the opportunity to do what they do best are far more likely to flourish (Fredrickson, p. 189). While this is part of Technique 1 above (from a career perspective), it can also be a tactical approach day by day. For example, my wife is a nurse manager at a large country hospital, and has almost 100 nurses reporting to her. Although her job requires many rather mundane tasks, she specifically focuses on the opportunity to apply her strengths for coaching and developing certain of her nurse reports and dealing directly with patients. It is in these areas that she finds her greatest meaning and purpose when the drudgery of many mundane or negative tasks or experiences have the potential to become overwhelming.

Technique 8: Connect with Others

Edward Hallowell (2011, p. 35) describes the notion that doing things with other people, particularly when that work is valuable and contributes to something important, is maximized when performed with others. The ability to share successes and positive experiences is a multiplier versus simply experiencing a positive experience in isolation. As I described above (Technique 1) above, it is multiplied even more when the work effort is done for long term purpose with the “big picture’ in mind.In research on Employee Engagement in the workplace conducted by the Gallup organization (Crabtree, 2004), highly engaged employees are much more likely than others to say that their organization “encourages close friendships at work”:

“Eighty-two percent of engaged employees showed agreement by rating the statement “my organization encourages close friendships at work” a 4 or 5 (on a 1-5 scale where 5 is “Strongly Agree”), compared to 53% of those who are not engaged and just 17% in the actively disengaged group.”

Positivity in the workplace is contagious. Hallowell (2011, p. 84) describes the dyadic and hyperdyadic spread of happiness in the workplace whereby positivity is spread exponentially when people in the workplace form social networks. This is a powerful tool for managers who can create opportunities for employees to get together in and outside of work to get to know one another and develop trusted relationships.

Technique 9: Find Ways to Develop New Skills

Managers and leaders have a unique opportunity – particularly in the current economic environment – to remind team members that work is a privilege and learning new skills is an even greater privilege. Achor (2010, p. 6) describes an experience he had in Soweto, South Africa. I lived within 10 miles of Soweto for most of my life, going to high school, college and eventually working in Johannesburg. Achor describes his sadness while teaching at Harvard Business School witnessing smart students bemoaning the hard work and stress of being at one of the leading universities in the world. On the other side of the world is Soweto, a place he personally had the opportunity to visit, where thousands of previously disadvantaged children now attend decent schools after the Apartheid system was abolished. When he personally asked a groups of classroom children the question “who likes schoolwork?”, the great majority smilingly and enthusiastically put up their hands – they view schoolwork as a privilege, something most of their parents did not have the opportunity to experience. On the other side of the world, in the United States, this question, says Achor, is more often met with few positive reactions. Managers need to create an environment in which employees view work as a wonderful privilege and opportunity, in which learning new skills provides the opportunity to grow and add greater value to the others and the world.

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