What is positive psychology?

woman smiling behind a laptop

So, you’re wondering what is positive psychology? You’ve come to the right article. Why? Well, Nais is based on the science of positive psychology, the belief of focusing on the strength of a person and giving a positive purpose to work. So, we’ve become humble experts on the subject. The question is, why do we believe in positive psychology to the point that our product is based on this science?

In this article, we will go over:

  • The definition of positive psychology
  • Benefits of positive psychology
  • The role of the manager
  • Positive psychology in the workplace
  • The PERMA Model.

To give a little lesson in history. the founder of positive psychology is Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Seligman believes people want to lead meaningful lives and work towards their best self to positively enhance their overall life experience in terms of love, work, and life.

That sounds about right, doesn’t it?

Woman sitting and smiling

The definition of positive psychology 

A scientific approach to studying human thoughts, feelings, and behavior, with a focus on strengths instead of weaknesses. Therefore, it supports the good in life instead of repairing the bad. Ultimately, the aim is to go from “average” up to “great” instead of focusing solely on moving those who are “struggling” to “normal” (Peterson, 2008).

The foundation of positive psychology surrounds three pillars of concern:

  1. Positive experiences. The experiences with emotions like happiness, love, and inspiration. 
  2. Positive states and traits:  The positive states that are expressed in compassion and gratitude.
  3. Positive institutions: Leadership focus on positive traits and strength throughout an organization.

When applying positive psychology to a workplace environment, we refer to the methods and leaderships skills to focus on teams and employees to thrive. 

cartoon holding.a green heart

Positive psychology applies the three pillars (Positive experience, positive traits, and positive institutions) as a guide of fundamentals to manage a team. As a result, managers who focus on the positive traits of their employees, increase their level of communication towards appreciation can experience the advantages of positive psychology in the workplace.

To be clear,  positive psychology in the workplace introduces nuances to people management and inspiration for companies. As a result, positive acknowledgment is used not only for appreciation but also for motivation and engagement of employees towards a goal, organization, or team dynamics to success.

The relationship between positive psychology and behavior is due to the innate individual need for self-purpose and recognition. 

Appreciation has a snowball effect on workplace dynamics and productivity. Positive psychology focuses on employee strengths and happiness. As a result, the positive interactions generate a bond of strong teamwork, high productivity, and engaged employees. 

If you haven’t read our articles on the importance of positive psychology in workplace dynamics, and the psychology behind workplace appreciation, bookmark them as you will find them complementary to this article.

Benefits of positive psychology:

It is important to note that positive psychology can be found in all aspects of an individual’s life; personal and professional. In fact, the basis of positive psychology is the shift in perspective.

cartoon woman holding magnifying glass

To be clear, as a leader your main goal to implement positive psychology in management is to focus on the positive, and show appreciation. The result increases levels of happiness in an individual. As a result, employees’ level of purpose, confidence, and self-love rises and allows intrinsic motivation.  

Interestingly,  a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology by Aknin, Norton and Dunn (2009) found that money has less impact on overall happiness than predicted. In fact, the biggest contributor to happiness comes in the form of gratitude (University of Harvard).  Hence, the scientific backing of the importance of positive psychology.

As a result, happy employees are productive, motivated, and engaged with their team and job roles.

The role of a manager

As a manager, your responsibility is to set the tone and expectations of employee communication and behavior. Therefore, managers need to be inspiring leaders, motivational coaches, and a support system for their team.

The key role of a manager is to lead by focusing on the positive attributes, strengths, and accomplishments of your employees.

To a certain extent, your goal as a manager is to positively affect those in your organization. As such, you increase the positive emotions by making employees heard, seen, valued, and supported. 

Moreover, as a manager try to:

  • Identify employees strengths and focus on development of their traits.
  • Consciously give constructive feedback and leave room for clear communication.
  • Nourish a strong company culture arround gratitude and strength building
  • Increase employee happiness by support and understanding.

Positive Psychology in the workplace.

So, the question remains, what does positive psychology mean in the workplace? What benefits does it have?

Moreover, positive psychology in the workplace is found with recognition and appreciation from one individual to another. In essence, appreciation boosts value and helps employees to feel accomplished and recognized for their efforts.

Ultimately, companies that put importance on a positive employee experience and management experience a 21% increase in profit compared to their competitors (Gallup, 2020).

Workplace benefits of positive psychology include:

trophy man with green backgroun
  1. Studies show evidence that positive emotions in workplaces indicate employees are engaged and more effective in their roles.  (Hazelton, 2014 cited by Wall, Russell, and Moore; 2017)
  2. Workplace activities designed for positive experiences of accomplishment held a positive inclination to collaboration, feedback culture and stronger team dynamics ( Wall, Russell, and Moore;2017)
  3. Positive emotions in the workplace have a snowball effect and increase the team mood.

The PERMA model

The PERMA model, developed by Martin Seligman, is an evidence-based model that defines the variables required for well-being.

When reading this paragraph, try to think of different well-being aspects you could incorporate in your workplace.

Before going in-depth, the PERMA is an acronym for Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment.

Positive emotions. The experience of positive emotions is an important part of enjoying life and finding purpose in our routine and choices. 

Engagement. When individuals manage to reach a state of losing track of time, by being completely entranced doing an activity of fulfillment and enjoyment. 

Relationships. Focus on strong and deep connections with others. Naturally, clear and honest communication is a key tool to flourish with our social needs.

Meaning. Individuals must find a purpose, a developed sense of their “why” and a cause for their dedication. 

Accomplishment. Individuals feel motivated and happy when there is an achievement of a challenge/ goal/ accomplishment. Naturally, this accomplishment is a result of drive and purpose.

In conclusion, positive psychology is the science that is focused on creating a positive work experience for your employees. In the short run, it boosts creativity, confidence, team spirit, and innovation. Additionally, in the long run, it contributes to company culture, profitability, productivity, and employee wellbeing.

If you are interested in incorporating a culture of appreciation in your workplace. Download our Appreciation E-book for free.

Free ebook activities and cover page

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You can reach me at tamryn.mounier@nais.co or Linkedin.

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