Alexa Thompson has written several articles for a psychology resource site about the types of jobs and careers available to graduates of psychology programs. Today, she writes about the effects of positive psychology on employees’ well being.
More Positive Psychology in the Workplace Leads to Increased Employee Well-Being
Prior to the widespread implementation of positive psychology within the workplace, many corporate leaders viewed businesses as elaborate machines – and workers as essential inputs for driving profit and production. Today, many business experts recognize the significant impact that positive psychology has on not only human resource management in particular, but also corporate culture in general.
The term ‘positive psychology’ has been traced back to earlier innovators like William James, John Dewey and Abraham Maslow in the 1950s. However, the concept is generally credited to Martin Seligman, who chose it as the theme of his tenure when he became president of the American Psychological Association in 1998.
During his inaugural speech, Seligman argued that psychology had taken too clinical an approach. As a result, psychologists had neglected two fundamental tenets of their field – helping people to lead productive, fulfilling lives and identifying and nurturing talents. His address initiated a widespread shift within the field, and positive psychology was applied to virtually every area of daily human life – including the workplace. Since that time, many psychological innovators have postulated theories of their own about the effect of positive psychology on both employee attitudes, which in turn can greatly influence corporate prosperity.
In “The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success? (2005),” professors Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King and Ed Diener note two key observations: positive effects produce success, and success makes people happy. These points suggest that the employment of individuals who value success is a pre-condition to achieving productive results from the implementation of positive psychology in the workplace. For this reason, applicants should be thoroughly screened in order to ensure positive contribution to their workplace. This measure benefits the employer, as well as the employee. “Individuals high in subjective well-being are more likely to secure job interviews, to be evaluated more positively by supervisors once they obtain a job, to show superior performance and productivity, and to handle managerial jobs better,” the report reads. “Happy, satisfied workers…are less likely to show ‘job withdrawal’—namely, absenteeism, turnover, job burnout and retaliatory behaviors.”
In his 2012 article, “Why the Workplace Needs Positive Psychology,” Dr. Orin C. Davis notes that major changes – including a highly globalized economy and inherent uncertainty within high-tech markets – have affected corporate culture in the 21st century. Dr. Davis encourages supervisors to take proactive steps toward improving the efficacy, resourcefulness and adaptability of each employee, once they have been hired and made aware of their responsibilities.
These steps include routine performance reviews, engagement monitoring, mentoring and facilitating team projects. Ultimately, these measures not only create more productive employees, but they also allow the company to function as a tightly knit unit of satisfied individuals. “Whether in showing management how to develop and use human capital, guiding organizational policy, or enabling workers to make their best contributions, positive psychology has been, and will continue to be, a boon to the workplace,” he writes.
In less than 15 years, positive psychology has evolved from a conceptual term to standard workplace practice. Regardless of industry or company size, business leaders nationwide have noted the myriad of outcomes that occur when positive psychology is applied to the workplace, including content workers, increased productivity and healthy profits.