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What is Positive Psychology and Why We Should Care About It?

Imagine this scenario-you are having your annual performance review, compliments flowing with your high level of results that you achieved while demonstrating excellence in virtually every required competency, and then it happens. Your boss throws you a curve by subtly mentioning an area for improvement. It is typically characterized in the workplace as a development opportunity. In truth, it isn’t anything major. You need to communicate more or be more collaborative. Or, perhaps watch for errors in your final reports. But, as he continues with the review, again with praise and recognition, you can’t get your mind to stop transfixing on the “development opportunity” which you have now characterized in your mind as “you suck”! The positives have now been completely overshadowed by a single negative.

This is a workplace scenario but there are school examples as well. The student who has all A’s and one B and can’t seem to get past the one B that they received in Physical Education. In our day to day, we may be having a glorious day and then road rage might happen causing that person to scream insults at you for what you perceive as no apparent reason and yet, you spend the rest of the day reflecting on what you did to invoke that type of response. Our politics, news events, social media…all seem to be littered with negative commentary which can influence the negative emotions that we have and which can vary day to day. And, ultimately, this reinforces the negative narrative that we have in our heads.

So, in a world that seems to be proliferated with the negative, how do we transpose those thoughts into productive and positive ones for daily living? An alternative arm to the field of Psychology, Positive Psychology, was introduced in 1998 by Dr. Martin Seligman. The theory has been one framework that has been designed to help us think about life in terms of all that is positive by focusing on happiness, flourishing and evaluating what makes life worth living. In opposition to our natural inclination to focus on the negative, positive psychology helps us see the world anew by focusing on the positive aspects of one’s life and finding ways to flourish and be the best possible you. The research on Positive Psychology suggests that finding ways to foster a more positive mindset can impact your overall health, quality of life, and longevity.

Now, think about the translation to our workplaces. Imagine a week where you aren’t saying “I can’t wait for Friday”. Positive psychology in the workplace can help align you to the right job-the job you are meant to do-while supporting higher levels of engagement, motivation and overall job satisfaction. Yes, we can see a difference by employing positive psychology concepts and given how much time most adults spend on their job, think about the impact that this could have to your overall quality of life.

So, where should an organization begin? Start by listening to your employees and getting clear on what is the current employee experience and what is the desired employee experience. For example, one multi-national technology company learned that its employees had a strong desire for a mentoring program. Not only does mentoring provide an excellent way for professional development but it is also gives employees a great opportunity to connect with others. Implementing mentoring helped improve the employee experience, getting employees engaged and connected while promoting the business outcome of increased productivity. Implementing positive psychology practices doesn’t have to be complicated or over-engineered. Simply starting to understand the place it can hold and the impact that it can have will ultimately provide great support for your workplace.

Stay tuned for my blog series entitled The Positive Workplace and to learn more, connect with Suzanne at

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