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Resilience + Business

Building a More Positive Workplace

by Dr. Maria Gottschalk

You may think you lack the resources to affect levels of happiness and success within your workplace, but you have more ability to do so than you might have ever imagined. Research in the area of positive psychology has revealed the inherent power of a positive mind set has far-reaching potential to enhance not only psychological well-being, but the achievement of valued performance outcomes.

As a theory, positive psychology explores what is "right" within our lives—emphasizing the role of positive experience to help us "broaden and build" our psychological power base. For more information on this subject, read the work of Barbara L. Fredrickson. Research has shown that building four key psychological resources, hope, self-efficacy, resilience and optimism (or HERO), can influence how we approach our daily work lives. These resources, which form the construct of psychological capital, can be integral in affecting our behavior. Developing them can help us to effectively meet and master challenge in the workplace.

Traditionally we might believe the external manifestations of career success (promotions, title or salary) bring us work-life happiness, but in fact, the reverse mechanism may be operating. First enhancing your overall happiness quotient can actually help you to learn, excel and capture success.

Taking an active role to encourage a more positive workplace can prove to be a worthy investment of time and energy. Keep in mind, it only requires a single person to provide the "spark" to start the movement toward change within your environment. Take a moment to take stock of your own psychological resources and those of others around you. Do you have the strength to meet the challenges that lay before you at work? Do you feel confident and hopeful? How about your team?

A few ideas to encourage positivity:

1. Show gratitude. Recognizing others for their contribution to your own success or that of the team is a powerful resource builder. Routinely expressing gratitude can set a powerful and positive tone of deep respect among co-workers. Remember two simple words—"thank you"—can have a long-standing effect on work-life happiness.

2. Focus on strengths. Utilizing our talents in the workplace is a key confidence builder. Make every attempt to incorporate the areas in which you excel into everyday work life. If you supervise others, help facilitate this process for them as well.

3. Balance negatives. As human beings, we have the tendency to dwell on negative information (quite possibly an evolutionary byproduct). Often we find ourselves obsessing about a goal we didn't fulfill—or a perceived slight in a meeting. Build your inner resilience by refocusing your energy on successes when you are faced with disappointment or stress.

4. Practice "flexible" thinking. When considering a new challenge, be sure to explore numerous potential obstacles and generate alternative pathways to effectively manage them. This exercise builds feelings of hopefulness in the face of an unexpected turn of events—a common occurrence.

5. Acknowledge steps to success. Often we focus on lofty, larger goals that may take an extended amount of time to accomplish. Identify and celebrate incremental goals along the way to help bolster energy levels and maintain focus.

6. Support your team. If you manage others, ensure that you are communicating your confidence in their abilities. Does your team understand that you truly believe in them? Remember, others can detect a subtle tone of negativity. If you have doubts, search for the source of your concern and help your team develop to meet the challenge.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who specializes in workplace success strategies and organizational change. She helps individuals, teams and organizations develop intelligently—to meet work life challenges with a sense of confidence and empowerment.



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