Senia Maymin, MBA, MAPP, PhD, is the coauthor of Profit from the Positive. Maymin is an executive coach to entrepreneurs and CEOs. Maymin runs a coaches network and is the founder and editor in chief of PositivePsychologyNews.com. Her PhD is in organizational behavior from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Full bio.
What can Positive Psychology say about being happy at work? No, really, what can Positive Psychology definitively say about happiness at work? For example:
- Are there some people for whom happiness at work is easier?
- Are there actual ways to increase happiness at work?
- What if you’re too busy at work working to have time to worry about employee satisfaction and “all this feel-good stuff”?
- Have there been actual hard-data research studies about techniques that can improve happiness at work?
What Does Research Show about Work and Happiness?
- To improve team performance, at work say at least 3 positive comments for each negative comment. Margaret Greenberg, President of The Greenberg Group, an organizational effectiveness consulting and coaching practice, started us off with data on positive emotions at work. Greenberg related 1) Barbara Fredrickson’s theory of Broaden-and-Build: the broadening of scope, attention, and creativity, and the building of psychological capital that occur with positive emotions, and discussed 2) the Losada ratio of approximately 3:1 positive to negative comments found in high-performing teams.
- To improve operational results, say “thank you” and use gratitude. David J. Pollay (Syndicated columnist with the North Star Writers Group, and President of TheMomentumProject.com, an international training and consulting organization) brought two studies about the results of gratitude – in restaurant tipping and in caregiver visits. Pollay described that researchers had found that waiters who write “Thank you” on the check receive a 11% higher tip than waiters who don’t.
(Editor’s note: For more information on research about how to improve tips for waiters, you can read this thorough guide by Michael Lynn summarizing his research with Kirby Mynier – Mega Tips: Scientifically Tested Techniques to Increase Your Tips (pdf)) In another study, when case managers received thank-you notes, there was a 100% increase in repeat visits made by the case managers.
- To improve corporate strategical planning, emphasize the following three related components – the desire to move forward, the goal, and the pathways to get from the desire to the goal. Doug Turner (Vice President of HR for the Washington, DC division of Balfour Beatty Construction company) described these three components of Hope Theory. Turner further said that to improve individual planning, it’s the same process of implementing this framework of desire, goals, and pathway. Turner described why this research on hope theory was core to his beliefs about how to move a company forward, “Turnover in an organization really occurs because people lose hope.”
- To become more productive, structure more self-discipline into some part of your work. Senia Maymin spoke about recent research in self-regulation, and how a long time ago, people didn’t even know whether self-regulation could be trained and increased, not to mention didn’t know that self-regulation works like a muscle. New research described by Roy Baumeister of Florida State University suggests that when a person grows self-regulation in one part of life, iot tends to seeps into other parts of life as well.
What Other Studies Did We Cite?
- Strengths. I brought up how Gallup used strengths at Ann Taylor to create an additional nearly 5% in revenue if the results of the pilot study had been spread to the entire company.
- Explanatory Style. Doug Turner cited explanatory style and self-talk, the stories that we tell ourselves, as one of his favorite concepts in Positive Psychology. Turner was especially encouraged by the idea that we can change our own self-talk.
- See Work as a Calling. Margaret Greenberg spoke about Amy Wrzesniewski of Yale and her job-career-calling distinction, and Karen Salmansohn detailed how some of those jobs that were seen as a calling in the Wrzesnieski study were janitorial jobs, and may not have objectively been called a calling, so it really is in how people see things.
- Loyalty is Dropping. A steady job and a decent salary are not keeping employees, especially the younger under-40 employees. David J. Pollay pointed out that Hudson Research Institute, Walker Information, and the Gallup Organization all point to the data that only about 25% of people are loyal to companies.
For some great suggestions on happiness at work and taking Positive Psychology to work, check out these past articles between May and now (for even earlier articles, look here):
- Taking Positive Psychology to Work: The Role of Gratitude by Kathryn Britton (9-7-07)
- Using strengths when you work by Kathryn Britton (8-7-07)
- Taking Positive Psychology to Work: The Reframing Skill by Kathryn Britton (6-7-07)
- Taking Positive Psychology to Work, Part 1: Positive Core and Strengths by Kathryn Britton (5-7-07)
- Positive Internal Communications in Change Management by Sulynn (7-31-07)
- Thoughts on Performance Reviews and Positive Psychology by Doug Turner (7-16-07)
- Energize Your Business Planning by Margaret Greenberg (9-14-07)
- Employee Recognition: How One Company Puts Their Money Where Their Mouth Is by Margaret Greenberg (7-14-07)
- Positive Work Environments: How One Company is Putting Theory into Practice by Margaret Greenberg (6-14-07)
- What Coaches Must Do, Know & Be by Margaret Greenberg (5-14-07)
- Using Your Strengths in the Job Search by Senia Maymin (7-12-07)
- How You Tell the Story of Your Life by Senia Maymin (5-25-07)
- Do Leaders Need to Toughen Up? by Emma Judge (6-16-07)
- Making Slow Decisions by Emma Judge (5-16-07)
- “When traveling with children, if emergency oxygen masks deploy, put your mask on first.“ – FAA by Miriam Ufberg (6-29-07)
Interviewer courtesy of Waldo Jaquith