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Why positive psychology works

Given its effects on human behaviour and motivation, there is strong reason to believe that positive psychology is a key to improving managerial performance.

Still a relatively new area of psychology – and certainly one that is yet to gain recognition in all circles – positive psychology is nonetheless growing in credibility as organisations around the world explore its merits. In an age where employee engagement at all levels is so crucial, the theory of positive psychology could hold the key to providing workplace feedback in a constructive way.

What does positive psychology achieve?

Pioneered by the University of Pennsylvania’s Martin Seligman, positive psychology does exactly what it says on the cover – espouse the notion that a positive approach focusing on strengths is most beneficial to the human psyche. In this light, employee feedback surveys that point out and draw attention to a manager’s flaws may actually be more harmful than beneficial, whereas a more positive way of providing feedback builds performance and morale.

Positive psychology isn’t just about papering over the cracks and making sure everyone is happy, however – rather, it’s about striking a more healthy balance between the good and the not-so-good. According to the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center – of which Martin Seligman is director – psychology from World War II onwards has focused on identifying and remedying psychological problems. While this worked in addressing issues on the surface and has progressed psychological research, it has focused far too little on “what makes life most worth living”.

Ensure strengths are highlighted

The purpose of positive psychology is to make sure strengths as well as weaknesses are highlighted, and constructive feedback is provided for improvement. Note that it doesn’t just brush away one’s weaknesses, as these are also crucial to development – instead, it focuses on the strengths and uses them as a springboard for personal improvement.

Adopting a positive psychology approach to 360 degree feedback

360 degree surveys that are based on the Leader/Manager model have positive psychology at its core, pinpointing a manager’s key strengths and using these to guide performance improvement. Instead of criticising their flaws, managers are informed on what to do more of and less of in order to develop into a better leader.

Leadership development with 360 degree feedback

The value of happiness in the workplace

Positive feedback is crucial in the workplace, as happier employees are more likely to achieve success, according to a Haas School of Business study. While traditional workplace reviews have focused on what individuals should improve or do better, a 360 degree survey based on Leaderskill’s Leader/Manager Model™ is designed to promote the strengths and positives.

This is an important consideration in any organisation, as affirmative emotions have been proven to increase productivity and morale.

Benefits of positive emotions at work

A study from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley reveals that positive emotions in the workplace can result in three particular beneficial employee outcomes. With a focus on affirmative feedback, individuals are likely to experience increased work achievement, job enrichment and a “supportive social context”.

Essentially, this refers to an environment in which colleagues are more supportive of happier individuals, due to the mutually beneficial rewards of positivity.

Happiness and positive feedback is not only advantageous for the recipient, according to the Haas study. In fact, positivity can change the perceptions and relationships within a working environment. When one employee expresses positive emotions, others are more likely to look favourably upon that person.

Positivity builds morale

The person feeling happy is also likely to respond positively to their colleagues, increasing their willingness to help others and create social bonds.

This is not only likely to build morale and enthusiasm, but can also improve productivity due to “enhanced cognitive functioning”, the report explained. Furthermore, positive emotions often result in people feeling more optimistic about success, leading to improved outcomes due to the internal belief that achievements are possible.

Strengths based feedback offers a positive approach

With this in mind, it is easy to see why providing affirmative, strengths-based feedback is important. While employee reviews are a crucial part of any workplace environment, negativity and criticism often cause concern and upset among the individual recipients.

Fortunately, quality employee engagement outcomes can easily be achieved with a facilitated Leader/Manager 360 degree survey. By investing in this low-threat solution, employers can encourage workers to share strengths-based feedback that inspires positive emotions.

Developing Leaders

The importance of receiving positive feedback

Positive employee feedback is a vital consideration for any business environment, as managers and workers can benefit from increased confidence.

Businesses require the right conditions to thrive in the increasingly competitive corporate world. Having a confident team at the helm is one of the defining factors to growth and success.

Leader behaviour is reflected in employees

Employees often reflect their managers in their work, experiencing similar levels of motivation, productivity and sentiment. It is therefore beneficial to ensure that the leaders in the workplace are supported and maintain high levels of confidence and self-esteem.

In the working environment, it is easy for negatives to be blown out of proportion. As mistakes and negligence often have a more significant impact on operations, feedback relating to these incidents is often the loudest.

Negativity erodes confidence

However, the worker is more likely to lose confidence when the majority of feedback offered to an individual is negative, according to a recent article from Forbes. Additionally, this could influence a drop in creativity and innovation as the person prefers to stick with the status quo, rather than to try something new and fail.

Positive feedback is crucial

With this in mind, it is simple to see why positive feedback is crucial in a business setting. Not only will acknowledgement of an individual’s strengths promote self-confidence, but this can also boost the team dynamic in a number of other ways, including:

  • Encouraging desired behaviour – By identifying the actions that have a positive impact, individuals can focus their efforts on these particular behaviours.
  • Increased motivation – Praise is an important factor in keeping workers moving towards their goals. Positive feedback will ensure they remain on the right path and work hard to continue their success.
  • More tangible value – It can sometimes be hard to know whether your efforts are being recognised, so regular positive feedback is important for boosting individuals’ sense of self-worth.

Of course, it can be difficult to encourage employees to offer feedback on their managers and workplace leaders. That is why a Leader/Manager 360 degree survey is so beneficial, as this is one form of feedback that not only supports employees in providing the feedback, but it also gives immediately actionable feedback to the manager for his/her development.