Positive Psychology In The Workplace

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 "Image courtesy of kromkrathog / FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of kromkrathog / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

Thirty years ago, one would not have thought that there would be a movement in both Psychology and Human Resources that proclaimed and focused on happiness in the workplace. People did their jobs and were paid for their services. When they made mistakes or slacked in areas that were their responsibilities, they were written up, or scolded. Though, things have changed and there is a movement in Human Resources that has been derived from the psychological world. Highly formulated by Martin Seligman, Positive Psychology focuses on what can go right as opposed to what can go wrong. The theory is to focus on an individual’s strengths instead of weaknesses in a more simplified less clinical approach of disdain and illness, ignoring the help people need to live more productive and fulfilling live as he spoke about when he was elected President of The American Psychological Association in 1998.


So how does this translate to the workplace?


In the new millennium, many employers have been focusing their human resource efforts using positive psychology techniques by utilizing encouragement and focusing on productivity and engagement in the workplace. Teamwork and leadership has taken the place of punishment, alienation and negative reinforcement.  These tactics have been shown to lead to more success and higher profits for corporations along with higher employee moral and well-being.  The uses of Positive Psychology have been so widespread that in 2006, Havard’s Positive Psychology Course was the most popular class in attendance.

Keeping employees less-depressed, more excited about their work performance, job security, and having a positive mindset as a manger and employer when interacting with your employees is at the heart of using Positive Psychology in the workplace.  




Martin Seligman’s five elements in which a person can live happy and feel Satisfied are explained in the acronym PERMA below. It is important for managers and employers to be aware of these elements, as it is also important to be aware of them as individuals.


According To Seligman These Elements Are:


Positive emotion


The importance of Positive Emotion cannot be denied, both in and out of the workplace. Positive emotion makes us feel good and gives us a sense of well being. A distinction is made regarding enjoyment and pleasure within the element of Positive Emotion as the importance of enjoyment plays a different and longer lasting role in bringing about and sustaining well being and positivity.


Enjoyment comes from intellectual stimulation and creativity, while pleasure comes from satisfying bodily needs such as hunger or thirst. Enjoyment involves partaking in activities that bring us joy and happiness. This differs from person and person is subjective depending on the individual, however being intellectually challenged and the fact that Seligman believed determination counts more then IQ tells us the importance of overcoming creative challenges.




Absorbing yourself in meaningful activities is essential to well being and happiness. The flow that people engage in when becoming “lost” in or completely absorbed in an activity is both healthy and therapeutic. You might find yourself losing track of time as you study a particular subject on the Internet that is of great interest to you, or perhaps you lose yourself in some other intellectually stimulating activity where the hours go by unnoticed. This time is well used and quite healthy. In the workplace being placed in the department that best suites your personality type can greatly increase your chances of engagement in your work activities.  Matching your personality type and interests can be groundbreaking for you and lead to a happy and successful career.




Meaningful relationships are of great importance in life and in the pursuit of happiness and mental health.  This theory has been discussed in the psychological field for decades and it has been proven that people who have close positive relationships lead a happier life. Family ties, friendships and even platonic relationships have shown to have a positive effect on people’s lives. A strong support system from the people you love and who love you back creates longevity, good health and joy.




Everyone needs meaning in their lives. Meaning and purpose are what makes life worth living and each individual deserves to have this element as part of their everyday life. The mundane cannot be compared to a meaningful purposeful life where our lives are about something bigger and more then ourselves.



 "Image courtesy of stock images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of stock images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net”



We all want and should strive for accomplishment, success and achievement. As Seligman studied, money alone is not good enough to bring joy to one’s life (unless he stated that money is being given to others).  The more we succeed in life, the better we feel about ourselves and the happier we become.  Success and achievement are in the eye of the beholder; meaning how one weighs success depends on the individual. We often have different interests, goals and terms of endearment. With this we decide what we wish to achieve, and how important these achievement are to us as individuals.



Martin Seligman once said:


“Relieving the states that make life miserable has made building the states that make life worth living less of a priority. The time has finally arrived for a science that seeks to understand positive emotion, build strength and virtue, and provide guideposts for finding what Aristotle called the ‘good life.”’










Seligman, E.P. Martin. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. (Free Press 2002).



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