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I attended a breakfast meeting with guest speaker Dr Suzy Green, a renowned psychologist in the field of positive psychology, last year. She shared some information that I think is pertinent to all organisations with regard to getting the best from their staff.

Almost one third of staff in a typical organisation are deemed to be languishing ie. not functioning anywhere near their full potential. What does this mean for organisations?

  • Grumbling and moaning in the workplace
  • Lack lustre performance
  • Resistance to change
  • Poor team spirit and cohesion
  • Higher staff turnover than you’d like
  • Absenteeism
  • lack of initiative
  • Blaming and back biting behaviour
  • Lack of creativity.

So what can we do as leaders and managers to assist our staff?

Dr Martin Seligman refers to five elements which are essential to human well-being in his book Flourish (2011):


Let’s break down the 5 elements and look at ways in which we can use them to rid organisations of the negative impact of poor staff engagement.

happy faceEncourage Positive Emotion

Feeling good is contagious and when we feel positive, we can achieve more, strengthen and develop our relationships and be more creative. To foster these feelings, managers need to:

  • Celebrate successes – big and small
  • Provide constructive feedback
  • Provide opportunities for social engagement
  • Demonstrate and encourage optimistic thinking.

engagementBoost Engagement

When we engage with our life and work, we become absorbed. We gain momentum and focus, and we can enter the state known as ‘flow’. In Positive Psychology, ‘flow’ describes a state of complete immersion in the present moment, where time flies. Managers can:

  • Help staff identify their strengths
  • Provide opportunities to engage in work and activities that use these strengths in order to help staff feel confident, productive and valuable
  • Delegate tasks accordingly.

manager 1Develop Relationships

Humans are social animals. We enhance our well-being by building strong networks in order to feel supported, valued and part of a community. Managers need to:

  • Provide training opportunities in people skills such as negotiation, conflict resolution, assertiveness and building relationships
  • Provide opportunities for networking and cross departmental work projects
  • Model positive relationship skills.

Identify Meaning

Studies have shown that people who belong to a community and pursue shared goals are happier than people who don’t. It is also very important to feel that the work we do is consistent with our personal values and beliefs. Managers can:billionphotos-1850462

  • Help staff to understand their values and how they relate to the workplace
  • Be explicit about the validity of each role
  • Promote teamwork
  • Foster team spirit.

Celebrate Accomplishment

Creating and working toward goals provides meaning and drive. Success makes us feel more confident and optimistic. When we feel good about ourselves, we are more likely to share our skills and be motivated to work harder and achieve more next time. Managers need to:

  • Set challenging goals aligned with personal values
  • Celebrate milestones as well as end goals
  • Provide support and resources to enable achievement
  • Show appreciation for the effort that their staff employ.

If our leaders and managers can do a few more of these activities, they will feel more positive and the positivity and influence they have will spread, creating more satisfied, focused and productive staff.