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Building a positive culture in the workplace, Part 5

We have spent the past several weeks discussing positive psychologist Martin Seligman’s “PERMA Model”. It’s a model for lasting well-being that was widely published in Seligman’s influential book “Flourish” and serves as the foundation for principles that can lead to a more positive environment and culture in any workplace.

We have discussed…

Positive Emotions: Positivity can enhance team members’ ability to think creatively, help them cope with challenges, nurture their progress in their career, and aid them in getting along with others in the workplace. As social psychologist Barbara Frederickson posits in her Broaden and Build Theory, the more positivity we experience, the likelier we are to exhibit behaviors such as: discovery, awareness, and curiosity. Read more here.

Engagement: When did you last lose track of time because you became so lost in your work? Instead of counting down the minutes until the end of the work day, you were in ‘the zone’ and you concentrated so intensely on the project at hand that time flew by. This experience is called a ‘state of flow’. Positive psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi wrote a book called “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” and in it, he discussed two conditions that must be met to experience a state of flow. Read about it here.

Relationships: Human beings are social beings, which means that we crave healthy, empowering relationships the way we crave air, food, and water. Relationships are essential to our well-being. In fact, many studies have been conducted showing that people with a larger support network often outlive those without it by 22%! Learn more about relationship building in the workplace here.


Meaning: It’s necessary to derive meaning from the work we do, which is why leaders must empower their team members to see the deeper layers in their tasks. Understanding how your work benefits others, how it’s valuable in the grand scheme of things, and how you are an essential member of the team increases an individual’s well-being and overall satisfaction with a job. Read more tips on deriving meaning here.

These four pillars are the staples of any positive workplace. However, there’s one final component that must be added into the mix in order for your company’s culture to thrive:

Today, we devote this blog post to the final pillar in the PERMA model: Accomplishment/Achievement.

Think back to times when you may have competed in a sporting event or supported your favorite team. Wasn’t the team’s goal always to win? No one goes out to the field or court with a mission to lose.

This is true even when we want to master a skill (learning a new language, perhaps) or accomplish a goal (writing a book). No one sets these ambitions with the thought that they’d like to fall short, give up, or not achieve what they set out to do.

This is because we are naturally programmed to want to better ourselves. In doing so, we flourish and experience well-being.

Therefore, there might exist a lack of contentment and happiness among workers simply because these individuals are struggling to realize their personal and professional goals. Perhaps they feel their dreams have fallen by the wayside. Perhaps they feel they lack the proper tools, resources, or support to work at their dreams. Perhaps they feel that the workplace eats into time they’d prefer to spend on other tasks.

So how do we empower our team members and equip them with what they need in order to experience accomplishment and achievement on a regular basis?

Here are three steps leaders can take today:

Conversation: As a leader in the workplace, your team members look to you for guidance and wisdom. You stand as a role model to what can be achieved professionally. Your talents, gifts, and skills have allowed you to accomplish your leadership role and as such, you stand as a mirror to your team members, reflecting their own talents as well as areas they can improve upon to find similar success. However, just as you can only see your reflection when you stand in front of a mirror, you can only gauge a team member’s state of being from a face-to-face conversation.

We’ve discussed the importance of team-building and engagement throughout this series and it’s especially essential in the matter of achievement. Regularly ask your team members what their goals are. Where do they see themselves in a year? In five years? What would they like to have achieved? Are they interested in climbing the company ladder? What are their professional goals? Just as well, what are their personal goals? Are they secretly aspiring to author mysteries? Do they want to travel the world? Are they starting a family with their spouse? Expressing interest and concern about your team members’ goals both big and small builds trust, reliability, and community.

Support:  Now that you know your team members’ goals, go out of your way to assist them in their progress. If you’ve learned that a particular team member’s accomplishment with a certain workplace task has been delayed because they lack the proper skills to see it through on a speedier timeline, connect them with a training program that can up-level them. If you know another team member wishes to ascend the workplace ranks and hold a higher position in a few years, introduce them to the appropriate connections within your workplace. Devote time regularly to reflecting on how you can help develop your team members and they’ll thank you for it!

Balance: We live in a world where accomplishment is highly-valued. However, accomplishment should never come at the price of self-care. Arianna Huffington from The Huffington Post has spoken at length about the need for work/life balance. If you find that your team members feel taxed, exhausted, and ‘burnt out’ by the tasks on their plate, have a conversation about the obstacles that may be standing in their way. Are they struggling to find meaning from the work? Do they feel ill-equipped to complete the tasks because of a mismatch between their skills and the job’s requirements? Is the task not challenging enough for them? When we strike a proper balance in the workplace between skills and tasks, it makes for happier team members.

Likewise, encourage your team members in their work-life balance. There are many companies (Google, for instance) that even encourage this within their four walls (on-site cafeterias, break rooms where workers can take naps, etc). Other places offer incentives like gym memberships, on-site yoga classes, monthly personal development seminars, and more. How can your company invest in the well-being of your team? The return on your investment will be more productive team members who are happier about the work they’re doing.

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