Ahead of the event I asked Sukh, an occupational psychologist, a few questions about why he is running the event and what positive psychology can bring to the workplace.
With just over a week to go until your event Positive Psychology in Application can you share why you want to talk about this topic and why now?
It’s something I’ve been talking about on the blog for a while now. From what I can see, there’s little being done to promote the field in mainstream events, so I want to experiment to see how this can be done more. At the moment it seems only when Martin Seligman or the likes host a conference that people make the effort. More can be done, and I’m interested to see what I can do to help.
If there is a good evidence base to show positive psychology works, why don’t we see it being used more in the workplace? No one would argue with the idea that being happy at work is a good thing.
That’s a good question. I think in part some people are doing the good things already. And there are consultancies like Personal Strengths UK who have created psychometric assessments which assess people’s strengths. There’s also a lot of work in the area of using strengths based questioning in recruitment.
I think one of the challenges in making these behaviours more prevalent is understanding how they can lead to all the things companies are looking for – innovation, profit, new sales. That’s a big challenge to overcome!
Who in the organisation should be responsible for using positive psychology methodology?
Well as with most things that are people based it will inevitably sit with some part of the HR function. I’d love to say it should be across functions, but it has to start somewhere. Companies like Happy Ltd have got it right. Henry Stewart (the CEO), puts theory into practise everyday so everyone in his organisation gets what it looks like. Unless you have that direction from above, it’s always going to be a niche thing as part of the toolkit of HR.
You are an L&D professional – how does positive psychology apply to L&D?
L&D is all about the development of people. Positive Psychology helps you to see how you can develop individuals and groups to behave in ways which are in line with the aims of the organisation and beneficial to them. Development isn’t just about applying learning in day to day life, it’s about how to help you live a better life. That’s at the core of Positive Psychology.
Also, NLP practitioners will argue they’ve been using positive psychology as part of their practice since its inception.
Does this branch of psychology challenge existing learning models in any way?
No. If anything it’s just another consideration in the ever expanding world of knowledge that L&Ders need to be armed with in some way. Some will really warm to it, others will think it’s the devil’s work.
What books, articles, blogs, videos would you recommend looking at to get up to speed with positive psychology ideas and concepts?
Well there have been some major publications such as Harvard Business Review who earlier this year devoted a whole issue to a happy workplace. There are a number of Twitter feeds such as @UKSDI, @PosPsych and @CdnPosPsych who provide a lot of useful links. There is some great content on the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center website http://www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu/.
Oliver Burkeman is a UK writer who has written a book about positive thinking and is worth following. There don’t seem to be a lot of dedicated blogs I know of, but a lot of people write about positive practices and it’s worth just being conscious of those when they arise.
Finally, can you provide an example of how PS has helped in the workplace?
I think a good example is when practitioners in the field use facilitation techniques to bring teams together. That’s positive psychology in action right there, but it’s just not termed as such. They’re having good structured conversations, they’re engaging with each other as people, and they’re creating connections which will help them feel better about work, and about their colleagues.