Leveraging Positive Psychology for Employee Engagement

June 6, 2018
3 min
Leveraging Positive Psychology for Employee Engagement 545x363 1


The growing field of positive psychology holds a wealth of possibility for organizational leadership to maximize their human potential through employee engagement. Focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses, positive psychology is the perfect discipline to apply to your organization’s HRM strategy.

What is positive psychology?

Whenever I tell people I studied psychology their first reaction is: “oh, you must be thinking I’m crazy.” They seem to think that specifically because of my study of psychology I would immediately find what’s wrong in them. This is because traditionally psychology has been associated with the study of negatives and deficits against an alleged norm. In other words: how people fall short of their best.  

This is where positive psychology distinguishes itself from the rest of the field. Instead of weaknesses and deficits positive psychology seeks to study strengths and virtues. Positive psychology is principally concerned with uncovering how to become your best self by maximizing the strengths you already possess.

The field has a host of fascinating fields of study – including happiness, focus (flow), and psychological capital. Through each of these areas there have been numerous studies that provide directly applicable, and actionable, insights for the world of work and employee engagement.

Positive psychology and employee engagement

Engaging your team is all about inspiring them to become their best self through their role in the organization. Because when you associate your role with not just an income, but self-improvement, you will be continually find motivation in the workplace. This is why positive psychology is the perfect discipline to harness since it perfects all the key domains:


Trailblazed by the eminent psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the study of flow regards the state of complete focus and immersion in activity. Understanding how to initiate this experience among your team means learning to challenge them at the perfect level.

Flow is achieved when you are engaged in a task that is interesting and neither too difficult nor too easy – when you exercise yourself right at the edge of your capacity. When you work in this state it is described as fulfilling and positions you in the best place to improve their skill level and become the best that you can be.

PsyCap and the HERO traits

Largely derived from the work of psychologist Fred Luthans, psychological capital (PsyCap) is perhaps the most applicable concept for employee engagement. PsyCap consists of four identified ‘HERO’ traits: hope, self-efficacy, resilience, and optimism.

With each of the HERO traits, research has demonstrated that they are responsive to investment in the form of specific interventions. Most notably, scalable micro-interventions have been shown to effective in maximizing these traits at an organizational level.

Personal growth through habits

Since positive psychology is all about understanding the psychology of strengths it is the optimal discipline to apply for your personal growth. Focusing on habits allows you to turn the large enterprise of personal growth into much smaller, more manageable, daily steps. It’s hard to just suddenly “be more productive”, but pretty easy to make a commitment to get a few more things done from day to day.

Harnessing daily habits for personal growth – daily commitments to self betterment – is the best way to achieve best-self at work. And once your team is committed to daily habits for personal growth and becoming their best self while at work – engagement will come naturally.  

John Paul

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