Positive Psychology in the Workplace

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit on a presentation from the 4A’s that revolved around the idea of Positive Psychology in the workplace. The premise of positive psychology is learning the individuals’ positive behaviors and strengths and using them to promote wellbeing and overall happiness (in our case, in the workplace).


But what does that mean for us specifically? For an advertising agency of all places? Advertising itself, by nature, is a high turnover industry. While the benefits of working in advertising are great, the stress can be elevated. Tight deadlines, quick turnarounds, and pressure to perform impact the quality and thoughtfulness of our work. While it is difficult to change the actual work, we can change the lens in which we view it.

Positivity impacts us inside and outside of the working space. Having a positive work environment has been proven to increase overall wellbeing, engagement, and retention. Much of an employee’s positive interactions at work (upwards of 70%! According to a Gallop poll) rely on the manager and the relationship they have with their employees.

Employees perceive modern day social threats in the workplace, in various ways:

  • the form of their status or position uncertainty
  • whether or not they have autonomy
  • if they do or do not feel like they are a part of something
  • if their organization has a sense of fairness

Managers must work with their employees to reassure and support them through all of these recognized threats. And the best way to do that is through social capital.


Social capital is an investment between the employee and the team that supports and manages them. Social capital is building bonds, investing in the whole person, and cultivating a relationship that can grow and develop into a safe space for the employee to take calculated risks in their work without the fear of judgement. Social capital is necessary for any team that wants to operate with a growth mindset. Having a team with high social capital allows employees the space to ask for help when they need it, to share their strengths and weaknesses, to have personal investment in the team, and become more innovative and curious about the work they do.

Team members and managers need to actively work against negativity bias- the idea that the way things are is the way they will always be, in both people and ideas. Understand that our thoughts become our beliefs, and in order to change the mindset, we have to change the belief itself. This goes for both employees and managers. Breaking this cycle of negativity bias allows us to have more thought diversity in a team, and to think more innovatively for our clients. Our mindsets are a self-fulfilling prophecy- if you think you are not good at something, or are told you are not good at something, then there is little chance anything will change that.  What people are capable of only changes when we remove the labels that are holding them back.

So the next time someone on your team is struggling to look at the bigger picture on a project or for a client, take a step back and think through some fixed or negative mindsets that are getting in the way of their growth.

Written by Vice President, Human Resources, Melissa Davis

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