Using your character strengths to be more satisfied at work

by | Jun 29, 2019 | Career Challenges, Coaching, Personal Development, Positive Psychology, Positive Resources

I wanted to share with you a relatively easy way of feeling better at work. It’s simply by intelligently applying your character strengths – more effectively using what you naturally have within you! Let me explain a little more….

A quick look at character strengths
Character strengths are “positive traits reflected in thoughts, feelings and behaviours” (Park et al., 2004) and are regarded as essential ingredients of a fulfilling and happy life (Peterson, 2006). The VIA Classification consists of 24 different character strengths, which we all have within us and can draw on to support us in all aspects of life. 
 
By implementing a character strengths approach, our main focus is on what’s right and what we do well, instead of spending time and energy ‘fixing’ our weaknesses, as studies have shown that this where we can experience the greatest positive impact. 
 
I work with the VIA Classification of character strengths as they are flexible, effective and impactful when professionally applied, and have been proven through many studies to contribute to flourishing. 

What are the benefits of applying character strengths at work?
When we consistently and intelligently apply our strengths at work, there’s evidence to show that we can experience improvements in:

  • job performance
  • productivity 
  • work satisfaction and meaningful work
  • employee engagement
  • job dedication 
  • interpersonal facilitation
  • performance ratings 

When I say intelligently, I mean that to really get the most benefit of applying your strengths, it’s important to know the best way in which to use them! For example to understand when to dial up a strength, such as bravery before a speech; or dial down a strength, for example creativity when you are required to closely follow processes. Or by seeking an evidence-based positive psychology intervention to develop your strengths in new and novel ways. 

So, which strengths are most impactful at work?

Numerous studies have found that when the character strengths of…

  • curiosity: “interest, novelty-seeking, exploration, openness to experience”
  • zest: “vitality, enthusiasm for life, vigour, energy, not doing things half-heartedly”
  • hope: “optimism, positive future-mindedness, expecting the best and working to achieve it”
  • gratitude: “thankful for the good, expressing thanks, feeling blessed”

… are consistently applied at work, then we can experience higher levels of satisfaction.
 
Here are some ideas of how you could apply each in the work setting:
 
Curiosity

  • ask ‘why’ questions more often, especially when making assumptions
  • be curious about a work task that you don’t like – find a new way to view it positively
  • challenge yourself to learn a new thing a day for a week

Zest

  • when you feel your energy lagging, instead of reaching for a sugary snack, get out and go for a short walk
  • express your energy and individuality by wearing colourful clothes
  • prepare yourself for new tasks at work by considering the positive aspects 

Hope

  • observe how hopeful colleagues overcome challenges
  • support someone who may be struggling by offering hopeful ideas and concrete actions they could take
  • set daily goals for what you’d like to achieve and identify 2-3 different ways you could reach these goals

Gratitude

  • explain why you are grateful to a colleague, either by what they have done or for a positive aspect of themselves and leave it on their desk in a note to surprise them
  • each evening, recall 3 good things that happened at work each day
  • start meetings by sharing successes

(Reference: Niemiec & McGrath, 2019; Niemiec, 2018: McQuaid & Lawn, 2014)
 
So, which of these 4 strengths will you be focusing on first?!