Why HR should think about positive psychology

The field of positive psychology focuses on the core question ‘what is right with people?’

Why HR should think about positive psychology

Positive psychology has many benefits to offer organisations in terms of people strategy, according to Marcela Slepica, clinical services director, AccessEAP.

“It has the potential to equip managers and supervisors to better understand their team and help employees to work to their strengths,” said Slepica.

“This creates greater team cohesion, drives productivity and allows for positive growth.”

Slepica added that the field of positive psychology focuses on the core question ‘what is right with people?’

“In the workplace, using this constructive approach can empower employees to better understand their own skills and motivate them to do their best work.”

Virtues in Action (VIA) is an approach to defining personal strengths that has recently been implemented at AccessEAP.

“VIA has been developed by leading figures in Positive Psychology and charts 24 traits that fall within six categories,” said Slepica.

“By defining and focusing on these abilities, businesses can provide employees with more fulfilling roles and empower them to achieve their best work.”

Indeed, recent research in the Harvard Business Review shows that managers account for up to 70% of the variance in employee engagement levels.

One of the key findings was that strengths-based approaches to leadership almost doubled engagement, compared to more traditional management styles.

Here are six strengths AccessEAP has identified to drive engagement, productivity and growth:


Seeing things from a different perspective, looking at the big picture and the how or why things are done, as well as finding inventive solutions to problems are all signs of what VIA defines as Wisdom.

As a leader, it’s important to support these employees with opportunities to use their analytical mindset and creativity.


These employees say what’s on their mind, and value their authenticity, bravely sharing views that may be different to the majority if needed. Often determined and persistent, they are also often charismatic and hold sway with those around them.

This character strength is interesting when it comes to workplaces as managers can often feel challenged by an employee with these traits. Consider thanking the employee for sharing their views and see if they can become involved in some collaborative solutions with other team members.


Emotionally attuned and compassionate, these employees are often recognised as being well liked amongst their teams. They are inclined to creating harmony and are often the first to offer assistance to their colleagues.

Those with humanity traits demonstrate a double-edged side to character strengths. It is important to give roles working with people, however, they will need help keeping boundaries, as they are likely to give a lot, and care should be taken to prevent burnout.


With a strong sense of right and wrong, these employees draw heavily on their personal values and are often inclined to offer guidance to the group, whether or not they are in a leadership role. They also work well in groups with a clear understanding of everyone’s roles.

These employees do well in structured and process –oriented roles in team settings. When collaborating, this employee can create stability as a source of consistency and reliability for the team.


Positivity is a great indicator of transcendence traits. This employee will celebrate colleagues’ strengths, and take an optimistic view of people and the world around them. They interpret situations with good humour seeing challenges as opportunities.

This employee’s strengths will be a great asset, particularly during difficult times, as you will find that they boost morale and can offer hope in even the most troubling circumstances.


Balanced, calm and collected, these employees appear unperturbed by situations, good and bad. With a string control over their emotions, these employees take a measured and considered approach, weighing up all risks before taking action.

Consideration takes time, so these employees are suited to slower paced roles that require thought and in-depth knowledge, rather than swift decisive action. They may require regular check ins to understand what they are thinking or feeling under their controlled exterior.

Related stories:
Mental health: The invisible challenge for business
These workers feel most undervalued by their employers
This is the missing ingredient in workplace wellness

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