Positive intelligence, happiness and the bottom line
19th June 2012
In times of recession, working in a corporate environment amid the associated budget cutbacks, redundancies and closures can make it difficult to maintain a positive mindset.
It’s hard to find room to criticise any employee for feeling the pressure and becoming disillusioned or disheartened, but research has shown that employees staying positive and being ‘happy’ can have a direct result on the bottom line of an organisation.
As a recent piece by Shawn Anchor in HBR discusses, many business leaders are adopting the theory of positive intelligence.
What is positive intelligence?
Positive intelligence is the act of creating plans and an environment to suit individuals or groups to help them rise above negativity, which in turn should increase productivity, creativity and engagement among staff.
In a high-pressure environment, such a period of change for a business, anxiety levels among employees can increase. Anxiety activates the amygdala, the part of the brain that among other things processes threats and emotion. This has a knock-on effect on the pre-frontal cortex, responsible for effective problem solving. Think, rabbit in headlights.
Reducing anxiety and increasing happiness in employers in this interim period is therefore an effective method of driving performance and motivating staff.
Encouraging positive intelligence
The HBR piece then tackles how to increase the happiness element and shies away from common perceptions among employees. Gone are the ideas that a new promotion or hitting a target will bring happiness. The author suggests instead that happiness needs to come first for the success to follow. He suggests a few simple personal techniques that have been shown to work:
- Write down three things that you are grateful for (either in your personal or professional life)
- Send someone in your social support network a positive message
- Exercise for 10 minutes
- Think about something positive that has happened to you in the last 24 hours
In a study of employees using the above techniques, all scored higher both in the short and long term, in the widely used Life Satisfaction scale, a predictor of productivity and happiness in the workplace.
The bottom line
Unsurprisingly, employees who are happy produce better results. Those who score highly are found to be significantly more likely to receive better feedback from customers and generate greater earnings for the company. Those who score low in the Life Satisfaction scale are found to stay at home, on average, an extra 1.25 days a month, which translates into a decrease in productivity of 15 days a year.
It is clear that increasing happiness has a positive effect on success and how an individual performs in the workplace. Developing new habits, looking after your employees and learning how to deal with stress in a positive manner are proven ways to achieve a good balance in the office for both you and your colleagues.