Recognise This! – Positive Psychology principles prove more successful at driving desired results than a focus on constructive criticism.

Usually a contagion is a bad thing – unless we’re talking about the effects of positive psychology in the workplace. Positive psychology is a terrific theory: “create an environment in which employees can be happy through positive actions and reactions and employees will be more creative and productive.” But how does this actually play out in a real office?


A recent article in Fast to Create looked at positive psychology in practice at Havas Worldwide London, helmed by CEO Russ Lidstone who comments on the impact at Havas:

“When times are tough, there can be a tendency to focus most on what needs improving. What I’ve been trying to do is create a more positive framework for feedback within the agency–taking time to ask what’s good that’s been achieved today and to recognise and bolster employees and colleagues.”

Consultant psychologist and professor Neil Frude is also cited in the article, further explaining this focus of positive psychology:

“‘Positive psychology’ is about playing to strengths–enhancing positive emotions, rather than the old approach of using psychology to fix problems.”

Instead of a negative spiral of constant criticism, fault finding, and blame, we as leaders and managers have an opportunity to create a positive contagion (to use Dr. Frude’s word) of praise, appreciation and recognition of success, progress made, and desirable behaviours demonstrated.

Does that mean criticism never has a place in the workplace? Of course not. We also learn from our errors and need criticism to understand when and where we can improve. But never forget, it takes five positive points of praise to balance out the impact of one negative (if necessary) criticism.

How is attention focussed in your workplace? On the positive or the negative? Which approach do you find more effective in driving desired outcomes and business results?

Image credit: Richard Branson, CEO, Virgin 

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