Flourishing in the Workplace: Cultivating a Positive Culture for Success

When I read the results for Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Report 2023 that shared that globally, six out in 10 people are emotionally detached at work, only 23% are engaged at work, 44% had experienced a lot of stress and 21% had experienced a lot of angry emotions the day before, you read that right: A LOT of stress and angry emotions…I not only felt that information heavy on my mind, but something that I genuinely think pertains to all of us collectively regardless of the Industry we are in. Think about it, if we have stressed and angry individuals, in stressful and angry work environments, we also have stressed and angry friends, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, sisters, and overall stressed and angry societies; who would want that? My humble guess is no one. 

But following the Positive Psychology concept, that is the scientific study that focuses on what goes “right” vs. what goes “wrong” in life, and what makes individuals flourish and live a life worth living, let’s focus on that small 23% that are actively engaged at work and thriving and how we can cultivate more of them. 

In the fast-paced landscape of today’s professional world, the concept of flourishing in the workplace is gaining considerable attention. Beyond traditional success metrics, the emphasis is shifting towards fostering an environment where employees not only survive but thrive. After the pandemic, we saw the results of the great resignation, quiet quitting, you name it! and we continue to see the challenges with recruiting and retaining employees in many Industries including our beloved Hospitality one. Recent years and events have brought to light how many people see their job merely as a way to survive, pay bills and do what is right or expected, basically, there is more awareness now and less willingness to stay on the “hamster wheel”, instead, as part of our human innate constant search for meaning and happiness, we all look for environments where were can flourish and thrive, and that includes of course, our workplace. 

The Essence of Workplace Flourishing 

No, it’s not having the dream job or something that only some companies or individuals can attain. It is instead something that can be cultivated through positive leadership and fostering a culture where positive emotions and behaviors are part of the daily agenda.

Workplace flourishing goes beyond mere job satisfaction; it delves into the holistic well-being of employees. It encompasses aspects such as professional growth, positive relationships, mental and physical health, and a sense of purpose. A flourishing workplace is one where individuals are not just “clocking in and out” but are actively engaged, motivated, inspired and feel that their work matters, that they matter.

It wouldn’t be fair for me not to acknowledge how much I learned about flourishing in the workplace without mentioning The Walt Disney Company, where I spent 13 years of my life (mostly with Disney Cruise Line) and where I experienced firsthand the impact of positive cultures. Don’t get me wrong, no company is perfect, but when a company has a culture founded on fun, storytelling, excellence and optimism, amongst other values, the results are simply outstanding. During my time with Disney Cruise Line, I remember some close friends that were cruising with me, asking me if my all-day smile was “real” (thank you Disney for my lines of happiness aka wrinkles!) and I explained to them that although smiling was one of Disney’s “Seven Service Guidelines”, the constant positive emotions exuded by the guests combined with the environment of camaraderie, professionalism and sense of community, would make it almost impossible not to smile; the parks are called “The Happiest Place On Earth” for a reason. This Company is to me a clear example of what positive emotions in the workplace can do when they are aligned with the right leadership, talent, vision and business strategy. 

But you do not have to be the #1 Entertainment Company in the world to promote positive emotions or positive behaviors; anyone that cares, that genuinely cares about others knows how to make people feel valued, appreciated and how to make their day even just 1% better. Hospitality is the expert in this! So, if anything, we in the Hospitality Industry should be one step ahead to create more of what is thriving! More happy people and fewer angry and stressed employees, because hopefully, we already have the know-how to do that with our external guests, now let’s focus more on our internal guests, our employees.

Benefits of Flourishing Employees

Some of the benefits of having a positive culture are heightened productivity, innovation & adaptability, lower turnover rates, mental well-being, employer of choice amongst many others. While the benefits may not be surprising to you, the cost of not having a flourishing work environment and having instead disengaged or actively disengaged individuals, cost the US in 2023 alone $1.9 trillion in lost productivity according to Gallup. 

Building a Flourishing Culture

To foster a flourishing culture in the workplace, consider implementing actionable steps aligned with Martin Seligman’s (Father of Positive Psychology) PERMA model which is the acronym for Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishments. 

1) Begin with promoting Positive Emotions by encouraging a culture of gratitude and recognition. Implement regular appreciation programs to acknowledge employees’ efforts and accomplishments that celebrate the “small” wins. 

2) Enhance Engagement by providing opportunities for skill development and autonomy. Encourage employees to pursue tasks that align with their personal strengths and passions, fostering a sense of purpose. Discover what moves them deep inside!

3) To cultivate Positive Relationships, organize team-building activities and promote open communication channels, creating a supportive and collaborative work environment. Build small committees that look after the common well-being, where everyone feels like they belong to a unique work community.

4) Prioritize Meaning by ensuring that employees understand how their work contributes to the overall goals of the organization. Clarify the purpose behind the rutinary tasks and connect individual roles to the broader mission and why their job matters. 

5) Finally, emphasize Accomplishments by setting realistic goals and celebrating achievements. Establish a system for recognizing and rewarding milestones, fostering a sense of competence and motivation. 

By integrating these steps, you can create a workplace environment that is focused on making the employee’s day 1% better at a time. 

The Future of Flourishing Workplaces 

As the nature of work evolves, so must our approach to fostering thriving environments. The future of flourishing workplaces lies in adaptability, continuous improvement, and a commitment to the well-being of others. Companies that prioritize these elements are not only investing in the success of their employees but are also positioning themselves for long-term prosperity in an ever-changing business landscape. In conclusion, flourishing in the workplace is not a fleeting trend but a strategic imperative for businesses aiming for sustained success. It is a paradigm shift from traditional notions of success toward a more holistic, human-centered, you-matter approach. As we navigate the complexities of the modern workplace, let us embrace the challenge of creating environments where individuals not only survive but truly flourish.