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Positive Psychology in Business Organizations Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 3rd, 2020


As a science, positive psychology entails inquiries that seek to identify the strengths that facilitate individuals’ and communities’ success. Particularly, the study of positive psychology holds that individuals and groups are in constant pursuit of happiness. As such, parties that embrace positive psychology seek to lead meaningful and successful lives characterized by developed personalities and involvement regarding love, work, and play. Precisely, positive psychology is concerned with realizing genuine happiness and good life (Seligman, 2013).

The field of positive psychology traces its roots from the works of Martin Seligman after he assumed his role as the new president of the American Psychology Association (APA) in 1998 (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2014). Seligman (2013) underlines the theme of positive psychology throughout his leadership. Thus, he is regarded as the pioneer of modern positive psychology. Individuals need to concentrate on their strengths instead of their weaknesses in pursuit of happiness. The contemporary positive psychology is a depiction of the fourth wave of development in the field of psychology. The initial three waves include the disease model, behaviorism, and humanistic psychology, respectively.

Nonetheless, other scholars who are also regarded as the founding fathers of positive psychology include William James, Abraham Maslow, Christopher Peterson, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Additionally, several scholars are accountable for influencing positive psychology, including Albert Bandura, through his self-efficacy theory, Donald Clifton, who developed the strengths-based psychology, and the efforts of Deci and Bryan in the establishment of the self-determination theory. Besides, other models include the subjective wellbeing concept by Ed Diener, the growth versus fixed mindset concept developed by Carol Dweck, and the broaden-and-build theory by Barbara Frederickson (Carr, 2011). In this respect, this paper proposes incorporating a positive psychology framework to the leader of a business organization by identifying its application in other organizations, the implementation plan, and the potential challenges of implementing the framework before discussing the future directions.

Application of Positive Psychology in Various Institutions

The positive psychology concept has been applied in various organizational environments, thereby contributing to happiness attainment among members. As such, a business organization could embrace the positive psychology framework in a way that changes the mindset of managers and employees towards happiness, a depiction of successful business engagements. Mills, Fleck, and Kozikowski (2013) insist that the adoption of positive emotions in an organization results in establishing a productive frame of mind among employees. Over the last decade, different types of organizations, such as schools and health facilities, have embraced the positive psychology framework to enhance the realization of happiness among stakeholders (Joseph, 2015). Notably, educational institutions now concentrate on the integration of positivity in the learning experiences encountered by students. Particularly, the application of positive psychology in educational environments fosters the attainment of cognitive, affective, and social competence among students.

Positive education entails the integration of the traditional educational approach, the field of wellbeing, and happiness. Importantly, the integration of positive psychology in educational environments seeks to reduce depression among young individuals. Particularly, professionals in the education sector have embraced Seligman’s PERMA model to support positive learning experiences. As such, positive psychology needs to be integrated into every course to help students improve their wellbeing, thus reducing depression, enhancing satisfaction, emphasizing social responsibility, and enhancing creativity.

Positive psychology has seen considerable integration in the healthcare sector since it seeks to divert attention from pathology. The approach has seen healthcare practitioners strike a balance between the traditional approach to pathology and pain and the pursuit of creating positive experiences by the patients. Importantly, the concept influences healthcare professionals to encourage patients to embrace positive feelings and strengths to supplement psychotherapy administration, improve learning, and promote academic success (Carr, 2011).

Further, for an extensive period, the healthcare sector in the United States (US) has been cloaked by the negativity accounting for the poor delivery of services. Besides improving the clinical elements of practice, the business aspect has not seen considerable upgrading, a situation that is calling for the integration of structures that enhance the quality of relationships. Positive psychology has recently been incorporated into the business element to get rid of issues such as interpersonal conflicts, job-related and unnecessary stress, and reduced energy among practitioners. In this case, since issues in the healthcare sector undermine patients’ satisfaction, positive satisfaction is necessary not only for improving the services delivered to patients but also for improvement of the professionals’ practices and their personal lives.

Moreover, amid its novelty, positive psychology has been applied in correctional facilities to influence “problem” populations to adopt positive emotions and build a positive approach to their experiences (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2014). As such, the strategy has helped to cancel the negative emotions associated with incarceration environments, thereby bolstering inmates’ rehabilitation. Fun moments influenced by the adoption of positive psychology in prison account for the personal growth and development of inmates in a way that improves their behavior. Besides, inmates can relate their positive live story to others, thus reducing negative moods among them. Additionally, the writing of gratitude letters to individuals who contributed positively to the inmates is another way of enhancing people’s happiness and wellbeing under incarceration. In this light, positive psychology can assist in canceling the negative emotions associated with incarceration, thereby improving the inmates’ psychological wellbeing.

Positive Psychology Plan for the Business Organization

The implementation of positive psychology requires an organization to follow a particular plan crucial for streamlining the integration of happiness into its workplace environment. Mainly, the reason for incorporating a positive psychology framework into the organization is to bolster employees’ performance. Positive psychology seeks to improve the interpersonal and interprofessional relationships among employees to ensure that they engage in constructive interactions. Additionally, fostering employee wellbeing by eliminating the factors that contribute to unnecessary job-related stress is the focus of the positive psychology plan to be executed in the organization. The plan also seeks to reduce the prevalence of conflicts amid its inevitability and importance in the workplace environment. The plan will concentrate on performance, motivation, engagement, conflict resolution skills, and authentic thinking. To make changes concerning the identified aspects, the positive psychology plan will embrace the PERMA model. The PERMA model is an evidence-based approach to positive psychology. The PERMA acronym stands for positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. Therefore, the plan will use the PERMA model to bring a positive change in the workplace environment.

The Creation of Positive Emotions

The integration of a positive psychology plan in the organization will first focus on creating positive emotions among the senior managers and employees. Happy experiences contribute to individuals’ and groups’ success that share the same goals and objectives (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2014). Undoubtedly, happy experiences are associated with positive emotions. Thus, the organization needs to focus on creating emotions that cultivate happiness in the workforce. In this case, the organization needs to eliminate factors that trigger negative emotions in the organizational setting. The common triggers of negative emotions in the business surrounding include fatigue, stress, lack of cooperation, and poor conflict resolution mechanisms (Seligman, 2012).

Therefore, as earlier mentioned, the cultivation of positive emotions in the business organization will concentrate on developing a “positive mindset” among the concerned parties. The adoption of a positive mindset is integral for the improvement of relationships among members of the organization. For instance, the organization includes “appreciations” as the initial agenda in staff meetings to show gratitude to individuals or things that contribute to happiness among employees. The positive mindset approach would be necessary in the business organization’s case since appreciation is necessary for encouraging interactions that result in happiness.

Fostering Connections and Engagement

According to Soni, Rastogi, and Garg (2016), positive psychology is considered one of the key concepts that boost employee engagement. Besides, investing in meaningful relationships can foster happiness. Important to note, moods are highly contagious. Thus, if an individual connects with another who is happy, their likelihood of becoming happy is usually increased. Additionally, connecting with happy colleagues enhances the overall productivity of the workforce. Therefore, employees in the organization need to better understand their colleagues by engaging them positively.

The engagement of employees in the organization needs to consider applying the strengths possessed by the individual employees. Notably, individuals usually seek to improve themselves by focusing on their weak points, thereby forgetting the importance of using their strengths in fostering personal development and growth (Carr, 2011). In this respect, the organization’s management can encourage employees to integrate their strengths in overcoming the issues that trigger negative emotions. The application of individuals’ strengths in the workplace environment helps them feel energized by their work demands daily.

The Creation of Meaning

The efforts of the employees and managers need to have considerable meaning and relevance. As such, showing the positive outcomes of a business organization’s operations to the parties involved in realizing the successes is important for evoking affirmative emotions. Particularly, an organization needs to demonstrate the positive impacts it has on the lives of others. When employees attach a positive meaning to the nature of their work, they become happy that they contribute positively to others’ wellbeing. This observation confirms McNulty and Fincham’s (2012) views on positive psychology plays in the workplace. For example, engagement in corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts is a way of improving the communities’ wellbeing in which a business organization conducts its activities. Such initiatives make employees consider their efforts meaningful in facilitating the sustainability of the organization and other communities and the environment. Thus, adding meaning to work is a crucial aspect of bolstering the performance of employees. The creation of meaning to work also makes work more rewarding.

Building Accomplishment

Leaders in the organization can put in efforts geared towards building the rate of achievement among employees. In this case, managers among other senior officials in the organization can underline every employee’s essence applying his or her strengths towards the realization of organizational goals and objectives (Seligman, 2012). Importantly, leaders need to embrace a supportive style of coaching employees to use their strengths to accomplish their duties and responsibilities. For instance, the manager can coach employees by asking them questions regarding their strengths, including how they can apply them in streamlining the efforts directed towards attaining the shared goals and objectives. The approach shows interest in the employees’ strengths and the will to support them in the execution of their roles and responsibilities (Seligman, 2012). Thus, building the accomplishment of employees is a win-win strategy that eventually creates happiness among stakeholders. In this case, besides promoting professional growth, building accomplishment bolsters the realization of an organization’s agenda.

Challenges of Implementing the Positive Psychology Approach

Several hindrances can undermine the successful integration of positive psychology in a particular setting. Undoubtedly, positive psychology has also encountered an array of obstacles that undermine the application of an individual’s strengths to realize happiness (Carr, 2011). Therefore, it is relevant for the implementation team to be aware of the obstacles faced in the field before implementing the organizational setting framework.

Notably, positive psychology concentrates on improving the individual’s wellbeing. However, this approach is very individualistic. Thus, it fails to consider the essence of promoting the wellbeing of individuals in group settings. Therefore, the individualistic approach is insufficient since it undermines teamwork’s relevance in facilitating the attainment of a collective approach to happiness. In this regard, the field of positive psychology also fails to acknowledge the importance of integrating an expansive sense of bolstering human development. The field of positive psychology has faced limitations regarding the essence of spearheading the enhancement of people’s wellbeing at the group level.

Furthermore, the field of positive psychology has faced criticisms regarding its definition. Scholars in other branches of psychology, including pathology-based psychologists, accuse the field of having a straightforward definition since it is just the opposite of negative aspects of an individual’s emotions and wellbeing. Besides its definition, the field is also accused of employing a reductionist approach, as depicted by its integration of quasi-religious fundamentalism (Simmons, Nelson, & Simonsohn, 2011). For this reason, the field has been termed as a shallow science. The issue makes it less common compared to other mature psychological sciences such as humanistic psychology.

Further, the fact that positive psychology fails to consider the relevance of cultural influences on the development of an individual’s wellbeing poses a challenge on its implementation among diverse cultured individuals (Simmons et al., 2011). In this light, it becomes quite complicated for an organization characterized by individuals from diverse cultures to engage in ways that evoke positive emotions. Notably, there is a need to underline the importance of tolerance when applying the positive psychology framework. Furthermore, the positive psychology approach applies the ideal cultural context of the Western or, rather, more commonly the American culture. For this reason, the need for embracing a collectivist framework undermines the efficiency of the individualism approach.

The psychotherapeutic approach to positive psychology implementation has also raised doubts regarding its effectiveness in the end. Currently, the psychotherapeutic strategy to influence positive emotions does not involve rigorous trials to ascertain its effect on an individual’s happiness. The approach does not demonstrate the degree to which people’s strengths influence their success, in the end, owing to the environmental changes they could experience over time (Carr, 2011).

Positive psychology does not reveal what is meaningful to the individual (Simmons et al., 2011). Particularly, positive psychology underlines the pursuit of happiness. Thus, organizations can encourage employees to embrace happiness by focusing their strengths on meaningful issues. However, the efforts can be directed towards less consequential actions to the employees and hence fail to influence true happiness. Therefore, it is important to note that the best feelings emanate from the fulfillment of an individual’s duty to others and establish meaning and purpose in life.

Moreover, inadequate research concerning the assessment of factors, including positive behaviors in the workplace setting, undermines the positive psychology framework’s efficiency in the workplace setting. There is an increasing debate over aspects that contribute to creating happiness among employees in an organization. As such, positive psychology is just an element of the individual among several other aspects that require consideration to bolster an organization’s success. Meyers, van Woerkom, and Bakker (2013) assert that positive psychology interventions have been confirmed to yield excellent results in enhancing employees’ interaction levels and hence productivity. Further, efforts put in by employers to gauge the factors that bolster productivity among employees also create some negative feelings, thereby undermining the efficacy of positive psychology in the organizational setting. Therefore, the pressure exerted by other factors that boost productivity in the workplace setting may greatly hinder the successful integration of the business organization’s positive psychology framework.

Future Directions

The field of positive psychology is poised to grow, despite the challenges it currently faces. Undoubtedly, experts in positive psychology will put in efforts to widen the scope of the field to foster its comprehensiveness. In this respect, the expansion would see the homes of the filed incorporate new strategies for creating positive experiences and improving the wellbeing of individuals (McNulty & Fincham, 2012). As such, prospects suggest that positive psychology will go beyond encouraging individuals to do well, celebrating actions that bring happiness, and recognizing happy moments.

Increased criticism is also expected in the field of positive psychology. The criticism will facilitate the field’s growth and development, given that it is barely one and a half decades old. Critics will show that science is taken seriously as an important branch of psychology. Such criticisms will also bring some changes to positive psychology interventions in different settings, including business environments.

The integration of both positive and negative elements in positive psychology is also forthcoming (McNulty & Fincham, 2012). Notably, positive psychology’s current field is biased on the positive influences that facilitate the enhancement of an individual’s wellbeing, ignoring the negative factors. Undoubtedly, negative factors will also influence individuals to apply their strengths to overcome them (challenges) and lead a positive life. Therefore, as the young field of positive psychology grows, it will possibly consider the influence of negative experiences in developing an individual’s wellbeing.

There is the possibility of positive psychology to follow the tracks taken by its parent field by integrating neuroscience and culture (McNulty & Fincham, 2012). The neuroscience aspect will look at the biological factors that contribute to the happiness of an individual. Besides applying an individual’s strengths, the body also contributes to the emanation of positive emotions. Cultural forces that surround people also determine the choice of their actions. The norms upheld in a given culture influence how the community members follow them to realize a given degree of happiness (Seligman, 2012). Therefore, the future would see the field of positive psychology integrate the cultural influences that shape a person’s wellbeing. In this regard, it suffices to foresee positive psychology’s future incorporate the elements of neuroscience and culture to give it comprehensiveness.


Positive psychology concentrates on promoting the wellbeing of an individual by inspiring moments that bring happiness. Since its development slightly over a decade ago, positive psychology has been implemented in different settings, including educational institutions, hospitals, correctional facilities, and business organizations. The integration of positive psychology in the business organization will be influential in assisting employees in applying their strengths to realize organizational goals and find meaning in their work. Nonetheless, the challenges faced by the field, such as the lack of an in-depth definition, the exclusion of culture, and the apparent disregarding of the role of negative emotions in building the wellbeing of an individual, undermine the application of the framework in workplace environments. However, the field’s future looks bright since criticisms will prompt its reinforcement as a human science.


Carr, A. (2011). Positive psychology: The science of happiness and human strengths. Abingdon, England: Routledge.

Joseph, S. (2015). Positive psychology in practice: Promoting human flourishing in work, health, education, and everyday life. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

McNulty, J. K., & Fincham, F. D. (2012). Beyond positive psychology? Toward a contextual view of psychological processes and well-being. American Psychologist, 67(2), 101-112.

Meyers, M. C., van Woerkom, M., & Bakker, A. B. (2013). The added value of the positive: A literature review of positive psychology interventions in organizations. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 22(5), 618-632.

Mills, J., Fleck, C., & Kozikowski, A. (2013). Positive psychology at work: A conceptual review, state-of-practice assessment, and a look ahead. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(2), 153-164.

Seligman, M. E. (2012). Positive psychology in practice. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Seligman, M. E. (2013). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for deep fulfillment. London, England: Nicholas Brealey.

Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Positive psychology: An introduction. New York, NY: Springer.

Simmons, J. P., Nelson, L. D., & Simonsohn, U. (2011). False-positive psychology: Undisclosed flexibility in data collection and analysis allows presenting anything as significant. Psychological Science, 22(11), 1359-1366.

Soni, K., Rastogi, R., Garg, P. (2016). Positive psychology at work: Psychological capital as a pathway to employee engagement. OPUS: HR Journal, 7(2), 1-15.

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