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Can Character Strengths Help Women Thrive at Work?

June 10, 2014 by ·

women in the workplaceSeventy percent of American businesswomen are struggling to have wellbeing, with 40% confessing they’re “hanging on by a thread” according to a new study by career strategist and author Megan Dalla-Camina.

But they’re not alone.

Recently 85% of Australian businesswomen also said they were just “functioning” over the past six months at work, with more than 15% flat out languishing according to The Australian Pulse of Women In Leadership.

What’s going wrong for so many women in our workplaces?

“Thriving at work is less about the how we perform the tasks that have been assigned to us and more about being able to express who we are through the work that we do so it feels engaging and meaningful,” explains Dr. Donna Mayerson, a leading coach and Director of Applied Practice at the VIA Institute.

Given our character strengths help us identify not just what we can do, but also what we like to do, Donna suggests they offer a useful framework to help us understand why we’re not thriving at work and what we can do to improve our experiences.

Here are three approaches Donna recommends trying:

  • Craft your job around your strengths – don’t take your job description at face value, think about ways you can use your strengths to make completing the assigned tasks more effective, engaging and enjoyable. Get clear on what you want to achieve at work and think about how you’re strengths could help you navigate from here to there.  Then put them into practice and notice what happens when you put your soul to work.
  • Understand the value of your strengths – commonly expressed strengths for women include love, kindness, perspective, open-mindedness and judgment but will these make you look “too soft” at the office?  In the new economy where relationships have become the heartbeat of business, global research is finding both men and women now see the bottom-line value these unique strengths are capable of delivering.  It’s why the strength of love is found among many great leaders.
  • Be mindful of balancing your strengths –  we become out of balance with our strengths when we underplay or overplay specific strengths in particular situations.  For example, many women underplay their strength of love when it comes to turning it inward and making sure they’re caring for themselves, as well as everybody else.  In addition, some women overplay their strength of love when they don’t provide enough space for others to find their own path forward.  Notice when your using your strengths but it doesn’t feel great or you’re not getting the results you want – how can you balance this strength better?

If it’s time you moved from functioning to flourishing at the office be sure to join Donna, Katty Kay, Carol Dweck, and Tom Rath for a special free telesummit series starting June 16th for their practical strategies to help women thrive at work.  Reserve your free ticket here.

-Excerpt from a podcast by Michelle McQuaid

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