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Is It Psychologically Safe To Use Your Strengths At Work?

May 7, 2019 by · Leave a Comment

Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best each day at work? 

If you’re nodding your head, you’re in good company with The Strengths Lab 2019 Workplace Survey finding recently that seven out of every ten workers are finding ways to put their strengths to work each day.

But it hasn’t always been this way.  The survey of 1,000 people representative of the American workforce found that:

  • In 2006 just 36% of workers believed that building on their strengths would make them more successful at work, but in 2019 64% believe this is the case.
  • In 2001 only one-third of workers could name their top five strengths, but now 57% of workers can confidently name their strengths.
  • In 2001 just two out of every ten workers said they have an opportunity to do what they do best each day, but now seven out ten workers say they are able to use their strengths.

What’s making this change possible?

In a nutshell, despite almost twenty years of strengths research primarily focusing on how individuals can identify and use their strengths at work for themselves, it was other people that were the most important motivators and enablers of workers’ strengths. For example, two of the primary reasons most workers used their strengths were to support their team or to improve their relationships. And while being able to identify their top five strengths was an important first step, workers were the most likely to use their strengths when they felt psychologically safe in their teams, had meaningful strengths conversations with their leaders, and were in organizations who were committed to activating their people’s strengths.

So how can you help more of your people feel safe enough to put their strengths to work?

  • Encourage strengths experimentation – give your workers permission to experiment with their strengths. Joining the free global Strengths Challenge is a great way to help people identify their strengths and create a small daily strengths habit and track their progress.  In just one week – kicking off on the 13th of May – you can help improve people’s understanding and activation of their strengths at work.
  • Value strengths spotting – teach your people how to spot and appreciate each other’s strengths as they work together. By looking for the best – rather than the worst – in each other, and noticing where people light up, become more animated, or prefer to complete certain tasks, it’s easy to see people’s strengths in action and create more opportunities for these moments to happen.
  • Have more strengths conversations – help team members to buddy up and check-in with each other during team meetings or coffee catch ups and ask: “What’s working well? Where are you struggling? What are you learning about your strengths? How can you apply this to your work?” Ongoing opportunities for learning reflection and social support can be great ways to build more psychological safety in teams for strengths experimentation and development.

Is it worth the effort? 

We found that when workers had the opportunity to do what they do best each day, they were seven times more likely to be engaged in their work, seven times more likely to feel very satisfied in their job, and three times more likely to be performing well. They were also four times more likely to be consistently flourishing.

How are you making it psychologically safe for your people to activate their strengths at work? Join the Strengths Challenge starting May 13!








-Michelle McQuaid 

Michelle McQuaid is a best-selling author, workplace wellbeing teacher and playful change activator. With more than a decade of senior leadership experience in large organizations around the world, she’s passionate about translating cutting-edge research from positive psychology and neuroscience, into practical strategies for health, happiness, and business success.

An honorary fellow at Melbourne University’s Graduate School of Education, she blogs for Psychology Today, hosts the top-rated weekly podcast Making Positive Psychology Work, and her work has been featured in Forbes, the Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal, Boss Magazine, The Age and more.

She holds a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently completing her PhD in Appreciative Inquiry under the supervision of David Cooperrider.

Michelle lives to help people discover their strengths, move beyond their fears, and finally discover what it truly takes to flourish with confidence.


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