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Flourishing in the workplace: an investigation into the intentional strategies employed by those experiencing long-term positive affect in the UK public sector

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posted on 10.11.2017, 16:11 by Andrew N. Cope
This thesis is focused on positive affect in the workplace, with a particular emphasis on the UK public sector. Three samples of data were taken from 433 respondents across nine participating organizations with the aim of identifying those who rate themselves as happy and upbeat and whom others are noticing in this regard. Thus, the thesis goes beyond the analysis of those who are self-nominated as happy, seeking those who are flourishing (denoted throughout as Happy Plus or H+ ) which, for the purposes of this thesis, are categorised as employees whose positive affect is contagious. The data identified 45 H+ respondents, ascertaining that their happiness has a degree of longevity that is in line with eudaimonic sources and that the state of flourishing is unlikely to be accidental. The flourishing respondents were measured on 16 workplace emotions and compared against a group of 388 non-flourishing work colleagues. The H+ respondents recorded higher scores in all 4 emotions associated with employee engagement (enthusiastic, joyful, inspired & excited) and employee satisfaction (calm, relaxed, laid back & at ease) while the NonH+ group scored higher in emotions associated with stress (nervous, anxious, tense & worried) and depression (dejected, despondent, hopeless & depressed). Independent samples t-tests (using the Bonferroni correction) suggest these differences are statistically significant in 13 of the 16 affects measured. This is salient in that the more vigorous sense of employee engagement tends to result in pro-social behaviours that are correlated with bottom-line performance. The thesis then sought to discover the means by which the H+ respondents achieve and maintain their flourishing status. Following Lyubomirsky s (2007) contention that if an individual s genes and circumstances are fixed (in the immediacy of here and now) then it is the 40% of one s intentional strategies that will differentiate the flourishing from their non-flourishing colleagues. Thus, the H+ and NonH+ groups were compared on a raft of seventeen within-person strategies. The flourishing group rate choosing to be positive as their biggest single strategy, with the corollary that attitudinal choice requires both awareness and effort. It is postulated that engaged employees are attitude maximizers rather than satisficers , in that they are less likely to make do with ambivalent attitudes, striving to be as positive as they are able. Flourishing employees are also significantly more likely to set goals, play to their strengths, have positive internal dialogue, reframe negative events and consume less news. They indulge in what is termed life-crafting in which they alter their thoughts and circumstances to maximise their likelihood of remaining happy. The thesis concludes with a series of recommendations, focusing on co-creation , the idea that happiness emerges as a collective and cooperative endeavour that requires both favourable working conditions and individual effort. As such, recommendations are aimed at how organizations can learn from the findings to implement structures and policies that are best placed to facilitate flourishing cultures. There is a further set of recommendations alluding to what individuals can do to raise their own happiness levels. As such, it is argued that organizational culture change is not simply a matter of instigating top-down or bottom-up remedies, but rather eliciting change that emanates from inside-out.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business


© Andrew Cope

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.