Job Satisfaction Can Lead to Better Productivity

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Martin Seligman, one of America's top academic psychologists and its leading happiness guru, is visiting Australian on a lecture tour sponsored by, of all outfits, the Australian Institute of Management. His thesis - for which he admits he doesn't yet have scientific proof - is that happier managers and workers lead to higher productivity and profits. Find that hard to believe? The bottom line would be fatter if only workers spent more time swapping jokes around the water cooler? It's not as implausible as it sounds. Part of the problem is that word "happiness". It's a great word for headlines, but it makes what Seligman prefers to call "positive psychology" sound frivolous, fleeting, self-centred and unworthy. He counters with another yet-to-be-substantiated thesis, that happiness comes in three kinds. At the most basic level is "the pleasant life", where people have as many positive emotions and as few negative emotions as possible. Then comes "the good life", which consists of using your greatest character strengths as frequently as possible in "the three great arenas of life" - work, love and parenting - to obtain abundant gratification. Finally comes "the meaningful life", which has one additional feature: the use of your character strengths in the service of some cause larger than you are. You might imagine that, at its most basic level, happiness as the pursuit of pleasant emotions wouldn't have much relevance to the business world. But that's not quite right. As Seligman explains in his book Authentic Happiness, published by Random House Australia, our emotions can concern the present, the past and the future. And the emotions we feel about the future are heavily influenced by whether we're optimists or pessimists. Now this is a topic on which there's solid psychological evidence, much of it gathered by Seligman. Psychologists have tests that determine whether you're an optimist or a pessimist, according to your feelings about the setbacks and victories...
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