When individuals flourish, organisations prosper - Optentia

Annette Willemse -- Mon, 01/05/2015 - 16:09

When individuals flourish, organisations prosper - Optentia

Burnout and stress are familiar terms in research on wellbeing at the workplace whilst flourishing and virtuousness are much less commonplace. Focusing on the positive rather than the negative is an attribute that makes Prof Ian Rothmann and his fellow researchers at the Vaal Triangle Campus’s Opten­tia research focus area stand out.

Their deliberate strategy is to discover what makes people happy at work rather than what makes them miserable.

Prof Ian Rothmann  

The aim of Optentia is to develop and organise knowledge for the optimal expression of individual, social and institutional potential. It has a specific interest in the Afri­can context and draws on various social sciences disciplines, including psychology, industrial/organisational psychology, educational psychology, sociology, educational sciences, em­ployment relations and social work.

“We are interested in what keeps people engaged, happy and satisfied in their jobs, and the impact these people have on organisations,” says Ian, leader of the research subprogramme called “Flourishing in Institutions” within Optentia. “The focus is on improvement and optimisation as opposed to prevention and treatment.” This emphasis on the positive does not imply that research on stress, burnout, conflict and the myriad of other woes of most modern organisations is no longer relevant.

“Of course it is important to focus on the negative aspects too,” he says. After all, the statistics show that between 15% and 20% of the general population are languishing – meaning they feel and function poorly – and roughly half of these people have real psychological problems such as symptoms of depression. “Only about 20% of people are flourishing, and the rest are somewhere in between therefore the better we understand what makes the flourishers flourish, the more likely it is that the organisations they work for will flourish and prosper too.”

Strengths are virtues

If you give people the opportunity to use their strengths, you should be well on your way to building an environment where flourishing individu­als can thrive.

This “strengths-based approach” is known as virtuousness, according to Ian. It essentially means allowing employees to do what they do best, resulting in higher productivity and employee engagement.

“All of us have certain skills and strengths. People flourish when they have the opportunity to use their strengths. Employees feel real pleasure when they use their strengths; they learn rapidly and perform successfully, and they complete tasks,” he says.

Most compelling of all, perhaps, is that employees who use their strengths at work are more loyal and more productive. Their intentions to leave are 14,5% lower and their units about 12,5% more productive.

For more information about Optentia and the research conducted, visit www.optentia.co.za