What do flourishing cultures look like, and how important are they when it comes to where we work and who we interact with on a daily basis?
Let’s start by looking internally at our accepted norms of behavior, our treatment of individuals, the words we use, who we involve in decisions, and HOW our people are really doing.
Flourishing is the opposite of languishing — which is failing to make progress and growing weak and feeble. It affects every living person on the planet, but it is much more complex than mere “happiness.”
Flourishing has nothing much to do with a paycheck or material possessions. It is more emotional and personal than cold hard cash could ever be, and it has a lasting impact on your culture — both at work and at home.
Dr. Lynn Soots says that flourishing is not a characteristic that you can either have or not have. Rather, “It is a process that requires action. Anyone can flourish, but it will likely require some effort to get there.”2
According to Dr. Martin Seligman, the “founding father” of flourishing, there are five factors involved in flourishing.1 These include:
- Positive Emotions
Using this model, Seligman insists that flourishing is the end result of building up positive emotions; engaging with the world and our work or meaningful pastimes; developing deep relationships; finding meaning and purpose in our lives; and using our talents to achieve accomplishments.1
A flourishing environment is one in which an individual is encouraged on all of these levels to be the most authentic version of themselves and to reach their goals by using their innate talents and gifts, all while being encouraged by those around them.
These flourishing environments are where people can:
- Bring their best, fully authentic selves
- Participate in engaging work
- Feel respected and connected
- Be empowered and motivated to identify and implement solutions
- Be encouraged to lean into difficult conversations and address challenging systems and ways of doing business with their superiors, family members, or colleagues.
Imagine, if you will, what it would be like to work in this kind of encouraging, productive, empowered culture — with coworkers keenly in touch with their purpose and intent on learning as much as they can — solving problems with mutual respect and connectivity.
These elements result in positive, motivating company cultures. Employees indicated that positive company culture is TEN TIMES more valuable to them than compensation when deciding whether or not they’ll stay at a company, according to a recent study by Donald Sull and Charles Sull. 3
This is a significant statement. And the evidence for the critical impact of a positive company culture keeps pouring in.
During “The Great Resignation” of 2021, over 47 million people left their jobs, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a rate of about 4 million people per month.
According to Sull and Sull, the leading cause of this mass exodus was toxic work culture, which was 10.4 times more likely to affect a person’s decision to leave their job than compensation at that time.3
Flourishing matters. But perhaps we’ve never really understood the degree to which a flourishing company culture truly figures into that equation. It took a time of unrest and global uncertainty to show many of us our priorities.
When it comes down to it, taking the time to find meaning in our work and activities and engaging with the world in impactful ways — as well as using our talents to achieve goals — all contribute to a flourishing culture that has lasting benefits for everyone involved.
- Dr. Martin Seligman, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being; Atria Books, 2012
- Dr. Martin Seligman & Dr. Lynn Soots, https://positivepsychology.com/flourishing/
- Donald Sull and Charles Sull, MIT Sloan Management Review, March 15, 2022, https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/why-every-leader-needs-to-worry-about-toxic-culture/ and https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/toxic-culture-is-driving-the-great-resignation/#article-authors