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Broaden-and-Build at Work


Cultivating positive emotions in the workplace can have several positive outcomes, such as increased happiness, job satisfaction, fostering positive relationships, and has been linked to pro-social behaviour, which will generate more support for colleagues. Because social support is associated with counteracting stress, cultivating positive emotions will impact on the organisation through creating supportive employees. This is important, as one of the organisational stressors shown to impact on employee wellbeing is a lack of support.


The theory describes how the ten positive emotions of joy, serenity, amusement, awe, pride, gratitude, interest, inspiration, hope, and love are like the “tiny engines of positive psychology” that drive personal growth and flourishing. Research shows that experiencing any or all of these positive emotions with sufficient frequency and authenticity can broaden our scope of attention, allowing us to become more open, flexible and accepting.


Fredrickson uses the analogy of a waterlily to explain her theory. During the daytime, a waterlily will relax its outer leaves, expanding its petals and will soak in more sunlight. This is much like feeling positive emotions; we open our mind with the blinds peeled back, and we then take on more feelings of positivity in turn. Positive emotions nourish us and allow us to feel more resources.


The broaden-and-build model emphasises that positive emotions help build psychological resources. i.e. developing resilience and optimism and feeling a stronger sense of identity. They also help build physical resources. i.e. improved strength, coordination, and cardiovascular strength. They can build intellectual resources, too, such as enhanced problem-solving skills and an increased ability to learn new information. And finally, they build social resources that include strengthening of existing bonds and new connections.


The Losada Ratio


Research has shown an approximate 3 to 1 ratio of positivity being ideal in terms of high-functioning teams, relationships, and marriages. This is known as the Losada Ratio. Experiencing positive and negative emotions at this ratio leads people to achieve and experience optimal levels of well-being and resilience.

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