Fueling Happiness and Success at Work

First you must know this: You are a broadcaster, and you are highly influential.

Each one of us is constantly broadcasting information to others, even if we don’t say a word. Managers broadcast to their teams during meetings. Team members broadcast to one another about the likelihood of success. Clients broadcast to potential clients about the company. Even introverts broadcast through their non-verbals.

But most people don’t leverage the power they have as broadcasters to fuel success and happiness for themselves and others.

The messages we choose to broadcast shape others’ views of the world – and their levels of success. In the midst of challenges such as restructuring, low retention, and some of the lowest levels of engagement in history, our words can move other people from a fear-based mindset in which they see obstacles as insurmountable, to a positive mindset where they see that change is possible, get unstuck, and take action.

Research shows how we communicate can improve business outcomes.

New research from the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience shows that small shifts to the way we communicate can create big ripple effects on business outcomes, including 19% greater accuracy, 31% higher productivity, 25% greater performance ratings, 37% higher sales, and 23% lower levels of stress.

What makes the difference is what we choose to broadcast. Using scientifically proven communication strategies to ripple out positive change to others, we increase their happiness and success at work, as well as our own, instantly making us more effective leaders.

Understanding My Score

The Success Scale identifies positive broadcasters by testing for the three greatest predictors of success and the level of expressivity of a fueling mindset.

Happiness researchers Shawn Achor, Michelle Gielan and the team at the Institute for Applied Positive Research have isolated the three main predictors of your job success: work optimism, provision of social support, and positive engagement. They have also shown how when we broadcast an optimistic, connected and engaged mindset, we can create a positive, success-driving culture around us.

Influential Expressiveness: Am I a Positive Broadcaster?

  • DETRACTOR, 0-2: You are very expressive of your pessimism at work, which has been connected to lowering team effectiveness.
  • NEUTRALIST, 3-6: Your quiet or detached approach neither adds to nor detracts from team success.
  • POSITIVE BROADCASTER, 7-9: You fuel success, but there is potential to do more of that.
  • TRANSFORMATIONAL POSITIVE BROADCASTER, 10-14: Your high level of expressiveness of your positivity and optimism not only makes you a charismatic leader, but it also supercharges colleagues.

The Three Greatest Predictors of Success


What's the Institute for Applied Positive Research?

The Institute for Applied Positive Research investigates the connection between happiness and success. Researchers at the institute have teamed up with scientists from many of the top academic institutions including Harvard, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania to study how a positive mindset fuels performance at work.

Can I improve my score?

Here is the most exciting part about this research: these scores can change. In The Happiness Advantage, Achor writes, “Happiness is not just something that happens to us, we must cultivate it. Happiness is a work ethic.” Over the past decade we have devoted ourselves to studying how we can raise people’s levels of optimism, happiness, productivity and energy.

If you received a high score for one or more of the scales, you are not done! By training your brain you can magnify the amount that these traits can positively change your life.

How do we know the Scale works?

About The Researchers

We used thousands of employee responses to calibrate which questions are best at ascertaining your score on the three measures. But a score that is not predictive is useless. We then compared how well these measures predict a host of business outcomes: work satisfaction, engagement, burnout, likelihood of promotion, depression, perceived success rates, etc.

Excitingly, the measures are actually significantly more predictive of your job performance than any previous measure for their given dimension. The following analytical report will help you understand your scores and provide researched strategies to improve them so that you can be both happier and more effective at work.

About the Researchers

The Science of Work Optimism

What is your brain doing at work all day long? Are your brain’s resources focused on work and creating a positive future, or is it stuck scanning for the negative? When you go in to work, do you expect good things to happen or are you dreading the worst?

Some people seem to be optimists at home, but when they get to work, they operate like pessimists. That is why the older ways of testing optimism are flawed. They assumed that your general optimism could predict work performance. What we discovered is that your optimism at work is a much better predictor of your success at work.

Thus, the first survey assesses your Work Optimism. The goal is to try to predict the likelihood of your engagement, promotion, and burnout at work.

What Does Your Score Mean?

Based upon our research on work optimism, there are four types of people at work: extreme work pessimists, work pessimists, work optimists, and visionary work optimists.

  • EXTREME WORK PESSIMISTS, 18 or below: People who score 18 or below are “extreme work pessimists”. Extreme work pessimists do not expect anything good to happen at work. Extreme work pessimists are 5X as likely to burnout as optimists. It is rare for an extreme work pessimist to be highly engaged at work and even more rare for them to perform well. They do not get along well with co-workers nor their supervisors. Extreme pessimism can be a result of personality, but it can also be a result of a toxic work environment or the brain over-learning that our behavior does not matter, such as during prolonged economic downturn.
  • WORK PESSIMISTS, 19-21: People who score between 19 and 21 are “work pessimists.” They are just as likely to burnout as extreme work pessimist. They also do not get along well with co-workers, and feel low engagement at work. However, moving into this category seems to improve relations with supervisors. Work pessimists get along with supervisors just as well as optimists. Similarly, work pessimists tend to perform their duties better than extreme work pessimists.
  • WORK OPTIMISTS, 22-24: People who score between 22 and 24 are “work optimists.” They are 5X LESS likely to burnout than pessimists, 3X MORE likely to be highly engaged in their jobs. They are also significantly more likely to get along with co-workers. As with work pessimists, this group is more likely to perform their duties well compared to extreme work pessimists.
  • VISIONARY WORK OPTIMISTS, 24 and above: If you scored above 24, you are a “visionary work optimist.” Like work optimists, visionary work optimists RARELY burnout, perform their duties quite well, and get along well with co-workers and supervisors. Yet even compared to normal work optimists, visionary work optimists are 2X as likely to be highly engaged at work and 3X as likely to be extremely satisfied with their jobs.

The Importance of Work Optimism

It might be surprising to hear, but new research shows that only 10% of our long term happiness at work is based upon our external world. That means that what happens around us has less of an impact on our happiness than how we perceive our life. 90% of our long-term happiness depends on how our brain processes the world. As a result, no matter where we are, if we work at it, we can raise our levels of optimism and happiness. And boosting our happiness raises our success rates at the same time.

In previous research, we have found that optimistic sales people outsell their negative counterparts by 37%. Doctors in a positive state of mind perform diagnoses 19% faster and more accurate than doctors at neutral. Positive employees are 31% more productive than negative employees. In other words, optimism is crucial to the business outcomes we actively pursue: productivity, intelligence, creativity, endurance, and engagement.

Work optimism is not just about us. When people are sick with a cold and contagious, we want them to stay home from work so they don’t get everyone else sick. What we often forget is that our mental outlook at work is just as contagious. We know that extreme work pessimism dramatically decreases the effectiveness and happiness of the person experiencing it, but that is not the end of it. Extreme work pessimism can actually lower the work optimism scores of our co-workers. When we feel extreme work pessimism we literally become toxic and people can pick up on our pessimism like second-hand smoke. Remember, you don’t have to be the one smoking to get the negative health effects.

On the other end of the spectrum, visionary work optimists are also contagious. Positive psychology research reveals that when we are in contact with visionary work optimists, we start to feel more positive, engaged and hopeful at work. When visionary work optimists are leaders, they can actually raise the entire productivity of their team. Whereas extreme work pessimism is a disease, visionary work optimism provides enhanced health to a team. Smiles have been found to be 10X more contagious than frowns. In this research we found that visionary optimists are over 5X more likely to be engaged with their work in an effective way.

The Science of Social Support

From previous research, we knew that social support — how much you can rely upon and turn to your family and friends — was a major predictor of happiness. Social support is defined by the quality, and to some extent the quantity, of the people you feel you can depend on and share your highs and lows. But after working with companies all over the globe, we found that some people, who feel immense social support at home, could feel impoverished when it came to social support at work. We needed a scale that accurately assessed your social support at work.

That is when the big discovery came.

We kept asking all the questions about how much social support you were receiving, but when we flipped around the question, suddenly, the measures we were using began providing extraordinarily high definition predictions of your success and happiness at work. In other words, how much social support you give is extraordinarily predictive of work performance and happiness.

Giving social support is much more important than getting it. For a great read on this new research, check out the Harvard Business Review article on “Positive Intelligence.”

Thus, the second indicator assesses how well you provide social support to your co-workers.

What Does Your Score Mean?

  • ISOLATORS, 33 and below: People who score below 33 are “isolators.” Only about 1 out of 20 isolators are highly engaged in their jobs, and 1 in 50 are likely to voluntarily make-up work for a colleague. They are 5X as likely to burnout as work altruists. They are far less likely to be satisfied with their jobs than people who provide support to co-workers. Although these people may seem to have more time to attend to their own work, selfish isolators rarely get promotions. About 1 in 12 unsupportive workers can expect a promotion in the coming year.
  • RESISTANT SUPPORTERS, 33-36: People who score between 33 and 36 are “resistant supporters.” They are slightly more engaged than isolators, but they still ignore the value of social support at work. Compared to isolators, resistant supporters are more than 5X MORE likely to voluntarily make-up work for a colleague. Yet, they still usually don’t get along with co-workers or supervisors and are far less likely to be satisfied with their jobs than supportive workers. Even though they tend to receive more promotions than unsupportive workers, the majority of resistant supporters cannot expect a promotion in the coming year.
  • CONNECTORS, 37-40: People who score between 37 and 40 are “support providers.” Compared to resistant supporters, they are 2X as likely to be engaged at work, 2X as likely to voluntarily make-up work for a colleague, and much more likely to get along with co-workers and supervisors. Despite these accomplishments, supportive workers are no more likely than resistant supporters to get a promotion.
  • WORK ALTRUISTS, 40 and above: People who score above 40 are “work altruists.” These individuals are especially likely to get promotions– about 2 out of every 3 work altruists can expect a promotion in the coming year! Compared to people giving less support, work altruists are by far the most engaged at their jobs, the most likely to voluntarily make-up work for colleagues, to voluntarily contribute to the larger company, and the vast majority have extremely positive relationships with their co-workers and supervisors.

The Importance of Social Support

We all know that smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol can all have a significant effect on how long you live. But in the past ten years, we’ve also discovered that lack of social support has an equally powerful effect on longevity.

In a study Shawn Achor did on 1600 Harvard students, he could clearly see that social support was the greatest predictor of their long-term happiness. Yet, this is often the very first thing we sacrifice during stressful times. For many of those students, when they became overwhelmed with work, they spent 18 hours in the library. They would come out bleary eyed, exhausted, depressed, hating their school, sick, and even began to see their grades started to decline. When they asked why, Achor would explain that they had unwittingly disconnected from the greatest predictors of their work success: their social support network. Studies show that it is impossible for the brain to work at its highest potential for long without the infusion of strong positive social support and all the benefits that come with it.

The seventh and final principle in The Happiness Advantage is Social Investment, which is the one in which the happiest and most successful people at work are those who actually increase their investment in their co-workers in times of stress. They provide social support instead of waiting for it to come to them. The resulting research, culminating in this Success Scale, proves that giving at the office gets you not only greater happiness and performance, but you also raise you chances for a promotion.

The Science of Positive Engagement

Do you believe that your behavior matters at work? Why would you work eight hours on a project if you thought that you would receive no benefit for your behavior? When challenged, do outside events control your success rates at work?

The third pillar of the Success Scale is positive engagement.

Our brain is designed to use its resources effectively. When our brain believes that our actions will not result in the outcomes we want at work, our brain provides lower energy and engagement with those tasks. Our brain shuts down to save energy for more important and efficient tasks. The problem comes when our brain starts to shut down performance at work.

The key to using our brain’s resources effectively is to train our brain to recognize that our behavior at work matters.

Thus, the final survey assesses how confident you are that you can control your outcomes at work.

What Does Your Score Mean?

  • FATALISTS, 11 or below: People who score 11 or below are “fatalists.” They frequently burnout and are, on average, 15X more likely to burnout than workers who feel more in control at work. It is rare for helpless workers to be highly engaged at work, to voluntarily make-up work for a colleague, and to get along with supervisors.
  • DOUBTERS, 12: People who score 12 are “doubters.” They are LESS likely to burnout than helpless workers but far MORE likely to burnout than others. Uncertain workers are rarely engaged, rarely make-up work for colleagues on a voluntary basis, and rarely get along with supervisors.
  • ENGAGEMENT PURSUERS, 13-14: People who score 13-14 are “engagement pursuers.” Compared to helpless and uncertain workers, engagement pursuers are FAR LESS likely to burnout, 3X more likely to be highly engaged, and FAR MORE likely to voluntarily make-up work for colleagues. Engagement pursuers get along well with co-workers and extremely well with supervisors.
  • ENGAGEMENT MASTERS, 14 and above: People who score above 14 are “engagement masters.” They are 15X LESS likely to burnout than helpless workers and 6X MORE likely to be highly engaged with their work. Like engagement pursuers, they are far more likely to voluntarily make-up work for colleagues than are uncertain or helpless workers. They are 200% as likely as all others to perform their assigned duties well, 3X more likely than all others to be satisfied with their jobs, and 3X more likely than all others to contribute to the company. Even with all this success, two-thirds of engagement masters get along “extremely well” with co-workers and supervisors.

The Importance of Positive Engagement

In our research, we have found that when the economy is down, when the stock market plummets, when there is restructuring at work, our brain is tempted to believe that our behavior does not matter any more. Which to some extent is true. Unless you are a complete narcissist, you know your behavior will not alter the global economy. But the problem comes when our brains “overlearn” this—our brains can start to think that NONE of our behavior matters.

In the midst of the economic crisis, Michelle Gielan, at the time an anchor of two national newscasts at CBS News, could see the brutal effect the financial crisis was having on viewers. She produced “Happy Week,” during which she interviewed positive psychologists who shared research on mindset and habit changes people could make to foster greater happiness in the midst of challenging times. Viewers flooded CBS with positive emails on how they changed their behavior and that had not only made them feel more financial peace, but at times also spurred positive behaviors that saved homes, rebuilt savings, and reconnected families who had been fighting over money.

It does not take a crisis to connect positive engagement to success rates. This metric that you just took helps assess how much your brain believes that you can influence the outcomes at work. You might be thinking to yourself: yes, but IN REALITY, I cannot control all the outcomes at work. No one can, not even an Engagement Master. The important part is how much you focus your brain on the activities you CAN control. As a result, instead of constantly scanning for disempowering facets of work, Engagement Masters scan their work for every way that they could leverage their behavior to get the outcome they desire in the midst of the normal challenges at work.