by Michelle McQuaid
Have you heard it? There’s a quiet revolution that is taking place in our organizations. And it’s being led by women who long to feel more authentic at work and do more of what they do best.
Last year, women’s workplace researcher Megan Dalla-Camina, author of Getting Real About Having it All, reported that less than 30% of women describe themselves as “flourishing” at work. But a new study has found a growing number of women are beating these odds by finding ways to put their strengths—things they’re good at and enjoy doing—to work, no matter what their job description or their boss says.
Conducted by the VIA Institute on Character, the 2015 Strengths@ Work Survey polled 1,000 employees across the national workforce, and found:
- 70% of the women surveyed believe that building on their strengths, rather than fixing their weaknesses, is the key to success at work—compared to just 60% of men.
- 52% of the women report using their strengths each day at work, compared to just 46% of men.
- Most importantly, 69% of these women describe themselves as “flourishing at work,” with 68% reporting that they enjoy going to work, and 76% reporting that they are making a difference and being appreciated.
How can such a small change in attitude have such as significant impact for women?
A growing body of research has found that people who have a chance to develop their strengths each day at work are likely to feel more engaged, more confident, more energized and happier at work. Our strengths represent the ways our brains are wired to think, feel and perform at their best. As a result, while using them, we feel absorbed in our work and, afterward, we’re left with a sense of fulfillment. When the “real you” can come to work, both work and satisfaction improve.
It is not just women who believe tapping their strengths help them flourish at work. The 2015 Strengths@Work Survey also found that, while 64% of millennials report feeling disengaged in their work:
- 60% believe if they had a better handle on their strengths they would be more successful at work
- Of those millennials who have the opportunity to do what they do best at work each day, 59% of them say they look forward to going to work, 81% report that what they do makes a difference and is appreciated, and 69% describe themselves as flourishing.
There is empowering news here. Because even when employees reported having neither organizational nor supervisory support for better applying their strengths to their work, 49% of employees are still able to identify their strengths and 26% still find the opportunity to do what they do best each day.
So how can employees who are just functioning—or are even struggling—at work learn to apply their strengths and become more engaged? I recommend three tested and practical steps to finding what makes work satisfying for you:
- Discover your strengths – Pay attention to your best moments at work – when you feel really engaged, energized, and enjoy what you’re doing – to see which of your top strengths are in play, so you know how to apply them in your role and your organization. Still unsure? Take the free, ten-minute strengths assessment at viacharacter.org. It’s important to know all your strengths. It’s also worth becoming aware of where you’re underplaying and overplaying strengths so you can fine tune your application and ensure you’re using the right strengths, in the right amount, for the right outcomes.
- Meet your best possible future self – Once you’ve discovered your strengths, boost your levels of optimism and self-belief by imagining what might be possible in the year ahead if everything went as well as possible and you were using your strengths each day. Journal whatever comes to mind for about 15- 20 minutes a day, for three days in a row. Try to detail what you’d spend your time doing, what your colleagues or clients might say and which strengths you’d be using.
- Create a small, daily strength-development habit – Pick a strength to develop that will bring you closer to the future you’ve described. Think about how you could use this strength for at least 10 minutes each day as you go about your job. For example, use your strength of curiosity to learn one new thing, your strength of gratitude to genuinely thank a client or a colleague, or your strength of persistence to power through on a task you’ve been putting off.
It is possible to feel more engaged, energized and happy at work. As this study demonstrates, you just have to be willing to start using your strengths and doing what you do best – even if it’s just for a small moment each day. Are you ready to join the revolution?
A best-selling author and workplace wellbeing consultant, Michelle McQuaid is passionate about translating cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience into practical strategies for health, happiness, and business success. Learn more about her work and access strength development tools at michellemcquaid.com.