MacGyver was a US television series from the 1980s. The main character that gives the series its name was a secret agent, who always overcame dangerous situations using extensive technical knowledge and a knife.
That is how the famous hero deactivated bombs, opened locks, started cars, and eventually how he completed the mission given by his bosses. MacGyver came out smiling and unscathed with the satisfaction of a job well done.
Using this story, Marisa Salanova, president of the Spanish Society of Positive Psychology, gave a lecture during Wellbeing 360, a virtual summit where world-class experts share the latest discoveries related to human wellbeing.
Employees can be heroes
During her “Healthy Organizations from the Perspective of Positive Psychology” presentation, Salanova said that MacGyver is an archetype of the new organizational culture that positive psychology proposes for companies, especially during the current health, social, and job crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“That famous character was capable of making great changes with few resources, therefore using innovation, spontaneity, and improvisation to improve the situation at hand. This is how I usually convey the importance of creating MacGyver cultures in organizations. These cultures can’t be formed from one day to the next, obviously, but they can develop a proactive resilience that acts as a kind of parachute so that when we fall, we are protected,” said Salanova.
In this regard, the expert proposes the Hero Model, a structure for public or private organizations in which the happiness and wellbeing of employees is encouraged in order to better achieve the set objectives.
“There are organizations that we call hero organizations, which even in the face of adversity keep their strengths and the healthy practices going; to the extent that they invest in them so as to have an effect on employees in terms of engagement, trust, and positive emotions,” explained Salanova.
She also asserted that companies are always run according to the following step-by-step law: when employees are well, organizational results are healthier, thus there is a virtuous effect.
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Psychology focused more on virtue than on disorders
During her lecture, Marisa Salanova said that psychologists have long focused on disorders and have remained on the dark side of wellbeing and happiness.
“Specifically, in the workplace, we know a lot about issues such as absence, drug abuse, occupational accidents, work-life balance, mobbing, and so on,” mentioned the specialist.
However, she considered that it is time to turn the focus around and to promote a positive psychological approach, from the perspective of virtue.
“There are two ways to enhance wellbeing in our lives. On the one hand, we can get rid of all the negative things that we don’t like and on the other hand, we can fortify the positive things that happen to us; for example, our strengths and resources in organizations,” Salanova said.
As a result, positive psychology has focused on this second option, on strengthening what works well, strengthening positive aspects and wellbeing, “like when we go to the gym to exercise our muscles, but in our case it isn’t a physical muscle, but our brains, our mental muscle,” highlighted this expert.
Salanova says that wellbeing programs at work which have an impact on commitment and good performance are fundamental to companies. Therefore, job abandonment can be reduced, and employees can be better assessed by their bosses and become more cooperative at teamwork.