This article is part of a series highlighting insights in the field of Positive Organizational Scholarship that come from the Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Many of our executive consultants hold dual positions at both Riverbank and CPO.
It’s a challenge to explain why I love the field of positive organizational scholarship and why I love the Center for Positive Organizations without it dripping with earnestness. I truly love this field. But I’ll try to have some tangible reasons to help with that.
There are a lot of ways I could answer this, but I’ll start with the heart of it. When I was talking about my thoughts for the future, with a mix of nerves and excitement, a new friend of mine (who was also involved with the Center) surprised me with a dead-on observation of me: I need to love what I do or else I shut down. He’s exactly right, but there’s more to it. I burned out in the extreme during high school, to the point where I didn’t even want to be in the same state as those years of my life — and writing off California for college is a pretty big deal. But I started off loving everything I was involved in with a burning passion. And it was that unbridled passion that burned me in the end. So once I got to college, I focused on sustainability for myself and the way I work.
I’ve maintained a healthy relationship with POS for three years now. I continue to find the field energizing, supportive, buoying… all of the uplifting images you can imagine. Trying to explain my feelings towards the field seems a bit difficult, as it’s all a little ephemeral. We’re getting into sappy territory, so I’ll try and go back to some specifics.
For one thing, this field is all about making work and being part of organizations something sustainable and enlivening for everyone involved. So not only do I feel that way about the field itself, but the goal exactly aligns with my values.
One of the ways I assess a field is by how comfortable I feel and how much I identify with the people in it. I definitely feel I belong with the people in this field — and that’s not to in any way suggest that we’re homogenous. This field encourages people to bring their whole selves and their complete experiences to the table. And that’s not an empty platitude. Just days after my 2.5-year relationship ended, I attended CPO’s Positive Business Consortium. I told my boss, Chris White, during breakfast, and he pulled me aside for half an hour to process with me as I needed. He left the conference early in the day, and I was then adopted by a group of wonderful women who I’d never met but treated me with such love and respect, despite me being the youngest at the conference. This is just one such moment where I’ve seen this field embrace people as they are in each moment.
That’s something about POS — it’s not about ignoring the negative or pretending it doesn’t exist. When we hear all these words like thriving and flourishing, sometimes it’s easy to think that difficult times or bad experiences don’t have any place in POS. But we’re focused on a much more sustainable sense of wellbeing, in terms of the individual and the organization. And that doesn’t mean always being happy. I’m still relatively early in my studies of the field, considering that I’m hoping to embrace it for years to come, but it seems our main goal is to figure out how we can make being part of an organization something that fulfills each member in a way they couldn’t experience on their own, through connecting, sharing, supporting. And fulfillment is something much deeper, more meaningful, and more sustainable than just being happy.
Alicia Haun is a content marketing intern at Riverbank Consulting Group. Alicia is a senior at the University of Michigan, where she also works with the Center for Positive Organizations at the Ross School of Business. Alicia is passionate about the field of positive organizational psychology and looks forward to helping work become a place of flourishing.