Improving Performance and Wellbeing at Work

Barriers to Performance at Work

There are always external barriers to performance, of course, but these are often out of our control.  So to a large extent the main barriers to performance at work concern internal barriers.  That is, those thoughts, emotions and internal experiences which have the capacity to interfere with our actions and distract us from our goals.

So the question is how do we deal with these difficult thoughts and emotions most effectively?

The Existing Approach

Most current approaches to performance improvement rest on the assumption that we must firstly help people to change their thoughts and feelings.  We are taught that in order to perform better we first need to feel confident and get into the right mindset.

Unfortunately, this approach has some problems associated with it.  Evidence suggests that trying to change thoughts and emotions is highly unreliable and often counterproductive[1].  It also takes energy and attention away from the task at hand, which can dramatically impair performance.

A new alternative approach is to become more skilful at focusing on the task even when our thoughts and emotions are disruptive.  This skill is known as psychological flexibility.

Why is Psychological Flexibility Important in the Workplace?

In recent research, psychological flexibility has been shown to:

  1. Improve business performance and mental health and wellbeing[2].
  2. Predict business outcomes more effectively than emotional intelligence, locus of control and the Big 5 personality traits[3].
  3. Enhance other organisation-level interventions (i.e. as part of leadership programmes).

Therefore, training people in psychological flexibility skills will build performance of all types and at the same time will improve wellbeing.  Because psychological flexibility rests on a clear theory of human language and cognition, it is a highly effective means of improving human functioning and performance in virtually any context, irrespective of the job or position that they hold.

It also means we are able to understand not just that it works but why it works.  This enables training to be better targeted, shorter and more effective.

4 thoughts on “Improving Performance and Wellbeing at Work

  1. Great article. Thank you. I think ‘Psychological Flexiblity’ is also at the heart of our work. However, we’ve been using the terms cognitive, emotional and behavioural agility and draw a lot on mindfulness. It sounds very similar to what you’ve described here. I haven’t come across ACT before and look forward to reading more. Thank you for the book references.

  2. Hi Terry. thanks for the comment. I really like the idea of cognitive / emotional / behavioural flexibility. I’d be really interested to learn more about what you do. Where would I do that?

  3. Hi Rob, the best place to learn more about what we do is our website. I’ll e-mail you some links to the relevant pages and blog articles.

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