Workplace Flourishing

‘…it is recognised (and all organisational best practice and theory agrees), … that it is important to tap into what intrinsically motivates a human being to flourish and that such human flourishing plays a large part in the success of organisations.’ Lips-Wiersma & Morris

The Map of Meaning (2011)

I began to think further about flourishing in the workplace by exploring a recurring set of themes that appeared to define the core issues for my own professional development: 1) My focus on vision and values for people and organisations, 2) To find a place to stand – my institutional space, and 3) By looking for leverage – exerting the ‘right’ influence. These three issues evolved into an emerging personal-professional position, where my work meaning (Purpose), a location or context to act (Place), and an expression of my abilities (Practice) – or PPP – were further refined. Indeed, I felt that together these different facets provided a sort of a motif of my work-life and, by considering my work practice and career motivations, they appeared to contain how I view, understand and value what is significant to me professionally.

So, during a four-year research inquiry with a Peer Inquiry Group of OD practitioners and civil society workers and following several case studies, I looked to identify those main features of work that seemed to underpin a flourishing experience. Clustered under three work drivers of Purpose, Place and Practice, it revealed six key conditions (those in the coloured ring in the diagram below), which – when present, when they sort of line-up – appeared to denote when people got the most out of their work, when they felt satisfaction, growth, connections, and development. They represent my Notion of Workplace Flourishing.

Notion of Workplace Flourishing authored by Robert Atkinson Endeavour Consulting Geneva

Indeed, if one is serious about looking to flourishing through work, measuring oneself against these conditions for feeling good and functioning well in the workplace can serve as tests towards one’s work experience and work conditions. Yet my inquiries also showed how our flourishing is constructed and, while socially influenced, is personally led. 

‘I consider that how I/we flourish is constructed in the process of sense-making between action in the moment and in reflection/contemplation, a sense-making that is influenced by – and influencing – my/our implicit and explicit views of whether there is meaning to it.’ Robert Atkinson

Enriching Organisations (2019)

Connecting activity to sense-making and personal-meaning indicated that it is within the interrelated nature of the action (activity) and reflection (awareness) of our work experiences that we construct/order our sense of workplace flourishing or languishing (this is shown by the two grey circles in the diagram). It suggests that we must seriously engage in – be both active and contemplative towards – the process of our own flourishing. This understanding has implications towards how we might approach and configure our work-lives and towards those organisations that wish to enrich the experience of their staff too.

‘A dynamic [work experience] in which the individual is able to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, build strong and positive relationships with others and contribute to their community. It is enhanced when [through it] an individual is able to fulfil their personal and social goals and achieve a sense of purpose in society.’ Kilfedder & Litchfield (2014, p.357)

 Wellbeing as a Business Priority (2014)

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