Positive Psychology at the University of Toronto

University of Toronto

A big thanks to Ancillary Services at the University of Toronto for inviting me to come and give one of my “51 free talks” on positive psychology yesterday! It was a great group of people, and a lovely holiday luncheon!

As always, great questions and insights from the audience, notably around managing in a unionized environment. This group of leaders gets together on a regular basis to learn more about leadership. Their last month’s speaker talked about discipline in a unionized environment. It sounded like it was a great talk as the speaker framed discipline as learning and opportunity, rather than punishment. And really, when you consider that the root of the word “discipline” is the same as “disciple”, we really are talking about a process through which an individual learns behavioural change.

Positive psychology comes from the same mindset: behaviour can be changed through attention and deliberate action that moves a person forward to a better future. We are pulled by the future, as Dr. Martin Seligman says, not just pushed by the past.

I presented the PERMA model to this group of leaders and we talked at a high level about how to focus more attention on what works well – moments of positive emotions, encouraging more opportunities for meaning and engagement, fostering more positive relationships, and celebrating more accomplishments and achievements. These don’t change in a unionized workplace and collective agreements don’t mandate attitude or mindset. While there are certainly unionized workers who will only work to the letter of the agreement, they are probably in the minority, and there are many unionized workers who don’t care about the union – it’s just part of that job that they belong to a union, and the employees still care a great deal about doing an excellent job (even without a collective contract).

One thing that I learned about my own presentation style is that I need to start cutting out information. I didn’t have time to get to everything I wanted to – and there is already a lot that I wanted to share and have people experience that I didn’t include. However, I am making the slide presentation accessible to all those who were present (and those who were unable to attend due to sickness, family emergency or work duties – we missed you!!). If you were at the Ancillary Services presentation, or if you were supposed to be there and missed it, please email me with any questions! Happy to discuss further.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked to talk about positive psychology in a unionized environment. How do you use positive psychology applications and insights in your workplace? Would love to hear your case studies!


Lisa Sansom

Lisa Sansom has her MBA from the Rotman School of Management, and over two decades of experience in teaching and training. Her years of work in the organizational development field have included projects on change management, employee engagement, leadership development, team coaching and employer of choice strategies.

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