Using your strengths at work

According to the Independent, one in six British workers over the age of 35 said they were unhappy at work.

In 2005, Seligman, Steen, Park, and Peterson discovered that people who used their strengths in new and different ways reported higher levels of happiness and lower levels of depression.

These two findings are linked by levels of happiness – but do they correlate? Are one in six Brits over the age of 35 unhappy at work because they’re not using their strengths?

A strength isn’t just something you’re good at, it’s something that energises you when you do it. It’s therefore no coincidence that the number of unhappy workers over the age of 35 is more than double that of those under the age of 35 when you think of the new and innovative ways the younger generations are working with their strengths.

At Capp, our Strengths Profile assessment outlines 60 key strengths for a unique profile, dividing them into four areas: realised strengths, unrealised strengths, learned behaviours and weaknesses.

Realised strengths are something that you’re good at, use a lot, and enjoy doing. An unrealised strength means you’re both good at it and enjoy it, but perhaps don’t use very often, and a weakness is as you would expect.

But it’s the learned behaviours element that I want to bring into focus, as it could help explain the correlation between the two statements, and why there’s such a huge difference between people over/under the age of 35.

Like a strength, a learned behaviour is something you’re good at, but because you use it so frequently, it becomes draining and the enjoyment/energy is lost. If you’ve been in the same role, using the same strengths for a long time, there’s every chance that what may have started as a strength has become a learned behaviour.

So if you’re using learned behaviours at work every day, you could very easily become de-energised/unhappy and considering a recent study showed that about 14% of your total lifetime will be spent in work (and then another 26 years asleep), it’s not really a place you can afford to be unhappy.

Using your strengths at work is simple – if something becomes a learned behaviour, you don’t have to pack up and leave, you don’t even have to stop using it. Just try and use your other strengths as a substitute in order to regain control of it.

If you’re overusing your strength in Resilience, try and use your Adaptability and change your approach; or if your strength as a Time Optimiser has turned into a Learned Behaviour, try and utilise your strength as a Planner to make the most of your time.

By taking our Strengths Profile every 6-12 months, you can monitor your strengths and ensure that you’re not over using your realised strengths, whilst also gaining an insight into unrealised strengths that you could utilise more.