Research Topics

How to increase meaning and engagement at work through mentoring by Pam Kennett

The desire to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life motivates us all. Those who experience meaning benefit from high levels of satisfaction, well-being and resilience as well as lower levels of stress. In a work setting, meaningful work is the job feature employees value above all else. Organisations are keen to understand how to create meaningful work in an attempt to increase engagement levels.

This research investigates how meaning can be created through everyday work activities. It uniquely looks at the experience from the mentor’s perspective and demonstrates how mentoring positively impacts job satisfaction, self awareness and self efficacy. In so doing, mentoring provides an opportunity for individuals to increase meaning and engage more positively with their organisation.

God’s chosen Sport by Suzy Madge

Have you ever considered that risk can be positive and stress good? The consultant researched the lived experience of risk-taking in an adventure sports environment by interviewing athletes whilst mountaineering and skiing. The interviewees revealed that their risk-taking behaviour was guided by their ability to consider feeling anxiety as useful information, and turn stress into the optimal experience of flow. They revealed that whilst taking risks they were in an almost meditative state, and that risk-taking contributed to their belief that they lived their lives the best way possible. We all feel the optimal experience (and performing) state of flow in our lives, and the ability to manage our thoughts, attitudes and attention can increase how often, and to what extent, we experience the optimal state of flow.


‘Better than sex’: noisy joy and self- transcendence in a samba drumming group by Stuart Harris

Community drumming is an ancient and widespread practice that has become increasingly popular round the world in recent years. However, most psychological research regards group drumming as a form of therapy or rehabilitation rather than as a normal healthy activity that’s an end in itself. As a member of a community samba band I decided to explore the practice from a Positive Psychology perspective. Using a Grounded Theory approach, participant experiences of playing in the band were explored in semi-structured interviews with 10 active group members. It emerged that as well as enabling people to have fun, which was what the expected, participation in the group also fostered unexpected physical, cognitive, emotional, social and transpersonal benefits. The ethos of the group provided a stimulating and safe environment for unpressured self-expression and self-exploration. This frequently led to participants going beyond their habitual sense of self and feeling connections with neglected or unlived values of a more transcendent self. The paper goes on to consider whether these positive effects may be a product of the interviewing process and the specific dynamics of the group studied.


Soft is hard: Building resilience with loving-kindness meditation at work by Mark Quirk

Stress remains a common factor in modern work life, and resilience building strategies have been shown to support and enhance natural human adaptability in overcoming workplace stress. This study examines the resilience and well-being building efficacy of a particular kind of mindfulness meditation commonly called loving-kindness meditation (LKM). Following initial training with employees of Microsoft Corporation in the United Kingdom, through a seven week intervention, participants regularly practiced LKM, comparing results with a wait-list control group. The study showed significant increases in psychological resilience in the experimental group, along with reduced depression, anxiety and stress; while the control group changes remained insignificant. Overall, the results and prior literature suggest that LKM practice is an effective strategy for building resilience, improving employee adaptability to stress at work and so increasing employee value.


The Perfect Storm: Strengths are not a smooth ride by Kristen Truempy 

Millions of people have taken strengths assessments yet what exactly do they do with the results? How does this kind of knowledge influence daily life? Spoiler alert: you might not like the answer. Why? Because it’s complicated. Getting people to write down what they do all day helps when trying to find ways to do more of the things that energise us and try to (responsibly) reduce or even eliminate the things that make us want to go to bed for two months. People don’t just go through linear stages of creating awareness, engaging in exercises and then enjoy a happy end. They also don’t take a theory and exercise and faithfully apply it: instead they take what they like, chuck what they don’t, have insights, change behaviours, have more insights and then go right back to old behaviours, only to have a new epiphany. People are non-linear creatures. You can ignore that and wonder all day why your employees behave the way they do. Or you can give them some tools, teach them the techniques and marvel what they come up with to we.


What works to make personal change stick?  By Tom Revington

You go on holiday.   You get a fresh perspective on life, or work, and resolve to change something.  But soon after you are back at work, that resolution starts to fade. A few weeks later, little remains but a lingering sense of not having made a change that, at the time, had felt both compelling and achievable.  People have similar experiences after training programmes, personal retreats and (infamously) after making New Year’s resolutions.  This study took a cohort of individuals (n=67) attending a week-long training programme aimed at launching a transformational personal change.  Participants explored strengths and limiting mind-sets, and learned new skills relevant to the next stage of their professional lives.  Toward the end of the week they set personal change aspirations and were supported in developing a bespoke strategy to help the sustain change. For example, defining rituals and action triggers; mobilising a support network of others who could reinforce their commitment; reviewing progress at defined intervals.  100 days after the close of the programme, level of success with sustaining positive behavioural and attitudinal change was investigated to identify factors that appeared to help or hinder change were evaluated. The results offer insights into how individuals can increase the chances of sustaining a significant personal change by maximising three helpful factors and minimising three hindering factors.  How these empirical findings relate to contemporary theories of behaviour change is discussed.


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