What’s your greatest virtue?

Blog written for Bloomfield Harris Workplace Wellbeing published 30 January 2019.


Where do you flourish?

In my recent blog I discussed the psychological importance of playing to our strengths. There’s been some movement in leading companies to make appraisals strengths based, rather than weakness based. Hodges and Clifton’s (2004) state what’s the point in having everyone working at an average level when you could have a team all excelling because they’re playing to their unique strengths.

In this blog I’m going to present you with positive psychology’s answer to strengths and virtues.

What is positive psychology?

Much of psychology’s past has focused on the negatives or the problems with humans. After WW2 Maslow (1954) argued that psychology had focused too much on humans negative and dark side, ignoring the positive.

Maslow was a Humanist psychologist famous for his Hierarchy of Needs but is also one of the founding fathers of positive psychology. Alongside him credit is given to Seligman, Peterson and Csikszentmihalyi (this article explains in more detail). Positive psychology is a scientific paradigm which investigates authentic happiness and the positive behaviours humans have.

What are virtues and strengths?

Seligman and Peterson extensively researched human character strengths and virtues (CSV) which resulted in them being included in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published regularly by the American Psychiatric Association, this manual is used across the globe including the UK.) Their aim was to identify CSV that “enable human thriving” (2005, p. 411) they believe that “good character can be developed but we need to know how” (Sutton, 2015).

Seligman and Peterson (2005) identified 6 virtues. If you’d like to have a full CSV assessment follow this link to Seligman’s survey (you’ll need to register and it has 240 questions) otherwise take a look at the slides below and for each strength try rating yourself out of 5. You could ask a friend to do it for you too.

Out of your ratings, which are your top five strengths?

Pick your top five strengths and consider one new and different way you can use it everyday this week (Seligman et al. 2005). Researchers found that this exercise and writing down three things you are grateful for each day improved happiness for 6 months (Seligman et al. 2005).

Using 4/5 of your signature strengths at work leads to higher job satisfaction, engagement and meaning.

Harzer & Ruch, 2012

Hope, Zest and Gratitude are most strongly linked to life satisfaction.

Park et al. 2014

If you’d like to know more about Seligman’s work he has lots of brilliant books.

We don’t need to be good at everything.

Leaders in the top 20th percentile were rated as having just 3 strengths.


If you’d like to develop your top five strengths or your teams’ top strengths please get in touch we’d love to hear from you: jessica@bloomfieldharris.com