Positive Emotions in the Workplace: The Key to Employee Engagement

Last updated: 2023-09-116 min read time
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Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D. is a leading scholar within social psychology, affective science, and positive psychology and has been studying and advancing the science of positive emotions for more than 20 years. Among her many achievements and honors, Barbara Fredrickson is most recognized for her broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. 

Her research, and the basis of her book, ‘Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life’, explains that in order for us to thrive in life, which Cambridge Dictionary defines as to grow, develop, or be successful, we must have three positive emotional experiences for every one negative emotional experience.

In addition to just “feeling good”, among the many psychological benefits, the experience of positive emotions broadens our mind, increases creativity, and makes us more resourceful and more resilient towards things like stress, which, in turn, positively affects all areas of our life, including our satisfaction at work, our social connections, work productivity and more. Just imagine how positive emotions can contribute to our engagement at work.Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D.

Dr. Fredrickson identified the following as the ten most common positive emotions: Joy, Gratitude, Serenity, Interest, Hope, Pride, Amusement, Inspiration, Awe, Love.

Below, we provide examples of how these positive emotions can be experienced in the workplace and how they can increase workplace wellbeing:


While the feeling of joy is momentary and usually the direct result of an experience, sustained happiness can be increased by cultivating more moments of joy. For example, one way to experience joy in the workplace could be gathering the team to celebrate every time a sale or deal is made. Another example could be recognizing and then publicly acknowledging your employees’ efforts. Alternatively, joy could be experienced through work social opportunities such as sports teams and after-work events.


Gratitude is being thankful for what you have as opposed to focusing on what you don’t have. Gratitude in the workplace might be thanking a colleague when they help you with a task, being thankful that you get to use your skills at work, or just being grateful that you have a job that enables you to live comfortably.


Serenity is perhaps the ultimate state of engagement, where one experiences a sense of flow. Serenity is also a state of peacefulness and being content with what you have. At work, serenity is remaining calm under pressure, and being completely present with the task you're doing instead of thinking of everything else that's on your to-do list.


In our blog How Curiosity Creates Happiness in the Workplace, we explain how curiosity can lead us to discover new skills, new ideas, and new interests, as well as improve our memory and our connection to our colleagues. This could mean being interested and engaged in an idea, a concept, or a project, which then opens us up to new strategies, solutions, and ideas.



Despite setbacks when things don't go as planned, hope is the belief that things will work out for the best and that things will get better. Hope is perhaps the greatest form of optimism – a key characteristic for employee wellbeing. Hope keeps pushes us forward despite setbacks or criticism, we believe that things will improve and that we will be successful in what we set out to achieve.


It’s important to celebrate your accomplishments especially when you succeed in doing something you thought was unattainable or achieve something that took a lot of time and effort to complete.

Pride at work could be recognizing that you led your team well, acknowledging your own worth and contribution, and patting yourself on the back for a job well done.


The advice that you shouldn’t take life too seriously can also be applied to the workplace. When it comes to workplace wellbeing, feeling connected to our colleagues is vital. And what better way than to share a laugh and see the humor in things? It’s equally important that we can also laugh at ourselves including for any mistakes we may have made.


Be it through a powerful speech, art, music, nature, film, or sports, inspiration can be found in anything, anywhere, anytime. Inspiration as a result of witnessing something that sparks your interest, moves you deeply or makes your heart sing, can lead to innovation, increased focus, greater motivation, and even a state of flow.

Among countless benefits, inspiration in the workplace can help build and motivate teams, increase employee engagement, formulate new strategies, or conceptualize new ideas.



While inspiration can motivate one to take action, awe is experiencing the feeling of wonder, marvel, and deep appreciation. At work, awe could, for example, be taking a step back to look at what your team has achieved.

Awe can, in turn, lead to inspiration. For example, being in awe of a colleague’s abilities or characteristics could inspire you to do the same, pushing you beyond what you thought was capable.


When it comes to positive emotions, there are none more powerful than love. When we experience love, we feel connected and elated.

One of our three core values at Benify is Show Love. Let your colleagues know how much you appreciate them. Show respect, show care, show love. Showing love is the best way to build a workplace culture of caring, trust, and unity. Allow yourself to be seen and let others be seen.

Which of these positive emotions have you experienced in the workplace recently?

To learn more about employee engagement, download our free e-book Employee Engagement: Unlocking Your Employees’ Potential