Self-affirmation and self-awareness are the keys to productivity — or so Julia Lee, Business postdoctoral fellow, thinks. 

A crowd of about 200 gathered Monday afternoon for a presentation by Lee, who explored the power of self-insight and its ability to help workplaces grow. She highlighted the importance of internalizing other people’s views about one’s personal contributions and strengths — a process called relational self-affirmation — in the fourth Positive Links Speakers event organized by the Center for Positive Organizations this semester.

According to Lee, when an employee is asked to analyze their contributions in the workplace, the results tend to be biased and misleading. She suggested asking others how they perceive these contributions helps increase productivity.

“When it comes to assessing our own weakness and own strengths, unfortunately we are full of blind spots,” Lee said. “Maybe if you ask other people how they see you and what contributions you’re making, maybe your vision of who you are becomes a little bit less blurry.”

Lee compared relational self-affirmation to reading an obituary about oneself or looking into a mirror that other people hold up. It is a narrative-based process that relies less on one’s own evaluation of oneself and more on other people’s perceptions.

One of the event organizers, Katie Trevathan, associate director of communications for the Center of Positive Organizations, explained Lee's self-affirmation research incorporates the Reflected Best Self Exercise, a feedback seeking tool helping people identify their own unique strengths. 

“It’s an opportunity to get a 360 (degree) view of yourself,” Trevathan said. “You get these really cool stories that you might not even remember but somehow it touched your family, your co-worker and you can help build up this portrait of you at your best. Instead of looking at the things you can improve upon, you’re emphasizing the stuff that you already do really well.”

Lee then went on to explain the results of her research as a doctoral candidate at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Her research asked meaningful people in a subject’s life to write stories about them. Lee found subjects felt more powerful after reading these stories about their personal strengths and contributions. She argued people are more likely to problem solve in teamwork settings when they receive these narratives prior to working, compared to those that do not.

Lee is currently the first postdoctoral student with the Center for Positive Organizations. She will be starting as a tenure-track faculty member in the Ross School of Business by summer 2017.

LSA senior Jeewon Oh was inspired by the lecture and hoped to utilize relational self-affirmation in the future, in order to be beneficial to her friends. She also said the lecture prompted her to become a better listener in her social circle.

“I thought about my friends and being a positive impact to them,” Oh said. “All of my friends are kind of going through this senior year life crisis and I think it would be better to go and ask them and see how they’re doing.”

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