James Hewitt
5 minutes

Improve Workplace Wellbeing Through The Optimal Use of Signature Strengths in the Character Strengths Framework

Spend a moment thinking about when you were at your best. Can you identify which of your strengths you were using? In this blog, you can discover the role of signature strengths in workplace wellbeing and performance according to the Character Strengths Framework. Understand the concept of overuse, underuse, and optimal use of these strengths, and explore strategies for effectively managing their expression.

Discovering signature strengths

We each have a group of ‘Signature strengths’, which describe our highest-ranked strengths in the ‘Character Strengths’ framework. The framework is a theory-driven model focusing on individual character strengths based on the Values in Action (VIA) classification developed by Peterson and Seligman (2004).

The classification identifies 24-character strengths, organised within six ‘virtues’:

  1. Wisdom
  2. Courage
  3. Humanity
  4. Justice
  5. Temperance
  6. Transcendence [1] [2].

One of the reasons I’m a fan of the framework is that these virtues seem to transcend culture, making them applicable to the broadest range of people, and the evidence suggests that they contribute to a satisfied, fulfilling, and successful life [3].

Our signature strengths are considered particularly relevant to our identity and contribute to wellbeing and happiness [4]. Research has also shown that using signature strengths at work can support wellbeing and performance [5] [6]. For example, interventions focused on using signature strengths have been found to be effective in increasing wellbeing and ameliorating depression [7].

We can over and underuse character strengths

However, we can overuse or underuse our strengths. I’ve found that this feature of the framework can be particularly helpful in the context of performance. Aspects of our behaviour that we may have previously framed as weaknesses may be an overuse or underuse of our signature strengths. Overuse refers to the excessive expression of a strength, while underuse refers to the insufficient expression of a strength [8]. Optimal use, also known as the “golden mean,” refers to the expression of the right combination of strengths to the right degree and in the right situation [8]. For example, my top signature strength is curiosity.

  • Overuse of this strength could lead me to be constantly diverted. Excessive curiosity can make it challenging to stick to a task or project because I am constantly intrigued by new ideas or areas of interest. I may begin researching a topic for a presentation, only to go down a rabbit hole of related subjects, losing focus on the task at hand.
  • Underuse could lead me to lack innovation. For example, suppose I don’t use my curiosity enough. In that case, I might stick to my comfort zone and refrain from exploring new ideas, tools, or approaches, liming personal growth and the potential for innovation within a team or organisation.
  • In contrast, optimal use encourages me to pursue relevant, timely knowledge, promote innovation and foster curiosity in others.

How can we find the ‘golden mean’ for our character strengths?

There are several strategies to help individuals manage the overuse and underuse of character strengths and pursue optimal strengths use [8]. These include ‘wise interventions’. For example:

  • Reframing Situations: This intervention encourages individuals to reframe challenging situations regarding their character strengths. For instance, a person who feels overwhelmed by a big project could be guided to leverage their strength of perseverance or strategic thinking.
  • Strengths-Spotting: This involves helping individuals identify and appreciate their strengths and those of others. By recognising these strengths, individuals can apply them more effectively in their daily lives, including the workplace.
  • Mindfulness of Strengths: This involves promoting mindfulness of our strengths, which can help us recognise when and how we use our strengths and identify opportunities for more optimal use.
  • Strengths Journaling: Writing about our experiences using strengths can help us reflect on how to apply them and explore new ways to utilise them.
  • Feedback on Strengths Use: Constructive feedback from others can be an effective way to help us understand if we are overusing, underusing, or optimally using our strengths.

These techniques may also be able to help us to stay on the ‘healthy side’ of passion. You can read more about this concept here.

You can find your character strengths using the free survey from the VIA Institute on character.

In summary, the Character Strengths Framework provides a comprehensive understanding of individual character strengths and their optimal use. It highlights the importance of balancing the expression of strengths to promote wellbeing and avoid adverse outcomes associated with overuse and underuse. It may also be a useful tool to promote wellbeing and performance, personally and professionally.

Can you find some ways to identify and develop signature strengths for yourself and your team?


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9755794/

[2] https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/9bc7522b141c54abcbe36888b9f8a4e85fa583ed

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9606338/

[4] https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/64251ae99b2583ae550de05e1c7ea493730a1b5d

[5] https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/ec3009a0ae50cb9b9ab68955f319a85aed0cd1bf

[6] https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/48294bd6e342627c6dae3a6295bde509017db883

[7] https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/18069017fbd3158921e153cbe4e97296648e6aba


[8] https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/a3e10ee5066ae27b5cef7473227c632f97b584cf

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