Not Just for Suits: How CPO Transformed Ross from B-School to Heart-felt

September 5, 2013

By: Camille Piner

My deepest interest is in Psychology, yet this seems to conflict with my desire to earn a living. When I learned that a career in Human Resources might make my expensive Michigan education worthwhile, I sought out more information.

My first stop was an investment banking firm’s Human Resources information session at Ross. I was excited to have the opportunity to set foot in Ross, until I saw the other students filing in.

I came wearing jeans and a long-sleeved black shirt. I looked presentable and clean. Everyone else was dressed in formal business attire, many with custom nametags. My wardrobe error set the stage for how I felt throughout the session.

I left feeling discouraged and out of place. I didn’t gain any concrete information from the personal experiences the interns shared. They enjoyed “working with a team to finish a project,” but didn’t have substance to their stories. I didn’t learn what the interns enjoyed about their projects. When fielding a question about accommodating family commitments in the workplace, the recruiter replied that the company “is not the best place to work if one wishes to raise a family.”

My sensitivity, benevolence, and feminism left me wondering why anyone would consider working there. My negative feelings from this experience transferred from that particular company to Human Resources in general and to Ross entirely. When telling my friends about my wardrobe mishap, they mocked me for entering Ross in jeans. This, along with my experience at the session, left me feeling that “B-School people” only care about the name on their degree, the clothes they wear, and their title in the workplace. I became hesitant about anything Ross-related, until I learned of CPO.

This particular Michigan acronym appears to be a very necessary one.

CPO, or the Center for Positive Organizations, connects my knowledge of Positive Psychology with application in the business world. Positive psychology taught me that relationships with other people are fundamentally important, that it is important to share and savor positive events with others, and that it is possible to create happiness by seeking things that excite you.

Although this may not seem business-related, Positive Organizational Scholarship essentially is a practical application of positive psychology in the workplace. It emphasizes what makes people flourish in their work environments, and examines how these successful work environments bring out the best in their employees. It assumes that positive work environments lead to more success, productivity, and functioning among workers and throughout organizations.

To explain this in a way that makes sense to me is that a company will run best when positive, respectful relationships are formed between coworkers while working together. Positive Organizational Scholarship focuses on the “people” aspect of business, and how we can feed off of each other’s positive energy to challenge ourselves to be better.

In my experience, people who are in touch with their emotions and those of others (myself included) typically seek professions such as social work and education and avoid the business world. However, I am pleased to learn that there is a practical business advantage to being sensitive to other people’s attitudes, values, and strengths. Once I accepted my summer fellow position at the Center for Positive Organizations, my very first meeting with Betsy Erwin assured me that Ross does have a heart, and it lies in the CPO.