Advances in Positive Organizational Psychology: Volume 1


Table of contents

(23 chapters)

During the past decade, the winds and raucous waves of positive psychology have altered the landscape and brought new life to the profession and discipline of psychology. Since Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) proffered the positive psychology manifesto at the turn of the century, an amazing plethora of books, articles, research investigations, grants, awards, and applications for improving human welfare and society at large have emerged (see Donaldson, 2011a). Sheldon, Kashdan, and Steger (2011) fully described this impressive groundswell of positive psychology activity in their recent edited volume on Designing positive psychology: Taking stock and moving forward. This rapid growth of scholarly activity has also spawned new professional societies such as the International Association of Positive Psychology (, scholarly journals including the Journal of Positive Psychology ( and Journal of Happiness Studies (, and top tier graduate programs such as the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the MA and PhD programs in Positive Organizational Psychology and Positive Developmental Psychology at Claremont Graduate University. All of these efforts share the desire to better organize and foster the continued growth and impact of positive psychology.

The three concepts that denote the focus of POS were deliberately selected and are important in elucidating the uniqueness of POS as a field of study. The “O” (organizational) and the “S” (scholarship) are relatively noncontroversial concepts. The “P” (positive), however, is more contentious and requires more explanation.

Experimental evidence for aspects of the broaden-and-build theory actually existed prior to the theory’s introduction to the academic world. Generally speaking, laboratory studies showed a causal effect of positive feelings on thought processes. Across a host of studies, Isen and her colleagues demonstrated a wide range of cognitive outcomes resulting from induced positive emotions, including patterns of unusual thought (Isen, Johnson, Mertz, & Robinson, 1985), flexible thinking (Isen & Daubman, 1984), creativity (Isen, Daubman, & Nowicki, 1987), and receptivity to new information (Estrada, Isen, & Young, 1997).

At the core of SDT is the postulation of three basic psychological needs, that is, the needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The satisfaction of these three needs is said to be of utmost importance in its own right as it contributes to people’s functioning. Moreover, need satisfaction forms the basis for the development of more optimal forms of motivation (i.e., intrinsic motivation, internalization) and contributes to individual differences in people’s general motivational orientation, called general causality orientations, and differences in values that also affect how we live and thrive.

Several job characteristics have been suggested to influence workers’ well-being. For example, Herzberg (1968) differentiated job characteristics that offset dissatisfaction such as social relations from job aspects that foster job satisfaction such as opportunities for advancement. While Hackman and Oldham (1976) focused on the motivational potential of job characteristics such as task identity and feedback, Karasek (1979) accentuated time pressure as a pivotal job demand. Together these models point out that various job characteristics may influence workers’ functioning.

In the context of occupational health psychology, personality has usually been depicted from the perspective of single traits, dispositions, or their combinations. However, there is a clear need to better understand personality as a whole. For this reason, an integrative framework of personality is presented in order to give a more comprehensive and cohesive picture of how the different personality constructs relate to each other. In recent years, several holistic models of human personality have been presented. For example, such models have been formulated by Dan McAdams (1995), Brian Little (2007), Robert McCrae and Paul Costa Jr. (1999), and Brent Roberts and Dustin Wood (2006). In this chapter, we briefly introduce one of these models, that is, the three-tiered conceptual framework of personality by McAdams and his colleagues (McAdams, 1995; McAdams & Adler, 2006; McAdams & Olson, 2010; McAdams & Pals, 2006). This comprehensive and multifaceted model conceptualizes human personality via a developing pattern of (1) dispositional traits, (2) characteristic adaptations, and (3) constructive life narratives (see Fig. 1). Each of these three levels possesses its own characteristics for describing and understanding personality.

Positive organizational scholars define positivity as “elevating processes and outcomes” (Cameron & Caza, 2004, p. 731). Thus, a better understanding of positive processes requires the investigation of the explanatory mechanisms that can account for the manifestation of “intentional behaviors that depart from the norm of a reference group in honorable ways” (Spreitzer & Sonenshein, 2003, p. 209). Positivity also focuses on outcomes that “dramatically exceed common or expected performance…spectacular results, surprising outcomes, extraordinary achievements…exceptional performance” (Cameron, 2008, p. 8). This “positive deviance” clearly goes beyond ordinary success or effectiveness.

Researchers have undertaken many approaches to conceptualizing and assessing EI. Some approaches combine self-reported EI with broader personality constructs. Other approaches are based on so-called ability measures of EI, whether as tendencies people can self-report (Tett, Fox, & Wang, 2005) or as assessments developed to measure specific components of EI (e.g., Nowicki & Duke, 1994). We briefly survey the literature to arrive at a working understanding of what EI is currently thought to be (for more extensive reviews, see Mayer, Roberts, & Barsade, 2008; Zeidner, Matthews, Roberts, 2009).

The concepts of “mindfulness” and “transformational learning” arise from several domains (i.e., traditional and positive psychology, organizational and social sciences, human and organizational learning and development) and are researched within numerous contexts. Given the need to be sensitive to the complexities of multiple levels for analyses (Hitt, Beamish, Jackson, & Mathieu, 2007), our discussion of individual mindfulness in organizations is centered on the micro level of analysis. This construct of individual mindfulness differs from two constructs at the macro, or organizational, level of analysis: “collective mindfulness” – the practices and processes high-reliability organizations employ to increase organizational reliability – and “mindful organizing” (Langer, 2000; Weick & Putman, 2006; Weick & Roberts, 1993; Weick & Sutcliffe, 2007; Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2002).

From the start, organizational socialization has been all about learning. In fact, most definitions of organizational socialization are very explicit about this and the general notion that socialization involves learning “the ropes” of a particular organizational role (Fisher, 1986). Socialization has been described as a sense-making and learning process in which newcomers acquire a variety of types of information and knowledge to become effective members of the organization (Klein & Weaver, 2000).

The application of positive psychology to the context of work has attracted enormous interest within both academic and practitioner domains over the past decade (e.g., Keyes & Haidt, 2003; Linley, Harrington, & Garcea, 2010; Luthans, 2002). From a practitioner perspective, there has been a proliferation of organizational development, human resource, talent management, leadership development, team development and coaching programs, initiatives, and interventions that have positive psychological principles at their core. The Gallup organization, for instance, has administered the Clifton Strengths Finder in thousands of organizations across the globe, aiming to help people learn about and build upon their talents and strengths to enhance all facets of their working experience (see Clifton & Harter, 2003).

Scholars have argued that different forms of proactive behaviors (e.g., career initiative, feedback seeking, and taking charge) all involve employees’ self-initiated and future-focused efforts to bring about change in a situation (Parker et al., 2006). There are at least three important elements that define proactivity: future-focus, change-orientation, and self-initiation (Frese & Fay, 2001; Parker et al., 2006). First, proactive behavior is future-focused, which means that this action is targeted at anticipated problems or at opportunities with a long-term focus. Second, proactive behavior is change-oriented, involving not just reacting to a situation but being prepared to change that situation in order to bring about a different future. Third, and underpinning the prior two elements, proactive behavior is self-initiated, which means that employees initiate a proactive goal without being told to, or without requiring explicit instructions from supervisors. Accordingly, proactivity has also been conceived of as a process in which employees generate and implement, under their own direction, a proactive goal to bring about a different future (Bindl, Parker, Totterdell, & Hagger-Johnson, 2012; Frese & Fay, 2001; Grant & Ashford, 2008).

The design of a job is deeply consequential for employees’ psychological experiences at work. Jobs are collections of tasks and relationships that are grouped together and assigned to an individual (Ilgen & Hollenbeck, 1992), and scholars have long been interested in the way these elements come together to constitute the experience of a job (Griffin, 1987; Hackman & Oldham, 1980). Research in this area has traditionally built on a core assumption that managers design jobs in a top-down fashion for employees, which places employees in the relatively passive role of being the recipients of the jobs they hold.

While based on ideas initially introduced in the 1970s (e.g., Sieber, 1974), the concept of work–family enrichment was first proposed by Greenhaus and Powell in 2006. This framework asserts that enrichment is experienced either through an instrumental path or an affective path. Enrichment occurs by means of the instrumental path when individuals have the belief that engagement in one role has directly increased their ability to perform in the other role. According to Greenhaus and Powell (2006), role experiences offer five categories of resources that may be acquired by an individual: skills and perspectives (e.g., interpersonal skills), psychological and physical resources (e.g., self-efficacy), social-capital resources (e.g., networking, information), flexibility (e.g., flexible work arrangements), and material resources (e.g., money). Enrichment occurs by way of the affective pathway when an increase in resources in one role enhances mood, spilling over, and permitting for increased functioning in the other role. In this way, a parent who plays with children before work, developing a good mood, may then bring those emotions into the workplace. This, in turn, may increase their ability to interact positively with coworkers, thus improving performance.

Subjective Well-Being (SWB) refers to how a person evaluates his or her life (Diener, Sandvik, & Pavot, 1991). This appraisal may take the form of cognitions – when a person makes a conscious evaluative judgment about his or her satisfaction with (working) life; or take the form of affect, when people experience negative or positive emotions in response to everyday life. In this chapter, we concentrate on the latter form of SWB – momentary affective experiences (Russell, 1980, 2003) in everyday working life, which we also refer to as momentary SWB.

Simon L. Albrecht is a registered psychologist and has a PhD and a master’s degree in Organizational Psychology. Simon’s PhD focused on identifying the dimensions, antecedents, and consequences of organizational trust. Simon is a Senior Lecturer within the Organizational Psychology program at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. Teaching, research, and practice interests are in the areas of work engagement, organizational development and change, leadership development, culture and climate, and organizational politics. Simon has published in numerous international journals, has numerous book chapters in print, and has presented at international conferences. In addition to his academic and research interests Simon also has considerable consultancy experience. He has previously been a director of a human resource consultancy engaged in delivering a broad range of organizational development activities and programs.

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Advances in Positive Organizational Psychology
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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