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19th December 2016

Psychological Capital: A person’s ‘HERO’ within can enhance wellness in the workplace

The tendency across psychology disciplines has been to focus on the negative aspects of people, such as stress, burnout and work-life conflict. This negative focus has of course broadened the understanding of human behaviour but it has also inhibited the growth of knowledge into psychologically healthy humans, in terms of growth, development and well-being.

A positive psychology movement began with the aim to shift the emphasis away from what is wrong with individuals to what is right with them[i]. Read more about positive psychology here. This movement was introduced to the organisational psychology field and from it emerged the positive psychological construct Psychological Capital (PsyCap)[ii] [iii].

PsyCap refers to positive human strengths and psychological capacities, and is characterised by an individual’s level of hope, efficacy, resilience and optimism (a.k.a. your HERO within). PsyCap is viewed as going beyond what you know (human capital) and who you know (social capital) to who you are now and who you are capable of becoming[iv]. This approach emphasises the need to understand the strengths of individuals and how to develop and enhance wellness in the workplace.

There is growing research into PsyCap showing positive relationships with workplace outcomes. For example, higher levels PsyCap in employees has been linked to higher levels of job satisfaction, psychological wellbeing, performance and also employee creativity[v] [vi]. The benefits of PsyCap are beginning to be recognised worldwide, with organisations incorporating PsyCap to their human resource development and performance management by linking in PsyCap interventions to their consulting and leadership practices.

Tamara Sutton, Assistant Business Psychologist, looked at PsyCap’s relationship with positive workplace outcomes within service industry employees. Specifically, job satisfaction and ‘extra role’ behaviours, such as helping a co-worker with their work or offering ideas to improve the organisations functioning, were measured as the workplace outcomes. Additionally, the role of employees’ positive emotions was investigated, for example the extent to which employees felt enthusiastic, inspired or excited at work.

Tamara created a survey to collect her data and through using rigorous statistical analysis she found that higher levels of PsyCap in employees was significantly related to higher levels of job satisfaction and ‘extra role’ behaviours across a range of service industries. These findings suggest that service industry employees higher in PsyCap have positive expectations about future work outcomes (optimism), a belief in their ability to achieve certain goals (efficacy), have a motivational drive to succeed (hope) and have the ability to recuperate from setbacks at work (resilience). These positive psychological qualities of PsyCap provide individual’s with the resources to enhance their job satisfaction and are associated with ‘extra role’ behaviour.

After further analysis, Tamara also found that service industry employees’ positive emotions played an important role. Tamara found that employees’ who reported higher levels of PsyCap also reported a higher amount of positive emotions that they felt at work, which linked to them reporting higher levels of job satisfaction and performing ‘extra role’ behaviours. These findings indicate that cultivating meaningful positive emotions within the service industry contribute to PsyCap’s relationship with employees being more satisfied in their role and exhibiting higher levels of ‘extra role’ behaviours.

The findings of this study have important practical implications for service industries in terms of influencing the quality of service employees deliver and employees’ overall wellbeing at work. It is beginning to emerge that PsyCap can be developed within employees through training interventions[vii] [viii], therefore PsyCap training interventions may be of practical use for service organisations seeking to increase positive employee outcomes, such as job satisfaction and ‘extra role’ behaviours.

Further implications of Tamara’s findings indicate that helping employees find positive meanings in their daily working lives will allow them to appraise situations in a more positive light, which may help boost levels of PsyCap and ultimately positive workplace outcomes.

PsyCap opens the door to a deeper understanding and realisation of actual human potential in the workplace. The growing movement behind PsyCap positively contributes to organisations by helping them understand the strengths of individuals and enhance wellness in the workplace. Fostering the positive human resources of PsyCap within employees is key. If you would like to find out more how Impact Consulting can help develop these positive resources within your workplace, contact us at [email protected].

[i] Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology. American

Psychologist, 55, 5-14.

[ii] Luthans, F. (2002a). The need for and meaning of positive organisational behaviour.

Journal of Organisational Behaviour. 23 (6), 695-706.

[iii] Luthans, F. (2002b). Positive organizational behavior: developing and managing

psychological strengths. Academy of Management Executive, 16 (1), 57–72.

[iv] Luthans, F., Luthans, K. W., & Luthans, B. C. (2004). Positive psychological capital:

Beyond human and social capital. Business Horizons, 47 (1), 45-50.

[v] Avey, J. B., Reichard, R. J., Luthans, F., & Mhatre, K. H. (2011). Meta-analysis of the

impact of positive psychological capital on employee attitudes, behaviors, and performance, Human Resource Development Quarterly, 22 (2), 127–152.

[vi] Newman, A., Ucbasaran, D., Zhu, F., & Hirst, G. (2014). Psychological capital: A review

and synthesis. Journal of Organisational Behaviour. 35, 120-138.

[vii] Luthans, F., Avey, J. B., & Patera, J. L. (2008). Experimental analysis of a web-based

training intervention to develop positive psychology capital. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 7 (2), 209-221.

[viii] Luthans, F., Avey, J. B., Avolio, B. J., & Peterson, S. (2010). The development and

resulting performance impact of positive psychological capital. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 21 (1), 41-66.