Research into Positive Workplaces

The Positive Psychology researches factors that contribute to "Positive Workplaces". This research shows that the following four factors have a positive influence on creating a Positive Workplace: self efficacy, hope, optimism and resiliency. Self efficacy is the extent to which someone has confidence and feels himself or herself able to successfully perform a certain task. Hope is about the extent to which someone can envision how to perform the tasks. Hope is about the extent to which someone can envision how to perform the tasks. Optimism is about the extent to which people use personal and permanent causes to explain positive events and external, temporary, situation specific causes to explain negative events. Resilience is about the extent to which someone is able to overcome adversity and conflict. 

Self-efficacy, drawing from Bandura (1997), is defined for the workplace domain as“an individual's convictions (or confidence) about his or her abilities to mobilize the motivation, cognitive resources, and courses of action needed to successfully execute a specific task within a given context” (Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998b, p. 66). Self-efficacy has an established foundation in social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986, 1997) and its positive relationship to work performance has extensive research support (Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998a). There are valid and reliable measures for self-efficacy applicable to the workplace (e.g., Maurer & Pierce, 1998; Parker, 1998) and widely recognized approaches for developing it. The sources for developing efficacy include mastery experiences and success, vicarious learning and modeling, social persuasion and positive feedback, and physiological and psychological arousal (Bandura, 1997; chap. 31).

Hope is defined as "a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful (1) agency (goal-directed energy) and (2) pathways (planning to meet goals)” (Snyder, Irving, & Anderson, 1991, p. 287). State hope is measurable (Snyder et al., 1996) and related to performance in various domains, including the workplace (Adams et al., 2002; Luthans, Avolio, Avey, & Norman, 2007; Peterson Luthans, Avolio, Walumbwa, & Li, 2005; Peterson & Byron, 2007; Peterson & Luthans, 2003; Snyder, 1995; Youssef & Luthans, 2007). Recognized approaches for developing hope include setting challenging “stretch” goals, contingency planning, and when warranted, regoaling to avoid false hope (Lopez et al., 2004; Luthans & Jensen, 2002; Luthans & Youssef, 2004; Snyder, 2000).

Optimism according to Seligman (1998) is“an explanatory style that uses personal, permanent, and pervasive causes to explain positive events and external, temporary, and situationspecific attributions for negative events.” Positive Organisational Behavior emphasizes the importance of realistic (Schneider, 2001) and flexible (Peterson, 2000) optimism. Recognized approaches for developing such optimism include leniency for the past, appreciation for the present, and opportunity seeking for the future (Schneider, 2001). Optimism has established measures (Reivich & Gillman, 2003; Scheier & Carver, 1985) and its performance impact in work settings has been demonstrated (Luthans, Avolio et al., 2007; Seligman, 1998; Youssef & Luthans, 2007).

Resiliency is defined as “the developable capacity to rebound or bounce back from adversity, conflict, and failure or even positive events, progress, and increased responsibility” (Luthans, 2002a, p. 702; also see Masten, 2001; Youssef & Luthans, 2005). Resiliency is measurable (e.g., Block & Kremen, 1996; Wagnild & Young, 1993) and related to work performance (Coutu, 2002; Harland, Harrison, Jones, & Reiter-Palmon, 2005; Luthans, Avolio et al., 2007; Luthans et al., 2005). Drawing from the established theory building and empirical findings in clinical and developmental psychology, Masten’s (2001; chap. 12) research supports that resiliency can bedeveloped through asset-, risk-, and process-focused strategies (for specific applications of developing resiliency in the workplace see Luthans, Vogelgeslang, & Lester, 2006; Luthans & Youssef, 2004; Waite & Richardson, 2004). [...] Other positive psychological capacities also have been recently proposed as potentially [being of influence] (see Luthans, Youssef, & Avolio, 2007b). Examples include wisdom, creativity, subjective well-being, flow, humor, gratitude, forgiveness, emotional intelligence, courage, authenticity, and spirituality. [...] [T]heir potential for the future seems especially promising. For example, authentic leaders have been defined as “those individuals who are deeply aware of how they think and behave and are perceived by others as being aware of their own and others’ values/ moral perspectives, knowledge, and strengths; aware of the context in which they operate; and who are confident, hopeful, optimistic, resilient, and high on moral character” (Avolio, Gardner, Walumbwa, Luthans, & May, 2004, pp. 803– 804). Authentic leadership has been proposed as a predictor of positive performance and attitudinal outcomes in followers (Gardner, Avolio, Luthans, May, & Walumbwa, 2005) and recent empirical evidence supports the relationship between the positive psychological capacities of entrepreneurs and their authentic leadership (Jensen & Luthans, 2006).


C. R. Snyder Shane J. Lopez, 2009, The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology (Oxford Library of Psychology) . Oxford University Press.