Positive organizational behaviour or POB is defined as ‘the study and application of positively-oriented human resources strengths and psychological capacities that can be measured, developed, and effectively managed for performance improvement in today’s workplace’ (Luthans, 2002b:59). Then, psychological capital or simply PsyCap was introduced to more directly recognise positivity can be developed and invested in for performance impact (Luthans and Youssef, 2004; Luthans et al., 2004, 2007). The comprehensive definition of PsyCap is :
an individual’s positive psychological state of development that is characterized by: (1) having confidence (self-efficacy) to take on and put in the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks; (2) making a positive attribution (optimism) about succeeding now and in the future; (3) preserving toward goals and, when necessary, redirecting paths to goals (hope) in order to succeed; and (4) when beset by problems and adversity, sustaining and bouncing back and even beyond (resiliency) to attain success. (Luthans et al., 2007: 3)
Positive psychological capital or PsyCap had brought a newly emerging perspective and approach to the understanding and management of human resources. Positive psychology had ignited a paradigm shift away from a negative emphasis on pathology. Similarly, PsyCap offers organizational behaviour and human resource management researchers and practitioners a new positive perspective, away from the negative side of focusing on dysfunctional behaviour employees, aggression in the workplace, incompetence leaders, stress and conflict, unethical behaviour, ineffective strategies and counterproductive organisational structures and cultures. In a computer search of contemporary literature in psychology, Luthans (2002b) found approximately 375 000 articles on ‘negatives’ (i.e., mental illness, depression, anxiety, fear and anger), but only about 1000 articles on various positive concepts and capabilities of people. The result has shown that negatives had covered the positives by a ratio of 375 to 1 which demonstrated that there is clearly an overemphasis on the negative aspects of human nature in social science research. When Maslow (1954) first introduced the term ‘positive psychology’ almost 50 years ago, it shows that positive psychology is time to emerge into the field. In his seminal book titled Motivation and Personality, Maslow (1954) actually titled the last chapter ‘Toward a Positive Psychology.’ Besides that, the appendix in the last chapter showed a research agenda proposing investigation of such ‘new’ and ‘central’ psychological concepts as growth, self-sacrifice, love, optimism, spontaneity, courage, acceptance, contentment, humility, kindness, and actualisation of potential (Wright, 2003). His agenda for research was very similar to that more recently presented by Seligman and his colleagues (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000)
By looking again at Positive Psychological Capital, PsyCap is theory and research-based. It is important to promote and actualise PsyCap as a scientific endeavour to distinguish from the management fads that continues to be promoted through the unsubstantiated claims to health, wealth and happiness offered by popular self-help literature and management ‘gurus’. PsyCap is founded on widely recognised theoretical framework such as social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986) and hope theory (Snyder, 2000). It utilises the scientific research methodologies and deductive reasoning to enhance the prediction and casual implications that PsyCap may have on human resource development and performance outcomes in organisations. Each of the constructs comprising overall PsyCap has a history of research to back up its inclusion, but none of them have yet been combined into a higher-order core construct such as PsyCap.
Over the years now, there has been an increasing emphasis in management research and practice on quantifying the return on human resource investments (Kravetz, 2004). On the other hand, there are a lot of the so-called ‘soft’ qualities and untested self-assessments in the market that many popular best-sellers offer to the general public, but these stuff lacks research back-up or meaningful quantitative analysis. In contrast, there is a number of valid and reliable measures that make up PsyCap. e.g. see Lopez and Synder (2003) for a comprehensive review for positive psychological assessments and in particular the Parker (1998) measure of efficacy; the Snyder et al. (1996) state hope scale; the Wagnild and Young (1993) resiliency scale; and the Scheier and Carver (1985) optimism questionnaire). Drawn from these established measures, Luthans et al. (2006b) recently developed and psychometrically supported a PsyCap Questionnaire (PCQ). Thus, they not only have theoretically based constructs comprising PsyCap, they also have the first survey measure to evaluate these positive constructs as overall PsyCap that had established reliability and evidence of construct validity.
There are lot of personality traits which are highly related to performance in the workplace. Some of them are the Big Five personality traits (Barrick and Mount, 1991), self-evaluations (Judge and Bono, 2001), Gallup’s talents and strengths (Buckingham and Clifton, 2001) and cognitive mental abilities (Schmidt and Hunter, 2000). Besides that, Peterson and Seligman (2004) also pointed out many positive traits that are largely dispositional in their positive psychology literature. On the other hand, PsyCap is malleable and therefore always welcome development which has been demonstrated to significantly increase through rather brief (1-3 hour), highly focus micro-interventions (Luthans et al., 2006a). They had proposed to include only those constructs in PsyCap that are state-like in order to take a more positive approach to understanding human potential in the workplace, which is the psychological capital intervention (PCI).
PsyCap has a huge impact on work-related performance. Most research to date supports that PsyCap is extensively related to performance in the workplace, both the individual components (efficacy/confidence, hope, optimism and resiliency) and in combination as overall PsyCap (Luthans et al., 2005, 2006b). Utility analysis had been carried out to show this relationship, hence making a dramatic contribution to the organisation (Luthans et al., 2006a, 2007). Thus, this makes PsyCap a very meaningful and justifiable investment and means toward genuine organisational performance and sustained competitive advantage. The performance impact had separate PsyCap from much other positive psychological aptitude that are often viewed as ends in and of themselves (Peterson and Seligman, 2004).
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