Positive Psychology in the Workplace - Paper Example

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Vanderbilt University
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Positive psychology can be defined as a process of scientifically informed perspectives on issues and matters which make life worth living. Positive psychology emphasizes the aspects of human beings which result in bliss and happiness (Luthans et al. 2008). In addition to that, positive psychology is concerned with elements of life leading to prosperity, contentment, fulfillment, and satisfaction.

The primary objective of positive psychology is to apply scientific methods and techniques to the discovery and promotion of factors which allow people, organizations, companies and different societies to prosper and be successful (Richardson and Guignon, 2008). The main focus of positive psychology is to the optimal and maximum functioning of an individual rather than individual pathological functioning.

Keywords: Positive psychology; Personality; Self-motivation

Historical Perspective of Positive Psychology

Abraham Maslow came up with the term positive psychology in his book Motivation and Personality. The book was written in 1954. However, even though Abraham came up with the term, Seligman is seen as the father of positive psychology. In 1988, Seligman was the head of the American Psychological Association. Throughout his whole tenure, he advocated for positive psychology (Seligman, 2006). In 1999, the first ever positive psychology was held. Three years later, the first-ever global conference on positive psychology was held in the United States. Four years later, in 2006, the first ever Journal of Positive Psychology was published. In 2009, a global congress on positive psychology was held in the United States.

Implementation of a Positive Psychology at the Workplace

Positive psychology is essential to any organization. All companies have to establish an environment where the workers enjoy what they are doing and are productive. It is also essential for organizations to come up with a work schedule which does not result in emotional and physical stress (Woods et al. 2011). The use of positive psychology in an organization is referred to as positive organizational behavior. Luthans came up with the term positive organizational behavior (POB). POB can be defined as the analysis and implementation of positive oriented human resource strengths and psychological capacities which can be evaluated, developed, and efficiently controlled to enhance the performance of employees in the workplace (Youssef and Luthans, 2007). Positive organizational behavior has several concepts, and all the concepts fulfill some operational criteria such as management for performance enhancement, they should be based on theory and research and should have accepted measures.

There are several benefits of positive psychology especially in social relations, therapy, society, the well-being of an individual, societal relations and organizational behavior for employees. Most meta-analysis studies have indicated that there is a significant correlation (almost averaging 0.3) between physical and mental relationships and the performance and engagement levels of employees (Luthans et al. 2007). There is a relationship between health, relationships, and work (H-R-W).

From the H-R-W model shown above, it can be observed that there is a correlation between the health of an individual, his relationship with other people and the society at large and the work the person does.

Riggio and Reichard (2008) argue that several factors influence the happiness of an individual (or the work performance, relationships, and health of a person). Some of these factors which determine positivity levels include:

Genetic and dispositional set points in an individual (these factors contribute to almost half of the level of happiness in an individual)

The circumstances and situations a person is going through. These account for about 10% of the happiness levels of an individual

The third and last factor is intentional activity which determines at least 40% of an individuals happiness

One aspect of positive psychology is psychological capital which can be described as the positive psychological state of a person. There are several characteristics of PsyCap. The first feature is confidence and self-efficacy. Confident people are not afraid of the challenges and difficulties that they meet along the way (Duckworth et al. 2005). Secondly, they are hugely optimistic and rather than see how they will fail; they see how they will succeed in their endeavors. They have a positive outlook on life and want to succeed in everything they do. The third characteristic is perseverance. These individuals persevere in whatever situations and circumstances they are going through. They do everything they can to succeed. Rather than see obstacles, they see opportunities. The fourth characteristic is resiliency. When faced with various challenges and adversities, they remain resilient so that they can still be successful (Wood et al. 2011).

Subjective Well-Being (SWB)

According to Seligman, subjective well-being is a scientific term for happiness. SWB is broader than other positive constructs and entails the whole individuals effective and cognitive analysis of the situations and circumstances in their lives.

Many studies have shown that there is a direct relationship between job satisfaction and subjective well-being. A meta-analysis of thirty-four studies showed that there is mean correlation between job satisfaction and life satisfaction was at 0.44 (Judge and Ilies, 2002). One of the major indicators and predictors of job satisfaction levels is subjective well-being. Employees who are happy and more satisfied with their lives tend to be more productive, more efficient and more effective. Moreover, happy and satisfied workers also earn more income, get better promotions, receive higher work ratings, and are great assets to the company (Judge and Ilies, 2002). There are several companies such as Sprint Nextel and Toyota which have come up with training programs for all their workers. The foundational bases of these training programs are the happiness principles of SWB.

Emotional Intelligence

Salovey defines emotional intelligence as a type of intelligence which helps an individual to monitor their feelings, those of others, to provide a distinction between these emotions and use that knowledge in guiding his way of thinking and his subsequent actions (Mayer et al. 2004). In the workplace, emotional intelligence is needed to drive and enhance leadership performance.

A model of Emotional Intelligence

The original model that Salovey developed describes the main areas of capacities which collectively define all the areas of emotional intelligence. These four branches of emotional intelligence are (Mayer et al. 2004):

Managing emotions: This refers to the ability of an individual to be wholly open to feelings, regulate and adjust them in himself and other people as well to encourage and enhance individual growth and development.

Facilitating though: This is defined as the ability to produce, apply, and feel emotions so that an individual can easily communicate their feelings and use them in mental functions and thought processes.

Understanding Emotions: This is defined as the ability and power to comprehensively understand emotions, the manner through which emotions are conjoined and their transformation in relationship transitions. Through understanding the entire process, an individual will appreciate emotional thought processes.

Perceiving Emotions: This is defined as the ability of an individual to feel and experience emotions and feelings in people, music, art and other forms of stimuli.

Cherniss and Goleman (2000) says that emotional intelligence in an individual can be noted through self-motivation, persistence despite going through hard times, being able to control impulses, having self-control, being stress-free and highly optimistic. Emotional intelligence can, therefore, be described regarding confidence, integrity, optimism influence, self-control, personal awareness, and flexibility. Cherniss and Goleman (2000) conducted a lot of research between 1995 and 1998 and came up with five types of emotional intelligence. Each of the five types has five other sub-divisions. These five are:

Self-awareness: This is to know oneself, to be aware of ones strength and weaknesses.

Self-regulation: This is to have self-control and to know the limits and boundaries that one should not cross.

Self-motivation: This is to have a strong drive and desire to succeed, to be committed and optimistic.

Empathy: This is being able to help others grow and develop, being mindful of others and political awareness

Social skills; This is the ability to communicate properly, influence other people, manage conflicts without chaos, lead others properly, being an instrument of change, enhancing coordination and collaboration and being a team member.

Trait Model of Emotional Intelligence

When emotional and social competencies are joined together, they form emotional-social intelligence. These skills help an individual to know how they can fully express themselves, relate with others, communicate and persevere in our daily chores. There are five key components of emotional and social competencies (Mayer et al. 2004). These include:

The ability to fully express ones emotions and feelings

The ability to know how other people are feeling

The ability to control ones emotions

The ability to adapt to change and come up with solutions to personal challenges

The ability to be optimistic and motivated

Emotional Intelligence and Work Performance

In a study conducted for more than 200 hundred companies, the findings showed that emotional competence contributed to the efficiency of workers by up to 67%. Emotional intelligence was the mark of difference between workers who were highly successful and those who performed averagely. Maddi (2006) findings showed similar results that there was a relationship between the success of an organization and emotional intelligence of employees. Spreitzer (2006) adds that leaders, who have high levels of emotional intelligence can seize opportunities, motivate their employees, create a positive working environment and build workers mentality while building teamwork.

Benefits of Applied Positive Psychology

Some of the benefits of advanced positive psychology over other conventional methods are that it helps in increasing efficiency levels of workers, boost sales, raise revenue levels, enhance employee engagement, increase motivation levels, improve quality of service, boost employee commitment and develop employees better (Taylor, 2001). Moreover, positive psychology also helps in promoting work-life balance.

Work-life balance can be defined as a persons perception that all work related and non-work related activities are prerequisites for the growth and development of a person. A work-life balance provides means and ways through which one an individual can lower stress levels and at the same time be more motivated and productive. Nowadays, the issue of work-life balance has become more prevalent because of some issues (Wood et al. 2011). First, many single parents and women are now employed, some people have two or more jobs, employees are becoming older, technology and innovation have grown consistently over the years and individuals have to deal with time pressure. There are work-life conflicts which people have to deal with.

Application of advanced positive psychology helps in boosting work-life balance. It helps in maximizing labor, increasing productivity, reducing turnover, enhancing teamwork and providing a healthy working environment.

Even though positive psychology has many benefits, it has several shortcomings r...

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