In this blog, I want to dig a little deeper into the notion of positive psychological capital. Higher levels of psychological capital are a good way of keeping burn-out out of the door. While intervening on human factors like leadership and teaching individuals to manage their energy levels – or psychological capital – the context factor should not be forgotten. There is a link between psychological capital, performance, and job design.
The notion of psychological capital is an interesting one. It was introduced by Luthans in 2006. Luthans describes four mental states which determine flow and thus feelings of well-being:
- Self-efficacy: Believing in one’s capability to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations (Bandura)
- Resilience: The ability to withstand pressure and bounce back from disruptions
- Optimism: Expectancy of a positive outcome, attributing success to one-self and failure to contextual factors.
- Hope: Way Power and Willpower i.e. seeing light at the end of the tunnel … and the path towards that light.
A review study conducted in 2014 by Newman et al. insists on leadership as an important antecedent for psychological capital. In other words, authentic and transformational leadership results in high levels of individual psychological capital. The study also reveals that high psychological capital leads to empowerment, which in turn has a positive impact on individual, team and organizational results.
As organizations are always looking to improve performance, it seems logical that they want to set up programs that should lead to higher levels of psychological capital. In my dealings with different organizations, I see two major interventions:
- Investing in programs concerning well-being. These programs rely heavily on the research done in the field of positive psychology by scholars like Bandura, Luthans, and Csikszentmihalyi and aim to help people to get a grip on their mental state.
- Investing in leadership programs offering transformational leadership as an alternative to top-down approaches, allowing colleagues more autonomy and facilitating collaboration.
While both interventions mentioned above certainly have their benefits, I doubt that they lead to success without being backed up by interventions that have an impact on the context in which people work. To make a blunt statement:
“Teaching people to survive in a toxic environment will at best buy you some time”Lesley Vanleke
From the research done by Karasek, we know that active work environments with both high levels of autonomy and demands have a positive impact on
- The degree of transformation leadership managers show,
- Quality of work delivered,
and a negative impact on
- Stress complaints.
Together with de Vliegtuigfabriek, we have conducted an experiment that allowed participants to experience the link between positive psychological capital and the way work is organized. Read this blog for the results.
Contact us if you want more information about our evidence-based tooling for measuring and improving positive psychological capital.
ALEXANDER NEWMAN, DENIZ UCBASARAN, FEI ZHU AND GILES HIRST (2014). Psychological capital: A review and synthesis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 35, 120–138.
Luthans, F. (2006). Psychological capital development: toward a micro‐intervention, Journal of Organizational Behavior.
Karasek Jr, R. A. (1979). Job demands, job decision latitude, and mental strain: Implications for job redesign. Administrative science quarterly, 285-308.