Positive Organizational Behavior and Psychological Capital

By Luthans, F.

Edited by Paul Ducham

THE THEORETICAL BACKGROUND AND MEANING OF EFfiCACY

SCT incorporates both social/environmental and cognitive elements and the behaviors themselves. SCT explains psychological functioning in terms of environmental events; internal personal factors in the form of cognitive, affective, and biological variables; and behavioral patterns. These three (environment, personal cognitions, and behavior) operate as interacting determinants that influence one another bidirectionally. Embedded within SCT, along with the human’s capabilities of symbolizing, forethought, and observational learning, is a self-theory including both self-regulation and self-reflection. It is the capability for self-reflection—people reflect back on their actions/experience with a specific event/task to then cognitively process how strongly they believe they can successfully accomplish this event/task in the future—that serves as the theoretical basis for self-efficacy.
     Bandura strongly emphasizes that this self-efficacy is the most pervading and important of the psychological mechanisms of self-influence. He declares, “Unless people believe that they can produce desired effects and forestall undesired ones by their actions, they have little incentive to act. Whatever other factors may operate as motivators, they are rooted in the core belief that one has the power to produce desired results.”
    The formal definition of self-efficacy that is usually used is Bandura’s early statement of personal judgment or belief of “how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations.” A somewhat broader, more workable definition for positive organizational behavior is provided by Stajkovic and Luthans: “Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s conviction (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.” Notice that this definition deals with efficacy on a specific task and context. To further clarify the exact meaning of self-efficacy as it is used here in meeting the criteria of positive organizational behavior, specific versus general efficacy needs to be clarified. Earlier the differentiation between the various POB constructs was briefly discussed, but the difference between self-efficacy and closely related established organizational behavior constructs such as self-esteem, expectancy motivation, and attribution/ locus of control also needs to be addressed.

Specific versus General Self-Efficacy
Specific self-efficacy follows Bandura’s conceptualization and is widely recognized by almost all efficacy scholars and the psychology field as a whole. In recent years, however, general self-efficacy has been used as another dimension of self-efficacy by a few efficacy researchers. They suggest that in addition to specific self-efficacy, there is a generalized efficacy that reflects people’s belief in successfully accomplishing tasks across a wide variety of achievement situations. It should be recognized that this generalized efficacy is quite different from Bandura’s portrayal of self-efficacy. In particular, the accepted task-specific version of self-efficacy is statelike, and thus meets this important criterion for POB. Specific self-efficacy is highly variable depending on the specific task and is cognitively processed by the individual before any effort is expended.
     Bandura argues that self-efficacy represents a task-and situation-specific cognition. On the other hand, general efficacy is conceptually the opposite; it is traitlike. That is, general efficacy is relatively stable over time and across situations; in this regard it is like a personality trait. Bandura contends with his years of theory building and basic research that “an efficacy belief is not a decontextualized trait.” However, Bandura and others point out that even though self-efficacy is not traitlike, this does not mean that specific self-efficacy evaluations never generalize. Instead, although not necessarily stable across situations, efficacy judgments on one task may generalize to others depending on the situation, the task, and the person.
     In summary, as presented here as a POB construct, self-efficacy is statelike and therefore is aimed at specific tasks and open to training and development. For example, a systems analyst may have high self-efficacy on solving a particular programming problem, but low self-efficacy on writing up a report for the CIO (chief information officer) on how the problem was solved. Importantly for POB, this low efficacy can be raised through training and development, and the enhanced efficacy will result in improved performance.

How Self-Efficacy Differs from Established Organizational Behavior Concepts
At first glance self-efficacy appears very similar and is often confused with widely recognized organizational behavior concepts, in particular, self-esteem and expectancy motivation. The same confusion also often surfaces with the well-known construct of attribution/locus of control. A brief summary of the major differences will help clarify the exact meaning of self-efficacy.

1. Self-efficacy vs. self-esteem. Following from the preceding discussion of specific versus general self-efficacy, there is no question that general self-efficacy is very similar to self-esteem, but the widely accepted specific self-efficacy as used here is quite different. The first difference is that self-esteem is a global construct of one’s evaluation and belief of overall worthiness, whereas self-efficacy is one’s belief about a task-and contextspecific capability. Second, self-esteem is stable and traitlike, whereas self-efficacy is changing over time as new information and task experiences are gained and developed and is statelike. Finally, self-esteem is aimed at any aspect of one’s current self, whereas self-efficacy is a current assessment of one’s future success at a task. An example of the differences would be the salesperson who has high self-efficacy of selling a luxury item to low-income customers, but low self-esteem because he knows his career has been based on selling unneeded items to his customers and this takes away from their ability to buy some of the basic necessities for their families.

2. Self-efficacy vs. expectancy concepts. Although E1 and self-efficacy would both say that effort leads to performance, self-efficacy involves much more. Self-efficacy beliefs also involve perceptions of ability, skill, knowledge, experience with the specific task, complexity of the task, and more. In addition, self-efficacy has psychomotor reactions such as emotions, stress, and physical fatigue. With the E2 (behavior-outcome expectancy) there are even more pronounced differences. The process is different—efficacy is a judgment of one’s ability to successfully execute a certain behavior pattern (i.e., “I believe I can successfully execute this task”), whereas the outcome expectancy is a judgment of the probable consequence such behavior will produce (i.e., “I believe that what I do will (or will not) lead to desired outcomes”). In other words, the individual’s self-efficacy evaluation will usually come before any behavior outcome expectancies are even considered.

3. Self-efficacy vs. attribution/locus of control. The third close, but different, construct that is often confused with self-efficacy comes from Attribution Theory, specifically locus of control. Those who make internal attributions about their behavior and its consequences (success or failure) believe they are in control of their own fate (e.g., “It is my effort or ability that makes the difference”) and assume personal responsibility for the consequences of their behavior. Externals, on the other hand, make attributions to the circumstances (“The task was too hard”) or to luck and do not take personal responsibility for the consequences of their behavior. Bandura has argued that locus of control attributions are causal beliefs about action-outcome contingencies, whereas self-efficacy is an individual’s belief about his or her abilities and cognitive resources that can be marshaled together to successfully execute a specific task.

Although the differences outlined above may seem quite technical, they must be pointed out to make sure that self-efficacy is indeed a valid, independent construct and help clarify its exact meaning.

SELF-EFFICACY

The self-efficacy process affects human functioning not only directly, but has an indirect impact on other determinants as well. Directly, the self-efficacy process starts before individuals select their choices and initiate their effort. First, people tend to weigh, evaluate, and integrate information about their perceived capabilities. Importantly, this initial stage of the process has little to do with individuals’ abilities or resources per se, but rather how they perceive or believe they can use these abilities and resources to accomplish the given task in this context. This evaluation/perception then leads to the expectations of personal efficacy which, in turn, determines:

1. The decision to perform the specific task in this context
2. The amount of effort that will be expended to accomplish the task
3. The level of persistence that will be forthcoming despite problems, disconfirming evidence, and adversity

In other words, from the preceding it can be seen that self-efficacy can directly affect:

1. Choice Behavior (e.g., decisions will be made based on how efficacious the person feels toward the options in, say, work assignments or even a career field)
2. Motivational effort (e.g., people will try harder and give more effort on tasks where they have high self-efficacy than those where the efficacy judgment is low)
3. Perseverance (e.g., those with high self-efficacy will bounce back, be resilient when meeting problems or even failure, whereas those with low self-efficacy tend to give up when obstacles appear)

In addition, there is research evidence that self-efficacy can also directly affect:

4. Facilitative thought patterns (e.g., efficacy judgments influence self-talks such as those with high self-efficacy might say to themselves, “I know I can figure out how to solve this problem,” whereas those with low self-efficacy might say to themselves, “I knew I couldn’t do this, I don’t have this kind of ability”)
5. Vulnerability to stress (e.g., those with low self-efficacy tend to experience stress and burnout because they expect failure, whereas those with high self-efficacy enter into potential stressful situations with confidence and assurance and thus are able to resist stressful reactions)

     These examples of the direct impact of efficacy on human functioning are right in line with high-performing individuals. Perhaps the best profile of a high performer on a given task would be the highly efficacious individual who really gets into the task (welcomes it and looks at it as a challenge); gives whatever effort it takes to successfully accomplish the task; perseveres when meeting obstacles, frustrations, or setbacks; has positive selfthoughts and talks; and is resistant to stress and burnout.
      As if this high-performance profile is not enough, Bandura emphasizes that efficacy also plays a vital role in other important human performance determinants such as goal aspirations, the incentives in outcome expectations, and the perceived opportunities of a given project. What level of goal is selected, how much effort is expended to reach the selected goal, and how one reacts/perseveres when problems are encountered in progressing toward the goal all seem to be greatly affected by self-efficacy. So do the outcome incentives people anticipate. Those with high self-efficacy expect to succeed and gain favorable, positive outcome incentives, whereas those with low self-efficacy expect to fail and conjure up negative outcome disincentives (i.e., “I won’t get anything out of this anyway”). Especially relevant to strategy formulation, entrepreneurial start-ups, and struggling transitionary economies in developing countries, Bandura comments on the perceptions of opportunities as follows:

People of high efficacy focus on the opportunities worth pursuing, and view obstacles as surmountable. Through ingenuity and perseverance they figure out ways of exercising some control even in environments of limited opportunities and many constraints. Those beset with self-doubts dwell on impediments which they view as obstacles over which they can exert little control, and easily convince themselves of the futility of effort. They achieve limited success even in environments that provide many opportunities.

      Whether direct or indirect through other processes, high efficacy is strongly related and very predictive of high performance. The extensive research solidly supports this conclusion. Not only does Bandura’s seminal book on self-efficacy cite hundreds and hundreds of studies, but, as the introductory comments indicated, there are no less than nine metaanalyses that consistently find a positive relationship between self-efficacy and performance in different spheres of functioning under laboratory and naturalistic conditions.

SOURCES OF EFFICACY

Because Bandura has provided such a comprehensive, rich theoretical understanding, backed by years of research, there is common agreement on the principal sources of selfefficacy. Shown in Figure 7.2, it must be remembered from social cognitive theory that these four sources of efficacy only provide the raw data. The individual must select out, cognitively process, and self-reflect in order to integrate and use this information to make self-efficacy perceptual judgments and form beliefs. For example, the major input into selfefficacy of performance attainments, Bandura notes, “may vary depending on their interpretive biases, the difficulty of the task, how hard they worked at it, how much help they received, the conditions under which they performed, their emotional and physical state at the time, their rate of improvement over time, and selective biases in how they monitor and recall their attainments.”In other words, successful performance does not automatically raise the level of efficacy. Rather, the efficacy depends on how the individual interprets and cognitively processes the success.

        In order of importance, the following briefly summarizes the major sources of information for self-efficacy:

1. Mastery experiences or performance attainments. This is potentially the most powerful for forming efficacy beliefs because it is direct information about success. However, once again, it should be emphasized that performance accomplishments do not directly equate with self-efficacy. Both situational (e.g., the complexity of the task) and cognitive processing (e.g., the perception of one’s ability) concerning the performance will affect the efficacy judgment and belief. Bandura also points out that mastery experiences gained through perseverant effort and ability to learn form a strong and resilient sense of efficacy, but efficacy built from successes that came easily will not be characterized by much perseverance when difficulties arise and will change more quickly.

2. Vicarious experiences or modeling. Just as individuals do not need to directly experience reinforced personal behaviors in order to learn (they can vicariously learn by observing and modeling relevant others who are reinforced), the same is true of acquiring efficacy. As stated by Bandura, “If people see others like themselves succeed by sustained effort, they come to believe that they, too, have the capacity to succeed. Conversely, observing the failure of others instills doubts about one’s own ability to master similar activities.” It is important to emphasize that the more similar the model (e.g., demographics such as age, sex, physical characteristics, and education, as well as status and experience) and the more relevant the task being performed, the more effect there will be on the observer’s efficacy processing. This vicarious source of information is particularly important for those with little direct experience (e.g., a new assignment) and as a practical strategy to enhance people’s efficacy through training and development.

3. Social persuasion. Not as powerful a source of information as the previous two, and sometimes oversimplified as a “can-do” approach, people’s belief in their efficacy can be strengthened by respected, competent others persuading them that they “have what it takes” and providing positive feedback on progress being made on this particular task. On the other side of the coin, there is no question of the powerful impact that unkind words and negative feedback (e.g., “you can’t do that”) have in disabling and deflating one’s confidence. Too often, a small negative comment or even nonverbal gesture can have a big impact on one’s emotions and efficacy. Unfortunately, giving people positive feedback and pointing out their strengths for successfully accomplishing a task does not seem to be processed by most people with as much impact as the negative. However, by being genuine, providing objective information, and then taking follow-up actions to actually set up the individual for success and not failure, social persuasion can be selected and processed for building efficacy. Such social persuasion becomes more useful to fill in gaps when people begin to struggle or doubt themselves while pursuing a task than it is in trying to build one’s efficacy for a new task.

4. Physiological and psychological arousal. People often rely on how they feel, physically and emotionally, in order to assess their capabilities. More than the other sources of information, if these are negative (e.g., the person is very tired and/or not physically well or is particularly anxious/depressed and/or feels under a lot of pressure) this will generally greatly detract from efficacy. On the other hand, if these physical and mental states are well off, they don’t necessarily process as contributing much to the individual’s efficacy. On balance, however, if the individual is in excellent physical and mental condition, this can serve as a good point of departure to build efficacy in other ways and may even in and of itself arouse a person’s efficacy on a physically and/or psychologically demanding task.

      Importantly for organizational behavior and human resource management, each of these sources of efficacy are highly malleable and changeable. As discussed earlier, specific selfefficacy is a state, not a trait. In other words, self-efficacy can definitely be enhanced through Training and Development targeted at these four sources. For example, as shown in Table 7.1, training expert Robert Mager has pinpointed specific training implications for each of the sources of self-efficacy. In fact, developing self-efficacy in trainees may be a solution to the long-standing problem of transferring training to the job. As Mager notes,

People need a strong sense of efficacy before they will try to apply what they have learned and before they will try to learn new things. Belief in their ability to perform makes them less vulnerable to on-the-job conditions that aren’t always supportive. It helps them to survive rejection. It helps them to persevere in the face of obstacles and setbacks. Self-efficacy not only has these important implications for training, but also for many other areas of today’s workplace as well.

Figure 7.2

Table 7.1

 

EFFECTIVENESS IN THE WORKPLACE

Self-efficacy theory was first used over 30 years ago as a clinical framework “for analyzing changes achieved in fearful and avoidant behavior.” Psychotherapeutic treatments such as desensitization, symbolic modeling, and firsthand mastery experiences were clearly found to change behavior of clients through the common pathway of perceived self-efficacy. However, the scope of efficacy quickly broadened beyond this domain of clinical behavior change to be successfully applied in areas such as: (1) the promotion of health and recovery from physical setbacks, (2) the control of eating, (3) resistance to addictive substances, (4) educational achievement, (5) athletic performance, and, importantly, (6) for the study and application of organizational behavior and performance in work settings.

      Whereas the POB constructs discussed next have to date relatively few research studies in the workplace, efficacy has a very well-established body of knowledge as to its applicability and positive impact on work-related performance. Specifically, our (Stajkovic and Luthans) meta-analysis included 114 studies and 21,616 subjects. The results indicated a highly significant, .38 weighted average correlation between self-efficacy and work-related performance. When converted to the effect size estimate commonly used in meta-analysis, the transformed value represents a 28 percent increase in performance due to self-efficacy. By comparison, these results for self-efficacy in the workplace represent a greater average gain in performance than the results from the meta-analyses of other popular organizational behavior interventions such as Goal Setting (10.39%), feedback (13.6%), or organizational behavior modification (17%), and also seems to be a better predictor of workrelated performance than the personality traits (e.g., the “Big Five”) or relevant attitudes (e.g., job satisfaction or organizational commitment) commonly used in organizational behavior research. Also, a subanalysis of recent research on PsyCap indicated that the efficacy component by itself was significantly related to work performance and job satisfaction across different samples.
        Although the workplace is given considerable attention in Bandura’s widely recognized book, Self-Efficacy, more recently he provided a focused review of the growing research literature of the direct and indirect impact that self-efficacy has on work-related personal and organizational effectiveness. This research review of the impact of self-efficacy includes a wide range of organizational behavior topics such as career choice and development, new employee training, work design Job Enrichment, supportive communication, teams (i.e., collective efficacy), innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership, and stress. He then devotes considerable attention to the strategies and principles for developing and strengthening beliefs of personal efficacy in the workplace.
            From this considerable body of theory and research on self-efficacy, the following sections offer some practical implications and specific guidelines for the more effective practice of managing human performance in today’s and future organizations.

Selection of Human Resources

In hiring for a particular job, making an assignment to a specific project, or promoting someone into an identifiable area of responsibility, assessing the person’s present magnitude and strength of self-efficacy could be valuable input into the selection decision. Magnitude measures the level of task difficulty that a person believes he or she is capable of executing, and strength indicates whether the magnitude is strong and likely to produce perseverance when difficulties are encountered.

     Although most applicable to specific tasks within a job assignment or promotion, selfefficacy scales could be set up for each of the major tasks or for the overall domain of a given job. This scale would include, in ascending order, items that represent the increasing levels of difficulty. The respondent would check for each item yes or no (magnitude) and then next to it 0–100 percent probability of attainment (i.e., strength). Figure 7.3 shows such a scale. The efficacy scores are derived by getting a total of the probability strengths for each item with a yes. This so-called Composite I method of scoring has been shown to be a valid measure of self-efficacy and more reliable than other measures.
            If regular questionnaire item scales are developed, they should be tailor-made for each specific selection purpose. Bandura advises that the content of such scales “must represent beliefs about personal abilities to produce specified levels of performance, and must not include other characteristics.” Of course, people should not be selected only on the basis of their present self-efficacy assessment, but because it has been found to be such a good predictor of performance, self-efficacy could make a significant contribution to the selection process. This assessment could also be used as a training and development needs analysis.

Training and Development

As discussed previously (see Table 7.1), because self-efficacy is a state (rather than a stable trait) and the sources have been identified (see Figure 7.2 and accompanying discussion), efficacy training and development can have considerable impact for employee performance management. Training can be set up around each (and in combination) of the sources of efficacy listed in Table 7.1.
    Bandura recently categorized his approach to training and development into three areas. First is what he calls guided mastery, which includes instructive modeling to acquire a skill or competency, guided skill perfection, and then transferring the training back to the job to ensure self-directed success. Second is for the more complex—but increasingly common for all levels in the modern workplace—ways to enhance efficacy for decision making and problem solving. He calls this cognitive mastery modeling to learn thinking skills and how to apply them by observing the decision rules and reasoning strategies successful models use as they arrive at solutions to problems and make effective decisions. For example, one study taught managers how to generate ideas to improve the quality of organizational functioning and customer service by providing them guidelines and practice in innovative problem solving. Finally, he suggests the development of self-regulatory competencies (i.e., self-motivation or self-management).

      The development of this increasingly important self-management involves a variety of interlinked self-referent processes such as self-monitoring, self-efficacy appraisal, personal goal setting, and use of self-motivating incentives. A meta-analysis (117 studies) evaluating the effects of behavioral modeling training (BMT) found:

1. The largest effects of BMT were on Learning outcomes, but BMT also had an impact on job behavior and results outcomes.
2. Although the BMT effects on knowledge decayed over time, the effects on skills and job behavior remained stable or even increased.
3. The greatest impact of BMT was when:

a. both negative and positive models were presented;
b. practice included trainee-generated scenarios;
c. Trainers were instructed to set goals;
d. trainees’ supervisors were also trained; and
e. rewards and sanctions were instituted in the trainees’work environment.

     Whether using the more pragmatic training aimed at enhancing the four sources discussed earlier (Table 7.1 summarizes) or these more sophisticated approaches suggested by Bandura and others, there is proven effectiveness of this training and development of self-efficacy, and the potential for the future seems unlimited. For example, our research has found that training managers and employees in manufacturing, insurance, and the public sector using Bandura’s sources was able to significantly increase their efficacy beliefs of successfully coping with diversity initiatives. As part of a larger PsyCap study including efficacy (and the other positive capacities covered next), we were able to raise the level of efficacy as part of PsyCap in an experimental, control group study design, and also we have demonstrated the dollar utility impact on participants’ Performance Improvement.

Other Applications
Besides selection and training/development, self-efficacy also has implications for stress management, Self-Managed Teams, job design and goal setting, and leadership. One applications approach backed by research has been to enhance self-efficacy to better cope with stress and facilitate productive teamwork and collective efficacy of self-managed teams. Another approach would be to use job designs that provide more responsibility, challenge, and empowered personal control over the work to enhance the jobholder’s perception of self-efficacy. In setting goals, goal difficulty and commitment will be affected by self-efficacy. By the same token, goal progress and attainment will in turn affect self-efficacy. In addition to these more established applications, a more recent study has shown that efficacy can be applied to the creative process in organizations. It was found that creative self-efficacy (employees’ beliefs that they can be creative in their work roles) predicted creative performance beyond the predictive effects of job self-efficacy.
        Perhaps at least potentially the most significant but still largely overlooked implication for application lies in leadership efficacy. Although the importance of a leader’s confidence has been recognized in the leadership literature over the years, to date there have been very few attempts to measure and research the proposition drawn from self-efficacy theory and research presented here, that leadership efficacy will have a strong positive impact on followers (e.g., the leader can serve as a model to enhance followers’ self-efficacy) and performance outcomes. As part of the POB theoretical foundation and the positive, authentic, approach to leadership, we do include confidence/efficacy. In addition, self-efficacy has implications for most of the remaining chapters in both Part Three, Dynamics of Organizational Behavior, and Part Four, Managing and Leading for High Performance.

fIGURE 7.3

 

OPTIMISM VS. PESSIMISM

Most psychologists treat optimism as human nature and/or an individual difference. Unfortunately, like other psychological and organizational behavior concepts, there are still many unresolved issues surrounding optimism.

Optimism as Human Nature
Both the early philosophers (Sophocles, Nietzsche) and psychologists/psychiatrists (Freud, Allport, Erikson, Menninger) were generally negative about optimism. They felt that optimism was largely an illusion and that a more accurate perception of the hard facts of reality was more conducive to healthy psychological functioning. However, starting in the 1960s and 1970s, cognitive psychologists began to demonstrate that many people tend to have a more positive bias of themselves than cold reality, and that psychologically healthy people in particular have this positive bias. This positivity has gone all the way to being portrayed by some anthropologists, evolutionary psychologists, and neuropsychologists as inherent in the makeup of people—part of their basic human nature.

Optimism as an Individual Difference
More in tune with mainstream modern psychology is to treat optimism (as with other psychological constructs) as an individual difference; people have varying degrees of optimism. Treating optimism as an individual difference focuses on cognitively determined expectations and causal attributions. Most closely associated with the expectancy theoretical perspective are Carver and Scheier who simply state, “optimists are people who expect good things to happen to them; pessimists are people who expect bad things to happen to them.” Seligman, on the other hand, is associated with the attributional approach. He uses the term explanatory style to depict how an individual habitually attributes the causes of failure, misfortune, or bad events. This explanatory style is an outgrowth of Seligman’s earlier work on learned helplessness. He had found that dogs and then humans, when continually experiencing uncontrollable, punishing, aversive events, eventually learn to be helpless. This helplessness generalized to the point that even when the animals or humans could subsequently control and escape the aversive conditions, they still acted in a helpless manner. Importantly, however, not all the subjects learned to be helpless. About a third resisted; they persevered and refused to give in and be helpless. Seligman extended this work on learned helplessness into generalized causal attributions or explanatory styles of optimism and pessimism.
    Here are the causal attributions or explanatory style pessimists and optimists tend to habitually use in interpreting personal bad events:

1. Pessimists make internal (their own fault), stable (will last a long time), and global (will undermine everything they do) attributions.

2. Optimists make external (not their fault), unstable (temporary setback), and specific (problem only in this situation) attributions.

Research continues on explanatory style, and it has been found that the internality attribution does not hold up as well as the stability or globality. Overall, however, no matter how optimism is measured, it has been shown to be significantly linked with desirable characteristics such as happiness, perseverance, achievement, and health. Again, under positive psychology, the emphasis shifted in both theory building and research from what can go wrong with people (e.g., learned helplessness, pessimism, and depression) to what can go right for people (e.g., optimism, health, and success).

Some Unresolved Optimism Issues
Even though there is considerably more research and definitive conclusions on optimism than, say, emotional intelligence, there is still much room for conceptual refinement and further research. Peterson identifies and summarizes three of the more important optimism issues as follows:

1. Little vs. big optimism. The magnitude and level of optimism may function quite differently. Little optimism involves specific expectations about positive outcomes (e.g., I will finish my assignment by 5 o’clock so I can watch the ball game tonight), whereas big optimism refers to more generic, larger expectations of positive outcomes (e.g., our firm can become the leader in the industry). Although there may be some relationship between little and big, there is also the distinct possibility of someone being a little optimist, but a big pessimist, or vice versa. There seems little question that the strategies, mechanisms, and pathways linking optimism to outcomes may differ (e.g., time management versus visionary leadership).

2. Optimism vs. pessimism. Although the assumption is often made that optimism and pessimism are mutually exclusive, they may not be. Some people expect both good outcomes (optimism) and bad outcomes (pessimism) to be plentiful. Interestingly, explanatory style derived from attributions about bad events are usually independent of explanatory style based on attributions about good events. In other words, attributions about bad events are identified as optimistic or pessimistic, but attributions about good events are not. It would seem that attributions about good events would be as, if not more, important to understanding optimism.

3. Learning and sustaining optimism. Although optimism is sometimes portrayed as a stable personality trait (e.g., Scheier and Carver’s dispositional optimism), Seligman has led the way in popularizing learned optimism. This says that anyone, including pessimists, can learn the skills to be an optimist.Of course, it is critical that this developable, statelike nature of optimism be included in POB. The social Learning Process of modeling (i.e., observing positive events and outcomes in one’s relevant, valued environment) can contribute to the learning of optimism. By the same token, reducing and coping with bad events and stress can also help sustain optimism.

Overall, the past, present, and future of optimism as an exciting psychological construct for the better understanding and application of human functioning in general and for organizational behavior in particular seems very “optimistic.”

OPTIMISM IN THE WORKPLACE

As discussed, there is no question that optimism is both motivated and motivating; has the desirable characteristics of perseverance, achievement, and health; makes external, unstable, and specific attributions of personal bad events; and is linked with positive outcomes such as occupational success. Obviously by extrapolating this profile, optimism could be a very positive force in the workplace. For example, optimists may be motivated to work harder; be more satisfied and have high morale; have high levels of aspiration and set stretch goals; persevere in the face of obstacles and difficulties; make attributions of personal failures and setbacks as temporary, not as personal inadequacy, and view them as a one-time unique circumstance; and tend to feel good and invigorated both physically and mentally. The accompanying OB in Action: “Half-Empty” or “Half-Full” gives some realworld scenarios of such optimistic people in the workplace. There are some jobs and career fields where optimism would be especially valuable (e.g., sales, advertising, public relations, product design, customer service, and in the health and social services fields).

The Downside of Optimism
Despite the overwhelming anecdotal evidence of the positive power of optimism in the workplace, it must be remembered that the academic literature does warn that in certain cases optimism can lead to meaningless or dysfunctional outcomes. For example, Peterson notes that optimistically driven behavior may be aimed at pointless pursuits (e.g., finish in the top five of the company golf league) or unrealistic goals (e.g., striving to attain an unattainable sales goal that results in stress, exhaustion, and high blood pressure). Moreover, “realistic optimism” would result in more Effective Leaders than “false optimism. There are also certain jobs in which at least mild pessimism would be beneficial (e.g., some technical jobs such as safety engineering or jobs in financial control and accounting).

Seligman’s Met Life Studies
For studies of optimism in the workplace, Seligman again leads the way with his pioneering work at Metropolitan Life Insurance. After conferring with the president of this huge company, he was able to test the obvious hypothesis that optimism and its attendant motivation and perseverance were the keys to sales success. A shortened version of his theorybased Attributional Style Questionnaire (ASQ) was administered to 200 experienced Met Life sales agents. This open-ended version of the ASQ was designed to determine the habitual explanatory style by asking the respondents to interpret six good and six bad vignettes in terms of personalization, permanence, and pervasiveness. Importantly, this test has been found to be very difficult to fake optimism; the right answers vary from test to test, and it does contain “lie scales” to identify those not telling the truth. Results were that agents who scored in the most optimistic half of the ASQ had sold 37 percent more insurance on average in their first two years than agents who scored in the pessimistic half. Agents who scored in the top 10 percent sold 88 percent more than the most pessimistic 10 percent.
       Despite the impressive findings from the initial study, Seligman was still not sure of the direction of causality from the correlational results (i.e., if the optimism caused the high performance or if the high performers became optimistic). He next conducted a pilot study on 104 new hires that took both the standard insurance industry selection test and the ASQ. Interestingly, he found that new insurance agents are more optimistic than any other group tested (e.g., car salespeople, commodity traders, West Point plebes, managers of Arby’s restaurants, baseball stars, or world-class swimmers). Optimistic scorers were much less likely to quit (a big problem in the insurance industry where about half turn over the first year) and did as well as the industry test in predicting performance.
            He next launched a full-blown study involving 15,000 applicants to Met Life taking both the industry test and the ASQ. One thousand were hired and, importantly, 129 more (called the “Special Force”) that had scored in the top half of those taking the ASQ but had failed the industry test were also hired. In the first year the optimists (those who scored in the top half of the ASQ) outsold the pessimists by only 8 percent, but in the second year by 31 percent. The “Special Force” (those who had flunked the industry test and would not have been hired except for scoring as optimists on the ASQ) outsold the hired pessimists in the regular force by 21 percent the first year and 57 percent the second. They sold about the same as the optimists in the regular force. Met Life, on the basis of Seligman’s studies, then adopted the ASQ as an important part of their selection process of new agents.

Other Research and Application in the Workplace
With the exception of the comprehensive Met Life study, to date there has been relatively little research to directly test the impact of optimism in the workplace. An older study did examine competent managers and found that they attribute their failures to a correctable mistake, and then they persevere (i.e., an optimistic explanatory style). As with the other positive resources, optimism has also been part of recent studies in POB. For example, one POB study found optimism was related to employee performance, job satisfaction and work happiness. This optimism-performance relationship was also found with workers in Chinese factories.
        Other work on optimism has been applied to leadership. For example, there has been recognition given in leadership theory to the importance of optimism, and a field study found the measured optimism of military cadets had a significant relationship with their military science professors’ rating of leadership potential. Another study of business leaders found that on average they were more optimistic than a sample of nonleaders, that those most effective in initiating change were less pessimistic, and that the more optimistic the leader, the more optimistic the followers. There also have been a few publicized applications of deliberate attempts to use optimism in human resource management (HRM) such as in the selection process. One example is the highly successful Men’s Wearhouse discount retailer, where an HRM executive stated:

We don’t look for people with specific levels of education and experience. We look for one criterion for hiring: optimism. We look for passion, excitement, energy. We want people who enjoy life.

Besides selection, another example is American Express Financial Advisors that reportedly uses optimism training with their associates. 

OB in Action: “Half-Empty” or “Half-Full”

Although to date there are not many research studies of the role of optimism in the workplace, it is nevertheless happening day to day in the way in which organizational participants interpret and react to events. Some people view the “glass” (everyday and important events) as half-full (optimists) and some as half-empty (pessimists). Here are some actual examples.

1. Take the case of two executives who were passed over for promotion because of negative evaluations from their boss.

A. The “half-empty” exec reacted to the snub in a rage. He had fantasies of killing his boss, complained to anyone who would listen of his unfair treatment, and went on a drinking binge. He felt like his life was over. He avoided his boss and looked down when passing him in the hall. In an interview, however, he admitted “Even though I was angry and felt cheated, deep down I feared that he was right, that I was sort of worthless, that I had failed, and there was nothing I could do to change that.”

B. The “half-full” exec who did not get the promotion was also stunned and upset. But instead of going into a rage, he reasoned to himself, “I can’t say I was surprised, really. He and I have such different ideas, and we’ve argued a lot.” Instead of sulking, he openly discussed the setback with his wife to determine what went wrong and what he could do to correct it. He realized that maybe he was not giving his all at work and resolved to talk to the boss. Here is how it went: “I had some discussions with him and things went very well. I guess he was troubled about what he had done, and I was troubled about not working up to potential. Since then, things have been better for both of us.”

2. Another “half-full” case is Anne Busquet of American Express. She was relieved of her duties as head of the Optima Card division when it was discovered that some of her employees had hidden millions of dollars in bad debt. Although not involved, she was held accountable and was devastated by the setback. However, instead of quitting, she was still confident in her abilities and took a lower position trying to save the company’s failing merchandising service division. She made a self-examination of what went wrong in the Optima Card division and concluded that maybe she was too strict and critical of her people. She reasoned that this style may have led her people to fear her to the point where they hid the losses. She resolved to soften her style and become more open, patient, and a better listener. Using this approach to manage the troubled merchandising service division, she saw it reach profitability within two years.

3. Perhaps the greatest “half-full” case is Arthur Blank, the founder of Home Depot. In 1978, after personality clashes with his boss at the hardware chain Handy Dan’s, he was fired. Instead of getting angry, he got even. He believed in his abilities and vision for this type of retailing. He did not give up after the setback at Handy Dan’s. When an investor approached him, he jumped at the chance to put his talents to work and founded Home Depot. The rest is history.

The half-full optimists interpret bad events in terms of Seligman’s explanatory style, and, as the preceding three examples indicate, this can result in future positive outcomes. Whereas the half-empty pessimists tend to give up and go into a downward spiral after problems or failures, the half-fulls view setbacks as a lesson to be learned for future success.

PSYCAP

Each of the four psychological constructs or resources that currently make up PsyCap are commonly found in the positive psychology literature, but, perhaps with the exception of efficacy, have received relatively little, if any, attention in the organization behavior field. Luthans and colleagues’ intent in the 2004 published articles was to label these four resources that best met the established criteria (theory, research, valid measurement, statelike, and performance impact) when combined as “psychological capital” because to their knowledge the term had not been used before. We subsequently found that Csikszentmihalyi had mentioned the term a couple of times in a book that was not yet published when the first PsyCap articles were written and then came out a bit later in the journals. Also, a recent Google search found the term in an economics article on wages in 1997. As noted by Luthans and colleagues, “Our aim in labeling this as a type of ‘capital’ was also related to the idea that there is considerable attention in workplace research being given to economic, social, human and even intellectual capital, but to our knowledge the positive resources we associate with psychological capital had not yet received interest or inquiry. In using the term PsyCap, we suggested that there was a common conceptual thread running through the four components characterized as “a positive appraisal of circumstances and probability for success based on motivated effort and perseverance.”
     We firmly believed from the beginning and reiterated in a recent point/counterpoint article that the most important “Point” we would like to make about positive organizational behavior in general and PsyCap in particular was the important role that research (i.e., an evidenced-based approach) must play. We noted at the outset that the value of positivity has been recognized through the years in psychology and even more so in the field of organizational behavior, but in this new focus on POB and now PsyCap we wanted to make sure we were not associated with the nonresearched positive, Pollyannaish approach too often found in the popular leadership and management literature. Thus, our first major research project was to validate a measure called the PsyCap Questionnaire or PCQ, and provide beginning empirical evidence that PsyCap was a second-order core construct accounting for more variance in employee performance and satisfaction than each of the four individual positive constructs that make it up. Also, in this comprehensive basic research study we found that PsyCap was relatively less stable over time than were recognized personality traits, but not as unstable as positive emotions, thus providing empirical evidence for PsyCap meeting the state-like criterion.
     After the background and theory-building presented in our book (Luthans, Youssef, and Avolio, Psychological Capital, Oxford, 2007) and the first major research project outlined above, we (especially along with James Avey) have a stream of research to refine and expand PsyCap. The following is representative of the evidence-based facets of PsyCap to date.

1. PsyCap was found to be positively related to desired organizational citizenship behaviors and negatively to undesired organization cynicism, intentions to quit, and counterproductive workplace behaviors. Importantly, PsyCap predicted unique variance in these attitudes and behaviors over and above their demographics (age, education, experience, etc.), core self-evaluation traits, personality traits, and person-organization and person-job fit.

2. To determine if PsyCap held across cultures, an early preliminary study found that a sample of workers in Chinese factories (metallurgical products and shoe manufacturers) partially tested PsyCap related to their performance. A recent follow-up study with different samples of Chinese factory workers using the full PsyCap model and PCQ measure replicated these findings. Such evidence becomes very important to developing countries such as China who need to leverage their still largely untapped wealth (in this case psychological capital) of their human (not just natural) resources for sustained growth and competitive advantage in the global economy.

3. Besides these studies relating PsyCap directly to attitudinal and performance outcomes, recent research indicates that PsyCap may also have implications for combating stress (there is a negative relationship); help facilitate positive organizational change (PsyCap is related to positive emotions that are in turn related to their attitudes and behaviors relevant to organization change); mediate the relationship between supportive organizational climate and employee performance; and be related to both employee creativity and employee well-being over time.

4. Finally, PsyCap is also playing a role in our research on Authentic Leadership. For example, one recent study found that a leader’s level of PsyCap impacted followers’ perceived trust and evaluations of leader effectiveness and another found a positive relationship between a leaders’ level of PsyCap and followers’ level of PsyCap and performance. Other such research is at various stages and PsyCap also has an input into the theory building of positive leadership in general.

PSYCAP DEVELOPMENT

Besides theory/research, valid measurement, and performance impact, a key distinguishing feature is that PsyCap is statelike and open to development. As indicated, the first major research project provided empirical evidence of this statelike nature of PsyCap, and subsequent experimental research has indicated that PsyCap can indeed be developed in short (2 or 3 hours) training interventions. Importantly, since these were experimental designs, the randomly assigned control groups, who had the same characteristics but received a Group Dynamics training intervention instead of the PsyCap intervention, did not increase their level of PsyCap. In other words, armed with this evidence, we can be more confident that PsyCap can be developed in a short training intervention. There is also preliminary experimental evidence that such PsyCap training causes performance to improve.
       The PsyCap intervention (PCI) model is drawn from the positive (and clinical) psychology field for each of the four components and is shown in Figure 7.4 and a brief verbal summary description in Figure 7.5. As indicated, this training intervention has been conducted in one- to three-hour highly interactive, large and small face-to-face sessions and even online (downloading exercises, use of movie clips, etc.). Using widely recognized human resource management utility analysis techniques,172 on both publicly available corporate data and actual results from our studies, has yielded impressive results. For example, one such analysis indicated a 270 percent return on investment in developing the PsyCap of a sample of high-tech engineers (the dollar return minus the cost of the PsyCap training divided by the cost of the PsyCap training).
       The results of the research on PsyCap so far seems to indicate a bright future for its role not only in positive organizational behavior, but also as an effective evidenced-based approach to leadership and employee development and performance management. Research to meet the call for longitudinal studies175 has recently provided needed further evidence of the statelike nature of PsyCap and its causal impact on objective performance. There is also just completed group-level research indicating that a work team’s “collective PsyCap” is related to their citizenship behavior and performance. Finally, there is a need to recognize other positive constructs besides those reviewed so far. Two of the more established are happiness/subjective well-being and emotional intelligence to which the rest of this chapter is devoted.

fIGURE 7.4

FIGURE 7.5 Summary Descriptions of the Psychological Capital Intervention (PCI) Model

Hope Development

Hope was shown to be impacted and influenced by goals, pathways, and agency. Specifically, participants practiced generating work-related goals that were personally valuable and reasonably challenging and that included a clear beginning and end point. These goal characteristics generated sustained motivation, thus using goal components to increase agency. In addition, participants practiced generating multiple pathways to their work-related goals, and they identified obstacles that they should plan to encounter. After completing the exercise individually, each participant received feedback from the group on additional or alternative pathways that could be utilized and obstacles that could be expected. This practice increased each participant’s pathway-generating skill and ability to identify and plan for obstacles, thus reducing the negative impact of obstacles on agency.

Optimism Development

Building efficacy in pathway generation and obstacle planning provided a foundation for the development of generally positive expectations. When participants were confident that they could identify and plan to overcome obstacles, their expectations of achieving their goals increased. Negative expectations that goals would not be accomplished were challenged as individuals began to see pathways to success and options on how to overcome obstacles. Group feedback increased positive expectations as individuals saw other group members also expect and plan for success. As participants’ expectations of success increased, optimism both individually and within the group increased.

Efficacy Development

Participants practiced setting up stepwise techniques to accomplish goals. Then they explained each subgoal (each step) to the group, and they answered questions about how each was to be accomplished. Task mastery for designing and pursuing goals was thus attained. Vicarious Learning took place as each participant saw peers work toward their goals and heard success stories about how goals were attained. This stage included emotional arousal, which was influenced by positive expectations of achieving goals as well as the social persuasion by the facilitator and group members by validating schedules and timelines, goals would be accomplished.

Resiliency Development

Resiliency was increased by building awareness of personal assets in the form of talents, skills, and social networks. Participants were asked what resources they could leverage to accomplish a given goal. After creating the list of resources, the facilitator and peer group members identified additional resources participants did not include on their list. Participants were then encouraged to leverage these resources as necessary. Similar to planning for obstacles, participants were encouraged to identify in advance obstacles that could impede their progress. Whereas in the hope exercise the focus was on making plans to overcome these obstacles, in this exercise, the focus was on making plans to avoid the obstacles or to prevent them from becoming legitimate concerns. Finally, the influence process was impacted by each participant becoming aware of his or her initial thoughts and feelings when faced with adversity (i.e., confidence or despair, etc.) and choosing to focus on resilient thoughts based on their assessment of their resources and options to overcome adversity.

SUBJECTIVE WELL-BEING

Both with the general public and academic psychology, the importance of happiness has been widely recognized. However, similar to the distinction that positive psychology makes with the common usage of the term hope, positive psychological theory and research prefers to use the more precise and operationally defined term subjective well-being, or simply SWB, instead of happiness. As Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi recently noted: “In practice, subjective well-being is a more scientific-sounding term for what people usually mean by happiness.” Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, but SWB is usually considered broader and is defined as people’s affective (moods and emotions) and cognitive evaluations of their lives. Under this psychological meaning, it is not necessarily what in reality happens to people that determines their happiness or subjective well-being; but instead how they emotionally interpret and cognitively process what happens to them is the key. Like hope, SWB has not been in the mainstream of the organizational behavior literature, and although it does not meet the POB criteria quite as directly as self-efficacy, optimism, hope, and resiliency, it is included here as part of POB and there have been some work-related studies in the SWB research literature.

HISTORY OF SUBJECTIVE WELL-BEING

Positive psychologist Ed Diener’s work over the past three decades is most closely associated with SWB. As an important part of the positive psychology movement, SWB’s popularity and importance reflect societal trends valuing the good life and what makes people happy. Almost everyone seems to rate happiness over money (e.g., in a survey of 7,204 college students in 42 countries, only 6 percent rated money more important than happiness). Academically, Diener and his research group made a break from simple feelings of happiness and just the demographic characteristics that correlate with it. Most recently, the interest is more on the processes that underlie life satisfaction. Specifically, there has been a shift away from who is happy (i.e., the demographics) to when and why people are happy and on what the processes are that influence SWB. Specifically, in their recent book Diener and Biswas-Diener provide the following evidence- based conclusions: 

1. Happiness is a process, not a place. “Happiness is an ongoing process that requires a way of experienced life and the world that includes positive attitudes, meaning, and spirituality. Being truly rich is as much about the attitudes within us as the circumstances surrounding us.”
2. There is actually an optimal level of happiness. Those “too happy” may perform less well at school and work, and even be less healthy (e.g., may ignore symptoms or required regiments).
3. Though not linear, happiness is clearly related to health and longevity, relationships, and effectiveness at work.

      As to the last point on happiness leading to a longer life, a now famous study on the order of nuns who entered convents as young adults between 1931 and 1943 is very interesting and revealing about the power of happiness. The researchers analyzed the autobiographies of the entering nuns as to their level of positivity and happiness. Since these nuns had almost identical food, activities, and circumstances (i.e., the environment was basically held constant or under control over their lifetime), the researchers could draw conclusions about the impact the nuns’ level of happiness/positivity had on their length of life. Amazingly, the most happy nuns (the top 25% in the ratings) lived on average ten years longer than the least (25%) happy nuns. To put these results in perspective, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day is estimated on average to take three plus years off of one’s life, regular exercise accounts for three to five extra years, statin drug therapy used to lower cholesterol levels 2.5 to 3.5 years, and even regular church attendance may add two to three additional years, but being happy and positive may on average have three times as much impact on longevity.
       Besides the relationship with health/longevity and relationships (e.g., Diener and Biswas-Diener note that “many studies show that happy people are more blessed with good families, friends, and supportive relationships”) of interest here is the impact that SWB has on work outcomes.

SWB in Work
Although not included in organizational behavior or HRM textbooks, SWB researchers do give attention to work and the workplace as one of its domains, and there are a growing number of studies. In particular, SWB has demonstrated a direct correlation to job satisfaction. A meta-analysis of 34 studies found an average correlation of .44 between job satisfaction and life satisfaction. To determine whether job satisfaction leads to SWB or vice versa (i.e., the correlation studies do not yield the direction of causality), Judge and colleagues used sophisticated statistical designs. It was found that SWB was a significant predictor of job satisfaction five years later, but not vice versa. Thus, it appears that people who are satisfied with their lives tend to find more satisfaction in their work.
       There is accumulating research evidence that happiness or SWB leads to desired outcomes beyond just job satisfaction in the workplace. Not only have happy employees been found to be more effective and productive, but after a search of the research literature it was also concluded that “on average, happy workers make more money, receive more promotions and better supervisor ratings, and are better citizens at work.” An increasing number of organizations are recognizing and using this value of happiness with their employees and customers. Organizations such as Toyota, the American Red Cross, Sprint Nextel, and David’s Bridal have launched training programs for their employees based on happiness principles. For example, at David’s, the largest chain of bridal stores, salespeople have been taught techniques such as focusing on things that bring them joy when dealing with stressed-out, anxious brides-to-be. Also, increasingly market research in general is focusing on how products and services can appeal to customers’ happiness.
        Similar to PsyCap, happiness (SWB) is open to change and development. Although there is definitely a set point (i.e., approximately the 50 percent “hard-wiring”), the role of intentional control and effective developmental guidelines are becoming recognized. As Lyubomirsky points out, “intentional, effortful activities have a powerful effect on how happy we are, over and above the effects of our set points and the circumstances in which we find ourselves.” She then prescribes the following guidelines and specific activities for developing and sustaining happiness:

1. Practicing gratitude and positive thinking (expressing gratitude, cultivating optimism, and avoiding overthinking and social comparison);

2. Investing in social connections (practicing acts of kindness and nurturing social relationships);

3. Managing stress, hardship, and trauma (developing strategies for coping, learning to forgive);

4. Living in the present (increasing flow experiences, savoring life’s joys);

5. Committing to your goals;

6. Taking care of your body and soul (practicing religion and spirituality, meditation, physical exercise, and acting like a happy person).
   Although these are all very general, Lyubomirsky provides details on how to do each, and importantly, supporting research evidence that they work. For example, on the last point of “acting like a happy person,” citing published research she notes, “Remarkably, pretending that you’re happy—smiling, engaged, mimicking energy and enthusiasm—not only can earn you some of the benefits of happiness (returned smiles, strengthened friendships, successes at work and school) but can actually make you happier.” The future of the role that happiness may play in the workplace seems very bright.

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence (EI) predates the emergence of POB and is more widely known in popular management circles. However, EI has to date not been featured as a major part of POB because it has not yet met the criteria of POB. In particular, the major shortcoming in meeting the POB criteria has been the limited research support for a valid measure of EI and its relationship with performance outcomes. However, this is beginning to change somewhat and is why it is included here. This concluding section of the chapter first examines its two conceptual components: emotion and intelligence. After these two important psychological constructs are examined separately, the synergy created by combining them into emotional intelligence becomes a potentially powerful positively oriented construct for the understanding and application approach to the study and application of organizational behavior.

The Role of Emotion
Over the years, emotion has been a major variable in psychology, and, compared to the other POB constructs, has received relatively more attention in the organizational behavior field. Similar to other psychological constructs, the exact definition and meaning of emotion are not totally agreed upon. However, most psychologists would agree that the best one word to describe emotion would be how a person feels about something. These emotional feelings are directed at someone or something, are not as broad as the meanings of the term affect, and are more intense and specific than the definitions of the term mood. The specific differences between emotion, affect, and mood are summarized as follows:

Emotions are reactions to an object, not a trait. They’re object specific. You show your emotions when you’re “happy about something, angry at someone, afraid of something.” Moods, on the other hand, aren’t directed at an object. Emotions can turn into moods when you lose focus on the contextual object. So when a work colleague criticizes you for the way you spoke to a client, you might become angry at him [emotion]. But later in the day, you might find yourself just generally dispirited. This affective state describes a mood.

Emotional Processing
How do emotional reactions come about, and what are the inputs into emotional processing? A very simple, layperson’s explanation of the process is that emotional feelings are in contrast with rational thinking. Put into popular terms, emotions come from the “heart” whereas rational thinking comes from the “head.” For example, a young manager given a choice between two assignments may undergo the following cognitive processing: “my ‘head’ tells me to get involved with Project A because it has the best chance of succeeding and helping my career, but my ‘heart’ says that Project B will be more fun, I like the people better, and I can take more pride in any results we achieve.” Obviously, such emotions often win out over rational thinking in what people decide, do, or how they behave.
        Traditionally in psychology, both personality traits (e.g., extraversion/neuroticism or conscientiousness) and mood states (either positive or negative) have separate influences or emotional processing. More recently, however, to represent the more realistic complexity involved, it is suggested that: (1) mood states interact with individual differences in emotionrelevant personality traits to influence emotional processing, and/or (2) personality traits predispose individuals to certain mood states, which then influence emotional processing. In other words, for (1) above, someone in a positive mood may have to have (or will be enhanced by) a personality trait such as conscientiousness in order to experience emotional happiness. For (2) above, the individual may have to have the personality trait such as extraversion in order to get into a positive mood state. This positive mood in turn will lead the person to experience emotional happiness. These moderation and meditation models of emotional processing help resolve some of the inconsistencies that have been found in the research using the separate influences of moods and personality traits for emotions.

Types of Emotions
Like the meaning of emotion, there is also not total agreement on the primary types of emotions. Table 7.2 summarizes the primary emotions and their descriptors most often mentioned in the psychology literature. Importantly, each of these emotions are very common in the workplace. For example:

• Juan has grown to love his paramedic emergency team as they solve one life-threatening crisis after another.
• Mary feels happy when her boss comments in front of the sales team that she just landed the biggest contract of the quarter.
• Jami is surprised to hear that the firm’s stock price dropped two and one-half points today.
• George fears the new technological process that he believes may replace him.
• Trent feels sad for Alison because she does more than her share of the work, but gets no recognition from the supervisor.
• Lane is angry because he was passed over for promotion for the second time.
• Mark is disgusted with the favoritism shown to his colleague Steve when the regional sales manager assigns territories.
• Kent has a sense of shame for claiming expense reimbursement for a trip he did not take.

     As shown by the preceding representative examples, the whole range of emotions are found in the workplace. In addition, it is probably not an exaggeration to state that most personal and many managerial/organizational decisions are based on emotional processes rather than rational thought processes. For example, career decisions are often based on emotions of happiness and affection or even fear, rather than on what is rationally best for one’s career. In fact, management decisions are often driven by negative emotions such as fear or anger rather than marginal costs, return on investment, or other criteria that the traditional rational economic/finance models would suggest. By the same token, there is important basic research coming from the positive psychology movement that the capacity to experience positive emotions may be a fundamental human strength central to the study of human flourishing, and positive emotions can also be applied to upward spirals in today’s organizations. For example, one of the most recognized breakthroughs in positive psychology that has particular relevance and understanding for POB and PsyCap is Barbara Fredrickson’s “Broaden and Build” theory. Supported by considerable research evidence, this theory says that experiencing positive emotions broadens (i.e., opens people’s hearts and minds) and builds (i.e., allows people to develop new skills, relationships, knowledge and to become more effective overall).

Emotional Categories and Continuum

Besides identifying the different types of emotions, as shown in Table 7.2, they can be put into positive and negative categories. Whether a person feels a positive or negative emotion in the workplace has a lot to do with goal congruence (positive) or goal incongruence (negative). For example, if salespeople meet or exceed their quota, they feel happy, are relieved, and like their customers, but if they fall short they may feel sad, disgusted, guilty, anxious and may blame or be angry with their boss and/or customers.
     Emotions can also be conceptualized along a continuum. One classic emotional continuum is the following:

Happiness—Surprise—Fear—Sadness—Anger—Disgust

Table 7.2 is arranged in the same order except with the positive extreme of love/affection on the front end and the negative extreme of shame on the back end.
       The key is that the closer the primary emotions are related to one another, the more difficult it is for others to distinguish between them when expressed. For example, almost everyone can readily distinguish the facial expressions of positive versus negative categories of emotion, but may not readily interpret the differences within categories (e.g., between happiness and surprise or anger and disgust). Yet, based on the concept of emotional labor which refers to service personnel required to express false, not natural expression, positive emotions such as smiling, most seasoned customers can easily pick up the difference. For example most “Frequent Flyers” can tell the difference between a genuine, natural smile and “Have a nice day!” and a forced, false smile and insincere happy comment from an angry or disgusted reservationist or flight attendant. The nonverbal facial cues and tone of voice are usually a loud and clear indication of what real emotions are being expressed. Recent organizational communication research indicates that positive emotions, not just negative emotions, need to be displayed in prevailing socially acceptable ways, and the appropriate display of negative emotions typically means masking those emotions, that is, experience emotional labor.
        Emotional labor not only has dysfunctional consequence for the employees doing it (e.g., stress and burnout), but also detracts from effective customer service. World-class customer service firms such as Southwest Airlines recognize this by hiring only those with very positive personalities. As Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest, declared: “We want people who can do things well with laughter and grace.” By putting humor and happiness at the top of its hiring criteria, Southwest knows, and the academic literature would support, that its people will tend to express positive, genuine emotions (not emotional labor) in all their encounters with customers and coworkers.
        Most academics and practicing managers would agree with the systematic assessment that emotions permeate all of organizational life, but the reason emotions are singled out for special attention in this chapter is the popularity of emotional intelligence and its potential relevance to the study and application to positive organizational behavior. Emotionally intelligent people not only can read the expressed emotions of other people, but also have the maturity to hold their felt emotions in check and not display undesirable, immature negative emotions such as anger or disgust. This distinction between felt and displayed emotions, as well as the rest of the above discussion on the meaning, cognitive processing, and types/categories/continuum of emotions, when combined with the next section on intelligence, serve as the foundation and point of departure for the role that emotional intelligence may be able to play in positive organizational behavior.

Table 7.2

 

 

THE ROLE OF INTELLIGENCE