Many organizations are all for employee well-being, engagement, and positive interventions.
However great these values are, the bottom line for many of these organizations is “are we making a profit?”
That’s why Luthans and his associates started developing Psychological Capital.
Their mission was to create a collection of positive psychological capacities, using several constructs from psychology. These capacities are trainable and have significant effects on results, hence the beginning of PsyCap.
When organizations understand the profits from improved PsyCap, they are more likely to incorporate it into the workplace. Most people would enjoy a workplace with more hope, optimism, etc.
PsyCap is composed of four positive capacities:
Research has shown that these four capacities stand out as independent as well as malleable to change and development.
Higher PsyCap is associated with higher performance, lower stress levels, and better well-being. In the following sections, we will explore what the capacities are and how we can cultivate them.
Looking into the 4 PsyCap Capacities
Hope is, according to Rick Snyder, “a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful agency (goal-directed energy) and pathways (planning to meet goals).”
You might score high in hope if you have both the will (agency) to reach a certain goal, as well as concrete ideas of how to attain it.
To have hope, you have to aim for a goal that is slightly challenging and realistic.
Optimism is defined as not only expecting good things to come, but:
“reacting to problems with a sense of confidence and high personal ability.” – Martin Seligman (1991)
You would score high in optimism if you interpret positive events to be internal, permanent and pervasive. This needs to be coupled with interpreting negative events as external, temporary and situation-specific.
In short, optimism is about having faith in your own ability to improve a situation, and not automatically assume it is “your fault,” when certain external events occur.
Self-efficacy is a concept borrowed from Albert Bandura. It is often defined as task-specific self-confidence or the belief that you are able to accomplish something effectively.
More generalized self-efficacy also exists. Role Breadth Self-Efficacy presented by Parker (1998) in her study researched employee’s confidence in performing broader and more proactive roles in the workplace. It is not always task-specific.
Finally, resilience is based on the work of Ann Masten and often explained as the ability to bounce back and beyond when faced with adversity. That is, returning to a former level of functioning and learning after a challenging experience.
That’s not to say that you should go looking for trouble, but rather, trust your own resilience. With certain practices, you can also develop your ability to cope and thrive with obstacles.
Which of these 4 psychological capitals would you like to improve? It’s worth a thought.
Psychological Capital In Practice
One of the powers of PsyCap is the training of these four capacities in four micro-interventions.
These micro-interventions are 2-hour training sessions. Studies confirm that these 2-hour training lead to higher PsyCap, lowered stress and better performance.
We studied the effects of our own PsyCap training in the Netherlands and discovered that stress was lowered and PsyCap raised in a group of students.
Even 6 weeks after the micro interventions were completed (and in a group of 20 employees) the training produced similar results.
An exercise to improve your psychological capital:
- Write down a specific goal you want to accomplish
- Rewrite this goal as a desirable “approach-goal”. What is it you do want, instead of what you don’t want? E.g. don’t say you want less stress, say you want more relaxation time, confidence, etc.
- Brainstorm all the kinds of actions you can take to accomplish your goal.
- Ask others to brainstorm with you. These actions may be anything– it’s about quantity, not quality.
- Choose your best 3 ideas and write down all their potential obstacles. For each obstacle, write down what you could do to overcome it (e.g. ask for help, try a different approach, sacrifice, persevere etc.)
- Now execute the first step towards your goal. Good luck!
Which psychological capacity are you most ready to increase? Please share your thoughts in our comments section below.
About the author
Matthijs Steeneveld is a trainer, positive psychologist, and coach. He works with appreciative inquiry, mindfulness, character strengths, and PsyCap to help improve organizations and employees. Read more about his work on www.msteeneveld.nl
Luthans, F., Youssef-Morgan, C.M., & Avolio, B.J. (2015). Psychological Capital and beyond. Oxford University Press, New York.
Parker, S. (1998). Enhancing role-breadth self-efficacy. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 835-852.
Seligman, Martin E.P. (1991). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. New York, NY: Pocket Books. Retrieved from http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/positive-thinking/