Psychological Capital: Training the 4 Positive Capacities

PsyCap

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:

  • Hope
  • Optimism
  • Self-efficacy
  • Resilience

 

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:

  1. Write down a specific goal you want to accomplish
  2. 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.
  3. Brainstorm all the kinds of actions you can take to accomplish your goal.
  4. Ask others to brainstorm with you. These actions may be anything– it’s about quantity, not quality.
  5. 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.)
  6. Now execute the first step towards your goal. Good luck!

To get hold of questionnaires for individuals, groups and more you can visit Mind Garden or for more general information you can read more here.

Which psychological capacity are you most ready to increase? Please share your thoughts in our comments section below. 

 

About the author

mathjis_miniMatthijs 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/

Comments

  1. Brandon

    I love this topic, was actually looking for a research topic, am sure I just found one

    Reply
  2. ERLIN A RODRIGUEZ

    I love reading articles on psychological capital because of this, i was inspired to choose this topic as my new topic in doing my research in my 2nd master degree in counseling psychology. I would appreciate If there is much articles on psychological capital for college students as my research sample. I would also appreciate if there is an experimental study on psychological capital with the same participants. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. M. Moreno

    Looking forward to learning more about the PysCap tool in my research.

    Reply
  4. Tabitha

    I took a PsyCap assessment and scored high on all 4 parts. What does that say about me?

    Reply
  5. Adrienne Cummings

    I liked the article and agree. I do think this has to be something that is reminded. People get in a rut or routine that is hard to lift out of, change is good and reminders (such as reading an article like this) helps take your next step in the right direction….

    Reply
    • Jessie van den Heuvel

      Glad you liked it Adrienne. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      Reply
  6. Birgit Ohlin

    Hi Agota,
    Very interesting, thanks for sharing your experience! Awareness is key, I agree. How would you go about raising awareness? In order to convince managers I think it may help to have an organization which already uses this style to share their experience. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!
    All the best,
    Birgit

    Reply
  7. MARYAM

    DEAR SIR Madam

    I AM SO GLAD TO SAY THAT IN LAST YEAR I WAS AN RESEARCH ON FACTORS THAT EFFECT PSYCAP IN IRANIAN PRIVATE COMPANIES.
    AND RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PSYCAP AND KNOWLEDGE MANAGMENT…. AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP WAS VERY IMPORTANT .
    THIS DAYS I STUDY ON THE EFFECT OF PERSONALITY ON PSYCAP.

    BEST REGARDS
    MARYAM

    Reply
    • Birgit Ohlin

      Hi Maryam,
      Thanks for sharing your interests and area of work in regards to Psycap. I agree with you about the importance of authentic leadership, I find it fascinating how much of a difference it can make for a company. The question for me is: how can we encourage leaders to give positive leadership a go? Any thoughts?
      Cheers,
      Birgit

      Reply
  8. Agota Kun

    hi there,

    I was really glad to read about this topic. we have just begun a research on workplace well-being and happiness (in Hungary) and our preliminary model showed that PsyCap has direct effect on workplace happiness 🙂 I think it would be important to raise the awareness of the importance of these resources in organizational settings.

    best wishes,

    Agota

    Reply

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