|Posted on January 10, 2011 at 2:12 AM|
UsingPositive Psychology as an HRM process in Employee Engagement and ConfidenceBuilding ( Part 2)
Positive emotions: The Power behind Positive Psychology
Like traditionalpsychologists, most managers would be skeptical about the role of positiveemotions in driving hard-core business performance. While many progressive managers wouldintuitively believe in and even leverage the power of positive emotions at workthey are unlikely to be aware of the scientific validity of theirpractices. Positive emotions are said tobroaden a person’s mindset and build enduring resources, a theory called‘broaden-and-build’ (Fredrickson, 2003; T. A. Wright, 2003). Research and experiments have shown thatpeople who express positive emotions tend to live longer; those who feel goodare better at processing information and problem-solving whether at a diagnosisof disease or at securing better outcomes in a negotiation (Fredrickson, 2003).Thus feeling good can change people for the better by making them moreoptimistic, realistic, and socially sensitive.
While negativeemotions aggravate physiological changes due to stress and can contribute toheart disease, positive emotions can alleviate the negative impact of thesedestructive emotions(Fredrickson, 2003; Hamilton, Kitzman, & Guyotte,2006). Positive emotions move from individual to community level in “upwardspirals” that can transform communities into more “cohesive, moral andharmonious social organizations (Fredrickson, 2003);” they contribute toflow experiences that in turn encourage growth and development.
A state of flowoccurs when an activity fully absorbs an individual in the present moment. Flowis an emotional state that is characterized by a holistic feeling of beingimmersed in an activity, a merging of action and awareness, concentratedattention, lack of self-consciousness, and a feeling of being in controlof one’s actions and environment (Csikszentmihalyi, year & Eccles &Wigfield, 2002). Both positive psychology and POB seek to create and recreateflow experiences because individuals who experience flow in life or at the workplacefind the experience intrinsically rewarding (Hunter & Csikszentmihalyi,2003; Shernoff, Csikszentmihalyi, Schneider, & Shernoff, 2003). The positive feelings generated by flowexperiences invariably encourage personal growth as individuals seek toincrease the level of challenge and match it with the appropriate level ofskill (J. J. Wright, Sadlo, & Stew, 2006). Flow theory states that aconfluence of concentration, interest and enjoyment must happen for an activityto generate a flow experience. Researchhas also shown that experiencing flow helps decrease stress and has a positiveinfluence on health (Hamilton et al., 2006).
In sum, positiveemotions have the power to significantly raise performance levels by addressingindividuals at a holistic level. Managersmust change their philosophy so that they can use the emerging techniques thatscholarship and research in this field are bringing out. An understanding of the scholarship behindthis movement is needed to build the courage of conviction to implement newways of dealing with people; therefore, before discussing various interventionsone must understand POS and POB.
Positive Organizational Psychology (POS)
Positive OrganizationalPsychology (POS), like positive psychology, is a change in the paradigmof looking at an organization’s human factors? In the old paradigm the organizationconsultant looked at what was wrong and then attempted to fix it;organizational behavior scholars presented various models for identifying problemareas and then providing solutions to repair the damage at either theorganization design level or at the employee level. Change models such as ADDIE, Thomas Gilbert’sperformance matrix, Rummler-Brache model, and even ASTD’s HPI model assume thata ‘fix’ is needed.
POS represents a newparadigm that focuses on developing human strengths, fostering vitality, andusing concepts of positive emotions and resilience to help cultivate superiorperformance at individual and organizational levels. According to the leading thinkers of thisapproach (Bernstein, 2003) each word has a significance: positive refers to anaffirmative bias, a perspective that incorporates the abundance mentality andvirtuousness; organizational refers to the entire base of organization theorythat draw on positivity in organizations; and scholarship refers to therigorous academic discipline and scientific process to explain the variousaspects of positivity.
It is thiscommitment to the scientific research process that sets POS apart fromself-help and pop-psychology. POSseeks to understand how characteristics like trustworthiness, resilience,humility, authenticity, respect and forgiveness, contribute to superiororganization and individual performance. Until the advent of positive psychology, these characteristics weretreated as soft factors that did not have any real impact on performancecompared to hard factors like business models, strategy, decision-makingmodels, financial strategy and so on. POS is in the process of scientifically documenting how positivephenomena impact business environments; it is not an exclusivist concept, itlooks at how structures, cultures, process, leadership and other organizationalfactors influence positive dynamics at the workplace (Bernstein, 2003). When these principles and research aredirected at organizations in particular the study is called POB. Before one discusses POB in greater detail,an understanding of how positive psychology deals with personality traits is inorder.