Chapter Review of Luthans Book on Organizational Behavior
Needs revision and rewriting.
Positive organizational behavior, or simply POB is based on the recent positive psychology movement-looking for strengths and what is right with people instead of concentrating on dysfunctions and what is wrong with people.
Besides the positivity, five criteria must be met to be included in POB: (1) based on theory and research, (2) valid measures, (3) unique concepts, (4) open to development, and (5) managed for performance improvement.
The psychological capacities (or capital) that meet these POB criteria and are covered in the chapter by Fred Luthans are optimism, hope, happiness/SWB, resiliency, emotional intelligence, and self-efficacy.
Both motivated and motivating, optimism has some evidence not only of being part of human nature, but also more support for contributing to individual differences. The pioneering work of Seligman treats optimism in terms of cognitively determined expectancies and causal attributions (i.e., explanatory style). Specifically, pessimists make internal, stable, and global attributions of bad events, whereas optimists make external, unstable, and specific attributions. Although there can be some dysfunctional consequences such as stress from pursuing unattainable goals and there are some cases where a mild pessimist may be needed in organizations (e.g., safety engineer or accountant), in general, realistic optimism is very beneficial in life and in the workplace. Research is just starting, but evidence from Seligman's extensive work with sales agents at Metropolitan Life indicates the very positive impact that optimism can have on human performance in organizations.
Besides optimism, the closely related but conceptually distinct hope and happiness subjective well-being (SWB) meet the POB criteria. As used in psychology and its potential applicability to organizational behavior, hope is more than the sunny advice of "hope for the best." Although both Goleman and Seligman talk about hope in relation to EI and optimism respectively, the work of Snyder on hope as a stand-alone construct is most recognized. He defines hope not only in terms of the person's determination that goals can be achieved, but also as the beliefs that successful plans can be formulated, pathways identified, and self-motivation exhibited in order to attain the goals. In simple terms, this meaning of hope includes both the willpower (agency) and the "waypower" (the alternate pathways). There has been such strong evidence of the relationship between hope and academic, athletic, and mental/physical health positive outcomes that the carryover to the workplace has started and seems very promising for the future.
The same is true of happiness or what positive psychologists prefer to call subjective well-being or SWB. To date, there have been some work-related studies in the SWB research literature. In particular, the work of Diener is most closely associated with SWB. As with the other positive constructs in this chapter, he is concerned with the underlying processes that influence life satisfaction, satisfaction with important domains (including work satisfaction), positive affect, and low levels of negative affect. Particular attention is given to the processes of personality, goals, adaptation, and coping. Unlike the other constructs, SWB has been extensively researched across cultures. As a domain of SWB, there have been studies related to work and the workplace. In particular, it has been found that SWB is a significant predictor of job satisfaction, and unemployment causes lower SWB.
The most recent addition to POB is resiliency. Considerably different from the other POB variables, resiliency tends to be more reactive than proactive. Also with roots in clinical psychology, especially focused on at-risk children and adolescents, it has been characterized by positive adaptation to significant adversity or risk. In POB it is presented as the positive capacity to rebound or bounce back from adverse or even very good events. In current times, such a resilient capacity is very relevant and desirable at the employee, manager, and organizational levels. Although studies in the workplace are just beginning, there appears to be unlimited potential for developing and managing resiliency as the environment becomes ever more uncertain and turbulent.
Emotional intelligence or simply EI is first discussed in terms of its major components of emotion (feelings) and intelligence. Intelligence in particular has played a very minor role in organizational behavior. If recognized at all, the old, fixed dimensions of mathematical/logical and verbal/linguistic were assumed.
The multiple intelligences, and emotional intelligence in particular, have only recently received attention. Broadly popularized by Goleman, EI is the capacity for understanding and managing one's own and others' emotions. Although there is relatively more need for theory, measures, and basic research than the other POB capacities, the popularity and intuitive appeal of EI cannot be denied. There is increasing evidence that the characteristics of EI (e.g., self-awareness, self-motivation, empathy, and social skills) may be better than traditional IQ in predicting future life success, but in the workplace EI may indeed also have considerable untapped potential for successful performance.
The last third of the chapter is devoted to the theory, research, and application of self-efficacy. Having the best fit with the POB criteria, social cognitive theory posits that environmental, behavioral, and personal cognitive dimensions are in interaction, and the self-reflective human capacity serves as the major theoretical underpinning of self-efficacy. Defined as the belief one has in his or her abilities to mobilize the motivation, cognitive resources, and courses of action necessary to successfully execute a specific task within a given context, self-efficacy is a state, not a trait. Through this theory building and extensive research of Bandura, four major sources of information to cognitively determine self-efficacy have been identified. These are, in order of importance, mastery experiences or performance attainments, vicarious experience or modeling, social persuasion, and physiological or psychological (emotional) arousal. Each of these can be used in training and development to enhance self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy started off as a clinical technique to change client behavior, but soon was successfully applied to many other health, educational, and athletic pursuits. Unlike the other POB constructs, there is also a considerable research-derived body of knowledge on the strong positive relationship between self-efficacy and work-related performance. The Stajkovic and Luthans meta-analysis (114 studies, 21,616 subjects) found a highly significant .38 weighted average correlation that transforms to an impressive 28 percent gain in performance (higher than the results of meta-analyses of other popular organizational behavior interventions). With such substantial theory and research backup, there are important implications for effective practical applications of self-efficacy. Besides training and development to enhance self-efficacy and thus help the transfer of training to the job and increase performance, the measurement of self-efficacy could be used in the selection process. Self-efficacy can also be used to make job design, goal setting, teams, and stress management more effective. In total, as this chapter clearly indicates, the time has come for a positive organizational behavior approach to join the mainstream of the field.