Many organizations are all for employee well-being, engagement and positive interventions. However, the bottom line for many of these organizations is – are we making profit?
That’s why Luthans and his associates started developing Psychological Capital. Their mission was to create a collection of positive capacities, using several constructs from psychology, which are trainable and have significant effects on results, and so PsyCap was born.
PsyCap is composed of four positive capacities, namely:
Research has shown that these four capacities stand out as independent and malleable to change and development. Higher PsyCap is associated with higher performance, lower stress levels and better well-being.
Looking into the 4 PsyCap Capacities
Hope is – as Rick Snyder described – “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 score high in hope if you have both the will (agency) to reach a certain goal, and ideas of how to attain it. In order for you to be hopeful you have to aim for a goal which is both inspiring (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 score high in optimism if you interpret positive events to be internal, permanent and pervasive whilst regarding negative events as external, temporary and situation-specific. In short, optimism is about having faith in your own ability to improve a situation.
Self-efficacy is a concept borrowed from Albert Bandura and is often defined as task-specific self-confidence, the belief that you are able to accomplish something effectively. More generalized self-efficacy also exists as Role Breadth Self-Efficacy presented by Parker (1998) in her study researching employee’s confidence in performing broader, more proactive roles in the workplace.
Finally Resilience is based on the work of Ann Masten and is seen as the ability to bounce back and beyond when faced with adversity. That is, returning to a former level of functioning and learning from the experience. That’s not to say that you should go looking for trouble, merely that with resilience you can develop your ability to cope and thrive with obstacles.
Psychological Capital In Practice
One of the powers of PsyCap is the training of these four capacities in four micro-interventions (2 hour training sessions). Several studies have shown that even this relatively short training time leads 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 about 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!
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 organisations 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/