For centuries, human resource managers have been grappling with ways of improving and optimizing human strengths and capacities for organizations to perform optimally. Positive organizational behavior is one of the ways that modern human resource managers employ in promoting the strengths and capacities of employees in various organizations. According to Luthans (2002), positive organizational behavior is the application of positive psychology to enhance “human strengths and psychological capacities that can be measured, developed, and effectively managed for performance improvement in today’s workplace” (p. 59).
Theoretical and empirical studies have validated the application of positive organizational behavior as a strategy that human resource managers employ in enhancing organizational performance. The premise of positive organizational behavior is the mental health of employees.
Given that mental health determines the performance of employees, positive organizational behavior holds that promotion of human strengths and capacities is central in enhancing organizational performance. Luthans (2002) asserts that the incorporation of positive psychology in the organizational environment is still evolving. In this view, further research is essential to establish the genesis, development, and consequences of positive organizational behavior in modern organizations. Therefore, the research paper examines theoretical and empirical studies of positive organizational behavior and its application in business organizations with a view of providing appropriate recommendations.
Positive organizational behavior has its basis on positive psychology, which examines how positive attitudes and emotions improve the behavior of employees, and consequently their performance. The positive organizational behavior holds that positive attitudes and emotions among employees relate to organizational performance. According to Youssef and Luthans (2007), positive psychology is central to improving organizational behavior because it focuses on the strengths and capacities of employees. The ability of an organization to shape the strengths and capacities of employees is dependent on management strategies.
Proponents of positive organizational behavior believe that the development of optimism, self-efficacy, resilience, and hope is critical in improving the performance of employees (Johnston, Foxx, Jacobson, Green, and Mulick 2006). This means that organizational behavior correlates with the performance of employees, and thus an important aspect of human resource management. The application of positive psychology focuses on empowering employees to overcome bad experiences and develop resilience and optimism of facing new challenges that always crop up in an organization.
As a theoretical foundation of positive organizational behavior, positive psychologists believe in the optimization of human strengths and capacities. The human strengths and capacities vary from one person to another and from one organization to another, depending on the strategies of human resource management. Positive psychology entails the application of scientific knowledge and skills in modeling, measuring, developing, and managing the performance of employees by modifying their strengths and capacities. Positive psychology is an appropriate psychological strategy of empowering employees because issues that affect their performance relate to psychology.
Memari, Valikhani, Aghababaee, and Davali (2013) assert employees have psychological capital, which determines organizational performance. In this view, the application of techniques of positive psychology improves psychological capital and consequently enhances the performance of employees in an organization. Thus, positive organizational behavior and positive psychology are inseparable elements that shape the performance of employees.
Applications in Business Organizations
Prior to the establishment of positive organizational behavior, human resource managers have been applying aversive strategies when managing employees, which dehumanizes and demotivates employees. However, the emergence of positive psychology has led to the application of positive organizational behavior in encouraging and motivating employees to perform well in their respective duties. The application of positive organizational behavior is a non-aversive approach to transforming and improving the performance of employees in an organization (Johnston, Foxx, Jacobson, Green, and Mulick 2006).
As a component of positive psychology, the application of positive psychology has proved to be effective in the motivation of employees to optimize their strengths and capacities in workplaces. Thus, human resource managers apply positive organizational behavior in improving the performance of employees using strategies that are ethical, beneficial, and non-aversive.
Business organizations usually apply different aspects of human capacities and strengths in encouraging the development of positive organizational behavior. The four aspects of human capacities and strengths are self-efficacy, resilience, hope, and optimism (Wright 2003). Self-efficacy is the potential of employees to execute a given task. The capacity of self-efficacy has its basis on the premise that employees have inherent capacities that enable them to perform certain tasks within a specific period. In this view, the purpose of positive organizational behavior is to enhance the optimization of self-efficacy among employees.
Business organizations that optimize the self-efficacy of their employees perform better than business organizations that do not optimize the self-efficacy of their employees (Wright 2003). If human resource managers could understand the potential of their employees in terms of self-efficacy, they would put appropriate interventions in place. In modern business organizations, positive organizational behavior has become an indispensable strategy of building a lucrative culture of performance.
Business organizations also apply the aspect of resilience in promoting positive organizational behavior among employees. Essentially, resilience is the ability of employees to retain their self-efficacy after undergoing numerous challenges such as failures, conflicts, transformations, and enhanced responsibilities (Luthans 2002). In contrast with traditional perceptions of resilience as an attribute of a person, positive psychology perceives it as a behavior. The positive psychology observes that resilience is not a personality factor, but behavior that employees need to acquire, as an integral component of capacity in positive organizational behavior.
Thus, the function of human resource managers is to instill a culture of resilience among employees by cultivating the behavior of resilience. Luthans and Youssef (2007) assert employees who have resilience are proactive and responsive to the dynamic needs of business organizations. Therefore, resilience is central to the development of organizational behavior that is proactive and responsive to the dynamic needs of modern organizations.
Since hope and optimism motivates employees to endure challenges, they are important aspects of positive organizational behavior. Hope is a motivating factor among employees because it energizes employees to develop determination and focus, which are essential in meeting organizational goals and objectives. Comparatively, positive psychologists take optimism as a cognitive feature that depicts the expectancy of good outcomes among employees.
Business organizations have vision, mission, goals, and objectives in which their achievements are dependent on organizational behavior. Fundamentally, employees must have hope and optimism for them to optimize their performance amidst challenges. Hence, the application of positive organizational behavior in promoting hope and optimism among employees is critical in the creation and management of a determined body of employees in an organization. According to Nelson and Cooper (2007), organizations that have determined and focused employees can easily achieve their objectives and goals. In this view, business organizations apply positive organizational behavior in motivating employees to be hopeful and optimistic, so that they can maintain their self-efficacy and improve their resilience in spite of the challenges that they encounter.
What Made the Application to Work?
The application of positive organizational behavior works well in organizations because it focuses on factors that influence human resource development. The positive organizational behavior focuses on the capacities and strengths of employees rather than on their weaknesses (Nelson & Cooper 2007). Unlike other strategies of human resource management that focuses on fixing weaknesses, positive organizational behavior is workable because it optimizes the capacities and strengths of employees. Since the capacities and strengths of employees determine organizational performance, their improvements would give a proportional performance. Hence, positive organizational behavior is a practicable strategy that improves organizational performance because it aims at promoting the capacities and strengths of employees.
The four aspects of positive organizational behavior, namely, self-efficacy, resilience, hope, and optimism are behavioral factors rather than personality traits. Thus, given that they are more behavioral factors than personality traits, employees can acquire them effectively if human resource managers apply them appropriately. When applying positive organizational behavior, human resource managers focus on transforming behaviors of employees by ensuring that the organizational culture adopts self-efficacy, optimism, hope, and resilience as measurable attributes of organizational behavior.
Luthans (2002) argues that the transformation of behaviors in an organization is more effective than inherent personality traits. In this view, positive organizational behavior is a feasible strategy for improving organizational performance.
Positive organizational behavior is not only effective in improving organizational performance, but also in creating organizational culture, which values and nurtures principles of good governance. The development of an organizational culture that motivates employees has significant benefits to the organization and employees. The positive organizational behavior creates behaviors such as a civic virtue, courtesy, altruism, and conscientiousness (Memari, Valikhani, Aghababaee, & Davali 2013). These behaviors are important in shaping an organizational culture that is admirable given the competitive nature of the corporate world. Hence, the application of positive organizational behavior is effective because it benefits both the employees and employers.
Flaws Identified in the Study
Empirical studies have demonstrated that positive organizational behavior is central to improving organizational behavior. However, empirical studies have identified a number of flaws that affect the application and assessment of positive organizational behavior. One of the flaws that researchers experience is the validity of the findings. Ojo (2009) asserts that organizational behavior is a complex aspect of an organization that is dependent on a number of factors that are present in the corporate world.
Since employees always try to portray a corporate image, they provide biased information, which reduces the validity of the study findings. In a study that examined how to strengthen positive organizational behavior through learning, the limitation of the study is that the findings are dependent on behavioral and attitudinal work outcomes rather than on positive organizational behavior (Lis 2012). In this view, researchers need to consider biases and other confounding variables when interpreting the findings of a study.
Obtaining an appropriate sample of participants is a flaw that researchers encounter while performing research studies that relate to positive organizational behavior. According to Holloway (2012), the nature of employees that researchers select in a study varies from one organization to another. For example, a governmental organization has a different set of employees, while a non-governmental organization has another set of employees. In this view, harmonization of the findings makes it difficult to infer certain trends of behavior given that employees have different organizational backgrounds. Furthermore, Luthans and Youssef (2007) observe that positive organizational behavior focuses only on the behavior of employees, yet other factors like personality and leadership dimensions have a significant influence on the performance of organizations.
Researchers experience flaws while measuring positive organizational behavior among employees because implicit factors mediate their outcomes. Harms and Luthans (2012) state that, “a major stumbling block for organizational behavior researchers seems to be dissatisfaction with the suitability of implicit measures for applying settings” (p. 590). The dissatisfaction emanates from the lack of convergence between implicit and explicit measures. Additionally, given that behavioral change takes months and years for the effects of positive organizational behavior to be apparent, the accuracy of the data is dependent on a certain period of the study (Avey, Luthans, & Jensen 2004). Therefore, the validity of the findings is subject to the period under which a study occurs.
Recommendations for Further Studies
- Since many factors mediate the relationship between positive organizational behavior and performance, positive psychologists need to identify these factors and consider them when interpreting research findings.
- Increase aspects of positive organizational psychology because hope, resilience, self-efficacy, and optimism are not the only aspects.
- Positive psychologists should come up with standard methods of applying and assessing positive organizational behavior in modern organizations, which are very complex and dynamic.
- Future research studies should examine the influence of personality traits and leadership positions on organizational behavior.
- Researchers should harmonize the organizational behavior and culture with a view of understanding the cultural attributes of individuals.
Research studies utilize a number of questionnaires in assessing positive organizational behavior. Psychological capital is a form of a questionnaire that assesses self-efficacy, resilience, optimism, and hope among employees (Harms & Luthans 2012). Further research studies have modified psychological capital questionnaire and formulated an Implicit PsyCap Questionnaire (I-PCQ). Organizational climate questionnaire (OCQ) is also another form of a questionnaire that analyzes varied attributes of positive organizational behavior (Holloway 2012). This scale is important in examining the impact of organizational culture on the behaviors of employees. Other questionnaires that are applicable in the study of positive organizational psychology are happiness measures (HM), the brief resilience scale (BRS), the strengths use and current knowledge scale (SUCK), and the adult hope scale (AHS) amongst many other scales and questionnaires.
Positive organizational behavior is a central aspect of human resource management because it empowers employees to unleash their full potential and consequently enhances organizational performance. Both theoretical and empirical studies have proved that the application of positive organizational behavior is an effective way of optimizing human resources in organizations. According to positive psychologists, hope, self-efficacy, optimism, and resilience are the main aspects of positive organizational behavior and thus helpful parameters in the assessment of capacities and strengths of employees.
Although the application of positive organizational behavior is effective, empirical studies cite some flaws. The nature of flaws that empirical studies experience relates to the validity of data, biases, research design, the complexity of constructs, and the existence of confounding variables. Therefore, the research paper recommends that positive psychologists need to identify confounding variables, examine additional aspects of positive organizational behavior, develop standards of assessment, examine the influence of personality traits, and harmonize different variables that mediate positive organizational behavior. For example, the confounding variables are management styles, the level of motivation, and the nature of the regulations.
Additional aspects of positive organizational behavior such as the productiveness, experience, and age of employees would provide a comprehensive assessment of positive organizational behavior. Regarding standards of assessment, I would suggest the development of standard questionnaires, models, or scales to enhance the accuracy of assessing positive organizational behavior. Personality traits such as introversion and extroversion need consideration in the assessment of positive organizational behavior because they have a significant influence on human behavior. Therefore, these recommendations are appropriate in promoting the application of positive organizational behavior in business organizations.
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