In October 2014 I attended the meeting of the Midwest Academy of Management in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A highlight was the opportunity to hear Fred Luthans, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, talk about psychological capital and its importance to organizations.
Psychological capital is not the same as human capital (what you know) or social capital (who you know). Psychological capital is related to individuals being positive about work and life. This mindset grows from hope (having a will and a way), efficacy (confidence), resiliency (ability to bounce back), and optimism (positive outlook). Luthans’ work and others have shown that psychological capital is moderately correlated with increased performance (r = . 3), reduced turnover (r = -.28), and job satisfaction (r = .54).
Luthans noted that mindfulness and positivity are antecedents of psychological capital. He gave several examples of the effects of mindfulness:
- Hotel maids who thought of their jobs as aerobic activity were more productive than those who did not.
- Orchestra members who were given the opportunity to “do something just a little different” in their playing were less bored, more engaged.
- 80 year-olds living in retro living conditions (more like when they were young) improved physiologically.
1. I am a great admirer of Fred Luthans and his contributions to our understanding of managers and life in the workplace. Throughout his career he has applied research skills to advance our knowledge on significant issues. His work on psychological capital and its importance in organizations is typical. In an age when so few employees are truly engaged in the workplace, he goes to the heart of the matter – intentionality.
2. The great psychologist Joseph Rychlak would have followed this research with much interest. In many ways the current work on psychological capital, mindfulness, and positive psychology are consistent with Rychlak’s work (discussed here in several previous blogs). We come at life and give it meaning. We can choose to change how we come at life, how we see our jobs, what our daily activities mean to us. We are not passively written on by our environment. We can reframe and change our premises, our predications, and give different meanings to our days.
3. Leaders should become familiar with this research. It is becoming clear that psychological capitol is related to the bottomline – and to the health and happiness of those we serve through our leadership.
Luthans, F. (October 4, 2014). Up, up, and away with positive psychological capital. Presented at the meeting of the Midwest Academy of Management in Minneapolis, MN.
Luthans, F. ; Avolio, B. J.; Avey, J. B.; and Norman, S. M. (2007). Positive psychological capital: Measurement and relationship with performance and satisfaction. Personnel Psychology, 60, 541-572
"Midwest Sunset". © John Ballard, 2014.