• Positive Psychological Capital Concept

    PsyCap_metaphorAt the beginning of May 2014 I wrote that when it comes to the competitive advantage of every company, what really counts are psychological characteristics of people who form the organization. Fred Luthans ? a management professor from the University of Nebraska, who specialize in organizational behavior, with Carolyn Youssef and Bruce Avolio distinguished four human capacities that are changeable, can develop and have a demonstrated impact on performance. Those are: self-efficacy, hope, optimism and resilience.

    Together, they form a distinct construct of Positive Psychological Capital (PsyCap), defined as an individual’s positive psychological state of development that is characterized by:

    1. having confidence (self-efficacy) to take on and put in the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks;
    2. making a positive attribution (optimism) about succeeding now and in the future;
    3. working towards goals and, when necessary, redirecting paths to goals (hope) in order to succeed; and
    4.  when beset by problems and adversity, sustaining and bouncing back and even beyond (resilience) to attain success (Luthans, Youssef and Avolio, 2007, p.3).

    What does it mean to have strong PsyCap? To answer to that question we should learn more about it single components.

    Self-efficacy is understood as the individual?s conviction or confidence about his or her abilities to mobilize the motivation, cognitive resources or courses of action needed to successfully execute a specific task within a given context (Stajkovic and Luthans, 1998, p.66). Self-efficacious employees:

    • choose challenging tasks,
    • are highly self-motivated,
    • invest necessary effort to accomplish their goals,
    • persevere when faced with obstacles.

    Meta-analysis of 114 studies has shown that self-efficacy has a correlation of .38 with work related performance (Stajkovic and Luthans, 1998).

    Hope is a motivational state based on the interaction between goals, willpower (agency) and way-finding (pathways). People are stimulated to achieve their goals by their own sense of agency, which provides them with determination and willpower to invest the energy necessary to achieve their goals. What?s more, those with high hope are motivated to search for new pathways, if the old ones are no longer available. And if they succeed, it increases their determination to keep going (Snyder, 2000).

    The state of optimism refers to the expectations that people have towards the future: optimists have positive expectancy toward future events and are more likely than pessimists to put effort in achieving their goals even when facing difficulties (Carver and Scheier, 2002).

    The capacity of resilience is understood as the ability to adapt to adverse, conflictual or risky situations or even highly positive, but stressful events and bounce back stronger and more resourceful from them (Masten and Reed, 2002). Resilient people are characterized by fervent acceptance of reality, deep belief in life?s meaningfulness and the ability to improvise and adapt to significant change.

    Developing PsyCap of employees is important not only to increase their level of performance. The meta-analysis of research conducted in sum within 12,567 participants from different countries has shown that PsyCap is significantly positively related to desired employee attitudes like job satisfaction, organizational commitment and psychological well-being; desired employee behaviors like citizenship; and multiple measures of performance, like self-evaluation, supervisor evaluation and objective measures (Avey, Reichard, Luthans and Mhatre, 2011). How to do it I will write next time.



    Avey, J. B., Reichard R. J., Luthans, F. and Mhatre, K. H. (2011). Meta-Analysis of the Impact of Positive Psychological Capital on Employee Attitudes, Behaviors and Performance. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 22 (2), 127-152.

    Carver, C. S. and Scheier, M. S. (2002). Optimism. In: C. R. Snyder and S. J. Lopez (ed.), Handbook of Positive Psychology (pp. 231?243). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Luthans, F., Youssef C. M. and Avolio B. J. (2007). Psychological Capital: Developing the Human Competitive Edge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Masten, A. S. and Reed, M. J. (2002). Resilience in Development. In: C. R. Snyder and S. Lopez (ed.), Handbook of Positive Psychology (pp. 74-88). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Snyder, C. R. (2000). Handbook of Hope. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

    Stajkovic, A. and Luthans, F. (1998). Self-Efficacy and Work-Related Performance: A Meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 240-261.


    Graphic credit: ideopsychology.com/category/colour-psychology/