Are there positive ways to combat employee negativity? Are you interested in improving personal and organizational performance and at the same time personal and organizational well-being?Over the long Christmas / New Year / summer break which many Australians enjoy, I took the opportunity to organize my filing. I discovered articles lurking in the “to read” list. Happy to use PPND as an excuse to kick off the year with some research and reading, I chose to read an article about the role of positive organizational behavior and transformational leadership in enhancing employee performance, and how empowerment might play a mediating role.
The article provides timely reminders for leaders, managers and employees. Two key messages to draw from the researchers’ work include:
- Help your employees increase their levels of empowerment at work by helping them increase their psychological capital
- Direct your efforts into creating transformational leaders, whose leadership style can affect employees’ levels of empowerment and performance
Read on to learn a little more.Empowerment
Referring to the work of Gretchen Spreitzer, the authors describe empowerment as a multidimensional construct comprising:
- Meaning: “value of a work goal or purpose, judged in relation to one’s own ideal or standards”
- Competence: “an individual’s belief in his or her capability to perform activities with skill”
- Autonomy: a sense of having “a choice in initiating and regulating actions”
- Impact: “the degree to which an individual can influence strategic, administrative or operating outcomes at work”
Few of you would be surprised about the benefits of being empowered. The research supports what we have all experienced: “empowerment has been found to be related to effectiveness, less job strain and more job satisfaction, less anger and frustration on the job and greater organizational attachment.”
Psychological Capital and Positive Organizational Behavior
Positive Organizational Behavior (POB) and Psychological Capital (Psycap) emerged from the work of Luthans, Youssef, and colleagues. They describe one’s positive psychological state in terms of four components:
- Confidence / self efficacy: “the confidence to take on and put in the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks”
- Hope: “persevering toward goals and, when necessary, redirecting paths to goals in order to succeed”
- Optimism: “making a [realistic] positive attribution about succeeding now and in the future”
- Resilience: “when beset by problems and adversity, sustaining and bouncing back and even beyond to attain success”
PsyCap is described as a ‘common root resource’ and is similar to the work of other researchers who reinforce the importance of self esteem, self efficacy, locus of control and emotional stability as essential personal psychological resources.
Confidence, hope and optimism are described as proactive resources; resilience is a reactive resource. People with high PsyCap put more effort into a task, are tenacious, have a realistic expectation of future success, are motivated, adapt well to change, and perform better at work. They experience lower levels cynicism at work in the face of change and are more likely to positively embrace the challenge of change. They are less likely to quit. Not only is this personally beneficial to the employee, it has a positive impact on organizational performance.
PsyCap and Empowerment
Personal power and autonomy are more possible if employees have high levels of PsyCap, since PsyCap tends to make people perceive themselves having greater impacts on their organizations. They can solve problems without waiting for direction, they have a sense of control and autonomy, and they have confidence in their abilities. People who feel empowered have lower levels of cynicism and are less likely to intend to quit.
People who have a transformational leader also have a greater sense of empowerment, improved performance and job satisfaction, lower levels of cynicism at work and are less likely to quit. This results in higher levels of organizational attachment. A win-win for everyone.
Transformational leaders have qualities that include:
- showing how the goals and values of the group, followers, leader and organization are in basic agreement
- inspiring commitment to a mission or goal
- providing individual attention their employees
- inspiring individuals to look beyond self interest to the good of the group
Transformational Leadership and Empowerment
Like PsyCap, Transformational Leadership is powerful in creating high levels of empowerment in employees and in enhancing performance at work. This points to the importance of investing in developing transformational leaders.
Overall, this article reinforces the dual role of both employees and leaders in influencing a positive workplace.
Avey, J. B., Hughes, L. W., Norman, S. M., & Luthans, K. (2008) Using positivity, transformational leadership and empowerment to combat employee negativity. Leadership and Organization Development Journal, 29, 110-126
Luthans, F., Youssef, C. & Avolio, B. (2006). Psychological Capital: Developing the Human Competitive Edge. Oxford University Press.
Spreitzer, G. M. & Sonenshein, S. (2003). Positive deviance and extraordinary organizing. In K. Cameron, J. Dutton, & & R. Quinn (Eds.) Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline, pp. 207-224. San Francisco: Berrett-Kohler.
Photos courtesy of Karen Horne and Amanda Horne