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Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work (Book Review)

By on February 15, 2010 – 5:06 pm  2 Comments

Margaret Greenberg, MAPP '06, is co-author of Profit from the Positive. After a 15-year career in corporate HR, she founded The Greenberg Group, an organizational effectiveness consulting practice, in 1997. Margaret specializes in coaching executives and their teams using a strengths-based approach. Full bio.

Margaret's solo articles are here and her articles with Senia Maymin are here.



Researchers and practitioners seeking to bring positive psychology to the workplace have a new resource: the Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work* edited by P. Alex Linley, Susan Harrington, and Nicola Garcea. All three editors are from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Alex Linley is also the Founder and Director of the Centre of Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) and has been interviewed in the past by PPND author Timothy So.

BOOK REVIEW: Linley, P. A., Harrington, S. & Garcea, N. (Eds.) (2009). Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work. Oxford University Press.

LinleyMore than fifty researchers and practitioners have contributed to this handbook from three continents (UK, US, and Australia), bringing a more diverse view of the workplace. Traditionally psychologists and consultants have viewed the world of work through a deficit lens, asking questions like: What’s wrong, what needs fixing, and why is morale so low? In this handbook the workplace is viewed instead through an abundance lens, asking questions like: What’s right, what engages each generation of workers, and what do positive team member relationships look like?

Audience

Have you ever wanted to be able to share the latest in research on positive psychology and business with a coaching client?  The handbook is a must-have for students, researchers, consultants, and coaches who seek to bring the latest thinking from positive psychology to the workplace. Human Resource professionals looking to revamp their practices will also find the handbook useful.

The editors suggest that the “lessons of positive psychology contained within this volume should be in the hands of every CEO, every manager.” Using the research in this book, PPND readers can translate the findings from research to practice, and the CEOs and managers will be grateful for the quick look into research results.  Some graphs may be in fact given to business people directly, such as the very specific mindfulness exercises on page 197.

Book Overview

The book is organized into six sections:

  • Positive Psychology and the Changing World of Work
  • Positive Organizational Leadership
  • Positive Work Environments for Individuals and Organizations
  • Enabling a Positive Working Life
  • Models for Positive Organizations
  • Looking to the Future: Challenges and Opportunities

building_happinessEach section is further divided into chapters that are titled in such a way that the reader can easily find what he is most curious about. This isn’t the kind of book that you have to read cover-to-cover. Instead the reader can skim the contents and then quickly go the most relevant chapters. For example, if you are doing research or seek to apply the latest findings on leadership, meaning, strengths, or work-life balance you can easily find it in the handbook, along with a complete reference section at the end of each chapter to guide further research. Each chapter begins with an abstract, followed by well cited research and theories, and ends with two sections that researchers and practitioners alike will find helpful: Directions for Research and Implications for Practice.

One chapter I found particularly interesting was “Generation Me and the Changing World of Work” by Jean Twenge from San Diego State University and Stacy Campbell from Kennesaw State University.  The authors make a strong business case for implementing policies and management practices that take into account the personality traits and attitudes toward work of employees born between 1980-2000.  For example, in a recent study (Twenge, Campbell, & Hoffman, 2008), the largest change in generational differences was the valuing of leisure time by Generation Me workers.  I found myself thinking about the implications to the workplace:  How might a company adjust its policies on vacation time, flextime, and remote or virtual offices to attract and retain younger employees?

Another chapter that caught my eye was “What’s Wrong with Being Positive?” Could it be my own negativity bias that drew me to this chapter? I don’t think so. I’ve always scored very high on optimism tests. However, I was curious what a handbook of positive psychology would have to say about what’s wrong with it. The author, Samantha Warren from the School of Management at the University of Surrey in the UK, wrote a provocative piece about the darker side of organizations adopting a positive psychology approach. You may want to investigate this to see whether you agree.

Final Thoughts

The three editors make this appeal to the readers of their handbook: “Can you help us in making work a more positive experience for all?” As readers of Positive Psychology News Daily, I believe the answer is a resounding YES. Consider adding the Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work to your bookshelf in your quest to make work a more positive experience.

* This book is the latest addition to the Oxford Library of Psychology.
 


 

References:

Linley, P. A., Harrington, S. & Garcea, N. (Eds.) (2009). Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work. Oxford University Press.

Tweng, J.M., Campbell S.M., & Hoffman, B.J. (2010).  Generational differences in work values:  Leisure and extrinsic values increasing, social and intrinsic values decreasing.  Journal of Management, 36(5). 1117-1142. Abstract.

Images:
Building
courtesy of David Paul Ohmer

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