Continuing with the theme of covering some of the chapters in the Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work, this month’s article covers key points from Chapter 12: “More than Meets the Eye: The Role of Employee Well-Being in Organizational Research” by Thomas A. Wright, Professor of Management at Kansas State University.
Wright begins with a historical review of how organizational theorists once focused their research on the role of job satisfaction in predicting job performance and staff retention. He noted these theorists experienced inconsistent results, but that there were some rare early researchers in the 1920s and 1930s who were also interested in employee well-being as a predictor.
For example, Fisher and Hanna noted that employee well-being was “responsible to a much greater extent for labor turnover than is commonly realized.” From here, Wright emphasizes the importance of the more recent and expanded research which shows that there is a significant relationship between employee well-being and psychological well-being on the one hand and job performance and staff retention on the other.
Broaden and Build
Wright brings Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build theory into the discussion to point out that positive states help people to “thrive, to mentally flourish and psychologically grow.” He suggests that employees with high levels of psychological well-being and who are satisfied with their job are “more easily able to ‘broaden and build’ themselves … and as a result these satisfied and psychologically well individuals will reap such additional benefits as being more creative, resilient, socially connected, physically healthy and derive more meaning from their work.” Such people also have the resources to “initiate, foster, facilitate and sustain high levels of job performance.” In summary:
- Job performance is highest when employees have high levels of psychological well-being and job satisfaction.
- Job satisfaction predicts job performance but only if the employee also has high psychological well-being.
- The relationship between job satisfaction and retention is also stronger when employees have high levels of psychological well-being.
Taking Our Pulse
Noting that physiological functioning cannot be ignored when considering psychological well-being, Wright offers an interesting insight into cardiovascular measurement. He emphasizes the importance of pulse product (also known as composite cardiovascular measurement), which is calculated by using the combined readings of pulse rate, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure. Wright found that high levels of psychological well-being predicted low (more efficient) pulse product readings. He noted that this was also supported in anecdotal evidence gained through in-depth interviews in which subjects noted the how their psychological well-being (or distress) had a corresponding impact on their cardiovascular health. In turn, this has impacts on job performance, job satisfaction, and staff retention.
Wright makes a number of recommendations which can help enhance psychological well-being:
- Put people into appropriate work situations which maximize psychological well-being.
- Train people to help improve job fit.
- Adapt the work conditions as best as possible to help employees maximize psychological well-being.
- Put people who are psychologically well, socially responsible, and ethically strong into leadership positions; in turn they contribute to creating healthy organizations.
- Provide stress management training.
- Emphasize social support at work.
- Implement family-friendly policies.
- Provide training and implement policies which emphasize the Broaden and Build theory
“The promotion of employee psychological wel-being is an intrinsic good for both individuals and organizations; on toward which we should all work”
Wright, T.A. (2010). More than Meets the Eye: The Role of Employee Well-Being in Organizational Research, In P. A. Linley, S. Harrington & N. Garcea (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work, (pp. 143-154). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Photos by Amanda Horne and used with permission.