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Positive Factors at Work

The First Report of the Nordic Project

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Positive psychology investigates the positive aspects of human life. Positive psychologists contend that it is difficult to understand the factors that create health, balance and meaningful lives through studying sickness, dissatisfaction and suffering. Accordingly, positive psychology represents a turn for a more positive approach to psychology. The ideas of positive psychology are also applicable within the sphere of work and organisational psychology. It is a central contention of this report that positive psychology may provide interesting answers to some of the challenges that are confronting the Nordic welfare states in the years ahead. The aim of this report is to give a theoretical and methodological overview of existing Nordic research about positive factors at work. The report contains a series of operationalised concepts that measure positive factors at work. These measures of positive factors at work are brought together in a theoretical model that the authors of this report will use as a starting point for further research into positive psychology at work in a Nordic context. This research has been funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

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Concluding remarks

The recent calls for ‘Positive Organizational Behavior’ (Luthans, 2002) and for ‘Positive Organizational Scholarship’ (Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003) are, firstly, based on the observation that there has been a strong negative bias in psychological research. The ratio of scientific publications on positive states versus negative states has been 1:14 (Myers, 2000). Thus, it is apparent that there is a clear gap in the knowledge of positive factors and their consequences for human flourishing. Secondly, it has been found that positive and negative affect are not totally independent, bipolar constructs (Tellegen, Watson, & Clark, 1999). In addition, positive and negative emotions may have different functions and consequences (Fredrickson, 2001). Similarly, burnout (an indicator of chronic not well-being) and work engagement (true well-being) have been found to be negatively associated, but also partly independent phenomena, with partially different predictors and consequences (e.g. Schaufeli, Salanova, González-Roma, & Bakker, 2002; Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004; Hakanen, Bakker, & Schaufeli, 2006). As another example, not being an optimist does not necessarily imply that one is a pessimist. Hence, investigating positive factors is expected to widen our understanding of the factors promoting well-being and other positive outcomes. In order to foster employees’ well-being and health, as well as the success of modern organizations, it is salient to widen the focus of research from risk factors and negative symptoms and consequences to what really promotes good health, motivation, long-term health, and good performance at work.

English

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