Validation and test of central concepts in positive work and organizational psychology

The second report from the Nordic project Positive factors at work

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Positive psychology is about studying and understanding positive psychological phenomena - the things that work for people, organizations and societies. The insights of positive psychology have also manifested themselves within work and organizational psychology. These trends have entailed a focus on more positive work-related phenomena, as for instance flow, work engagement, meaningfulness, and well-being at work. The aim of this report is to conduct a closer inspection of central concepts in positive work and organizational psychology. Firstly, the report assesses the validity of a series of measures of positive concepts and secondly, the report analyzes relationships between positive concepts and a series of positive individual and organizational outcomes. The analyses yield interesting findings that may contribute to a new working life research front with a strong potential generating knowledge that may prove useful in enhancing a healthy work environment.




Within working life research as well as within work psychology there has been a long and strong tradition of focusing on risks, problems, diseases, and other negative aspects of the work environment. Modern reflexive social systems and organizations incorporate, internalize, and apply this knowledge, which creates new conditions for research and reflexivity, and so forth. There are similar processes on the individual level — people reflect and internalize knowledge which changes their perceptions, cognitions and action strategies. In that way our societies have gained much knowledge about what work conditions should be avoided or eliminated. This “elimination approach” has been rather successful, especially as a perspective for improving the physical work environment. Within the psychosocial field, the application of research into practice has resulted in what can be named psychological anti-demands: work should not be mechanically paced, monotonous, or over-stimulating or under-stimulating; work patterns should not be standardized; and so forth. This knowledge is very relevant in an era when work of that type dominates but is insufficient or inadequate for a working life where key issues for progress are motivation, cooperation and creativity. Research results from this elimination approach are quite instrumental and have been used in legislation and for decisions on work environment threshold values. However, the elimination or avoidance of exposition of negative states or factors does not always result in a positive situation because positive states are often something qualitatively different — not just the reverse. For instance, the absence of work dissatisfaction is not the same as work satisfaction, and absence of monotony does not necessarily mean meaningfulness or positive work-related work experiences.


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