SUCCESS Materials – English

Positivity – Theoretical Background – Workplace Research Findings of Positivity

Research Findings on the Impact of Positivity upon Employability, Workplace Outcomes & Career Counselling

Enhancing positivity and positive emotions related abilities of young people can be beneficial for them in multiple ways, at both a personal and professional level. Boosting the level of positivity experienced in the life of a young person can substantially enhance their ability and readiness to deal with the various transitions that may arise during adolescence, whether this change arises in the form of a school-college move or a school-work transition. Furthermore, by increasing adolescents’ positivity and positive emotions, educators may assist in equipping them with the necessary coping mechanisms to deal with unemployment and the competitive rat race of the labour market.

Unemployment has been reported as the 8th most stressful factor in people’s lives (Karaiskou, Malliarou, & Sarafis, 2012). Unemployed individuals experience heightened levels of depression, anxiety and stress, a greater number of negative emotions and reduction in the extent to which they experience meaning in their lives (Pezirkianidis, Stalikas, Efstathiou, & Karakasidou, 2016). Unemployment has been correlated with a reduction in quality of life, self-esteem, resilience and life satisfaction (Deiktakis et al., 2014; Manolakou et al., 2014; Pezirkianidis & Coccosi, 2013).

Thus, it is a matter of high importance to focus on the aforementioned positivity related theories and practices to counter balance negative effects of unemployment and support the future young professional who is entering the turbulence of the job market. Positivity has been seen to negate certain depressive symptoms and reduce anxiety and stress, whilst also predicting mental health flourishing (Fredrickson, Tugade, Waugh, & Larkin, 2008; Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005; Richman, Kobzas, Maselko, Kawachi, Choo, & Bauer, 2005).

Moreover, many research findings indicate that there is a strong positive association between positive emotions and valued outcomes including life satisfaction (Ellison & Fan, 2008; Salsman, Brown, Brechting, & Carlson, 2005), optimism, sense of self-worth (Whittington & Scher, 2010) and perceived meaning in life (Martos, Thege, & Steger, 2010; Steger & Frazier, 2005). The frequent experience of positive emotions appears to bring about the broadening our minds, an enhancement in one’s ability to identify opportunities that crop up in their life, an increase in creativity (Fredrickson, 2009), and an improvement in one’s decision-making capacity (Straw & Barsade, 1993). Given the fact that extensive research has demonstrated the impact of positivity related factors, there is a pressing need to progress one step further, and set about promoting positivity within workplaces across Europe.

The enhancement of the levels of positivity in young professionals can bring about increases youth‘s employment opportunities and lead to ameliorations in their future job performance. More specifically, increasing positivity in the workplace provides major advantages for organizations (Achor, 2010). People who experience positive emotions have been shown to engage more wholeheartedly with their professional tasks and experience a decreased likelihood of burnout or engagement in counterproductive behaviours (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005).

Employees experiencing more frequent positive emotions are better decision makers, display increased productivity, whilst also possessing a capacity to build close relationships with colleagues (Cabrera, 2012).

An increase in positive emotions predicts more energetic work-search strategies, higher success at obtaining first and follow-up job interviews, and the receipt of a increased number job offers (Burger & Caldwell, 2000; Turban, Stevens, & Lee, 2009). Furthermore, positive employees are more likely to have jobs with a wider range of responsibilities and to label their work as more meaningful and more autonomous (Staw, Sutton, & Pelled, 1994).

The concepts of positive psychology are believed to promote adaptability and openness to possibility, both of which are pivotal in the search for an optimal career. More specifically, the application of positive psychology principles to the job search leads to the framing of positive possibilities for individuals’ careers, as opposed to engaging in a job search which centres around barriers and obstacles career progression (Zikic & Franklin, 2010).

For instance, Aronson, Fried and Good (2002) evaluated the impact of a growth mindset intervention on college students, comparing two control groups: a multiple intelligence intervention but no growth mindset control group, with a group of students who were receiving growth mindset intervention plus the multiple intelligences intervention. While the control group showed no change in achievement, the growth mindset intervention group led to a clear gain in achievement, particularly for African – American students. In addition, the African American students in the growth mindset group showed a significant increase in the extent to which they both valued and enjoyed the relevant.

Also, Blackwell, Trzesniewski and Dweck (2007) performed a growth mindset intervention with students who were making the transition to 7th grade, many of whom were already showing declining grades. The control group received eight sessions of training in study skills, while the growth mindset group received eight sessions of study skills plus training in the growth mindset. The key growth mindset message was that effort changes the brain by forming new connections, and that students control this process. The growth mindset intervention halted the students’ decline in grades and started the students on a new pathway of improvement and high achievement.

To conclude, it is important to mention that although the benefits associated with positivity seem clear, the ways in which positivity translates into job-related outcomes is largely understudied and unknown. Scholars have argued that the extent to which positivity relates to job-related outcomes “represents a critical question since it may lead to more effective interventions and to successful strategies for employees to fully develop their potentials” (Alessandri, Borgogni, Schaufeli, Caprara, & Consiglio, 2015). Based on the study of Orkibi and Brandt (2015), the ability of an employee to manage work-life balance fully mediates the relation between positive orientation and job satisfaction. The term positive orientation, means that positivity has an adaptive role in balancing employee’s work and non-work demands and hence can impact their job satisfaction.