Why personal well-being encourage helpful and compliance behaviours at work? Role of positive emotions!

Research has indicated that personal well-being is related to individual’s reporting relatively more positive emotions and less negative emotions (Argyle, 1987; Diener & Larsen, 1993; Larsen & Diener, 1992). In other words a person who reports positive emotions is likely to function effectively and productively in life. To this effect, Fredrickson’s Broaden –and-Build theory (2001, 2003) explains that a positive mood state (all well as any trait, state, emotions) “broaden” or expands an individual’s instantaneous available “thought-action repertoires” (Fredrickson & Branigan, 2001) and therefore makes him/ her more problem-solving, creative and efficient. This is quite the opposite way in which the human brain functions when experiencing emotional distress in which the person’s instinctive ‘fight and flight’ responses are triggered that narrows the thoughts and behaviors to the sole objective of the person to ‘run away’ or ‘stand-up a fight’! Fredrickson maintains that the effect of positive emotions on one’s thoughts and consequent behaviours are relatively spread-out. Such individuals are likely to feel good and function effectively, in other words, demonstrate and report high personal well-being.  

Fredrickson then goes on to theorize that these individuals who are high on well-being, having more adaptive thoughts and broadened actions in life,  over both practice and time, ‘builds’ into enduring personal resources or signature strengths, like resilience. It is this ‘build’ up of strengths and characteristics (Fredrickson, 2001, 2003; Wright & Cropanzano, 2007) that then help individuals thrive, grow and flourish; and also in turn, make them calm, less stressed (Myers & Diener, 1995) and proactive (Argyle, 1987).

Indications for the link between positive emotions and enhanced performance has been explored and justified in research by Luthans et.al. (2007, 2004) and Fredrickson (1998) too have emphasized from their research findings how these ‘individual level factors’ like positive emotion, facilitate organizational change through increased and spiraling attitudinal and behavioral positivity. In one recent study by Avey, Wernsing & Luthans (2008)  the aim was to investigate the role of positive emotion as a moderating variable between an aggregate of positive constructs called ‘Psychological Capital’ (which is an aggregate of four positive states, traits and emotions) and organizational citizenship. In this, I noticed the authors used a hierarchical regression statistical analysis with covariates of age, gender, tenure, job level and education in ‘Step 1’ followed by positive emotions in ‘Step 2’. Technically speaking, the outcome was significant in which positive emotions accounted for an incremental variance in each model and were positively related to citizenship behaviors’ (In Step 1 alpha =.242, p<.05; in Step 2 alpha=.394, p<.01).  Like any cross-sectional study, collecting data at one-point-in-time, there were methodological limitations of causality as it lacked  an experimental design. However to minimize the common source bias the researchers followed recommendations from a study by Podsakoff et.al. (2003), and they separated the data collection of the variables over time. In other words, Avey et al. collected the predictive data first and then on the same sample, gathered data on their dependent variables after a week!  This methodological approach was very clever and useful to minimize the common source bias which otherwise risk leading to inflated relationships between the study variables. The theoretical lens used by Avey et al. was that of the ‘broaden-and-built’ that suggested individuals who demonstrated a high ‘psychological capital’ which operationalised high positive well-being, felt positive and engaged in citizenship behaviors, i.e., helping others at work and in complying with the organizational rules and regulations.

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3 Responses to Why personal well-being encourage helpful and compliance behaviours at work? Role of positive emotions!

  1. Dr. Papiya Banerji says:

    Wish to know more about ‘Psychological Capital’ .Please post some more details.

  2. Tamer Sabet says:

    Nice post – an insightful review and critique of some of the literature. I wonder how well organisations function with a number of individuals with greater psychological capital working together – specifically do they successfully fuel each other? Or does this create organisational chaos? I would be keen to see your thoughts.

  3. arpita roy says:

    Positive emotions is absolutely related to wellbeing in general,helps to beat stress and helps us to stay grounded,energy will flow where attention will take us.

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