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Positive Organizational Psychology

Since the early 90s, a charged-up group of writers, researchers and educators

has been deconstructing the psychological profession’s focus on pathology and

rebuilding it with the study of what can go right with people and

institutions. They call themselves positive psychologists. These thinkers don’

t claim to have invented anything new or created a new profession. They

distinguish themselves by their perspective. The value of positive psychology

lies in its uniting of what had been scattered and disparate lines of theory

and research about what makes life most worth living, writes Martin Seligman,

a leading “positive” psychologist.

Leading Lights in Positive Psychology: Dr. Martin Seligman, University of

Pennsylvania, is one of the most visible thought leaders on positive

psychology. Seligman’s work on depression, learned pessimism and learned

optimism earned him a solid reputation long before he became a proponent of

positive psychology. Since the early 1990s, he has focused on the study of

positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive

institutions. During his term as president of the American Psychological

Association Seligman promoted the study of positive psychology. Seligman’s

Authentic Happiness Web site (http://www.authentichappiness.org) is a

treasure trove of resources and news on the topic.

Dr. Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi, Claremont Graduate University, is another key

thought leader. Csikszentmihalyi is the author of the best selling “Flow: The

Psychology of Optimal Experience,” as well as numerous scholarly and popular

books and articles. He led the establishment of the first positive

organizational psychology degree programs at Claremont Graduate University

and runs the university’s Quality of Life Institute. The refreshing

perspective offered by this field has a great deal of appeal and we expect

that its messages will make continuous inroads in the practices of our


Books to Read: For a general introduction to positive psychology, “A Primer

in Positive Psychology” by Christopher Peterson is an excellent general

introduction written in conversational style. Peterson and Seligman

coauthored “Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification,”

offering the positive psychologist’ s answer to the Diagnostic and

Statistical Manual (a.k.a. DSMIII), a book widely used by psychologists and

psychiatrists to classify mental pathologies. “Positive Psychological

Assessment: A Handbook of Models and Measures” by C. R. Snyder and Shane J.

Lopez addresses the subject of testing and metrics that assess positive

psychological characteristics.

Positive Organizational Psychology

Since 2000, authors and researchers have placed quite a bit of emphasis on

positive organizational psychology as an application of this new perspective.

University of Michigan professor Kim S. Cameron, a major voice on positive

psychology in the workplace, predicts that positive organizational

scholarship will become embedded in the questions asked and the approaches

used in a wide variety of organizational studies

There are institutes, degree programs, conferences, blogs, journals, and Web

sites developing around this topic. For anyone with an interest in human

resources assessment and development, this list is worth review:

Books on Positive Organizational Psychology: Perhaps the most widely cited

book on this topic in academic literature is “Positive Organizational

Scholarship: Foundations of a New Discipline” by Kim S. Cameron.

Another work that promotes this perspective is titled “Positive

Organizational Behavior,” which is edited by Debra Nelson and Cary Cooper.

Other titles that develop this perspective include “Positive Psychology In

Business Ethics And Corporate Responsibility,” which focuses on positive

environmental ethics in business. The “Handbook of Positive Psychology” by C.

R. Snyder and Shane J. Lopez has a chapter on organizational behavior. ”

Psychological Capital: Developing the Human Competitive Edge” by Luthans,

Youssef, and Avolio explores the concept of an organization’s psychological

capital, as distinguished from the more widely known idea of human capital.

Fred Luthans is one of the most prolific authors on this topic. “Work,

Happiness and Unhappiness” by Peter Warr examines the problems of measuring

happiness at work.

In addition to the books mentioned above, other resources are shown below:

Videos on Positive Psychology: If video is your information M. O., no problem.

Visit the University of Pennsylvania Web site for a current listing. (http://


Online Assessments: Visit Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness site to chose

from almost 20 free online assessments that relate to positive psychology.

Perhaps the most famous of these for organizational applications is the

Values in Action Signature Strengths, which measures 24 character strengths

in action. The Work-Life Questionnaire on the site measures Work-Life

Satisfaction. Please note: you must create a log-in to use any of the surveys,

but they are all free of charge.

Degree Programs: Claremont Graduate University has just launched degree

programs in positive organizational scholarship in the School of Behavioral

and Organizational Sciences. (http://www.cgu.edu/pages/4573.asp) In addition,

the Master of Applied Positive Psychology is offered at the University of

Pennsylvania and the MSc in Applied Positive Psychology is offered at the

University of East London, UK.

Institutes: The Drucker School of Management at the Claremont Graduate

University started the Quality of Life Research Center in 1999 under the

direction of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

The Values in Action (VIA) Institute provides information on positive

psychology, as well as the classification system and measurement tools of

character strengths that serve as the backbone of this developing scientific


The Centre for Applied Positive Psychology is an independent, not-for-profit

organization affiliated with the University of East London and located at the

University of Warwick campus in the UK.

The European Network for Positive Psychology is a collective of European

researchers and practitioners with shared interests in the science and

practice of positive psychology.

The Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship is located at the Stephen

M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan.

The American Psychological Association has a Psychologically Healthy

Workplace Practice and award program.

There is a great deal of energy in this burgeoning field, and we expect its

influence on the world of industrial psychology to be very … positive!

Author: Kathleen Groll Connolly writes on a variety of human resources topics

and is a partner in Performance Programs, Inc., an organization specializing

in human resources surveys and measurement. For more information call 1-800-

565-4223. http://www.performanceprograms.com

About the Author:
Employee Surveys, Personality Tests and
Assessments: http://www.performanceprograms.com

Source: http://www.articlesnatch.com/Article/Positive-Organizational-Psychology/397013