Management in Kazakhstan faces many challenges for which the adoption of Western management theories could help address. This is an issue that is profoundly important to the future of Kazakhstan. One of such theory is Positive Organizational Behavior (POB). POB is a branch of Organizational Behavior (OB) that focuses on the malleable personality traits that have been associated with improved performance. It represents a new approach for a business to gain competitive advantage through its employees. In a modern highly competitive and turbulent environment, people represent the most important asset in any business organization. This requires employees to be developed to make the biggest contribution possible to organizational performance improvement. Caution, however, must be used in its application. Clearly, what is considered to be good management approach in one country, does not necessarily is considered to be good management approach in other countries because of different cultures, traditions, history, and living conditions. As our exploratory study suggests (see Part II in this edition), there is a difference in perception of POB underlying concepts between people from individualistic society – from where the theory originates– and collectivistic society of Kazakhstan. Thus, the best means to develop POB capacities in local people should probably be different from those that are proposed by Western scholars.
The objectives of this paper are (1) to define POB and identify its salient parameters;
(2) to consider its relevance to Kazakhstan; and (3) to assert what needs to be adjusted in applying an American-based theory in Kazakhstan.
Positive Organizational Behavior
Even though positivity was widely studied within OB, POB represents a unique positive construct. It, thus, differs from other OB theories such as positive affectivity, positive reinforcement, procedural justice, job satisfac-
tion and commitment, pro-social and organizational citizenship behaviors, core selfevaluations, and many others (Youssef and Luthans 2007).
Relatively stable positive character traits have long been studied in OB, but POB differs because it focuses on more malleable trait-like capacities such as self-confidence, hope, optimism, and resilience. They are more open to adjustment and development (Luthans and Youssef 2007). POB concepts are theoretically and empirically based, validly measurable, have a demonstrated work performance impact, and are adaptable by means of training and development. This makes POB a distinctive and relatively new field within OB (Youssef and Luthans 2007). Criteria-meeting and most representative capacities are confidence/ self-efficacy, hope, optimism, and resilience (Luthans 2002).
Self-efficacy is people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives (Bandura  1998). Hope is the process of thinking about one’s goals, along with the motivation to move toward (agency) and the ways to achieve (pathways) those goals (Snyder 1995). Optimism is the global generalized tendency to believe that one will generally experience good versus bad outcomes in life (Scheier and Carver 1985). And resiliency is the capability of individuals to cope successfully in the face of significant change, adversity, or risk (Stewart et al. 1997).
Transferability of POB to Kazakhstan In the United States, where individualism is the dominant value system, selfefficacy, hope, optimism, and resilience are strongly related to work performance. The objective of our research was to study if the positive personality traits identified by POB influence work-related performance of Kazakhstanis.
Academic theories must be tested and adjusted, if necessary, to local environment
before they are applied. Christopher and Hickinbottom (2008) have argued the conceptions of self vary within and across cultures and over time, and that the boundaries of identity (that is, how we define self) shape how a good person and a good life is understood.
The results of our exploratory empirical research suggest that POB may be successfully applied in Kazakhstan. The analysis made for this study demonstrated that POB theory’s main assumptions about impact of positive traits of self-efficacy, hope, optimism, and resiliency on work-related performance outcomes holds true in Kazakhstan, but what makes people feel more self-confident, hopeful, optimistic, and resilient may differ between societies. Thus, as a result of our research, we created a set of questionnaires to test self-efficacy, hope, optimism, and resiliency of directly Kazakhstanis.
vs. Kazakhstani Questionnaires to Test POB Capacities
The original US questionnaire to test self-efficacy is called “The Generalized SelfEfficacy Scale (GSE)”. It is a 10-item psychometric scale that is designed to assess optimistic self-beliefs to cope with a variety of difficult demands in life. The scale has been originally developed in German by Matthias Jerusalem and Ralf Schwarzer in 1981. A questionnaire to test self-efficacy of directly Kazakhstanis consists of 12 Likert-scale items. Only five items were retained from the original US questionnaire:
- If someone opposes me, I can find the means and ways to get what I want.
- It is easy for me to stick to my aims and accomplish my goals.
- I am confident that I could deal efficiently with unexpected events.
- I can solve most problems if I invest the necessary effort.
- When I am confronted with a problem, I can usually find several solutions.
The following items were excluded by the participants of our study from the original questionnaire:
- I can always manage to solve difficult problems if I try hard enough.
- Thanks to my resourcefulness, I know how to handle unforeseen situations.
- I can remain calm when facing difficulties because I can rely on my coping abilities.
- If I am in trouble, I can usually think of a solution.
- I can usually handle whatever comes my way.
And the following items were added:
- I do not usually doubt in my own abilities.
- I do not usually pay attention to opinions of others.
- I usually manage most of the things myself instead of relying on other people.
- I can usually say “no”.
- I know what I want.
- I have life experience.
- I am ready to face any situation. Optimism questionnaire:
The original US questionnaire was developed by Scheier, M. and Carver, C in 1985. It contains 12 Likert-scale questions, 4 of which are “filler” questions and are ignored.
Common items are:
- If something can go wrong for me, it will.
- I always look on the bright side of things.
- Right now I’m optimistic about my future.
- I hardly ever expect things to go my way.
- Things never work out the way I want them to.
- I’m a believer in the idea that “every cloud has a silver lining”
No items were excluded.
However, new five items that were added:
- I rarely count on good things happening to me.
- I’m able not to be morally broken with some negative events.
- I’m able to always stay in good mood.
- I’m able to never feel helpless.
- I’m able to stand “life tests” with a smile.
The original questionnaire to test hope was developed by Snyder, C. R. in 2000. It measures cognitive model of hope which defines hope as "a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal-directed energy), and (b) pathways (planning to meet goals)". The adult hope scale contains 12 items. Our questionnaire has 11 Likert-scale items.
- I can think of many ways to get out of a jam.
- I energetically pursue my goals.
- There are lots of ways around my problem.
- Even when others get discouraged, I know I can find a way to solve the problem.
- I’ve been pretty successful in life.
- I meet the goals I set for myself. Two items were excluded:
- I can think of many ways to get the things in life that are most important to me.
- My past experiences have prepared me well for my future.
- I am able not to despond because of minor things.
- I am able to continue making attempts to improve a situation that is becoming worse and worse.
- I have faith in myself.
- I am able to wait.
- I keep inspiration and cheer. Resiliency questionnaire:
The original “Resilience Scale” contains 26 Likert-scale items. It was created by Gail
Wagnild and Heather M. Young in 1987. It measures the degree of individual resilience, which is considered a positive personality characteristic that enhances individual adaptation. The questionnaire to measure resilience that was developed directly for Kazakhstan as a result of our exploratory study contains 30 Likert-scale items.
There are 24 common items:
- When I make plans, I follow through with them.
- I usually manage one way or another.
- I am able to depend on myself more than anyone else.
- Keeping interested in things is important to me.
- I can be on my own if I have to.
- I feel proud that I have accomplished things in life.
- I usually take things in stride.
- I am friends with myself.
- I feel that I can handle many things at a time.
- I am determined.
- I seldom wonder what the point of it all is.
- I take things one day at a time.
- I can get through difficult times because I've experienced difficulty before.
- I have self-discipline.
- I keep interested in things.
- I can usually find something to laugh about.
- My belief in myself gets me through hard times.
- In an emergency, I'm someone people can generally rely on.
- I can usually look at a situation in a number of ways.
- Sometimes I make myself do things whether I want to or not.
- My life has meaning.
- I do not dwell on things that I can't do anything about.
- When I'm in a difficult situation, I can usually find my way out of it.
- It's okay if there are people who don't like me.
Two items were excluded by our respondents:
- I have enough energy to do what I have to do.
- I am resilient.
Six items were added:
- I am able not to stay in bad mood for a long time.
- I am able not to stay in bad physical shape for a long time.
- I am able to forgive and forget offences quickly.
- I am able to improve mood by the means of good sleep.
- I am able to schedule life and follow the schedule.
- I am full of energy.
The positive influence of selfconfidence, optimism, hope, and resiliency on work-related performance has been investigated in the United States. We have concluded that Positive Organizational Behavior is relevant, and can be successfully applied to Kazakhstan. Also, a byproduct of our research was a creation of questionnaires to test selfefficacy, hope, optimism, and resiliency of directly Kazakhstanis. These questionnaires may be helpful in other managerial, psychological, and social research. This suggests, however, that future research in the field of POB should be aimed at examining the ways that specific trait-like capacities can be developed in Kazakhstanis to improve their workrelated performance outcomes. Those means that are suggested by Western scholars to develop these traits can hardly be simply copied and applied in the Kazakhstani environment without any adjustments because, as our exploratory research has demonstrated, different factors contribute to people’s self-confidence, hope, optimism, and resilience in the United States and in Kazakhstan. Therefore, probably, different means are required to develop these capacities in societies of two countries.
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- Jerusalem, M. and Schwarzer, R. (1981). The General Self-Efficacy Scale (GSE). Retrieved on February 10, 2009 from http://www.healthpsych.de
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- Snyder, C. R. (2000). Handbook of hope. San Diego: Academic Press.
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