In 2009, an exploratory study of possible impact of Positive Organizational Behavior (POB) on employee performance was conducted. Its research objectives were:
- What does “self-confidence”, “optimism”, “hope”, and “resiliency” mean to Kazakhstanis?
- What do Kazakhstanis consider to be the most important and common items that contribute to “self-efficacy”, “optimism”, “hope”, and “resiliency”?
- Do the traits of “self-efficacy”, “optimism”, “hope”, and “resiliency” influence the work-related performance of Kazakhstanis?
The objective of this paper is (1) to describe the research conducted and (2) to assert if POB can be associated with better workrelated performance of Kazakhstanis.
Positive Organizational Behavior
Positive Organizational Behavior differs from other positive theories in management in several respects. Positive Organizations address macro-level variables and measures, whereas POB emphasizes on micro, individual-level constructs. In comparison to relatively stable positive traits that are studied in Organizational Behavior, POB studies positive state-like capacities that are relatively more malleable and thus are open to change and development. Finally, strengths and virtues studied in Positive Psychology have value in and of them and do not necessarily impact work-related performance outcomes as positive state-like capacities studied in POB do (Luthans and Youssef 2007).
Literature on POB does not reflect consensus. Stajkovic and Luthans (1998), Schulman (1999), and Peterson and Luthans (2003) maintain that state-like capabilities studied in POB, such as self-efficacy, hope, optimism, resiliency, and PsyCap, lead to improved work-related outcomes. Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, and Vohs (2003) affirm that there is a reverse relationship between statelike capabilities and work performance. That is, when a person achieves good results in work, s/he becomes more self-efficacious, hopeful, optimistic, and resilient. Lopes and Cunha (2005), Buehler, Griffin and Ross (1994), Lindsley, Brass, and Thomas (1995), all argue that excessive self-efficacy and optimism, for example, lead to impaired performance. Conversely, sad mood and lack of self-confidence force people to process information more attentively and this leads to better work-related performance. Aspinwall and Staudinger (2003) partially agree with all contra-parties and thus suggest that there is a proper balance between all of them. We agree with the last proposition and consider that POB can provide organizations with new potential source of competitive advantage through their people. A person with low selfconfidence, for example, would not be able to be self-managing. Just as a person whose prevailing mood is sad mood would be inclined to pessimism. And a pessimistic person would hardly be self-driven in seeking for new opportunities to improve company’s well-being. Temporary effects of sad mood and lack of self-efficacy may help in making a person be more attentive in gathering, processing, and reporting information, only immediately after the person made a mistake in one of these activities.
Data collection process was conducted in multiple stages. Different questionnaires were developed for and used at each different stage. Samples sizes were also different. For the first stage, a questionnaire that contained open-ended questions was distributed among volunteers of one local institute and ten local business companies approached through acquaintances. The purpose was to test local people’s understanding of self-confidence, optimism, hope, and resiliency. Four openended questions were asked: How would you define self-confidence/ optimism/ hope/ resiliency? This questionnaire as well as all others was composed in English with translation into Russian.
The purpose of the second questionnaire was to identify the most common items that contribute to self-confidence, optimism, hope, and resiliency. The second questionnaire was prepared on the basis of the results from the first questionnaire. It consisted of four questions and touched upon four topics: one question for each topic. A separate list of items was provided for each topic. Respondents were asked to choose 5 items that in their opinion have the biggest contribution to the phenomenon under question and rank them (#1 as the most important and #5 as the least important). The second questionnaire was distributed in the same organizations. Then correlation analysis was performed to figure out the most commonly identified items.
In the third questionnaire, items from original questionnaires to test self-efficacy, optimism, hope, and resiliency and items developed and retained as a result of running Questionnaire 1 and 2 are combined. Correlation analysis for each set of questions was performed to reduce number of items in each set. These items were then included in the final questionnaire to test impact of self-efficacy, optimism, hope, and resiliency on workrelated performance outcomes in the context of Kazakhstan.
The final questionnaire was used to examine whether self-efficacy, optimism, hope, and resiliency of Kazakhstanis influence their work-related performance, if at all. For this purpose, a group of local manufacturing, investing, and construction companies was selected. Administrative support staff was asked to fill-in the final questionnaire to evaluate their level of self-efficacy, hope, optimism, and resilience. At the same time, their supervisors were asked to fill-in “Questionnaire for supervisors”, in which they were asked to evaluate work-related performance of their subordinates. After that average degree of selfconfidence, optimism, hope, and resiliency was calculated for every respondent. These results for every respondent were compared with average work-related score. Then all respondents were classified into two groups according to whether their level of performance was good or poor.
The tested hypothesis was that the two samples come from identical population was tested. The conclusion was drawn that on average, in this study, good performers are characterized with higher levels of self-efficacy and optimism. In this study, it was also found out that people with higher levels of hope and resiliency tend to be better performers than people with understated levels of hope and resiliency.
Also average self-confidence, optimism, hope, and resilience was calculated for the whole group of good performers and poor performers. As a result, good performers can on average be characterized as having higher degree of self-confidence, optimism, and resilience than poor performers.
It was central to this study to establish how Kazakhstanis tend to perceive a selfconfident person, an optimist, a person full of hope, and a resilient person. It was found that a self-confident person is understood in Kazakhstan to be a person whose opinion is not subject to opinion of others; who can defend his or her point of view by explanation of its correctness; has life experience; speaks easy, clearly, and smoothly; answers the questions quickly; controls gestures; does not feel shy; does not turn red in the face; has confident walk and speech; ready to face any situation; always acts only after careful consideration; does not pay attention to opinions of others (both positive and negative); knows what he or she wants; knows how to achieve what he or she wants; thinks and behaves as if he or she is the best; believes that he or she is able to achieve any goal he or she is pursuing; does not have doubts in his or her abilities; never doubts in the correctness of the choice he or she made; is able to say “no”, if he or she does not want to do something; is confident in his or her knowledge; and does not rely on other people too much because he or she can manage most of things him or herself.
It was found that an optimist is understood in Kazakhstan to be a person who thinks positively instead of hanging his head when faces difficulties, seeks for and finds positivism in unfavorable situation, cannot be morally broken by negative events because always he or she sees the positive aspects; stands life’s tests with a smile; tries to be happy despite of difficult circumstances; never feels helpless; always has positive mood; believes that everything will be satisfactory; and usually he or she expects a favorable outcome.
A person full of hope, it was found in Kazakhstan, to be a person who believes in him or herself; will continue to make attempts to improve a situation that is becoming worse and worse; is sure that everything will change and get in order even when he or she gets in trouble and cannot cope with things around; very inspired and cheerful; has a clear goal and does not notice any barriers; always has faith in good; always feels hope; and does not despond because of minor things.
A resilient person is understood in Kazakhstan to be a person who has a quality of resilience from his or her birth or obtained it during his or her life; forgives and forgets offences quickly; whose mood becomes better after a good sleep; who is able to forget about everything for a while and to take rest; is in good mood and shape despite anything; does not snap, but springs back into shape; is strong; full of energy; who is active; never stays in bad mood and bad physical shape for a long time; is able to schedule his or her life and follows the schedule; and who found a source of energy and motivation for him or herself.
A second issue central to this study was to define what Kazakhstanis consider to be the most important and common items that contribute to self-efficacy, optimism, hope and resilience. The factors identified that contribute to the person’s self-confidence were: ability not to doubt in correctness of your own choice, ability not to doubt in your own abilities, ability not to pay attention to opinions of others, ability to manage most of the things yourself instead of relying on other people, ability to say "no", belief in ability to achieve any goal a person is pursuing, knowledge of your own desires, presence of life experience, and readiness to face any situation.
The factors identified that contribute to a person’s optimism were: ability not to be morally broken with some negative events, ability to always stay in a good mood, ability to never feel helpless, ability to stand "life tests" with a smile, ability to think and believe that everything will be ok, faith in favorable outcomes, and striving for happiness despite of different circumstances.
The factors identified that contribute to the person’s hope were: ability not to despond because of minor things, ability to continue making attempts to improve a situation that is becoming worse and worse, faith in himself, feeling of hope and ability to wait, inspiration, and cheer.
The factors identified that contribute to the person’s resilience were: ability not to stay in bad mood for a long time, ability not to stay in bad physical shape for a long time, ability to forgive and forget offences quickly, ability to improve mood by the means of good sleep, ability to schedule life and follow the schedule, and energy.
The research found that there was evidence of a tendency that self-efficacy, optimism, hope, and resiliency of Kazakhstanis tend to be associated with better work-related performance.
The analysis made demonstrated that POB’s theory main assumption about positive association of self-efficacy, optimism, hope, and resiliency on work-related performance holds true. But what makes people feel more self-confident, hopeful, optimistic, and resilient may differ between societies. This provides support for the proposition that POB seem to be associated with improved work performance in Kazakhstan. However, it must be realized that it was just an exploratory study involving a small sample. It needs confirmation from a bigger more representative study.
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