Behaviour : Impact of Hope in
Prof. Malay Biswas
The study tests a hypothesis, driven from the positive psychology and
the positive organisational behaviour, on the impact that hope has on
desired work-related outcomes. These outcomes are – performance, job
satisfaction, work happiness, and organisational commitment. The
findings support that employees’ positive psychology relates to the
Positive Organisational Behaviour
Positive Psychology movement (initiated in 1998), spearheaded by Martin
Seligman, is regarded as the originator of POB (Martin Seligman & Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). The aim of positive psychology is to shift the
emphasis away from what is wrong with people to what is right with people to focus on strengths (as opposed to weaknesses), to be interested in resilience
(as opposed to vulnerability), and to be concerned with enhancing and
developing wellness, prosperity and the good life (as opposed to the
remediation of pathology).
Fred Luthans pioneered Positive Organisational Behaviour in 1999 by
integrating positive psychology to organisational setting. Luthans defined
POB as “the study and application of positively oriented human resource
strengths and psychological capacities that can be measured, developed, and
effectively managed for performance improvement in today's workplace”
Although several positive psychological capacities are discussed under the
general domain of POB (Luthans & Youssef, 2007; Luthans, Youssef & Avolio,
2007; Nelson & Cooper, 2007), three factors – hope, optimism and resilience
specifically meet the above definition of POB and contribution to workrelated outcomes (Youssef & Luthans, 2007). In this study, we have
focused on hop and its impact on the organisational behaviour in
Snyder (1991) defines hope as “a positive motivational state that is based on a
derived sense of successful agency, and pathways planned to meet goals”.
Hope theory can be categorised as following:
1. Goals - Snyder (1994) describes goals as the anchors of hope theory.
Goals provide direction and a target for hopeful thinking.
2. Pathways thinking - Pathway thinking refer to the routes we take to
achieve our desired goals and the individual’s perceived ability to
produce these routes (Snyder, 2000). Goals are meaningless if we don’t
have the requisite means to achieve them
3. Agency thinking – Just having the goals and the ability to achieve
them is not enough. We also need the mental energy to begin and use
the pathway thinking to reach the goal. This motivation is called
Agency thinking (Snyder 2002).
Union of Pathways and Agentic Thinking
For hopeful thinking, pathways thinking has to be coupled with agency
thinking. People with high pathways and high agency thoughts (full highhope person) will be fast and smooth throughout the route to their goals. The
full low-hope person (low pathways and low agency) will not only be slow in
the pursuit of their goal, but also face many stops along the way. People with
hig pathways and low agency (mixed hope patterns) people would not have
the required motivation to proceed on the selected routes; conversely, the low
pathways and high agency people would be motivated to achieve their goals,
but they would not be having the required ability to do so. (Snyder 2002)
Impact of Hope in Organisations
Psychological resources theories (Hobfoll, 2002) suggest that the various
positive capacities contribute to the work-related outcomes. Thoit (1994)
identifies hope as one of the essentials for managing and adapting other
resources to achieve favourable outcomes. This is also supported by
Fredrickson’s (2001, 2003) broaden-and-build theory, which says that
positivity broadens one’s spectrum of problem-solving skills, adaptive
mechanisms, and thought-action repertoires. This in turn can lead to upward
spirals of performance, adaptation, and well-being, even when hardships are
encountered (Fredrickson & Joiner, 2002).
Studies (Youssef & Luthans, 2007) suggest that an approach of using both
performance and attitudinal outcomes helps in the understanding and study
of the contributions of positivity in general and, more specifically, the impact
of employees’ positive psychological resource capacities in the workplace.
Apart from performance, three work-related attitudes - job satisfaction, work
happiness, and organisational commitment have been selected for this study.
Chakravarthy (1986) identified the importance of incorporating satisfaction
measure of employees for measuring strategic performance. Research also
supports that positive personality traits are positively related to job
satisfaction, which in turn is positively related to performance (Judge,
Higgins, Thorsen, & Barrick, 1999).
Work happiness is generally regarded as broader concept than job
satisfaction. It includes emotions that result in a sense of well-being and
general life satisfaction (Diener, 2000). Happiness and life satisfaction also
relates positively to physical and mental health, personal striving, and coping
with stress (Diener & Fujita, 1995).
Similar to job satisfaction, organisational commitment is also found to be
positively related to performance (Mathieu & Zajac, 1990). Commitment is
also positively related to the employee retention and negatively related to
absenteeism (Harrison, Newman & Roth, 2006).
Given the broad perspective recommended for positivity research and the
above discussed research results, this study uses job performance, job
satisfaction, work happiness, and organisational commitment as the outcome
study variables. Therefore, the hypothesis to be tested by the study is:
Hypothesis : Employees’ hope is positively related to the work-related
outcomes of job performance, job satisfaction, work happiness, and
To study the above mentioned hypothesis, a qualitative research including indepth interviews was undertaken. A total of 12 employees from 4 different
organisations were interviewed. They were asked various questions to judge
their hope pattern and their work-related outcomes.
Only those employees who had been working in the organisation for a
minimum of previous 6 months and had gone through at least one
performance appraisal were interviewed. These criteria were imposed to
make sure that their self-assessment of performance were close to reality, and
also so that their responses were based on relationship between their hope
pattern and their work-related outcome in the current organisation.
On the basis of the responses to the questions about hope pattern, the
participants were categorised into three groups: Full high-hope, Full lowhope and mixed hope patterns (mixed hope patterns would be of two types as
discussed earlier). Three participants were found to be in the full high-hope
group, whereas mixed hope and full low-hope groups had seven and two
participants respectively. Mixed hope people didn’t have clear goals or there
was no clarity of the process needed to achieve the goals. Their goals were
like salary hike, or promotion in near future, but they didn’t know what why
they didn’t get it in recent past in the first place.
Full high-hope group participants had got positive feedback in the latest
performance review and two of them had joined the current organisation
within last one year, on steep salary hikes. Mixed hope and full low-hope
participants had got average to negative feedback in their performance
review. The full low-hope participants had not got promotion for a long time.
Full high-hope group loved their job. They needed no secondary motivation
for their work. They were passionate about their work. Also they were aware
of their role in the larger picture. Other groups were not that exited to talk
about their work. For them, it was something they had to do in order to earn
money. Some of them were not finding their current work suitable to their
abilities and the others were not able to see the significance of their work.
The full high-hope participants had high expectations from their organisation
regarding their personal goals. They were conscious about their heavy
workload but were happy with it. Full low-hope people complained about
their workload and how it was affecting their work-life balance. They saw it
as a burden which didn’t have adequate payoff.
Both of the full low-hope participants were looking for jobs in other
organisations. Some of their comments portrayed very negative image of their
organisation. Mixed hope pattern people were neutral about their
organisation. They were willing to leave their current organisation if they got
any slightly better opportunity. Full high-hope participants had some very
good things to say about their organisation and their bosses. They felt at
home in their organisation. They felt attached to it and said that it gave them
a family like feeling.
Conclusion & Discussion
The study goes on to show that the positive psychology affects the job
performance in a very significant manner. It also affects the work-related
attributes – job satisfaction, work happiness and organisational commitment.
This study was conducted on a very small scale and in only qualitative
manner. Also, the results are based on the self-reported assessments of the
participants, which can never be unbiased. To validate the findings, a
quantitative research should be conducted on appropriate scale. Also, it will
be better if this research can also include the study based on formal
performance appraisal system, which will be a more unbiased assessment.
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Interview questions: The basic frameowork of the questions asked in the
1. Why did you choose this organisation? Why did you leave your
2. Where do you see yourself in next 5 years, and what are you doing to
3. How is your organisation helping you in achieving your personal
4. Have you been able to achieve the goals you had set in the past? If not,
they what were the reasons of failure?
5. How is your work-life balance?
6. How was your performance appraisal? How much did it deviate from
your expectation, and in which direction (positive or negative)?
7. Will you consider a slightly better offer in another firm?
8. How many leaves did you take in last one month, and why?
1, 2, 3 – Hope pattern
4, 6 - Performance
7 - Job satisfaction
5 - Work happiness
3, 7, 8 - Organisational commitment