Key Positive Organizational Psychology Topics 

Here are some key topic areas within the field. Please click on each topic to learn more.

Positive organizational scholarship (POS)

Definition
POS investigates positive deviance, or the ways in which organizations and their members flourish and prosper in especially favorable ways. Positive refers to an affirmative bias focused on the elevating processes and dynamics in organizations. Organizational refers to the processes and conditions that occur in and through organizations, especially taking into account the context in which positive phenomena occur. Scholarship refers to the scientific, theoretically based, and rigorous investigation of positive phenomena.
- Cameron & Caza, 2004, p.731

Key publications

Positive organizational behavior (POB)

Definition
POB is 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.
- Luthans, 2002, p.59

Key publications
Positive leadership

Definition
Positive leadership refers to an emphasis on what elevates individuals and organizations (in addition to what challenges them), what goes right in organizations (in addition to what goes wrong), what is life-giving (in addition to what is problematic or life-depleting), what is experienced as good (in addition to what is objectionable), what is extraordinary (in addition to what is merely effective), and what is inspiring (in addition to what is difficult or arduous).
- Cameron, 2008, p.3

Authentic leadership is a process that draws from both positive psychological capacities and a highly developed organizational context, which results in both greater self-awareness and self-regulated positive behaviors on the part of leaders and associates, fostering positive self-development.
- Luthans & Avolio, 2003, p.243

Key publications

Appreciative inquiry (AI)

Definition
AI refers to the cooperative search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around them. It involves systematic discover of what gives a system ‘life’ when it is most effective and capable in economic, ecological, and human terms.
- Cooperrider & Whitney, 1999, p.247

Key publications
  • Cooperrider, D.L. & Whitney, D. (1999). Appreciative Inquiry: A positive revolution in change. In P. Holman, & T. Devane (eds.), The Change Handbook (pp., 245-261). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
  • Whitney, D., & Cooperrider, D. L. (2000). The appreciative inquiry summit: An emerging methodology for whole system positive change. Journal of Organization Development Network, 32, 13-26.
  • Whitney, D., & Trosten-Bloom, A. (2003). The power of appreciative inquiry: A practical guide to positive change. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

Strengths

Definition
Strength refers to the ability to provide consistent, near-perfect performance in a given activity.
- Clifton & Harter, 2003, p.8

Key publications

(Positive) psychological capital

Definition
An individual’s positive psychological state of development that is characterized by:
1) having confidence (self-efficacy) to take on and put in the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks;
2) making a positive attribution (optimism) about succeeding now and in the future; 3) persevering toward goals, and when necessary, redirecting paths to goals (hope) in order to succeed; and 4) when beset by problems and adversity, sustaining and bouncing back and even beyond (resiliency) to attain success.
- Luthans, Avey, Avolio, Norman, & Combs, 2006, p. 388

Key publications


Organizational virtuousness

Definition
Individuals’ actions, collective activities, cultural attributes, or processes that enable dissemination and perpetuation of virtuousness in an organization’ where virtuousness means ‘what individuals and organizations aspire to be when they are at their very best’
- Cameron et al., 2004, p. 767-768

Key publications

Work engagement

Definition
Work engagement refers to a positive, fulfilling work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption
- Schaufeli, Bakker, & Salanova, 2006, p. 702

Key publications

Flow

Definition
The state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.
- Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p.4
Key publications

Coaching

Definition
Coaching is a service provided to those in business who want individual assistance to enhance their performance, skills, and achievement.
- Douglas & McCauley, 1999 (cited in Kauffman & Scoular, 2004, p.288)

Key publications