Psychological Capital: Positivity in the Workplace

What's the best way of maximizing the work talent of an organization? How can the climate, human capital, communication, and negotiations in a company be improved? Psychological capital makes it easier to optimize these and other dimensions.
Psychological Capital: Positivity in the Workplace
Gorka Jiménez Pajares

Written and verified by the psychologist Gorka Jiménez Pajares.

Last update: 20 February, 2023

Psychological capital (PsyCap) refers to a series of personality variables that are related to job well-being. Workers with high scores in these variables have an advantage in adapting to difficult situations. In fact, they’re more proactive. This means they feel better and perform better in the workplace.

At this point, we must mention role stress. The demands of a job can become powerful job stressors. If workers need to exert more effort, and this excess becomes the norm rather than the exception in maintaining their level of production, the consequences can be negative.

Role stress refers to circumstances such as intense and excessive workloads, arguments with colleagues, conflicts with supervisors, as well as ambiguity in the tasks they have to perform. For instance, workers who do a lot, but don’t really know what they’re doing.

“Exhaustion is the consequence of role stress.”

-Bernardo Moreno-Jiménez-

Stressed woman at work
Having psychological capital allows us to cope with work stress.

Psychological capital

Psychological capital is a labor resource. It’s a concept that encompasses four positive personality variables. Individuals with psychological capital perceive that they’re effective in the tasks they perform. In addition, they’re optimistic, resilient, and hopeful.

Having psychological capital is helpful in facing role stress. It has its origins in positive psychology applied to the organizational field and consists of a positive psychological state. Here are the four variables:

1. Self-efficacy

Self-efficacy concerns the belief that we have the resources to carry out certain tasks successfully. It involves visualizing the end results and creating mental images to guide us through our tasks, dividing them into phases, assimilating the results, and reinforcing ourselves accordingly.

Self-efficacious individuals are confident in what they can achieve. Consequently, it’s difficult to overwhelm them even in challenging situations. Moreover, workers who perceive themselves as self-efficacious tend to gamble and commit to difficult tasks. Indeed, when they’re faced with the possibility of failure, they simply try harder.

“People who are highly confident in their abilities see difficult tasks as challenges to be overcome, rather than threats to be avoided.”

-Albert Bandura-

2. Optimism

This emotion receives a great deal of attention from the field of positive psychology. Optimistic people perceive that their results belong to them. In other words, they take responsibility for much of their success. The optimism of people with high psychological capital is oriented both to the present and the future.

“Optimistic people have a tendency to hope that the future will bring them favorable results.”

-Consuelo Morán Astorga-

3. Resilience

Resilience is an active process. It’s the ability to continue working despite any difficulties. Resilient individuals adjust their behavior to the demands of the environment. For example, when adverse work events occur, they continue to work and fight for what they want. Furthermore, more often than not, they learn from the upset, bounce back, and keep fighting.

“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson-

4. Hope

Hope is the emotion from which persevering behavior is born. Hopeful workers are people who pursue their goals. If they’re unsuccessful, they look for others that allow them to reach satisfactory conclusions.

Together with vitality, hope is one of the emotions most linked to the perception of satisfaction and well-being. Hope is a really positive emotion. It gives people the willpower to achieve the goals they set for themselves.

“Where one door closes, another opens.”

-Miguel de Cervantes-

The resilient personality

It could be said that these four elements combined result in a resilient personality. It’s a personality trait typical of firm and strong people. The resistant personality emerges in the face of intensely adverse situations. It encompasses a series of behaviors learned in different periods of life. Among its characteristics are:

  • Participation in challenging activities. These individuals deal well with challenges.
  • Modulation of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
  • The perception of adverse situations as ideal scenarios for learning.

Those who have resistant personalities demonstrate lower tendencies to suffer from stress. This is because they make use of a broader range of coping resources.

Woman thinking about resilient leadership
Resilient individuals’ work tends to flow and they identify with it.

How to promote psychological capital

There are different ways to foster and promote psychological capital. For example:

  • Through so-called execution achievements. If you deliberately and consciously choose tasks that you consider difficult and are successful in completing them, your perception of self-efficacy will increase.
  • “If they can, I can”. When you see other people facing difficult tasks and emerging victorious, it’s possible to identify yourself with them. Consequently, a challenge that you want to solve starts to grow within you. This strategy is based on social modeling.
  • Actively dealing with problems. Active coping is the opposite of avoidance. If the problem is too big, you can try to divide it and solve each part separately. It consists of applying concrete actions to defined problems.
  • Make use of humor. Humor is a good companion for relaxing and connecting with others.
  • Lean on others. The social networks you’ve woven around you can be powerful buffers that lessen the impact of stressful events. In addition, social support among your co-workers promotes better communication. This is an aspect related to well-being.
  • Avoid labeling problems as insurmountable. Going through life with the perspective that problems can be overcome is a potentially more adaptive way of reacting.

A resource we can all develop and improve

Psychological capital is a resource that all workers can enhance. People with high psychological capital know how to deal better with work and emotionally complicated situations. In fact, it’s considered to be a potentially protective factor against burnout syndrome.

New research on psychological capital points to the idea that companies should train their workers in instrumental skills. In addition, they should promote the kinds of personality variables we’ve described here.

“In every winter’s heart there is a quivering spring, and behind the veil of each night there is a shining dawn.”

-Khalil Gibran-

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Moreno Jiménez, B., Garrosa Hernández, E., Corso de Zúñiga, S., Boada, M., & Rodríguez Carvajal, R. (2012). Personalidad resistente y capital psicológico: las variables personales positivas y los procesos de agotamiento y vigor. Psicothema.
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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.