VIA Character Strengths In The Workplace

Summary of Research Findings

The study of character strengths at work has rapidly increased in the last several years. Consultants, executives, human resource professionals, and managers are now regularly weaving character strengths exercises to help their employees become more engaged, productive, and happy. The use of character strengths to improve the skills of leaders, teams, and entire organizations is emerging as a popular and successful avenue as well.

Research Articles

  • Character strengths were related to job performance across two samples of employees (Harzer & Ruch, in press). Reference: Harzer, C., & Ruch, W. (in press). The role of character strengths for task performance, job dedication, interpersonal facilitation, and organizational support. Human Performance.
  • The use of strengths at work was connected with work performance, and this relationship is explained by vitality, concentration, and harmonious passion (Dubreuil, Forest, & Courcy, 2013).
    Reference: Dubreuil, P., Forest, J., & Courcy, F. (2013). From strengths use to work performance: The role of harmonious passion, subjective vitality and concentration. Journal of Positive Psychology. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2014.898318.
  • Employees who used four or more of their signature strengths had more positive work experiences and work-as-a-calling than those who expressed less than four (Harzer & Ruch, 2012a).
    reference:Harzer, C., & Ruch, W. (2012a). When the job is a calling: The role of applying one’s signature strengths at work. Journal of Positive Psychology.
  • Regardless of which character strengths are used, the congruent use of strengths in the situational circumstances at work is important for fostering job satisfaction, pleasure, engagement, and meaning in one’s job (i.e., the alignment of one’s signature strengths with work activities is what matters; Harzer & Ruch, 2012b).
    Reference: Harzer, C., & Ruch, W. (2012b). The application of signature character strengths and positive experiences at work. Journal of Happiness Studies.
  • In a qualitative case study of a management development program, a key finding was to help managers develop new “tools” and behaviors and core to these tools was signature strengths use (Berg & Karlsen, 2012).
    Reference: Berg, M. E., & Karlsen, J. T. (2012). An evaluation of management training and coaching. Journal of Workplace Learning, 24 (3), 177-199..
  • Across occupations, curiosity, zest, hope, gratitude, and spirituality are the Big 5 strengths associated with work satisfaction (Peterson et al., 2010).
    Reference: Peterson, C., Stephens, J. P., Park, N., Lee, F., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2010). Strengths of character and work. Oxford handbook of positive psychology and work. In Linley, P. A., Harrington, S., & Garcea, N. (Eds.). Oxford handbook of positive psychology and work (pp. 221-231). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Among volunteer and paid workers, endorsing strengths is related to meaning, but both endorsing AND deploying strengths is connected to well-being (Littman-Ovadia & Steger, 2010).
  • Character strengths use was connected with personal well-being and job satisfaction (Littman-Ovadia & Davidovitch, 2010).
    Reference: Littman-Ovadia, H., & Davidovitch, N. (2010). Effects of congruence and character-strength deployment on work adjustment and well-being. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 1 (3), 138-146.
  • Character strengths – especially zest, perseverance, hope, and curiosity – play a key role in health and ambitious work behavior (Gander, Proyer, Ruch, & Wyss, 2012).
    Reference: Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Wyss, T. (2012). The good character at work: An initial study on the contribution of character strengths in identifying healthy and unhealthy work-related behavior and experience patterns. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health.
  • In a three-year thematic analysis of drivers of employee engagement, focusing on character strengths was among the three most crucial drivers (along with managing emotions and aligning purpose; Crabb, 2011). Specifically, employees are encouraged to identify, use, and alert others of their signature strengths as well as converse with managers about strengths use opportunities in the organization.
    Reference: Crabb, S. (2011). The use of coaching principles to foster employee engagement. The Coaching Psychologist,7 (1), 27-34.
  • In a unique study of top-level executive leaders of for-profit companies (studying only the strengths of honesty/integrity, bravery, perspective, social intelligence), each of these strengths were important for performance but honesty/integrity had the most contribution in explaining variance in executive performance (Sosik et al., 2012).
    Reference: Sosik, J. J., Gentry, W. A., & Chun, J. A. (2012). The value of virtue in the upper echelons: A multisource examination of executive character strengths and performance. Leadership Quarterly, 23, 367-382.
  • A study of strengths under the virtue of wisdom (creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, and perspective) found them to be related to higher performance on a creative task and negatively related to stress (Avey et al., 2012).
    Reference: Avey, J.B., Luthans, F., Hannah, S.T., Sweetman, D., & Peterson, C. (2012). Impact of employees’ character strengths of wisdom on stress and creative performance. Human Resource Management Journal, 22 (2), 165-181.
  • Among 226 employees, the strengths under the virtue of transcendence – hope, humor, gratitude, and spirituality (not appreciation of beauty/excellence) – had a direct positive relationship with a calling work orientation (Gorjian, 2006).
    Reference: Gorjian, N. (2006). Virtue of transcendence in relation to work orientation, job satisfaction and turnover cognitions. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 67 (2-B), 1190.
  • Life satisfaction strengths, spiritual strengths, and community-building strengths do not appear to be overtly encouraged in the workplace; instead it is the temperance and hardworking strengths that are emphasized (Money et al., 2008).
    Reference: Money, K., Hillenbrand, C., & Camara, N. D. (2008). Putting positive psychology to work in organizations. Journal of General Management, 34 (2), 21-26.
  • Top 10 (rank order) strengths expressed at work: honesty, judgment, perspective, fairness, perseverance, love of learning, leadership, zest, curiosity, social intelligence.
    Reference: Money, K., Hillenbrand, C., & Camara, N. D. (2008). Putting positive psychology to work in organizations. Journal of General Management, 34 (2), 21-26.
  • Bottom 5 (starting with lowest) strengths expressed at work: religiousness/spirituality, appreciation of beauty/excellence, love, bravery, modesty/humility.
    Reference: Money, K., Hillenbrand, C., & Camara, N. D. (2008). Putting positive psychology to work in organizations. Journal of General Management, 34 (2), 21-26.
  • Strengths of which were determined to be a “high match” with work demands: only honesty, judgment, perspective, fairness, and zest.
    Reference: Money, K., Hillenbrand, C., & Camara, N. D. (2008). Putting positive psychology to work in organizations. Journal of General Management, 34 (2), 21-26.
  • Appreciation of beauty/excellence was the only strength determined to be a “low match” with work demands; the rest of the strengths were a “medium match.”
    Reference: Money, K., Hillenbrand, C., & Camara, N. D. (2008). Putting positive psychology to work in organizations. Journal of General Management, 34 (2), 21-26.
  • Work demands required the individual to use more of the following strengths than what is natural for them: perseverance, love of learning, leadership, curiosity, self-control, and prudence.
    Reference: Money, K., Hillenbrand, C., & Camara, N. D. (2008). Putting positive psychology to work in organizations. Journal of General Management, 34 (2), 21-26.
  • Work demands required less of these strengths than what is natural for the individual: social intelligence, gratitude, teamwork, hope, humor, creativity, kindness, forgiveness, modesty/humility, bravery, love, appreciation of beauty/excellence, spirituality.
    Reference: Money, K., Hillenbrand, C., & Camara, N. D. (2008). Putting positive psychology to work in organizations. Journal of General Management, 34 (2), 21-26.

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