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

  • Experimental field study of job crafting finding that an intervention on job crafting led to strengths crafting for older but not younger workers, and strengths crafting was positively connected with a fit between demands and supplies (i.e., person-job fit). The job crafting intervention did not influence job crafting toward employee interests (Kooij et al., 2017).
    Kooij, D. T. A. M., van Woerkom, M., Wilkenloh, J., Dorenbosch, L., & Denissen, J. J. A. (2017). Job crafting towards strengths and interests: The effects of a job crafting intervention on person–job fit and the role of age. Journal of Applied Psychology. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/apl0000194
  • Examines the impact of strengths for employee functioning and discusses antecedents for strengths use, such as organizational support, personal initiative, autonomy, and development opportunities (Bakker & van Woerkom, 2017).
    Bakker, A. B., & van Woerkom, M. (2017). Strengths use in organizations: A positive approach of occupational health. Canadian Psychology. Np. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cap0000120 
  • A new model of role behavior in teams is presented and validated. Seven team roles, originally theorized by the VIA Institute on Character, were found to relate positively to job satisfaction. The roles include: idea creator, information gatherer, decision-maker, implementer, influencer, energizer, and relationship manager (Ruch et al., 2016).
    Ruch, W., Gander, F., Platt, T., & Hofmann, J. (2016). Team roles: Their relationships to character strengths and job satisfaction. Journal of Positive Psychology. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2016.1257051
  • In a study of 1,031 working adults, signature strengths had the highest unique contribution to performance, organizational citizenship behavior, and lower counterproductive work behavior, while “happiness strengths” (zest, hope, etc.) had the highest unique contribution to work meaningfulness, engagement, and job satisfaction (Littman-Ovadia, Lavy, & Boiman-Meshita, 2016a).
    Littman-Ovadia, H., Lavy, S., & Boiman-Meshita, M. (2016a). When theory and research collide: Examining correlates of signature strengths use at work. Journal of Happiness Studies. Advance online publication
  • In a workplace study of 120 participants, it was supervisor support, not colleague support, of employee strengths use that was predictive of increased strengths use the next day (Lavy, Littman-Ovadia, & Boiman-Meshita, 2016b).
    Lavy, S., Littman-Ovadia, H., & Boiman-Meshita, M. (2016b). The wind beneath my wings: The role of social support in enhancing the use of strengths at work. Journal of Career Assessment.
  • A workplace intervention study found a 3-step approach to strengths work to increase participants’ strengths use and well-being while those reporting highest strengths use had significant increases in work performance and harmonious passion; no significant differences were found for concentration or vitality (Dubreuil et al., 2016). This study provides further validation for the popular Aware-Explore-Apply model of strengths use proposed by Niemiec (2013; 2014; 2018).
    Dubreuil, P., Forest, J., Gillet, N., Fernet, C., Thibault-Landry, A., Crevier-Braud, L., & Girouard, S. (2016). Facilitating well-being and performance through the development of strengths at work: Results from an intervention program. Journal of Applied Positive Psychology. DOI 10.1007/s41042-016-0001-8
  • A controlled trial of a strengths intervention in the workplace that found that the strengths intervention (compared to a waitlist control group) showed short-term increases in positive affect and short- and long-term increases in psychological capital but not life satisfaction, engagement, or burnout (Meyers & van Woerkom, 2016).
    Meyers, M. C., & van Woerkom, M. (2016). Effects of a strengths intervention on general and work-related well-being: The mediating role of positive affect. Journal of Happiness Studies. DOI 10.1007/s10902-016-9745-x
  • Perceived organizational support for strengths use and for strengths use behavior was positively related to self- and manager-ratings of job performance, while perceived organizational support for deficit correction and for deficit correction behavior were unrelated to performance ratings (van Woerkom et al., 2016).
    van Woerkom, M., Mostert, K., Els, C., Bakker, A. B., de Beer, L., & Rothmann, S. (2016). Strengths use and deficit correction in organizations: Development and validation of a questionnaire. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/1359432X.2016.1193010
  • In a study of 832 employees across 96 departments, strengths use support reduced absenteeism among workers with a high workload and high emotional demands (van Woerkom, Bakker, & Nishii, 2016).
    van Woerkom, M., Bakker, A. B., & Nishii, L. H. (2016). Accumulative job demands and support for strength use: Fine-tuning the job demands-resources model using conservation of resources theory. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(1), 141–150. 
  • Character strengths use at work is connected with not only job satisfaction but also productivity and organizational citizenship behavior. These connections are explained by high positive emotions and engagement (Lavy & Littman-Ovadia, 2016).
    Lavy, S., & Littman-Ovadia, H. (2016). My better self: Using strengths at work and work productivity, organizational citizenship behavior and satisfaction.  Journal of Career Development, 1-15. DOI: 10.1177/0894845316634056
  • In a workplace study involving 686 participants, the character strength of perseverance was the strength most associated with work productivity and least associated with counter-productive work behaviors. This was best explained by the workers’ sense of meaning at work and perceptions of work-as-a-career and as-a-calling (Littman-Ovadia & Lavy, 2016).
    Littman-Ovadia, H., & Lavy, S. (2016). Going the extra mile: Perseverance as a key character strength at work. Journal of Career Assessment, 24(2), 240–252. http://doi.org/10.1177/1069072715580322
  • In 2 workplace samples (a mixed group of several occupations and a nurses group), character strengths were connected with improved coping with work stress and decrease the negative effects of stress (Harzer & Ruch, 2015).
    Harzer, C., & Ruch, W. (2015). The relationships of character strengths with coping, work-related stress, and job satisfaction. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00165
  • In a study of nearly 10,000 New Zealand workers that examined indicators of flourishing, workers who reported a high awareness of their strengths had a 9.5 times more likely to be flourishing than those with low strengths awareness. Moreover, workers who reported high strengths use were 18 times more likely to be flourishing than those with low strengths use (Hone et al., 2015).
    Hone, L. C., Jarden, A., Duncan, S., & Schofield, G. M. (2015). Flourishing in New Zealand workers: Associations with lifestyle behaviors, physical health, psychosocial, and work-related indicators. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 57(9), 973-983.
  • Study found that organizational support for strengths use was positively related to weekly strengths use at work, which in turn was positively related to weekly work engagement and proactive behavior (mediated by self-efficacy) (van Woerkom, Oerlemans, & Bakker, 2015).
    van Woerkom, M., Oerlemans, W., & Bakker, A. B. (2015): Strengths use and work engagement: a weekly diary study, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology. DOI: 10.1080/1359432X.2015.1089862
  • Discusses the integration of virtues, character strengths, and competencies in an approach to management (Morales‐Sánchez & Cabello‐Medina, 2015).
    Morales‐Sánchez, R., & Cabello‐Medina, C. (2015). Integrating character in management: Virtues, character strengths, and competencies. Business Ethics: A European Review, 24 (2), S156-S174. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/beer.12104
  • Study of performance monitoring in call centers over a 6-month period finding that performance was related to wisdom character strengths, temperance character strengths, exercise, and having opportunities to develop, while performance was negatively related to character strengths of humanity and justice (Moradi et al., 2014).
    Moradi, S., Nima, A. A., Ricciardi, M. R., Archer, T., & Garcia, D. (2014). Exercise, character strengths, well-being, and learning climate in the prediction of performance over a 6-month period at a call center. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, Article 497.

  • In a study of 442 employees across 39 departments in 8 organizations, a strengths-based psychological climate was linked with positive affect and work performance (van Woerkom & Meyers, 2014).
    van Woerkom, M., & Meyers, M. C. (2014). My strengths count! Effects of a strengths-based psychological climate on positive affect and job performance. Human Resource Management.
  • Character strengths were related to job performance across two samples of employees (Harzer & Ruch, 2014).
    Harzer, C., & Ruch, W. (2014). The role of character strengths for task performance, job dedication, interpersonal facilitation, and organizational support. Human Performance. 27(3), 183-205. DOI:10.1080/08959285.2014.913592
  • 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).
    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 were more likely to consider their work-as-a-calling than those who expressed less than four (Harzer & Ruch, 2012a).
    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).
    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).
    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).
    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).
    Littman-Ovadia, H., & Steger, M. (2010). Character strengths and well-being among volunteers and employees: Toward an integrative model. Journal of Positive Psychology, 5 (6), 419-430.
  • Character strengths use was connected with personal well-being and job satisfaction (Littman-Ovadia & Davidovitch, 2010).
    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).
    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.
    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).
    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).
    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).
    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).
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.”
    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.
    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.
    Money, K., Hillenbrand, C., & Camara, N. D. (2008). Putting positive psychology to work in organizations. Journal of General Management, 34 (2), 21-26.
  • In a study looking at the 5 character strengths under the transcendence virtue among 226 employees, 106 hospital nurses, and 120 child protective service social workers, several variables were examined. All the strengths (except appreciation of beauty/excellence) had a positive relationship with work-as-a-calling and hope, gratitude, and spirituality had a positive impact on work satisfaction through work-as-a-calling (Gorjian, 2006).
    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.

 

Updated 9/19/2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

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