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This paper details the design and evaluation of a positive psychology-based employee well-being program. The effect of the program on well-being was evaluated using a mixed method design comprising of an RCT to assess outcome effectiveness, and participant feedback and facilitator field notes to assess process and impact effectiveness. Fifty government employees were randomly allocated to either an intervention or a control group (reduced to n = 23 for complete case analysis). The intervention group participated in the 6-week Working for Wellness Program and completed measures of subjective, psychological, affective and work-related well-being (SWB, PWB, AWB and WWB) at pre-intervention, post-intervention, and three and 6 month follow-ups. The control group completed the questionnaires only. As predicted, mixed ANOVAs revealed improvements in SWB and PWB for intervention group participants over time relative to control participants but these effects had reduced by time 4. There was a main effect of group on AWB in the predicted direction but no effect on WWB. Participant feedback indicated that the focus on strengths and group delivery were the most effective components of the program. Key issues were sample attrition and a lack of on-the-job support for change. Findings suggest employees can learn effective strategies for sustainably increasing their subjective and psychological well-being.
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RESEARCH PAPER
The Working for Wellness Program: RCT
of an Employee Well-Being Intervention
Kathryn M. Page Dianne A. Vella-Brodrick
Published online: 11 July 2012
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012
Abstract This paper details the design and evaluation of a positive psychology-based
employee well-being program. The effect of the program on well-being was evaluated using a
mixed method design comprising of an RCT to assess outcome effectiveness, and participant
feedbackand facilitator field notesto assess process and impacteffectiveness. Fiftygovernment
employees were randomly allocated to either an intervention or a control group (reduced to
n=23 for complete case analysis). The intervention groupparticipated in the 6-week Working
for Wellness Program and completed measures of subjective, psychological, affective and
work-related well-being (SWB, PWB, AWB and WWB) at pre-intervention, post-intervention,
and three and 6 month follow-ups. The control group completed the questionnaires only. As
predicted, mixed ANOVAs revealed improvements in SWB and PWB for intervention group
participants over time relative to control participants but these effects had reduced by time 4.
There was a main effect of group on AWB in the predicted direction but no effect on WWB.
Participant feedback indicated that the focus on strengths and group delivery were the most
effective components ofthe program. Keyissues were sample attrition and a lack of on-the-job
support for change. Findings suggest employees can learn effective strategies for sustainably
increasing their subjective and psychological well-being.
Keywords Employee well-being Positive psychology Strengths
Intervention research Occupational health psychology Positive mental health
1 Introduction
The study of employee well-being as a positive, psychological phenomenon is still in its
infancy. Whilst research on mental health in the workplace is relatively common, research
K. M. Page (&)
McCaughey Centre: VicHealth Centre for the Promotion of Mental Health and Community Wellbeing,
Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
e-mail: kathryn.page@unimelb.edu.au
K. M. Page D. A. Vella-Brodrick
School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
123
J Happiness Stud (2013) 14:1007–1031
DOI 10.1007/s10902-012-9366-y
has generally taken a stress-and-strain approach to the development of well-being, ‘‘fixing
what is wrong’’ rather than ‘‘developing what is right’’ (Schaufeli 2004, p. 514). Whilst it is
important to mitigate the deleterious aspects of work, there is considerable opportunity for
researchers to also examine how the workplace can be an effective conduit to employee
well-being (Schaufeli 2004; Wright and Quick 2009). However, few workplaces include
programs that promote positive psychological well-being (Page and Vella-Brodrick 2012).
Mental health problems are a prevalent problem within the working population. For
example, the 2007 Australian National Survey of Mental Health & Wellbeing showed
14.7 % of the Australian workforce had a history of major depressive disorder, with
exposure rates greater for women (18 %) than for men (12 %) (Australian Bureau of
Statistics 2007). In order to manage and prevent mental health problems, it is important for
organisations to invest in the positive wellbeing of their employees. Working to improve
positive mental health also makes good business sense. Happy employees are generally
healthier, perform better at work, and have better relationships, including work relation-
ships (Lyubomirsky et al. 2005; Page and Vella-Brodrick 2009), which benefits workplaces
and societies in equal measure (Diener and Seligman 2004). Using a training-based
methodology to help employees to acquire skills that promote positive mental health is also
likely to be a relatively simple and cost-effective approach to employee wellbeing. Pro-
moting positive traits, states and capacities is the cornerstone of positive psychology (PP)
and related fields such as positive organizational behavior (POB) and positive organiza-
tional scholarship (POS). As has been well advanced in recent years, these applied, yet
rigorous fields of research encourage a change in focus towards the promotion of positive
individual and organizational functioning rather than just malady or malfunctioning (Gable
and Haidt 2005).
This paper caters to both researchers and practitioners by describing the design and
evaluation of an employee well-being program that cultivates employee strengths and
optimizes employees’ positive thought and behavioral capacities to enhance feelings of
happiness and well-being. The study keeps with the PP tradition in incorporating longi-
tudinal data and an experimental design. It is also relevant to organizational practice,
demonstrating how an organization can implement a practical, yet evidence-based
employee well-being program in a real world environment.
1.1 Using Strengths to Foster Well-Being: The Working for Wellness Program
The experience of personal or psychological well-being, defined here as the presence of
positive feelings such as enthusiasm and joy (emotional well-being) and positive func-
tioning, such as feelings of mastery and personal growth and strong interpersonal rela-
tionships (psychological well-being), is a key component of what it means to live a ‘good’
or ‘full’ life (Keyes 2005). It is also an important indicator for both organizational and
societal health (Diener and Seligman 2004). Identifying and testing various strategies
through which well-being can be improved has been a key research area within PP. One
strategy that appears particularly promising is the promotion and development of people’s
strengths. The concept of strengths has been used in at least two ways: as the specific,
positive character traits classified in the character strengths and virtues framework (CSV;
e.g., gratitude, love of learning, curiosity, fairness; Peterson and Seligman 2004) and, more
broadly, as any natural ways of thinking, feeling or behaving that are ‘‘authentic and
energizing to the user [and that enable] optimal functioning, development and perfor-
mance’’ (Linley 2008, p. 9). Simply possessing certain character strengths, including
gratitude, curiosity, love, hope and zest is positively associated with well-being (e.g., Brdar
1008 K. M. Page, D. A. Vella-Brodrick
123
and Kashdan 2010; Park et al. 2004). In addition, applying one’s strengths can lead to
increases in well-being, including lowered stress, greater self-esteem and improved vitality
and positive affect, as has been shown in longitudinal research (Wood et al. 2011). More
specifically, the use of character strengths in novel ways has been found to increase well-
being and reduce depressive symptoms for up to 6 months and over and above the effects
of other ‘plausible’ interventions, such as problem-solving, simple strength identification
(but not application), expressing gratitude, and writing about early memories (Mitchell
et al. 2009; Seligman et al. 2005). Moreover, individuals who use their strengths at work
are more likely to be engaged and happy in their jobs (Harter et al. 2002). This in turn
predicts other valued organizational outcomes, including business unit performance,
turnover and productivity (Harter et al. 2002).
Now that research has supported that strength-use can be beneficial for personal and
workplace well-being, it is important to ascertain how people can use their strengths
(Linley et al. 2010). One already established route is through the pursuit of self-concordant
goals; that is goals that are personally interesting and meaningful (Govindji and Linley
2007; Linley et al. 2010; Sheldon and Elliot 1999). Because strengths represent a person’s
authentic self and are, in themselves, intrinsically motivating (Peterson and Seligman
2004), goals that are congruent with one’s strengths are more motivating and enjoyable.
Linley et al. (2010), for example, found that using strengths facilitated participants’ pro-
gress towards goals, which in turn, predicted psychological need satisfaction (needs for
competence, autonomy and relatedness, as per Self-Determination Theory or SDT (Deci
and Ryan 1985; Deci and Vansteenkiste 2004) and higher levels of SWB.
Three other plausible routes, which are empirically related to well-being and theoreti-
cally related to strengths, include crafting one’s job to be more in line with one’s strengths,
balancing one’s skills and strengths with optimal levels of challenge to facilitate flow, and
using one’s strengths in relationships.
Job crafting refers to efforts by employees to change the way they do their job (what
they do and who with) or how they perceive their job (e.g., as more or less in line with their
values; Wrzesniewski and Dutton 2001). Research has found that employees who craft
their jobs to be more in line with their passions, interests and values (i.e., their authentic
strengths) find more meaning, enjoyment and satisfaction in their work (Berg et al. 2010;
Wrzesniewski 2003; Wrzesniewski and Dutton 2001)—all fundamental aspects of well-
being.
Applying strengths, which can incite feelings of invigoration and excitement, a yearning
for the activity to continue and a sense that the activity is worth doing for its own sake
(Linley 2008; Peterson and Seligman 2004), may also be an important conduit to flow.
Flow is a highly enjoyable and intrinsically motivating state of mind that stems from being
fully absorbed in an activity (Bakker 2005; Csikszentmihalyi 1990). In particular, research
has found flow to arise from activities that represent the optimal balance between one’s
unique skills (akin to strengths) and the amount of challenge in a given activity, giving rise
to positive affect and satisfaction (Csikszentmihalyi and LeFevre 1989; Fritz and Avsec
2007). Waterman (2005) found that flow-inciting activities, defined as ‘high liked-high
effort’ activities, facilitated feelings of enjoyment and personal expressiveness (i.e., ‘‘this
is the real me’’), both of which define a character strength (Peterson and Seligman 2004).
Relationships are another important route through which strengths can be meaningfully
applied. Close relationships provide a supportive social environment whereby a person can
meet their intrinsic psychological needs, thereby allowing for optimal growth and well-
being (Demir and O
¨zdemir 2010; La Guardia and Patrick 2008). Many strengths of
character are other-focused. For example, the character strengths of love, forgiveness,
The Working for Wellness Program 1009
123
gratitude and kindness are often actualized through interactions with others, which in turn
can enhance well-being (McCullough et al. 2002; Otake et al. 2006).
1.2 The Current Study: Aims and Hypotheses
The current study builds on this body of research to develop a positive, strength-based
employee well-being program called the Working for Wellness Program. The program was
designed to help participants to identify and apply their strengths, by striving for self-
concordant goals, crafting their jobs, getting into flow, and cultivating relationships in
order to enhance well-being. The effect of the program on subjective, psychological and
work-related well-being was evaluated using a mixed method design comprising of (1) an
RCT to assess outcome effectiveness, and (2) participant feedback and facilitator field
notes to assess process and impact effectiveness. This approach to program evaluation goes
beyond outcome effectiveness and provides insight into how effects were or were not
achieved. Whilst highly regarded, it is seldom undertaken in intervention research (Randall
et al. 2007; Steckler and Linnan 2002).
It was hypothesized that program participants would experience significant increases in
both general well-being (SWB, PWB) and work-related well-being (AWB, WWB) over
time, in comparison to a control group. The process and impact evaluations were of an
exploratory nature and sought to identify strengths and limitations of the program, rather
than merely ascertaining whether or not the program was effective in enhancing well-being.
2 Method
2.1 Participants
The study was conducted in a large government agency in Australia, which had approxi-
mately 950 employees at the time of the study. The sample (N=50) represented the diversity
of the organization, including both customer service and processing employees (e.g., call
centre, branch staff) and corporate employees (e.g., HR, marketing and communications. The
majority of the sample were female (73 %), with a mean age of 39.7 years (SD =10.0 years;
range =21–57 years). Participants were permanently employed, working mostly full-time
(94.6 %), on average, 38.8 (SD =5.8) hours per week, with a mean tenure of 8.9
(SD =10.6) years. Participants’ flow through the study, as well as the research procedure, is
illustrated in Fig. 1. As shown, 13 employees (26 %) did not complete the time 2 survey. Of
these, four did not complete the survey due to their resignation from the organization prior to
the second wave of data collection (all from state headquarters; two from each experimental
group). Eight were branch staff and five (one, excluding those who resigned) were state
headquarters employees. Informal discussions with branch managers indicated that branch
staff had been too busy to complete the time 2 survey. Only minimal attrition occurred at times
3 and 4. However, due to the losses at time 2, only 23 participants completed all four outcome
evaluation surveys (10 control group; 13 intervention group).
2.2 Measures
Page and Vella-Brodrick’s (2009) theoretical model of employee well-being was used to
select appropriate measures. The model includes subjective well-being (SWB) and
workplace well-being (WWB) as indicators of ‘positive feelings’ and psychological
1010 K. M. Page, D. A. Vella-Brodrick
123
well-being as indicators of ‘positive functioning’. A multidimensional approach to well-
being measurement is in line with current conceptualizations of well-being (Kashdan et al.
2008; Keyes 2005).
Expressions of interest (n=61)
Randomly allocated and sent study information (n=61)
Control group (n=30) Intervention group (n=31)
Pre-assessment (time one)
19 completed
WAU only
29/ 31 completed
Program
One week post-assessment (time two)
14 completed
Three month post-assessment (time three)
13 completed 18 completed
Six month post-assessment (time four)
13 completed 21 completed
Data Analysis (Using CC)
10 analyzed 13 analyzed
19 also
completed
program
evaluation
survey
Participant debrief/focus groups (one year follow-up)
6 participated 12 participated
Fig. 1 Participant flow through the Study. Note WAU work as usual, WfWP Working for Wellness
Program, CC complete case analysis
The Working for Wellness Program 1011
123
2.2.1 Satisfaction with Life scale (SWLS)
The five-item SWLS is a measure of cognitive SWB or life satisfaction (Diener and
Emmons 1985; Diener et al. 1999). The SWLS has acceptable levels of internal reliability,
temporal stability and discriminant validity (Diener and Emmons 1985; Pavot and Diener
1993). The scale correlates positively with other measures of SWB, and negatively with
measures of psychopathology (Pavot and Diener 1993). In the current sample, average
internal consistency, using Cronbach’s alpha, was .90 across time points.
2.2.2 Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS)
The affective component of SWB was measured using the 20-item PANAS (Watson et al.
1988). To assess trait affect, participants were instructed to rate each item according to how
they felt generally (Watson et al. 1988). Responses were recorded on a five-point Likert
scale from very slightly or not at all to extremely. Watson et al. (1988) reported excellent
internal consistency for both the PA and NA scales (PA arange =.86–.90; NA a
range =.84–.87). In the current sample, average internal consistency was .89 across time
for both PA and NA.
Together, the SWLS, PA and NA have previously been used as an aggregate measure of
Diener’s (1984) SWB by summing SWLS and PA, and subtracting NA (Linley et al. 2010;
Sheldon and Elliot 1999). Prior to forming a composite SWB measure, the validity of this
approach was checked using principal components analysis (PCA). All three variables
loaded on a single factor with a one factor solution accounting for 57.5, 65.0, 61.0 and
73.8 % of the variance over the four time points respectively (loadings [.70). This sup-
ported the use of a composite SWB measure.
2.2.3 The Workplace Well-being Index (WWBI)
Workplace well-being, or satisfaction with work domains, was measured using the WWBI
(Page 2005). Both Page (2005) and Grant et al. (2009) have reported excellent levels of
internal consistency (a=.90). Example items are ‘‘How satisfied are you that your work
allows you to use your abilities and knowledge?’’ ‘‘How satisfied are you with the
meaningfulness of your work?’’. Responses were recorded on an 11-point Likert scale from
completely dissatisfied to completely satisfied. Items were averaged to create an overall
WWBI score (Page 2005). Average internal consistency for WWBI in this study was .94
across time.
2.2.4 The Affective Well-Being (AWB) Scale
Work-specific or state affect was measured using the 35-item AWB scale (Daniels 2000).
The AWB scale depicts five axes on the Circumplex model: anxiety-comfort (e.g. ‘‘anx-
ious’’, ‘‘relaxed’’), depression-pleasure (e.g., ‘‘miserable’’, ‘‘happy’’) bored-enthusiastic
(e.g., ‘‘sluggish’’, ‘‘motivated’’), tiredness-vigor (e.g., ‘‘fatigued’’, ‘‘alert’’), and angry-
placid (e.g., ‘‘annoyed’’, ‘‘at ease’’). Daniels’ (2000) found support for the five-factor
solution using confirmatory factor analysis in two separate validation samples. Internal
reliabilities of the subscales ranged from .79 to .88 in the two samples. To assess state
affect, participants were asked how they had felt over the last week. A composite AWB
scale was utilized to minimize the number of variables in the study, thus minimizing the
likelihood of Type I error. An average AWB score has been used in other studies with
1012 K. M. Page, D. A. Vella-Brodrick
123
acceptable reliability (e.g., Rego et al. 2009). In the current study, average internal con-
sistency for AWB was .94 across time.
2.2.5 Scales of Psychological Well-Being (SPWB)
PWB was measured by the 42-item SPWB (Ryff 1989). The SPWB contains six dimen-
sions (self-acceptance, personal growth, environmental mastery, autonomy, purpose in life,
and positive relations with others). Agreement was recorded on a seven-point Likert scale
from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Although Ryff (1989) reported good internal
consistency and test–retest validity for each of the sub-scales, some have questioned the
reliability of the factor structure (e.g., Abbott et al. 2006; Springer and Hauser 2006;
Springer et al. 2006) This was also a problem in the current study. As such, a composite
PWB score was utilized to obtain a more reliable indication of PWB, as recommended by
Springer et al. (2006). This was supported in the present data by a PCA. The total scale was
more internally consistent than the individual subscales (average a=.90 across time for
the single scale compared to e.g., a=.52 personal growth and a=.69 for environmental
mastery). Example items were: ‘‘In general, I feel I am in charge of the situation in which I
live’’ and ‘‘I have a sense of direction and purpose in life’’.
2.2.6 Demographics
Demographic variables included age, marital status, gender, education level, work location
(branch or state headquarters), employment and contract status (permanent/temporary; full-
time/part-time), number of hours worked per week, and tenure.
2.3 Procedure
The study was approved by Monash University’s Human Research Committee. Partici-
pants were recruited via advertisements in the host organization’s newsletter. Consenting
participants were randomly allocated to a control or an intervention group using an online
random allocation system (random.org). Baseline (time 1) measures were completed
online. Participants who could not access the internet at work (e.g., branch staff) completed
a paper-and-pencil survey. The intervention group participated in the 6-week Working for
Wellness Program (1 h session per week during their normal working week). Control
group participants did not receive an intervention and completed the four questionnaires
only. Three sets of post-intervention outcome evaluation data were collected. Process and
impact evaluation data were collected from intervention group participants one week after
the time 2 outcome evaluation survey, using a program evaluation survey. The slight time
delay was intended to reduce the effect of common method variance and social desirability
responding. Data were collected anonymously and paired at each time point using par-
ticipants’ anonymous, self-selected identifiers.
2.3.1 The Intervention
Table 1provides an overview of the Working for Wellness Program, including example
activities.
The program consisted of six, 1 h, small group-based sessions. Each session was facili-
tated by the first author according to a set training manual to ensure consistency across groups.
Participants focused on their strengths and learnt from their best (or peak) experiences, to
The Working for Wellness Program 1013
123
increase motivation and facilitative change, as per Appreciative Inquiry (Cooperrider 1986;
Cooperrider et al. 2008). Care was taken to optimize well-being and learning outcomes for
participants by facilitating sessions in a positive, supportive and affirming environment
(Joseph and Linley 2006) and providing opportunities for autonomy and group discussion
(Ryan and Deci 2000; Vella 2000). The facilitator recorded adherence to this approach using
field notes and ratings (five-point Likert scale where 1 =poor adherence and 5 =strong
adherence), which was completed at the end of each session. Notes and ratings were also
taken regarding other elements of delivery, including fidelity and participant attendance. This
data formed part of the process evaluation. Implementation was similar to traditional
workplace training and thus had good ecological validity (Flay et al. 2005).
2.3.2 Training Materials
Activity books and resource packs were provided to participants as training materials and
included the program activities and relevant background information, including theories,
tips and resources, respectively. Intervention group participants received the training
materials in their first session. Control group participants received the materials at the
conclusion of the study.
2.3.3 Pilot Session
An abbreviated version of the program was presented to a positive psychology interest
group, comprising of both professionals and academics, to pilot the concepts, solicit peer
feedback and make final revisions to the program prior to implementation.
Table 1 The working for wellness program: session by session overview
Topic Brief overview of session content Homework
1. What is
Workplace
Well-being?
Introduced to program content. Discussed nature of well-
being and rated their current level of well-being at
work. Introduced to the importance of intentional
activities in enhancing happiness (SHM)
Completed VIA signature
strengths test
2. Knowing and
Using Strengths
Explored top 10 character strengths, looking for real life
evidence. Discussed current levels of application.
Employed job crafting as a method for applying
strengths at work
Acted and reflected on
strength-based job
crafting strategies
3. Goal Striving Explored the relationship between goal striving and well-
being. Set self-concordant (strength-based) goals and
action plans. Action plans drew on hope theory (goals,
agency thinking, pathway thinking; Snyder 2002)
Acted and reflected on
strength-based goal
striving plan
4. Flow Discussed how to cultivate flow at and outside of work,
including the relationship between flow and strengths.
Set specific strategies for increasing time spent in flow
Acted and reflected on
strength-based flow
strategies
5. Relationships
and Altruism
Discussed strength-based strategies for optimizing
relationships at and outside of work, drawing on peak
experiences
Acted and reflected on
strength-based
relationship strategies
6. Consolidation
of Learning
Reviewed the program content and reflected on
experiences associated with the program. Created
personal action plans to continue progress after
program (based on program insights)
Acted on personal action
plans
SHM sustainable happiness model, VIA values in action. Each session was 1 h in duration and delivered to
small groups (6–8 participants per group)
1014 K. M. Page, D. A. Vella-Brodrick
123
2.3.4 Feedback and Debriefing Session
Participants were invited to a debriefing and feedback focus group, facilitated by the first
author, one year after the program had commenced. It included a brief presentation of
results, an opportunity for both groups to reflect on their experiences with their peers, and
the collection of additional participant feedback. A trained observer recorded the feedback
and these data were analyzed as part of the process evaluation.
3 Results
3.1 Data Screening and Preliminary Analyses
Table 2presents correlations between all variables. Hypotheses were tested using a 2 by 4
mixed ANOVA design, including group (intervention versus control) by time (pre-inter-
vention and 1 week, 3-month, and 6-month follow-up). SPSS version 16 was used to
screen and analyze data. Prior to analysis, data were checked and ANOVA assumptions
confirmed.
A series of independent sample t-tests conducted on all baseline measures confirmed
random group assignment—there were no pre-existing differences in well-being between
groups or difference between participants who completed the online versus paper-and-
pencil versions of the survey on any variables. Chi Square and t-tests showed no differ-
ences between those that completed all four surveys (n=23) and those who did not
(n=27) in terms of group or demographics except that those who dropped out were more
likely to work in a branch office than state headquarters (v
2
=12.24, df =1, p=.00).
3.2 Outcome Evaluation: How was the Program Effective?
Means and standard deviations for groups over time are presented in Table 3.
3.2.1 Psychological Well-Being and Subjective Well-Being
Mixed method ANOVAs revealed a significant group by time interaction for PWB, Wilks’
Lambda =.85, F(3, 17) =1.03, p=\.05, partial g
2
=.39 and for SWB, Wilks’
Lambda =.55, F(3, 18) =4.87, p=.01; partial g
2
=.45, both are large effects (Cohen
1988). This indicated that the degree of change from time 1 to time 4 in these variables was
dependent on group (intervention or control group). Specifically, participants in the
intervention group experienced significant improvements in PWB and SWB across time
compared to controls.
3.2.2 Work-Related Well-Being
A mixed method ANOVA revealed no significant time by group interaction for WWB. The
main effects for time and group were also non-significant. The group by time interaction
for AWB was not significant. There was no significant main effect for time. However, the
main effect of group on AWB was significant, F(1) =7.96, p=.01, partial g
2
=.33, and
also a large effect (Cohen 1988). Participants in the intervention group experienced sig-
nificantly more positive work-related AWB than those in the control group, across time.
The Working for Wellness Program 1015
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Table 2 Correlations between variables across four time points
Measure SWB2 SWB3 SWB4 PWB1 PWB2 PWB3 PWB4 WWB1 WWB2 WWB3 WWB4 AWB1 AWB2 AWB3 AWB4
SWB1 .66** .13 .59** .82** .64** .15 .57** .47** .13 -.16 .23 .58** -.11 -.17 .26
SWB2 .35* .60** .63** .78** .29 .50** .25 .39* .13 .35* .22 .49** .06 .42*
SWB3 .18 .09 .16 .82** .01 .16 .36* .30 .32 .03 .16 .40* .17
SWB4 .64** .54** .24 .84** .33* .26 .17 .34* .31 .04 .07 .43**
PWB1 .79** .27 .70** .43** .025 -.19 .13 .63** -.05 -.12 .23
PWB2 .30 .58** .31 .25 .06 .24 .25 .26 -.01 .30
PWB3 .22 .25 .41* .24 .22 .06 .13 .34* .06
PWB4 .49** .29 .00 .28 .47** .09 -.05 .43**
WWB1 .42** -.12 .55** .48** -.05 -.08 .24
WWB2 .35* .56** -.06 .55** .20 .29
WWB3 .52** -.30 .23 .71** .46**
WWB4 -.01 .15 .29 .58**
AWB1 .15 -.13 .31
AWB2 .30 .39*
AWB3 .51**
SWB subjective well-being, PWB psychological well-being, WWB workplace well-being, AWB work-related affective well-being
*p\.05, **p\.01
1016 K. M. Page, D. A. Vella-Brodrick
123
Table 3 Estimated marginal means for both groups showing well-being across time
Time 1 Time 2 Time 3 Time 4
Intervention Control Intervention Control Intervention Control Intervention Control
PWB 66.10 (12.73) 71.61 (13.82) 72.60 (9.52) 70.19 (13.12) 69.01 (12.57) 70.81 (10.97) 68.52 (14.33) 66.45 (12.25)
SWB 32.19 (28.00) 52.69 (20.92) 51.68 (25.36) 43.21 (24.80) 42.83 (34.28) 45.77 (23.62) 46.11 (38.85) 38.71 (39.56)
WWB 61.73 (23.36) 71.14 (15.43) 61.28 (16.45) 65.29 (20.54) 59.78 (19.00) 50.10 (25.56) 57.56 (18.03) 58.75 (30.60)
AWB 66.38 (14.85) 66.51 (6.8) 74.09 (8.34) 56.59 (17.03) 64.68 (12.94) 52.27 (18.11) 70.21 (14.763) 54.82 (16.02)
All data has been converted to % of Scale Maximum to allow comparison across measures that use with different rating scales. All numbers represent group means (standard
deviation in brackets)
The Working for Wellness Program 1017
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3.2.3 How and to What Extent was the Program Effective?
The process and impact evaluation was adapted from the recommendations and procedures
of Murta et al. (2007), Steckler and Linnan (2002), and Randall et al. (2007) and used to
help explain the outcome evaluation. Data were drawn from facilitator field notes and both
quantitative and qualitative participant feedback. The quantitative process evaluation data
(e.g., degree of learning, application and activity ‘‘fit’’) were subjected to descriptive
analysis using SPSS. Qualitative data were collected through open ended survey and focus
group questions (e.g., what participants liked most about the program). Patterns and themes
in the qualitative data were identified deductively, interpreted at the latent level, and
described using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) thematic analysis approach. A latent approach
can more adequately capture the richness of a dataset (Braun and Clarke 2006). The themes
were re-coded and confirmed by an independent assessor.
In sum, all participants indicated that they learnt a great deal about their well-being
during the program. All but two of the respondents considered themselves to be happier as
a result of the program. This aligns with the outcome evaluation. Participants perceived
slightly more change in their general well-being than their work-specific well-being, also
supporting the outcome evaluation. Interestingly, focus group data indicated that some
spillover may have occurred. Participants reported that activity changes outside of work
improved general well-being, which, in turn, improved how participants felt at work
(Table 4).
Interpretation of the qualitative data (refer to Table 5) suggested that the program had a
positive effect on employees in terms of improved self-awareness and self-acceptance, goal
pursuit and attainment (which in itself was satisfying), better employee relationships
general positive feelings, and more positive states of mind (e.g., feeling happier, more
confident, enjoying work). Two participants reported that the rise in self-awareness chal-
lenged their well-being at times, appearing to set up discrepancies between what was and
could be (e.g., participants realized they could be happier at work than they were; see
Table 5for specific comments). For these participants, this led to feelings of frustration or
disappointment, particularly when they felt they could not apply what they learnt at work.
According to the process evaluation, the intervention was delivered as planned,
encouraged participants to engage in PP activities, focused on their strengths, and used a
positive, affirming facilitation style. Slightly more emphasis was given to applying
activities outside of work; this is what most participants tended to prefer (note: this
preference was not quantitatively assessed but appeared in the field notes). The facilitator
delivered all program activities with a high level of consistency across groups. Participants
indicated high levels of both motivation and application during the program. Participant
attendance was high across all six sessions. Therefore it appears participants were effec-
tively engaged in the program. Taken together, data indicate satisfactory levels of internal
and external validity.
In line with the SHM and the importance of self-concordant motivation in enhancing
well-being (Lyubomirsky et al. 2005), results supported that the program was a good fit
with participants’ interests, values, and needs. Participants reported feeling motivated to
continue to apply the activities. Participants enjoyed the program overall and perceived the
program to be only a minimal burden on their time. Every participant said they would
recommend the program to others and, hypothetically, would participate again if asked.
Strengths of the program included its content as a whole as well as the specific, strength-
based activities. The style and format of the program (e.g., facilitation style) was also
appreciated, particularly the opportunities for group discussion and peer-to-peer sharing.
1018 K. M. Page, D. A. Vella-Brodrick
123
Table 4 Outcome, process and impact evaluation: summary of key elements, method and results (quantitative)
Elements Description/key questions Measurement and analysis Quantitative results
Outcome
Evaluation
Was the program effective? Outcome evaluation survey: PWB, SWB, AWB, WWB
Mixed method analysis of variance (ANOVA)
Signification time by group interactions for
PWB and SWB
Significant main effect of group on AWB
No significant effects for WWB
Impact
Evaluation
What was the impact of the program on
participants in terms of learning and well-
being outcomes?
Program evaluation survey:
How much have you learnt about your workplace well-
being as a result of the program? (Nothing [1] to A
great deal [7])#
Do you feel happier as a result of the program? #
(1 =Yes;2=No plus open comment box)
How much do you feel your (a) workplace well-being
and (b) general well-being has changed as a result of
the program? # (Both: No positive change [1] to Much
positive change [5])
Degree of learning: M=72.2 %SM
17/19 (94.4 %) respondents felt happier as a
result of the program.
Workplace well-being change:
M=52.75 %SM
General well-being change: M=58.3 %SM
See Table 5for results of thematic analysis
Process
Evaluation
Participant
recruitment
and
maintenance
How were participants recruited? To what
degree were participants maintained in the
study?
Field notes
Survey response rates# and field notes
See ‘‘Method’
Reach What % of the population participated in the
program? What % of the sample attended the
intervention?
% of target population reached#
Attendance rates# (each session/person) Population Sample TOTAL
SHQ 399.64
(41.87 %)
31
(51.67 %)
7.76 %
Branch 554.86
(58.13 %)
29
(48.33 %)
5.23 %
TOTAL 945.5 60 6.29 %
Population and sample comparable
M=80 % participant attendance
The Working for Wellness Program 1019
123
Table 4 continued
Elements Description/key questions Measurement and analysis Quantitative results
Fidelity Was the program delivered as planned (i.e.,
the quality and spirit intended)?
Field notes: 1 to 5 ratings given by facilitator in each
session in relation to#:
Focus on strengths and peak experiences;
Positive, affirming facilitation style that supported
participants’ autonomy;
Focus on both work and home experiences
Focus on strengths (M=5/5)
Facilitation style (M=5/5)
Work and home focus (M=3.5/5): Less
emphasis on work experiences than planned
(participant preferences: role autonomy issues
limited application at work and participants
more interested in application at home)
Dose
delivered
and
received
What dose was delivered (i.e., were all the
activities within the program delivered?) To
what extent did participants engage in the
program?
Field notes (dose delivered) #
Program evaluation survey
Motivation: (a) How motivated were you to apply the
exercises and/or what you learnt in each session?
(b) How motivated are you to CONTINUE applying
the exercises and/or what you learnt in each session?
(Both Not at all[1] to Extremely [7])#
Retrospective application: How much did you apply
the exercises and/or what you learnt in each session
during the program? (Did not apply [1] to A great deal
[7]) #
100 % of activities delivered within and across
each session (one facilitator)
Motivation during program: M=75.3 %SM
(Strengths =75 %SM; Goals =80.07 %SM;
Flow =71.3 %SM; Relationships =78.7 %SM)
Motivation to continue application post-
program: M=72.2 %SM
(Strengths =71.3 %SM; Goals =78.7 %SM;
Flow =67.7 %SM; Relationships =76.8 %SM)
Application during program: M=71.5 %SM
(Strengths =75 %SM; Goals =75 %SM;
Flow =65.7 %SM; Relationships =77.8 %SM)
1020 K. M. Page, D. A. Vella-Brodrick
123
Table 4 continued
Elements Description/key questions Measurement and analysis Quantitative results
Participant
attitudes
What were participants’ attitudes towards the
program (content, process and general)?
Program evaluation survey:
How much did [each activity] fit with your interests,
values etc.? (one item for each of the four PP
activities) #
How much did [each activity] meet your needs? (one
item for each of the four PP activities) #
What did you like/dislike about the program? What
could be added or removed next time? What was
hardest/easiest to apply? (open ended questions)*
Was participation a burden on you time wise? (No
burden [1] to A huge burden [7]) #
Did you enjoy participating overall? (Not at all [1] to A
great deal [7]) #
Would you recommend the program to others?
(Yes/No); #
Hypothetically, would you participate again if asked?
(Yes/No). #
Specific focus group feedback:
Why was there more change in terms of general well-
being than work-specific well-being?*
What would you like to see happen next?*
Fit with interests/values: M=73.8 %SM
(Strengths =81.5 %SM; Goals =71.3 %SM;
Flow =67.7 %SM; Relationships =77.8 %SM)
Fit with needs: M=76.7 %SM
(Strengths =82.3 %SM; Goals =82.3 %SM;
Flow =71.3 %SM; Relationships =75.0 %SM)
Burden on time: M=9.33 %SM
Enjoyment: M=93.5 %SM
100 % of respondents would recommend the
program to others and (hypothetically) would
participate again if asked.
See Table 5for results of thematic analysis
This evaluation model was adapted from Nelson and Steele (2006), Murta et al. (2007), and Steckler and Linnan (2002). All items marked with # were subjected to descriptive
analysis; items marked with * were subjected to thematic analysis. The program evaluation survey was completed at time 2 only; the outcome evaluation survey was
completed at all four time points. Field notes were recorded by the facilitator at the end of each session
SHQ state headquarters staff, Branch branch staff, PWB psychological well-being, SWB subjective well-being, AWB work-specific affective well-being, WWB workplace well-
being, PP positive psychology, M=average score, %SM =percentage scale maximum
The Working for Wellness Program 1021
123
Table 5 Qualitative themes, descriptions and example comments from open ended questions
Core themes Sub-themes Description Example comment/s
Perceived impact
of the program
Better self-
awareness/self-
acceptance
Improvements in self-awareness, understanding strengths;
greater self acceptance, more positive self-view; benefits
associated with more self-awareness (e.g., better decisions,
better ‘‘fit’’)
As a result of the program I am ‘‘more conscious of my well-
being and what I can do to positively influence it—both at work
and generally. I am more aware of my strengths and activities I
enjoy (from flow activities) and consequently am conscious of
trying to incorporate this into what I do.’’ (P14)
‘[The program] gave me a chance to recognize the things I do
really well and to be proud of myself and try to be less critical
of myself. It has helped with my confidence and self esteem
and I am gradually feeling more assertive at work and less
upset, or emotional’’. (P19)
Building
relationships
Improvements in relationships, getting to know others better The well-being program helped me to ‘‘learn more about my co-
workers outside of workplace.’’ (P3)
‘As a result of this course I stopped and took time to evaluate
my relationships; I listened more and responded to what people
had to say and how they behaved. This course has also made
me look at people’s body language, something I really took for
granted before’’. (P17)
Goal achievement Striving for or achieving goals The well-being program helped me to ‘‘set goals and actually
achieve them’’ (P3)
‘At the moment I am applying for a position in the Training and
Development pool and I have successfully completed a
3 month assessment at work’’. (P18)
Positive feelings/
state of mind
Positive changes in feelings or state of mind (e.g., feeling
happier, enjoying work more, more confident or motivated)
‘The course has given me a new frame of mind on a daily basis.
I feel more confident and enjoy coming to work.’’ (P11)
I liked ‘‘the overall message of striving for well-being at work
and at home. I think sometimes people forget to aim for
happiness and well-being. It is good to put well-being at the
forefront of your mind, and this is what the program did.’
(P13)
‘Overall I do feel much happier at work now.’’ (P19)
1022 K. M. Page, D. A. Vella-Brodrick
123
Table 5 continued
Core themes Sub-themes Description Example comment/s
Program
challenged well-
being
Program challenged well-being (e.g., setting up discrepancies
between what is and could be)
‘While working to enhance your ability to improve your well-
being in your work and home life, the introduction of topics
also worked to highlight what attributes/skills you were not
using already. So, the course forces you to strongly self-
evaluate, something that I didn’t feel ready to do at the time.
Of course, now the negatives have begun to turn positive.’
(P12)
‘When I was working on utilizing my strengths and goal striving
during the program I did feel a bit depressed and down as I was
not able to put them into practice at that time’’. (P19)
‘Using my strengths while still working in my current position
[was challenging].[Also], how I feel, or think when something
occurs that I do not agree with, i.e. trying to change the way I
view change, and to talk or think more positively and less
negatively’’. (P19)
‘The hardest thing has been flow. It has been difficult to get into
flow in my current position’’. (P13)
No impact on
well-being
Program had no impact on well-being ‘I was already happy with my overall work and life
circumstances; the program did not make a significant
difference to thatAs a result of participating I have taken
some time to assess my general situation but I will not make
any major change as a result.’’(P15)
Evaluation of the
program content
and format
Positive
comments about
the program as a
whole
General positive comments about the program as a whole ‘I really enjoyed the program and thoroughly enjoyed
participating. It was nice to have a bit of ‘time out’ from work,
and to reflect on what I was doing, and where I was going.’
(P15)
‘I found all aspects of the program useful. Having had the time
to reflect on this workshop I am so pleased that I was given the
opportunity to participateAll of the learnings were easy to
apply. I enjoy taking on new things [and] having abilities
highlighted to me enabled me to run with them.’’ (P17)
The Working for Wellness Program 1023
123
Table 5 continued
Core themes Sub-themes Description Example comment/s
Positive
comments about
the PP activities
Strengths was most liked, most useful or easiest to apply ‘Analysis of strengths’’ was most useful as ‘‘this gave me a basis
for deciding what activities will use my strengths more
effectively.’’ (P14)
‘Knowing and using strengths’’ was most useful‘‘Because it
felt good to know I was doing something right’’. (P16)
Goal striving activities were most liked, most useful or
easiest to apply
‘Goal striving was very useful and I will continue to use the
methods I have learnt’’. (P13)
‘Goal striving was hardest to write but once [goals were]
chosen, [goal striving] was the most useful and easiest to
incorporate as I was happy with my plan/timeline’’. (P15)
Relationships activities were most liked, most useful or
easiest to apply
‘Developing closer friendships with co-workers’ was easiest to
apply (p3)
‘Relationships and altruism’’ was most liked, most useful and
easiest to apply (P11)
Flow activities were least liked, least useful or hardest to apply ‘The hardest thing has been flow. It has been difficult to get into
flow in my current position’’. (P13)
‘Flow’’ was hardest to apply but ‘‘only at work I guess because
other staff have needed to be attended to and they are not
conducive to flow.’’ (P16)
Group interaction/
discussion
Interacting with others, group discussions, sharing experiences
with others was liked or helpful
‘Participating in well-being workshops and sharing experiences
with other participants’’ was most liked about the program (P3)
‘Being able to discuss my feelings and experiences with the
group. Also listening to how the program was helping others’’.
(P10)
Facilitator Positive comments about the facilitator ‘Loved [the facilitator’s] easy listening approach.’’ (P17)
‘I found the person who ran the workshopshighly motivating,
excellent people skills, very approachable and a good public
speaker.’’ (P18)
1024 K. M. Page, D. A. Vella-Brodrick
123
Table 5 continued
Core themes Sub-themes Description Example comment/s
Not enough time Not enough time in each session I would have liked to have ‘‘more time for group discussion as I
felt we were on the clock all the time.’’ (P10)
It was ‘‘hard to find the time to complete the ‘at home’ tasks
around everything else that was happening. Saying that however,
they were very useful and I’m glad I made the time to complete
them.’’ (P15)
Not enough
sessions
Not enough sessions ‘I think six, hour long sessions wasn’t enough. It is a long
process and I think I needed more coaching to change my way
of thinking.’’ (P12)
‘I personally feel that we could have done with at least another
four to six sessions, so that some of the concepts/models could
have been further explored.’’ (P16)
‘I think I would have preferred it if [the program] was eight to
10 weeks long as I felt that I needed more time to understand
my situation and others. I also felt that we were just getting
somewhere and then it ended.’’(P18)
Focus group
feedback
More change in
GWB than WWB
Why was there more change in terms of GWB than WWB? Autonomy, control and clarity: More opportunities/autonomy/
flexibility to apply findings outside of work than at work; Not
enough autonomy or clarity in work role to know when and how
they could work strengths into their jobs (a key component of
program).
Personal choice: More responsibility and interest in applying
activities outside of work (which was more important to them)
Home to work facilitation: Improving well-being outside of
work then had a positive spill-over effect—benefiting how one
felt and behaved at work.
The Working for Wellness Program 1025
123
Table 5 continued
Core themes Sub-themes Description Example comment/s
Next steps What would you like to see happen next? Broader roll out (e.g., compulsory for all staff; control group
staff); Include well-being modules and life skills workshop as
part of training and development suite (to complement technical
skills)
Put support/learning transfer mechanisms in place: (1) Manager
training/tool kits (both to support staff and so managers can
enhance their own well-being); (2) Refresher courses; (3) Peer
support networks and working groups to teach others, refresh
skills, continue tackling goals; support change.
Pparticipant, GWB general well-being, WWB workplace well-being
1026 K. M. Page, D. A. Vella-Brodrick
123
This further supports that the program was delivered in the spirit and style intended.
Participants felt more in-depth learning and discussion would have been enabled if there
had been more (and longer) sessions in the program.
Focus group data, conducted one year post-program, indicated that intervention group
participants experienced a number of limitations in applying what they learnt at work. This
included a lack of role clarity and autonomy support. Focus group participants also sug-
gested a number of next steps, in terms of implementation, including the provision of
various mechanisms to support learning and growth such as manager training and peer-
support groups.
4 Discussion
There are very few interventions available for use in a workplace setting that focus spe-
cifically on enhancing well-being through the identification and application of employee
strengths. In the current study, a positive, strength-based employee well-being program
was designed and evaluated using a mixed method design. Results were quite positive
overall although must be interpreted cautiously given the considerable amount of sample
attrition. Employees who participated in the program reported significant gains in SWB,
PWB and work-specific AWB over time. Control group participants did not experience
these increases. It is notable that the program appeared to affect multiple aspects of well-
being; that is, improving both positive feelings (SWB and work-specific AWB) and
positive functioning (PWB). This is important as previous research has suggested that both
positive feelings and positive functioning are markers of well-being (e.g., Kashdan et al.
2008; Keyes 2005).
The results found in this study lend some additional weight to evidence suggesting that
well-being can be increased through intentional, individual effort (e.g., Seligman et al.
2005; Sheldon and Lyubomirsky 2006). Specifically, the current study supports and
extends past research in showing that striving for self-concordant goals, job-crafting,
getting into flow and cultivating relationships are effective activities for enhancing well-
being, and, unique to this study, that character strengths can be mobilized through these
mechanisms.
A number of factors may explain the effects found in this study. First, results may be
explained by the program’s focus on intentional activities, particularly those that are
effortful, self-concordant and continuously applied, as purported by the SHM (Sheldon
et al. 2009; Sheldon and Lyubomirsky 2006). Second, results may be explained by par-
ticipants’ high levels of fit, motivation and application with each of the program activities,
which may have encouraged more sustained effort over time (Sheldon et al. 2009). Third,
the multi-faceted intervention approach may have helped to facilitate program effective-
ness. Fordyce (1977,1983) and Luthans et al. (2006) also had success with multifaceted
approaches. A multifaceted program may have been effective in this study because it
exposed participants to multiple activities they could engage in, thus providing a sense of
variety and choice (autonomy)—key factors within various well-being theories (e.g., Ryan
and Deci 2000; Sheldon and Lyubomirsky 2006).
Another effective mechanism in the program may have been the delivery of the program
in small groups, which allowed participants to share their experiences in peer-to-peer
discussion. This is congruent with previous research. For example, talking with others has
been found to be an important vehicle for capitalizing on and savoring positive experi-
ences, which in turn benefits well-being (Gable et al. 2004; Langston 1994). Talking about
The Working for Wellness Program 1027
123
positive experiences—which generally involves the expression of positive emotion—may
also benefit others in a group through the process of emotional contagion and crossover
(Hartel and Page 2009; Hatfield et al. 1994). The emphasis on group discussion also
allowed participants to provide support to others, thus possibly engendering the benefits of
giving (Post 2005). These effects may not have been evident had the program focused on
stressors rather than positives. For example, Beehr et al. (2010) found that social support
could harm psychological and physical health when it drew a person’s attention to stress in
the workplace.
The program appeared to have more of an impact on general well-being than work-
specific well-being. Assuming that WWB is associated with opportunities to apply
activities at work, the lesser impact may have been because participants tended to apply
activities in leisure time, perceiving less opportunity to, or interest in, applying them at
work. The lesser effect may also be because WWB is influenced more by organizational
factors (e.g., climate, role flexibility) than by personal factors. However, the program did
have some impact on positive work-related AWB. This may suggest some participants did
find opportunities to apply activities at work. Or else activities that participants pursued
outside of the workplace may have benefited their well-being at work through the process
of spill-over (where feelings in one domain cross over into another; e.g., Bakker 2005);
home to work facilitation (Allis and O’Driscoll 2008) or effort-recovery (Sonnetag 2003).
Findings suggest that employees can learn effective strategies for sustainably improving
personal well-being. This finding is encouraging for organizations and health professionals
striving to promote employee well-being as a positive psychological phenomenon in
addition to the mitigation of psychological or physical risk. The results are also important
from a practical perspective, suggesting that individual-level interventions, delivered in the
workplace, can have positive effects on both general and work-related well-being. For
many organizations restricted by time or budget, as was the organization in this study,
individual-level interventions may be more cost-effective than large-scale organizational
well-being initiatives.
As in many intervention studies, the current study was limited by participant attrition.
This in turn reduced statistical power and prevented further analysis. This may also reflect
the reality of intervention research in organisations that are typically time poor. The
somewhat lengthy survey that participants were asked to complete over an extended period
of time may have contributed to the high attrition. Multiple measures of well-being were
included to capture a comprehensive picture of well-being change (Keyes 2005). Tools
now exist that combine multiple dimensions of well-being into single, parsimonious
measures (Keyes et al. 2008; Tennant et al. 2007). Such measures could provide a more
favorable option in future studies. A further limitation was that potential mediating and
moderating variables, such as strengths use, flow, role autonomy and managerial effec-
tiveness were not included because of the already lengthy survey. Finally, this study did
not include an active control group, which means we cannot rule out the possible con-
founding factors such as social interaction.
Future studies should include an active control group and measure potentially important
mediating and moderating variables to control for social factors and further ascertain the
factors that help or hinder workplace well-being programs. Future studies should consider
building in learning transfer mechanisms such as a peer support or ‘buddy’ program,
manager training or toolkits, or group coaching. These options would also leverage one of
the key strengths of the intervention, namely: fostering relationships. More, or longer,
sessions would also be preferable, as suggested by participants. Given that the efficacy of
such programs now has initial support, it is important to replicate the findings and include
1028 K. M. Page, D. A. Vella-Brodrick
123
other potentially important outcome variables (e.g., the effect on performance, psycho-
logical injury, absenteeism, or retention).
5 Conclusion
Designing and testing methods that can reliably and sustainably increase employee well-
being is a key area for future research. This study describes the results of one such study,
utilizing a positive focus, longitudinal data, and an experimental design. It is hoped that
this study encourages further research that extends and builds upon these results and guides
the development of effective workplace well-being programs with the aim of creating
happier and healthier workplaces.
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I: Background.- 1. An Introduction.- 2. Conceptualizations of Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination.- II: Self-Determination Theory.- 3. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Perceived Causality and Perceived Competence.- 4. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Interpersonal Communication and Intrapersonal Regulation.- 5. Toward an Organismic Integration Theory: Motivation and Development.- 6. Causality Orientations Theory: Personality Influences on Motivation.- III: Alternative Approaches.- 7. Operant and Attributional Theories.- 8. Information-Processing Theories.- IV: Applications and Implications.- 9. Education.- 10. Psychotherapy.- 11. Work.- 12. Sports.- References.- Author Index.
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