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Strength Use in the Workplace: A Literature Review


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The objective of the present article is to review the literature on strengths use and development in the workplace. This review (1) presents a summary of the outcomes of strengths use in organizations, and (2) proposes a general intervention model facilitating strengths development in the workplace. A systematic review was used to summarize the outcomes of studies on strengths use at work, whereas a narrative review was employed to examine the main strengths development interventions available, and to propose an integrative model. Results indicate that strengths use is associated with job satisfaction, work engagement, well-being, and work performance. Furthermore, scholars and professionals use similar intervention strategies that can be summarized in a five-step integrative model to promote strengths development in organizations. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications, as well as avenues for future research.
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Journal of Happiness Studies
An Interdisciplinary Forum on
Subjective Well-Being
ISSN 1389-4978
J Happiness Stud
DOI 10.1007/s10902-019-00095-w
Strength Use in the Workplace: A
Literature Review
Marine Miglianico, Philippe Dubreuil,
Paule Miquelon, Arnold B.Bakker &
Charles Martin-Krumm
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Journal of Happiness Studies
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Strength Use intheWorkplace: ALiterature Review
MarineMiglianico1,5· PhilippeDubreuil1· PauleMiquelon1· ArnoldB.Bakker3,4·
© Springer Nature B.V. 2019
The objective of the present article is to review the literature on strengths use and develop-
ment in the workplace. This review (1) presents a summary of the outcomes of strengths
use in organizations, and (2) proposes a general intervention model facilitating strengths
development in the workplace. A systematic review was used to summarize the outcomes
of studies on strengths use at work, whereas a narrative review was employed to exam-
ine the main strengths development interventions available, and to propose an integrative
model. Results indicate that strengths use is associated with job satisfaction, work engage-
ment, well-being, and work performance. Furthermore, scholars and professionals use
similar intervention strategies that can be summarized in a five-step integrative model to
promote strengths development in organizations. We discuss the theoretical and practical
implications, as well as avenues for future research.
Keywords Strengths· Organizations· Intervention· Positive psychology
1 Introduction
When an organization is faced with problems associated with burnout, personnel turnover,
and absenteeism, the question of personal and professional fulfillment is paramount. The
positive psychology movement has expanded mental health knowledge beyond a focus on
alleviating illness and mental disorders. This approach is defined as “the study of the con-
ditions and processes that contribute to the flourishing or optimal functioning of people,
groups and institutions” (Gable and Haidt 2005, p. 104). It is considered the most rigorous
* Marine Miglianico
1 Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, Canada
2 Laboratoire de Psychologie de l’École de Psychologues Praticiens de Paris, Paris, France
3 Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, TheNetherlands
4 University ofJohannesbourg, Johannesbourg, SouthAfrica
5 APEMAC – EA 4360, Université de Lorraine, Metz, France
6 IRBA, Unité de NeuroPhysiologie du Stress, Brétigny, France
7 Chart – EA 4004 – Université Paris X Nanterre, Paris, France
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scientific approach for studying positive human experiences, and its popularity has gener-
ated much interest in the scientific community (Mongrain and Anselmo-Matthews 2012;
Seligman 2012; Seligman etal. 2005).
Positive psychology is intended to complement the traditional deficit approach. Indeed,
human beings appear to have a natural inclination to devote greater attention to the nega-
tive or dysfunctional (Sheldon and King 2001). This negativity bias has been addressed in
numerous studies, the results of which have led to the rapid implementation of new and
reliable evaluation strategies as well as effective treatments (Nathan and Gorman 1998;
Seligman 1994).
Organizations still seem to cultivate this deficit culture (Bouskila-Yam and Kluger 2011;
Roberts etal. 2005a). Most organizations seem to take employee strengths for granted and
emphasize minimizing weaknesses instead (Buckingham and Clifton 2001). Managers tend
to identify and then manage deficits by seeking to correct employees’ dysfunctional skills,
abilities, attitudes or behaviors (Luthans 2002) through training, feedback, and coaching
(Linley etal. 2009; Van Woerkom etal. 2015). While such an approach can potentially
help employees to improve skills and performance, this approach can be demoralizing and
therefore less effective than focusing on individual strengths (Hodges and Clifton 2004).
Moreover, studying deficits and dysfunctions cannot reveal the unique impact of strengths
(Buckingham and Clifton 2001). In fact, the best opportunity for individual development
lies in investing in people’s strengths, not in managing their weaknesses (Linley etal.
2009; Roberts etal. 2005b). In other words, minimizing weaknesses can prevent failure but
cannot inspire excellence.
In recent years, strengths have been the subject of much research (Hodges and Clifton
2004; Linley 2008; Roberts etal. 2005b), and many experts have called for the develop-
ment of valid interventions that can be applied in the field (Proctor etal. 2011; Proyer
etal. 2015; Quinlan etal. 2012). Considering the ever increasing volume of research con-
ducted in this area and the demand for empirically validated guidelines for conducting
strengths development interventions, it seems important to review the current knowledge
on strengths use and development in organizational environments in order to shed light on
existing data in a more structured and critical way.
Previous work has been conducted in this regard by Quinlan et al. (2012) and more
recently by Ghielen etal. (2017). Quinlan etal. (2012) first reviewed eight strengths inter-
ventions studies using experimental or quasi-experimental designs. Results indicated sig-
nificant increases in different measures of well-being in all intervention studies. Ghielen
etal. (2017) extended the latter work by conducting a review of strengths interventions
studies published between 2012 and 2017. Eighteen (quasi-) experimental studies were
identified through a systematic literature search. Results showed that strengths interven-
tions performed in a wide variety of contexts had positive effects on a broad range of out-
comes, including well-being (e.g., positive affect, life satisfaction, depression), job out-
comes (e.g., work performance, work engagement), personal growth initiative and group
outcomes (e.g., information sharing, class cohesion).
Our review extends previous work by Quinlan etal. (2012) and Ghielen etal. (2017)
in three significant ways. First, we concentrated our review solely on studies conducted
in the workplace, as it is an area in which strengths application is particularly active and
highly relevant. Second, whereas both previous reviews focus on intervention studies, we
also included correlational studies in order to provide a thorough and comprehensive por-
trait of the scientific knowledge available. Third, we investigated various strengths devel-
opment strategies used in the workplace in order to provide additional insights on the opti-
mal design of strengths interventions and propose an integrative model for applied settings.
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The objective of the present article is therefore to review the literature on strengths use and
development in the workplace. This literature review is intended to (1) provide a summary of
the outcomes of strengths use in organizations, and (2) propose an integrative model based
on the main intervention steps found in the literature regarding strengths development in the
workplace. To this end, the three principal strengths approaches and their associated measure-
ment instruments will first be described, followed by the methodology employed in order to
meet our dual objective. Then, results related to the use of strengths in the workplace will be
presented and discussed. Likewise, the intervention steps necessary to successfully foster the
development of employee strengths in organizations will be described and discussed. As a
final analysis, a general discussion will follow, in which we will review our main findings and
comment our study.
2 Studying andDeveloping Strengths
Strengths is an important topic of study for several reasons. First, strengths fluctuate and can
develop continuously over the course of a lifetime (Biswas-Diener 2006; Park etal. 2006).
For example, in the United States, hope, teamwork or enthusiasm seem to be more common
among youth than adults, while appreciation of beauty, authenticity, leadership or openness
seem to be more common among adults (Park etal. 2006). Cultural institutions that encour-
age strengths and virtues have also been identified in many different cultures (Biswas-Diener
2006). This suggests that strengths development is advantageous within evolution, and could
thus be expected to be part of successful societal functioning.
Second, to the individual who holds them, strengths appear so natural as to seem self-evi-
dent (Buckingham and Clifton 2001). Interfering with values and actions, strengths are often
simply seen as “the right thing to do” by the person, a habit more than a singular behavior.
Some researchers suggest that these behavioral patterns may be anchored in neural networks,
which would explain the ease with which they are used by the person, and the sense of authen-
ticity and energy resulting from their use (Buckingham and Clifton 2001; Linley 2008). For
this reason, strengths can also be ignored or discredited (Biswas-Diener etal. 2011; Bucking-
ham and Clifton 2001). The individual may then miss out on a great opportunity for personal
Third, better understanding strengths seems to be highly beneficial not only for individu-
als, but also for organizations, since exercising them has a positive impact on employee well-
being and performance (Dubreuil etal. 2016; Harzer and Ruch 2016; Littman-Ovadia etal.
2017). Employees who are actively encouraged to use their strengths at work handle their
workload more effectively and show lower levels of absenteeism (Van Woerkom etal. 2016a),
while experiencing higher levels of vitality, flow, passion and engagement at work (Dubreuil
etal. 2014; Forest etal. 2012; Lavy and Littman-Ovadia 2017; Van Woerkom etal. 2015).
As a result, organizations that rely on employees’ strengths see productivity, sales, and profit
increase (Hodges and Asplund 2010), while at the same time increasing employee satisfaction,
pleasure, commitment, and meaning (Harzer and Ruch 2012, 2013).
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3 Strengths intheScientic Literature
An extensive look at the scientific literature shows that the strengths movement has been
developed over time by three main schools of thought, which mutually influenced each
other and therefore propose comparable, but slightly different definitions, classifications,
and measurement instruments to characterize strengths. As the concept of strengths is
based on different streams of research, integrating these three visions makes it possible to
develop a better understanding of the field and approach the concept in a broader and more
comprehensive perspective.
The Gallup Institute developed a first school of thought. Clifton and his colleagues
(Buckingham and Clifton 2001) have studied excellence in a wide variety of sectors for
several decades. They identified 34 talents that constitute the foundation of exceptional
performance. Each combination of talents is unique to the individual, and reflects his/
her field of excellence and path of development. According to these authors, a strength is
defined as “a constant near perfect performance in an activity” (Buckingham and Clifton,
p. 25), and has three components: talent, knowledge, and skills (Clifton and Harter 2003).
Talent is defined as a “naturally recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior”. The
key to strength development lies in the identification of talents, and refinement of these by
developing knowledge (facts and experiences) and skills (steps of an activity) (Asplund
etal. 2014).
Clifton and his team identified hundreds of talent themes, which they refined into 34
major ones (Buckingham and Clifton 2001; Clifton etal. 2002). The StrengthsFinder was
built for individuals to identify their own key talents via an electronic questionnaire (Buck-
ingham and Clifton 2001). A revised version, the StrengthsFinder 2.0, was developed later
(Rath 2007). It is comprised of 177 pairs of items representing potential self-descriptors
(e.g., “I get to know people individually”; “I accept many types of people”). The respond-
ent must choose on a five-point scale the statement that best describes him or her, and indi-
cate the extent to which it describes him or her (i.e., 1-“Strongly describes me [Option A]”,
3-Neutral, 5-“Strongly describes me [Option B]”). The participant is given 20s to respond
before the system moves on to the next pair of items. Reliability studies conducted on mul-
tiple samples (n = 2219; 46,902; 250,000) indicate that Cronbach’s alpha estimates vary
between .52 and .78 for the 34 strengths themes and test–retest correlations range between
.53 and .80 for a 6-months period. Factor analyses reported suggest a four-factor structure
comprised of the main themes of executing, influencing, relationship building, and strate-
gic thinking, although complete results of these analyses are not provided (Asplund etal.
Inspired by the early work of Clifton and his colleagues, Peterson and Seligman (2004)
developed a second school of thought. Their seminal handbook Character Strengths and
Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (Peterson and Seligman 2004) describes and clas-
sifies the strengths and virtues that enable human beings to flourish (Seligman etal. 2005).
To establish this classification, the authors studied philosophical, religious, and psycho-
logical writings from around the world (Dahlsgaard etal. 2005) to draw out elements that
are valued universally, regardless of culture or historic period.
Peterson and Seligman (2004) define character strengths as the core psychological
ingredients that define moral virtues (see Table1). They are neither secondary nor epi-
phenomenal to what is negative in human beings, but rather are singular entities. They are
both relatively stable and malleable in the individual (Biswas-Diener etal. 2011; Peter-
son and Seligman 2004). Their occurrence depends on context, individual values, personal
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Table 1 Strengths classifications
StrengthsFinder talents
Achiever Connectedness Harmony Relator
Activator Consistency Ideation Responsibility
Adaptability Context Includer Restorative
Analytical Deliberative Individualization Self-assurance
Arranger Developer Input Significance
Belief Discipline Intellection Strategic
Command Empathy Learner Woo
Communication Focus Maximizer
Competition Futuristic Positivity
VIA strengths
Virtues Associated strengths
Wisdom 1. Creativity
2. Curiosity
3. Judgment
4. Love of Learning
5. Perspective
Courage 1. Bravery
2. Honesty
3. Perseverance
4. Zest
Humanity 1. Kindness
2. Love
3. Social Intelligence
Justice 1. Fairness
2. Leadership
3. Teamwork
Temperance 1. Forgiveness
2. Humility
3. Prudence
4. Self-regulation
Transcendence 1. Appreciation of
beauty and excel-
2. Gratitude
3. Hope
4. Humor
5. Spirituality
Strengths profile strengths
Action Curiosity Incubator Prevention
Adaptable Detail Innovation Pride
Adherence Drive Judgment Rapport builder
Adventure Emotional awareness Legacy Relationship deepener
Authenticity Empathic Listener Resilience
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interests, and the presence of other strengths. Ten criteria define character strengths (Peter-
son and Seligman 2004): (1) They contribute to the development of oneself and others;
(2) They are morally valued; (3) Their use does not diminish others; (4) Their opposite
is negative; (5) They manifest at cognitive, emotional and behavioral levels; (6) They are
distinct from other positive traits; (7) They are embodied in consensual paragons; (8) They
are found in prodigies; (9) They may be absent in some people; (10) They are desired and
cultivated by different cultures. To be included in this classification, a strength must meet
most of these criteria. However, each criterion taken individually is not a necessary or
sufficient condition for the strength to be included. On this basis, Seligman and Peterson
determined 24 character strengths, which were then theoretically grouped by content into
six main virtues: wisdom, justice, courage, temperance, humanity, and transcendence (see
To assess character strengths, the Values In Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS)
was developed by Peterson and Seligman (2004). It consists of 240 items measuring
the respondent’s endorsement of different character strengths (e.g., “I never quit a task
before it is done”) on a five-point Likert scale ranging from 1-“very much unlike me” to
5-“very much like me”. This measurement instrument ranks the participants’ strengths,
and allows the identification of his or her five “signature strengths,” which are con-
sidered to best reflect his or her character (Peterson and Seligman 2004). A series of
research studies recently led to updated versions of the VIA-IS (McGrath 2017). The
VIA-120 and VIA-72 are shortened versions of the VIA-IS, which were obtained by
respectively taking the five and three items from each scale demonstrating the highest
item-total correlations. Reliability studies conducted on the VIA-IS indicate Cronbach’s
alpha estimates ranging from .75 to .90, while the shortened scales present estimates
ranging from .67 to .90 (VIA-120) and .60 to .87 (VIA-72). The VIA-IS-R, a revised
measure of the VIA, is a 192-item instrument including positively and negatively keyed
items. Shorter versions, called VIA-IS-M and VIA-IS-P, are 96-items versions using
four items for each strength scale selected on the basis of corrected item-total correla-
tions. The VIA-IS-M includes positively and negatively keyed items, while the VIA-IS-
P only includes positively keyed items. Reliability studies conducted on the VIA-IS-R
indicate Cronbach’s alpha estimates ranging from .76 to .91, while shortened scales pre-
sent estimates ranging from .62 to .85 (VIA-IS-M) and .62 to .87 (VIA-IS-P). Additional
instruments, namely the Global Assessment of Character Strengths (72 items [long
Table 1 (continued)
Strengths profile strengths
Bounceback Enabler Mission Resolver
Catalyst Equality Moral compass Self-awareness
Centered Esteem builder Narrator Self-belief
Change agent Explainer Optimism Service
Compassion Feedback Organizer Spotlight
Competitive Gratitude Persistence Strategic awareness
Connector Growth Personal responsibility Time optimizer
Counterpoint Humility Personalisation Unconditionality
Courage Humor Persuasion Work Ethic
Creativity Improver Planner Writer
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version] and 24 items [short version]), the Signature Strengths Survey, and the Overuse,
Underuse and Optimal-Use have also been developed by the VIA Institute on Charac-
ter for specific uses. Although Peterson and Seligman’s conceptualization of strengths
contains six virtues, early factor analysis suggested only four to five factors that partly
overlapped with their model (Littman-Ovadia and Lavy 2012; McGrath 2014; Peterson
etal. 2008; Ruch etal. 2010). Moreover, recent studies conducted on very large datasets
measuring character strengths (n = 1,082,230) suggest that three main virtues emerge
from this classification: caring, inquisitiveness, and self-control (McGrath etal. 2018).
Nevertheless, other scholars also argue that studying intercorrelations between strengths
might not be the best way to arrive at virtues, claiming that the VIA classification was
never intended as a factor-analytic model, and may be examined through other means
such as expert judgements of strengths and virtues (Ruch and Proyer 2015).
A third school of thought was developed at the Center of Applied Positive Psychology
(CAPP) founded by Alex Linley. This approach defines strengths as a “pre-existing capac-
ity for a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energizing to
the user, and enables optimal functioning, development and performance” (Linley 2008,
p. 9). Five fundamental principles underlie this perspective: (1) The strengths approach
focuses on what works in the human being; (2) Strengths are a part of human nature, every-
one possesses some; (3) The individual’s area of greatest potential for development lies in
his/her strengths; (4) Success is attained by fixing weaknesses only when making the most
of strengths as well; (5) Focusing on the individual’s strengths is the smallest thing to do to
make the biggest difference. The ability to draw upon strengths depends on the individual’s
strengths knowledge and use, and is linked to their social environment, values and inter-
ests. Therefore, strengths have great potential for development.
Linley and Harrington (2006) offer a less restrictive assessment of strengths. This per-
spective acknowledges that defining strengths through inclusion and exclusion criteria may
indeed provide a framework, but considers this very structure to potentially be restrictive.
Individuals exhibit strengths daily, and evidence of individual strengths can be collected as
data (Linley 2008). For example, feeling energized in an activity, feeling a sense of authen-
ticity, learning new information quickly, losing track of time or regularly meeting success
in an activity are signs of the presence of a strength. Linley etal. (2010a, b) also developed
the Realise2, now called the Strengths Profile, which evaluates 60 strengths across three
dimensions: energy, performance, and frequency of use. It is comprised of 180 statements
representing each of the 60 strengths (e.g., “Building rapport with people quickly and eas-
ily”; “Competing against others”; “Supporting others to grow and develop their abilities”)
which are measured according to the three dimensions of energy, performance, and use
on specific seven-point Likert-type scales (e.g., “how do you feel when…” from 1-“very
drained” to 7-“very energized”; “how successful are you at…” from 1-“very unsuccessful”
to 7-“very successful”; “how often do you find yourself…” from 1-“extremely rarely” to
7-“extremely often”). The Strengths Profile report provides results by classifying the attrib-
utes in four distinct categories: realised strengths, unrealised strengths, learned behaviors,
and weaknesses. Available data indicates adequate psychometric qualities, including inter-
nal consistency and test–retest reliability (Linley and Dovey 2015). In a pilot study testing
over 100 working adults, Cronbach’s alpha values ranged from .68 to .90. In a sample of
132 individuals, test–retest reliability over a 1-week period was calculated for each ele-
ment (performance, use and energy) for each of the 60 strengths, and correlations ranged
between r = .63 and r = .80. Although no studies on factorial structure are available for this
instrument, strengths were clustered on a conceptual basis under five categories labeled
Being, Communicating, Motivating, Relating and Thinking.
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In sum, three main schools of thought have developed models for conceptualizing,
assessing, and applying strengths in the workplace. While these movements are to some
extent distinct in the way they define and provide classifications of strengths, important
similarities remain as they mutually influenced each other. Indeed, most experts acknowl-
edge that strengths are naturally present within individuals, tend to generate energy, and
drive performance. Furthermore, strengths are considered as positive attributes that are sta-
ble, but not fixed and can be developed with conscious effort. Therefore, as numerous stud-
ies have been conducted on this subject in recent years, especially in the workplace, provid-
ing a thorough portrait of the scientific knowledge available seems imperative in order to
capture the actual understanding in the field and guide future research and application.
4 Method
As mentioned above, this article has a twofold purpose: (1) to provide a summary of the
outcomes of strengths use in organizations, and (2) to present the main intervention steps
found in the literature regarding strengths development in the workplace, and propose an
integrative model. To meet the first objective, a systematic review was conducted and the
available scientific literature was thoroughly examined. To meet the second objective, a
narrative literature review was conducted and the main intervention models found in arti-
cles, book chapters and professional books were reviewed.
The systematic review was conducted using different databases. First, peer-reviewed
articles were searched through the PsychINFO and PsychARTICLES databases and
by using the Google Scholar search engine. Keywords searched included: strengths,
work, organization, job, and workplace. This preliminary step identified 136 articles via
PsychINFO and PsychARTICLES and 462 articles via Google Scholar. The initial search
targeted articles that met the following inclusion criteria: (a) published in a peer-reviewed
journal; (b) written in English; (c) published after 1998, when the field of positive psychol-
ogy was established; (d) used a quantitative approach. Exclusion criteria were articles that
(a) focused on strengths possession or endorsement; (b) focused on a single strength (e.g.,
gratitude, optimism); (c) involved unemployed participants (e.g., students, job seekers, vol-
untary work); (d) used a qualitative approach; and (e) narrative literature reviews, thesis,
case reports or conference presentations. Twenty-five articles were selected and are listed
in the table below (see Table2).
To meet the second objective, a narrative literature review was carried out. First, all
scientific articles that presented one or more interventions in strength development at work
were consulted. Second, key books and chapters on strength development at work that fall
into one of the three schools of thought mentioned above, either in terms of the definition
of strengths or one of the classifications, were consulted and thoroughly examined.
5 Results andDiscussion—Consequences ofStrengths Use
First, results of the systematic review of the literature on strengths use at work will be pre-
sented. To this end, the 27 studies selected according to our criteria will be described and
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Table 2 Results of the systematic review of the outcomes of strengths use in organizational settings
References Design Sample Medium Variables Results
1 Botha and Mostert (2014) Cross-sectional 401 South African employ-
Online + Manual Job resources
Perceived organizational
support for strengths use
Proactive behavior towards
strengths use
Work engagement
Perceived organizational sup-
port for strengths use and
proactive behavior towards
strengths use are positively
associated with work
2 Cable etal. (2013) (study 1) Quasi-experimental 605 Indian employees In person Turnover
Customer satisfaction
Best-self intervention
increases customer
satisfaction and decreases
employee turnover
3 Cable etal. (2015) (studies
Study 2: experimental Study 2: 75 full-time Amer-
ican employed adults
In person Study 2: emotions
Vagal tone
Arousal under stress
Creative problem solving
Study 2: best-self interven-
tion improves positive emo-
tions, vagal tone, immune
system, creative problem
solving and buffers negative
arousal under stress
Study 3: quasi-experi-
Study 3: 1 393 American
In person Study 3: psychological
contract narratives
Intentions to quit
Study 3: best-self interven-
tion reduces transactional
narratives, employee burn-
out and intentions to quit
4 Dubreuil etal. (2014) Cross-sectional 404 Canadian employees Online Strengths use
Work performance
Harmonious passion
Subjective vitality
Association between
strengths use and work
Effect mediated by harmoni-
ous passion, subjective
vitality and concentration
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Table 2 (continued)
References Design Sample Medium Variables Results
5 Dubreuil etal. (2016) Pre-post 78 Canadian employees In person Strengths knowledge
Strengths use
Satisfaction with life
Work performance
Harmonious passion
Subjective vitality
Character strengths interven-
tion at work increases
strengths use and satisfac-
tion with life
6 Els etal. (2016) Cross-sectional 213 South African employ-
In person Perceived organizational
support for strengths use
Leader-member exchange
Work engagement
Perceived organizational sup-
port for strengths use has a
positive relationship with
leader-member exchange
and work engagement
Leader-member exchange
mediates the relation-
ship between perceived
organizational support for
strengths use and work
7 Forest etal. (2012) Quasi-experimental 186 Canadian students
Online Strengths use
Harmonious passion
Subjective vitality
Satisfaction with life
Psychological well-being
Character strengths interven-
tion increases strengths use,
harmonious passion, sub-
jective vitality, satisfaction
with life and psychological
8 Harzer and Ruch (2012) Cross-sectional 111 German-speaking
Online Character strengths applica-
Positive experiences at
Number of applied signature
strengths is associated with
Positive experiences mediates
the relation between num-
ber of applied signature
strengths and calling
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Table 2 (continued)
References Design Sample Medium Variables Results
9 Harzer and Ruch (2013) Cross-sectional 1111 German-speaking
Online Character strengths applica-
Positive experiences at
Number of applied signature
strengths is associated
with positive experiences
at work
10 Harzer and Ruch (2014) Cross-sectional 416 German-speaking
Online Character strengths use
Task performance
Contextual performance
Number of signature
strengths used is related
to task and contextual
11 Harzer and Ruch (2016) Experimental 152 German-speaking
Online Calling
Satisfaction with life
Signature strengths interven-
tion increased perception
of work as calling and life
12 Kaiser and Overfield (2011) Cross-sectional 110 managers In person Leader behavior
Strengthsfinder profile
Association between
strengths and overused
leadership behavior
13 Kong and Ho (2016) Cross-sectional 194 American employees Online Strengths use
Leader autonomy support
Intrinsic motivation
Independent self-construal
Task performance
Organizational citizenship
Strengths use is associated
with task performance and
organizational citizenship
Leader autonomy support
and intrinsic motivation are
associated with strengths
Strengths use mediates the
relation between intrinsic
motivation, task perfor-
mance and organizational
citizenship behaviors
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Table 2 (continued)
References Design Sample Medium Variables Results
14 Lavy and Littman-Ovadia
Cross-sectional 1095 international employ-
Online Strengths use
Work productivity
Organizational citizenship
Job satisfaction
Work engagement
Positive emotions
Strengths use associated with
work productivity, organi-
zational citizenship behav-
iors and job satisfaction
Associations mediated by
positive emotions and work
15 Lavy etal. (2017) Diary study 120 international employees Online Daily strengths use
Perceived supervisor sup-
Perceived colleague support
Supervisor support predicts
increases in strengths use
16 Lee etal. (2016) Study 1: experimental Study 1: 246 American
In person Study 1: team creative
Study 1: best-self interven-
tion improves team creative
Study 2: experimental Study 2: 123 American
Online Study 2: team information
Feelings of social worth
Study 2: best-self interven-
tion increases information
exchange and feelings of
social worth in teams
17 Littman-Ovadia etal.
Cross-sectional 1031 international employ-
Online Signature strengths use
Happiness strengths use
Lowest strengths use
Work meaning
Work engagement
Job satisfaction
Work Performance
Organizational citizenship
Counterproductive work
Positive Affect
Signature, happiness and
lowest strengths use are
associated with work mean-
ing, work engagement, job
satisfaction, work perfor-
mance, organizational citi-
zenship behaviors, positive
affect and counterproduc-
tive work behaviors.
These relations are differently
mediated by positive affect
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Table 2 (continued)
References Design Sample Medium Variables Results
18 Littman-Ovadia and Steger
(2010) (study 2)
Cross-sectional 102 Israeli women In person Strengths deployment
Satisfaction with work
Meaning in work
Strengths deployment associ-
ated with satisfaction with
work, well-being and mean-
ing in work
19 Meyers and Van Woerkom
Quasi-experimental 116 Dutch employees In person Positive affect
Psychological capital
Satisfaction with life
Work engagement
Strengths intervention creates
short-term increases in
employee positive affect
and short- and long-term
increases in psychological
20 Mphahlele etal. (2018) Longitudinal 376 South African employ-
Online Perceived organizational
support for strengths use
Perceived organizational
support for deficit cor-
Work engagement
Perceived organizational sup-
port for strengths use and
perceived organizational
support for deficit correc-
tion are related to work
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Table 2 (continued)
References Design Sample Medium Variables Results
21 Stander etal. (2014) Cross-sectional 218 South-African employ-
In person Perceived organizational
support for strengths use
Proactive behavior towards
strengths use
Work engagement
Perceived organizational sup-
port for strengths use and
proactive behavior towards
strengths use are significant
predictors of work engage-
Proactive behavior towards
strengths use is a significant
predictor of productivity
Work engagement medi-
ates the relation between
perceived organizational
support for strengths use/
proactive behavior towards
strengths use and produc-
22 Van Wingerden and Van
der Stoep (2018)
Cross-sectional 459 employees Online Meaningful work
Strengths use
Work engagement
In-role performance
Meaningful work is related
to in-role performance
through strengths use and
work engagement
23 Van Woerkom etal. (2016) Cross-sectional 832 Dutch employees Online Perceived organizational
support for strengths use
Emotional job demands
Perceived organizational
support for strengths use
reduces absenteeism in
employees who experi-
ence both high workload
and high emotional job
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Table 2 (continued)
References Design Sample Medium Variables Results
24 Van Woerkom and Meyers
Cross-sectional 442 Dutch and Belgian
Online Strengths-based psycho-
logical climate
Positive affect
Task performance
Organizational citizenship
Strengths-based psycho-
logical climate is related
to task performance and
organizational citizenship
Positive affects mediates the
relation between Strengths-
based psychological cli-
mate, task performance and
organizational citizenship
25 Van Woerkom and Meyers
Quasi-experimental 84 Dutch education profes-
Online Personal growth initiative
General self-efficacy
Strengths awareness
Strengths use
Strengths intervention has
a direct effect on general
self-efficacy and an indirect
effect on personal growth
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Table 2 (continued)
References Design Sample Medium Variables Results
26 Van Woerkom etal. (2016)
(study 3)
Cross-sectional 133 Dutch researchers,
clinical scientists, engi-
neers, and support staff
Online Perceived organizational
support for strengths use
Perceived organizational
support for deficit cor-
Perceived organizational
support (general)
Strengths use behavior
Deficit correction behavior
Proactive personality
Personal initiative
Job Performance (supervi-
sor-rated; self-rated)
Perceived organizational sup-
port for strengths use corre-
lates with supervisor-rated
and self-rated performance
Strengths use behavior corre-
lates with supervisor-rated
and self-rated performance
Perceived organizational
support for strengths use
and strengths use behavior
correlate positively with
job performance rat-
ings, whereas perceived
organizational support
for deficit correction and
deficit correction behavior
do not correlate with job
performance ratings
27 Van Woerkom etal. (2015) Diary study 65 Dutch civil engineers Online Organizational strengths
use support
Weekly strengths use
Weekly occupational self-
Weekly work engagement
Weekly proactive behavior
Organizational strengths use
support is associated with
weekly strengths use
Weekly strengths use is
associated with weekly
proactive behavior, directly
and indirectly through
occupational self-efficacy
and work engagement
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5.1 Results
The results of the 27 studies included are presented in Table2. Overall, strengths use and
development seems to be positively associated with work performance and job satisfaction.
Indeed, results indicate that when employees identify, use, and develop their strengths at
work, they tend to perform better and are more proactive in the workplace (Cable etal.
2013; Dubreuil etal. 2014; Harzer and Ruch 2014; Van Wingerden and Van der Stoep
2018; Van Woerkom etal. 2015), demonstrating more helping behaviors and less coun-
terproductive ones (Kong and Ho 2016; Lavy and Littman-Ovadia 2017; Littman-Ovadia
etal. 2017), finding more creative solutions to problems (Lee etal. 2016) as well as adapt-
ing to change better (Dubreuil etal. 2014). Additionally, results suggest that these relations
are often mediated by positive emotions and engagement (Lavy and Littman-Ovadia 2017;
Littman-Ovadia etal. 2017; Van Woerkom and Meyers 2015). In contrast, over- or under-
utilization of strengths seems counterproductive and detrimental to performance (Harzer
and Ruch 2012; Kaiser and Overfield 2011).
Results also indicate that strengths use and development tends to be associated with
increased satisfaction and well-being at work. Strengths use is generally associated to a
sense of meaning at work (Harzer and Ruch 2013; Littman-Ovadia etal. 2017; Littman-
Ovadia and Steger 2010), and some studies suggest that strengths identification and devel-
opment could encourage work to be perceived as a vocation (Harzer and Ruch 2016). In
addition, strengths use in the workplace is also generally related to positive experiences,
such as satisfaction, pleasure, and commitment (Harzer and Ruch 2013), as well as to posi-
tive emotions such as joy, pride or enthusiasm (Cable etal. 2015; Littman-Ovadia etal.
2017), which in turn may have a positive impact on well-being (Meyers and Van Woerkom
2017). Strengths identification, use, and development in the workplace also tends to pro-
mote work engagement (Cable etal. 2015; Littman-Ovadia et al. 2017; Van Wingerden
and Van der Stoep 2018; Van Woerkom etal. 2015), psychological well-being (Forest etal.
2012), and life satisfaction (Dubreuil etal. 2016).
In a broader perspective, our review also indicated that organizational support for
strengths use appears to have an important impact on different work outcomes. As such,
a strengths-based psychological climate seems to be associated with a greater reliance
on personal strengths (Stander etal. 2014; Van Woerkom etal. 2016a), especially when
managers promote employees’ autonomy (Kong and Ho 2016). Such an environment can
positively affect work engagement (Botha and Mostert 2014; Mphahlele etal. 2018) and
encourage positive interactions between coworkers (Lee etal. 2016), leaders, and subordi-
nates (Els etal. 2016). Organizational support for strengths use is also positively associated
with in-role and extra-role performance (Van Woerkom and Meyers 2015; Van Woerkom
etal. 2016b), as well as with lower absenteeism, especially when employees are confronted
with high workload and emotional demands (Van Woerkom etal. 2016a).
6 Discussion
The results of this systematic review tend to corroborate the fundamental claim that
strengths use and development are closely linked to work performance and well-being
(Buckingham and Clifton 2001; Linley and Harrington 2006; Peterson and Seligman 2004;
Roberts etal. 2005b). Furthermore, they also support major theoretical models proposing
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that strengths use produces its effects on performance and well-being mainly through
heightened feelings of vitality, authenticity, and competence (Linley 2008; Peterson and
Seligman 2004; Hodges and Clifton 2004). Indeed, it seems that people who regularly
use their strengths at work are more engaged and absorbed in their tasks (Dubreuil etal.
2014; Harzer and Ruch 2012, 2013; Lavy and Littman-Ovadia 2017; Littman-Ovadia etal.
2017), and tend to feel more effective and intrinsically motivated at work (Clifton and Har-
ter 2003; Dubreuil etal. 2014; Kong and Ho 2016; Harzer and Ruch 2014; Van Woerkom
etal. 2015).
Interestingly, these positive states seem to be necessary for proactive behaviors to per-
sist (Fritz and Sonnentag 2007), and make it possible to exceed job requirements (Frese
etal. 1997). This phenomenon can be linked to Fredrickson’s (2001) broaden-and-build
theory, which stipulates that positive emotions broaden people’s modes of thinking and
action, which in turn build their personal and social resources and allow them to better
adapt to change, display proactive behaviors and succeed in a variety of situations. In a
similar way, self-determination theory proponents would argue that strengths use, through
enhanced feelings of competency, autonomy, and relatedness, tends to foster intrinsic
motivation at work (Gagné and Deci 2005; Linley etal. 2010a, b; Ryan and Deci 2000),
which in turn leads to higher levels of well-being (Gagné etal. 2015) and performance
(Cerasoli etal. 2014). The use and development of strengths can also be seen as promot-
ing a growth mindset, which is described by Dweck as seeing intelligence as “a malle-
able quantity that can be increased with effort and learning” (Dweck etal. 2014, p. 5).
This incremental conception of intelligence implies believing in the individual’s learning
abilities (Dweck 2006). On the one hand, for the individual believing in his/her capaci-
ties, progress involves efforts. On the other hand, for the supervisor, it implies to believe in
the person’s capacity of progress, and that he/she will send feedback, encouragement and
seek solutions to help the person gain ground. A growth mindset is positively linked to a
healthier attitude toward practice and learning, hunger for feedback, a greater ability to deal
with setbacks, and improved performance over time (Blackwell etal. 2007; Dweck etal.
2014). Thus, by emphasizing a growth-mindset through strengths development, individuals
can build resilience and long-term achievement (Dweck 2010). Without a doubt, working
on strengths is about identifying these resources and learning to make the most of them
in consideration with situational demands. Moreover, strengths use can be positioned in
Job Demands–Resources theory (Bakker and Demerouti 2017) as one of the behaviors that
mediates the feedback-loop from work engagement to job and personal resources. Accord-
ingly, employees who are engaged in their work are motivated to stay engaged. One of
the ways to realize this sustained work engagement is by proactively using one’s character
strengths because using strengths facilitates personal resources like optimism and self-effi-
cacy (Bakker and Van Woerkom 2017). Another possibility is to engage in job crafting (i.e.
proactively optimizing one’s job demands and resources; Tims etal. 2016) so as to make
strengths use more likely (Kooij etal. 2017). Thus, strengths use also has a positive influ-
ence on job resources, and may play a crucial role in the motivational gain cycle proposed
by JD-R theory.
These findings also echo studies conducted on strengths use and development in other
settings. In academic contexts, previous research has shown that relying on personal
strengths tends to improve students’ well-being and academic performance, as well as
effectiveness, autonomy and motivation (Madden et al. 2011; Waters 2011; Weber etal.
2016). Similarly, clinical findings show that well-being and optimal human functioning can
be promoted through strengths use (Rashid 2009; Rashid and Anjum 2008; Rashid etal.
2017; Seligman etal. 2006). Rashid (2015) argues that positive psychotherapies, and more
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specifically strengths-focused ones, tend to decrease depression and increase life satisfac-
tion, hope and good social functioning, as well as well-being.
7 Results andDiscussion—Strengths Interventions
Having reviewed findings on the outcomes of strengths use at work, the various interven-
tions used to develop strengths in the workplace will be presented and discussed, and an
integrative model will be proposed.
7.1 Results
The main intervention models used in organizational contexts draw upon a variety of
methods for identifying, using and developing individual strengths. For example, Harzer
and Ruch (2016) recently developed an online intervention protocol which was applied
and tested against a placebo control condition. Participants first identified their four high-
est character strengths (using the VIA-Survey), and were requested to reflect on how they
used them in their daily activities and tasks. They were then asked to use their four main
strengths in new and different ways at work for 4weeks, and were encouraged to do so by
developing “if–then” plans. After 1month, results indicated an increase in calling and life
satisfaction. These results were maintained up to 6months afterwards. In a similar way,
Forest etal. (2012) also developed an intervention in which they asked employees to iden-
tify their main character strengths (using the VIA-Survey), to describe themselves (on a
printed form) when they are at their best at work, and then to use two of their strengths at
work in a new way over the course of 2weeks. At the end of this period, participants were
asked to indicate which strengths they used, and to think about the positive consequences
of using these strengths in their current job. Two months later, the results showed improved
strengths use, as well as increases in well-being and harmonious passion.
In their field study conducted with a sample of 116 Dutch employees, Meyers and Van
Woerkom (2017) described three stages in their experimental protocol: (1) identification of
strengths; (2) development of strengths; and (3) strengths use. Participants were first asked
to identify their three dominant strengths using specially developed character strengths
cards and guiding questions. Then, they took part in a half-day training program that was
facilitated by professionals and designed to help them develop and use their strengths at
work. Each participant then had to choose a partner who would check on their progress
regarding their strengths use and development. Results showed a short-term increase in
employee positive affect, which returned to baseline 1month after the intervention, as well
as a short-term increase in psychological capital (self-efficacy, optimism, hope, resilience),
which was maintained over the 1-month follow-up period.
In their general model of strengths development, Clifton and Harter (2003) suggest
three steps that differ slightly from those mentioned above: (1) identification, (2) inte-
gration, and (3) changed behaviors. The distinctive feature of this model is that accord-
ing to these authors, any strength intervention must include an integration step, which
can vary from a few hours to a few weeks, in order to help the individual acknowledge
this new information about him- or herself, gain a deeper awareness of his/her strengths
and integrate it into his/her view of self before planning strengths development and use.
Based on this approach, Dubreuil etal. (2016) proposed a three-step intervention pro-
gram (identification, integration, action) which was applied in the workplace using a
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sample of 78 participants. In this study, participants were first asked to identify their
strengths using the VIA-Survey. The researcher then facilitated a 3-h, on-site training
period. In the first part of the training, participants were asked to discuss their strengths
and how they contribute to their past and present success (integration). In the second
part of the training, participants were asked to plan with their peers, through specific
questions, how they could make better use of their strengths in their current work
(action). Three months after the intervention, results indicated a significant increase in
strengths use compared to baseline. However, as there was no control group in this par-
ticular study, a possible placebo effect cannot be ruled out.
In a similar fashion and building on their previous work, Van Woerkom and Mey-
ers (2019) recently conducted a second field experiment with a sample of 84 educa-
tion professionals. Their study involved a quasi-experimental design with 1-month pre-
test and 1-month post-test measures of general self-efficacy, personal growth initiative,
strengths awareness and strengths use. The intervention protocol consisted of two spe-
cific workshops separated by a 4-week interval. Prior to the first workshop, participants
were asked to complete the Strengthsfinder assessment. The first workshop was focused
on a further discovery of personal strengths (using open-ended questions and discussion
approaches) and on the development of a personal plan regarding strengths use in the
workplace. Participants were asked to share their plans with their colleagues in order to
increase commitment. The second workshop, conducted 4weeks later, was specifically
aimed at following up and building on initial engagements. After sharing and discussing
about the implementation of personal plans, participants were introduced to the concept
of jobcrafting and asked, following a short task analysis exercise, to develop a second
personal plan in which they would try to align part of their jobs with their strengths.
Results indicated that the intervention had a direct effect on general self-efficacy and an
indirect effect on personal growth initiative. Furthermore, results revealed that partici-
pants with low to medium initial levels of general self-efficacy benefited the most from
the intervention.
Adopting a different approach, the Reflected Best Self is a specific strengths devel-
opment exercise which was established by a group of researchers to openly identify and
develop strengths based on feedback received from peers (Roberts et al. 2005b). This
description of oneself when one is at one’s best is based on colleagues’ and relatives’ feed-
back, which the subject collects and thoroughly analyzes. The person then produces a spe-
cific synthesis of his/her main strengths, and develops an action plan to optimize their use
in connection with professional objectives. This exercise is particularly useful in coaching,
where the individual has the necessary time, energy, and personal commitment to devote to
this deep reflection (Roberts etal. 2005b).
Finally, Linley (2008) also describes general intervention steps to develop leaders’
strengths use. Leaders can put the following seven elements into practice: (1) knowing and
accepting their own strengths and weaknesses; (2) knowing their team members’ strengths
and weaknesses and respecting them whatever they may be; (3) allocating tasks to the per-
son with the most appropriate strengths; (4) giving positive feedback; (5) genuinely and
appropriately disclosing weaknesses to enable acceptance and progress; (6) calibrating
strengths correctly according to the situation and according to the “golden mean” principle
(the right strength, to the right amount, in the right situation); (7) recognizing his/her role
as an organizational climate engineer.
Hence, a range of different approaches to strengths development exists. Whether on an
individual, group or organizational level, strengths-based interventions can be an opportu-
nity to develop potential in an innovative way.
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7.2 Additional Considerations
Currently, most research mainly focuses on the presence and possession of strengths rather
than their use and development (Wood etal. 2011). However, instead of seeing strengths as
isolated and stable personality traits, it is important that practitioners view them as evolv-
ing characteristics that must be carefully brought to attention and then correctly developed
(Biswas-Diener etal. 2011). While mere strengths identification without further develop-
ment may only have short-term effects on the individuals (Dubreuil et al. 2016; Meyers
etal. 2015; Seligman etal. 2005), we also know that overusing or underusing a strength
can be detrimental to performance (Kaplan and Kaiser 2009). Therefore, adequate train-
ing, continuous support and feed-back in strengths development are key points that must be
considered in any program (Kaplan and Kaiser 2009; Linley 2008; Linley and Harrington
Several intervention strategies are possible (Quinlan etal. 2012). For an intervention
to be effective, it must be designed with care. Activities must be engaging, relevant and
meaningful, while supporting behavior, habits and rituals that promote the continued use
of strengths after the intervention (Dubreuil etal. 2016; Meyers etal. 2015). Moreover, the
attitude of the person conducting the intervention seems to impact the consequences of the
intervention (Cox 2006). Practitioners showing high adherence to strengths-based practices
seem to produce better results. Creating a culture of risk taking, emphasizing challenge and
not success, giving a sense of progress, and underlining efforts rather than results seems
essential to build a growth mindset that leads to success (Dweck 2010).
8 Discussion
Considering the interventions and protocols put forward by various researchers and practi-
tioners in the field, a five-step summary and integrative model to promote strengths devel-
opment in organizational environments is proposed (Fig.1).
The first step is to educate the participant about the strengths approach and the proposed
intervention (1). This phase is critical for the employee to be able to appreciate the value
of the approach, to understand the steps involved in the process, and to be actively and
genuinely involved in the intervention (Clifton and Harter 2003). The approach’s origins,
advantages and limitations, as well as the overall process, must therefore be presented, and
all questions must be answered (Dubreuil and Forest 2017). This step helps reduce negativ-
ity bias, the natural tendency of humans to give more attention to negative than positive
information (Ito etal. 1998), and fully engage participants in the intervention from the
The second step is to identify the person’s strengths (2). As discussed earlier, this can
be accomplished through a psychometric instrument (e.g., StrengthsFinder, VIA-Survey,
(1) Preparaon
•The strengths
approach, what
it is, how it
(2) Idenficaon
(3) Integraon
•Integraon in
one's view of self
(4) Acon
(5) Evaluaon
Fig. 1 Integrative model of strengths development in organizational environments
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StrengthProfile), or in a less restrictive way by observing oneself (e.g., identifying activi-
ties that involve performance, energy, authenticity and flow; Biswas-Diener et al. 2011;
Linley 2008; Linley and Burns 2010), or by collecting feedback from peers (Roberts etal.
2005b). Different methods can be used according to the particular demands of the situa-
tion, and the resources available. Although each method can provide very useful informa-
tion on its own, a combination of different methods (e.g., psychometric instrument and
feedback from peers) can yield a more accurate and complete picture of an individual’s
strengths (see Dubreuil and Forest 2017, for a thorough discussion of these methods).
The third step is the integration of strengths in the individual’s identity (3). This step is
particularly important for ensuring the quality of the overall process, as it allows the indi-
vidual to take the necessary time to fully grasp and assimilate this new information, better
understand the reasons for his/her actions and observe his/her behavior in light of personal
strengths. This new conceptualization of self can then be integrated into the identity before
planning the next steps (Clifton and Harter 2003). It can be facilitated by appropriation
exercises, such as specific questions linking strengths to previous successes (Dubreuil etal.
2016), feedback analysis (Roberts etal. 2005b), and self-portrayal exercises (Forest etal.
2012), in order to help the individual gain a deeper awareness of his/her strengths. A cer-
tain period of time, which may vary from one individual to another, is therefore necessary.
The fourth step is action (4), which consists of two sub-stages. First, the person decides
the specific changes he/she wants to put in place to make better use of his/her personal
strengths. The individual then implements the intended transformations. To help workers
move from theory to action, strengths must be invested in specific individual, group, or
organizational goals and initiatives (e.g., personal objectives, team projects, new tasks and
responsibilities, complementary partnerships, etc.), and their application must be mon-
itored or closely followed by managers, peers or coaches, who can provide support and
encourage progress (Linley 2008). In the long term, it is important that the person always
remain careful to avoid the overuse of strengths, and rather aims to use the right strength,
to the right amount, and at the right time (Biswas-Diener etal. 2011; Kaplan and Kaiser
2009; Kaiser and Overfield 2011).
Finally, the fifth step is evaluation (5). At the end of the intervention, results can be
evaluated subjectively through the individual’s appreciation of the progress made (in terms
of strengths awareness and use, goal achievement, overall well-being, etc.), or objectively
through changes in various variables that were measured prior to the intervention: well-
being, job satisfaction, motivation, work engagement, or job performance. A measure of
the impact of the intervention can then make it possible to ensure the effectiveness of the
procedure and allow for readjustment if necessary.
9 General Discussion
The present study aimed to provide a literature review on strengths use and development
in the workplace. The outcomes of strengths use in an organizational context were first
summarized, a narrative literature review of the main strengths interventions was con-
ducted, and an integrative model for strengths development was proposed. As we have
seen, strengths use in the workplace is associated to various employee well-being and
work performance outcomes. Additionally, strengths development studies and intervention
models use similar methods, which can be integrated into a general model encompassing
five overarching steps. These findings and propositions can be very useful for researchers
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and professionals, as they indicate that strengths use and development in the workplace
has the potential to foster well-being as well as performance, a need that is expressed in
organizations worldwide. Researchers are therefore invited to refine and develop the actual
knowledge in the field, while professionals are encouraged to identify, use, and optimize
employee strengths in organizations, through improved human resources management
9.1 Limitations
Some limitations regarding our review of strength use and development in organizations
must be underlined. First, as this is a recent approach, there is still a great need for further
theory and research in the area before one can propose any definitive conclusions. The
number of studies on strengths use in organizational settings is still modest, our review
of the literature presenting only 27 studies on the outcomes of strengths use at work. In
addition, these studies mainly focus on European and North American populations, which
constitute a cultural bias that must be taken into consideration in the generalization of the
results to other continents.
The second limitation relates to the use of self-assessment measures for all variables
in most studies, which may inflate the relationships between variables due to common-
variance bias (Podsakoff etal. 2012). Furthermore, as many studies used self-reported
measures of work performance (with a few exceptions, e.g. Harzer and Ruch 2012, 2014;
Kaiser and Overfield 2011; Kong and Ho 2016; Van Woerkom etal. 2016b), results are
also prone to social desirability bias and must be interpreted with caution. Along the same
lines, it must also be acknowledged that the current lack of evidence regarding the validity
of major strengths classifications instruments constitutes an important problem in this field.
In fact, results of complete and thorough factor analyses are only available for one instru-
ment, namely the VIA Survey.
Finally, although several studies included in our review used longitudinal designs,
which increases the grip on causality, an important limitation is that most studies employed
a cross-sectional design. Moreover, only experimental research—for example in the form
of interventions in which individuals learn to identify and use their strengths—can estab-
lish causal relations between the variables.
9.2 Future Research Directions
Research should continue investigating the effects of strengths use in the workplace, but
also turn its attention towards the development of strength interventions, as well as the con-
ditions that foster and enable strengths use. Since studies to date have been mainly cross-
sectional, it first seems imperative to further study the outcomes of strengths use and devel-
opment over time. Longitudinal studies, especially experimental field studies, would yield
more accurate conclusions about the expected outcomes of strengths use, such as well-
being, performance, and work engagement, as well as about effective strengths develop-
ment interventions. In this regard, structured processes such as Intervention Mapping could
be utilized to support the development of interventions. This model provides a rigorous
framework and protocol guiding the development of theory and evidence-based interven-
tions through specifically designed steps (Bartholomew etal. 1998; Kok etal. 2004). The
antecedents and conditions necessary for strengths use and development (such as auton-
omy, supervisor support and job design) would also need to be further explored in order
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to expand our knowledge beyond the mere outcomes of strengths. Finally, future research
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10 Conclusion
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... The positive psychology approach focuses on the investigation and application of the conditions and processes that may contribute to optimal functioning of individuals and organizations, which aims to complement the traditional deficit approach (Park et al., 2004;Gable and Haidt, 2005;Bakker and Derks, 2010). However, contemporary organizations still seem to devote greater efforts to individuals' deficits or dysfunctions and invest in minimizing weaknesses (Bouskila-Yam and Kluger, 2011;Miglianico et al., 2020). Although such a deficit approach may help remediate individuals' dysfunctions and lead to acceptable level performance, the focus on repairing weakness tends to be frustrating and less likely to promote individuals' self-efficacy and positive affect (Hodges and Clifton, 2004;van Woerkom et al., 2016b). ...
... However, this deficit approach is demeaning and, therefore, less effective in promoting excellent performance (Kaiser and Overfield, 2011;van Woerkom and de Bruijn, 2016). Recently, researchers have suggested that the greatest opportunity for individual development and success lies in investing in their strengths rather than repairing their weaknesses (Bakker et al., 2019;Miglianico et al., 2020). ...
... Many organizations still invest great levels of efforts and resources in training employees to repair their dysfunctional skills, attitudes, or behaviors (Linley et al., 2009;van Woerkom et al., 2016a). However, positive psychologists have suggested that nurturing and applying strengths is more effective in facilitating wellbeing and engagement and may naturally promote excellent performance compared to repairing weakness Bakker et al., 2019;Miglianico et al., 2020). By investigating how individuals apply their strengths for tasks and relationships in a work context, this study answered recent calls for more research on employees' positive experiences such as strengths use (van Woerkom et al., 2016a;Bakker and van Woerkom, 2018). ...
Full-text available
Individual character strengths have been increasingly valued, as they facilitate social functioning, well-being, and performance. However, little is known about how individuals use their strengths for important but distinct goals including task accomplishment and relationship maintenance in organizations. The purpose of this study is to develop and validate a Strengths Use Scale that can be used to measure the use of strengths for tasks and relationships in the workplace. For this purpose, we used the exploratory mixed-method design and conducted a series of studies. In Study 1, we conducted an exploratory factor analysis to ensure the construct validity of the Strengths Use Scale on a sample of 187 employees. We found that the scale comprises two dimensions: strengths use for tasks and strengths use for relationships. In Study 2a, we verified the two-factor structure of the Strengths Use Scale using the confirmatory factor analysis on a separate sample of 213 employees. The results of Study 2b demonstrated that the scale has good measurement invariance across gender and age groups, on the sample of 205 employees. Moreover, strengths use for tasks and strengths use for relationships positively correlated with well-being and work engagement and negatively correlated with turnover intention, supporting the criterion-related validity of the scale. In Study 3, a test–retest reliability analysis with a sample of 94 employees indicated that the scale has high reliability. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.
... Specifically, positive organizational psychology has generated a steady stream of research exploring positive, work-related predictors of employee health, wellbeing, relationships, and performance (Mills et al., 2013;Luthans and Youssef-Morgan, 2017;Bakker and van Woerkom, 2018). Commonly studied predictors include, but are not limited to, psychological capital (PsyCap; hope, selfefficacy, resilience, optimism) (Luthans and Youssef, 2007;Luthans and Youssef-Morgan, 2017), employee strengths use (Bakker and van Woerkom, 2018;Miglianico et al., 2020), positive leadership (Cameron et al., 2017), and passion at work (Vallerand et al., 2014). What remains under-explored among positive organizational psychologists, however, is how such positive, work-related predictors may relate to EGB. ...
... We therefore deem it very promising to explore how different employee character strengths relate to EGB, including the mechanisms and boundary conditions that affect these relationships in the work context. Relatedly, it seems promising to explore how strengths use (Miglianico et al., 2020) or the applicability of strengths at work (Harzer and Ruch, 2013) relate to EGB. This is particularly relevant because using or applying strengths at work fosters experiences of positive emotions and intrinsic motivation (Miglianico et al., 2020), which are relevant situational antecedents of EGB (Norton et al., 2015). ...
... Relatedly, it seems promising to explore how strengths use (Miglianico et al., 2020) or the applicability of strengths at work (Harzer and Ruch, 2013) relate to EGB. This is particularly relevant because using or applying strengths at work fosters experiences of positive emotions and intrinsic motivation (Miglianico et al., 2020), which are relevant situational antecedents of EGB (Norton et al., 2015). ...
Full-text available
Employees can play a decisive role in combatting climate change by engaging in green behavior at work. Research on employee green behavior has recently gained traction, with research results pointing to the considerable influence of positive variables (e.g., personal values, positive affect) on employee green behavior. While such positive variables lie at the heart of the scholarly discipline positive organizational psychology, there is scant research at the intersection of positive organizational psychology and employee green behavior. The current manuscript aims to give impetus to such research. To this end, the manuscript presents a systematic review of the literature on positive predictors of employee green behavior and identified 94 articles that investigate such predictors. We explicitly map these investigated predictors onto a positive (organizational) psychology frame of reference. Subsequently, we use the findings of the review to identify gaps and outline concrete suggestions for future research at the intersection of positive organizational psychology and employee green behavior, addressing both theoretical and methodological suggestions.
... Research showed that strength interventions performed in a wide variety of contexts, especially those focusing on signature strengths, had positive effects on a broad range of positive outcomes, such as work performance (Dubreuil et al., 2016;Harzer & Ruch, 2016), meaning at work (Harzer & Ruch, 2012;Littman-Ovadia & Steger, 2010), one's calling (Harzer & Ruch, 2012, and prosocial behaviors (Kong & Ho, 2016). Above all, strength interventions positive effects on well-being are the most documented (Ghielen et al., 2018;Miglianico et al., 2019;Schutte & Malouff, 2018). Meta-analytic evidence suggests that, across nine studies, strength interventions had a positive impact on both subjective and psychological well-being (Shutte & Malouf, 2018). ...
... Several studies have suggested that strength interventions' benefits are explained by an increase of positive emotions (e.g., Lavy & Littman-Ovadia, 2011;Meyers & Van Woerkom, 2017;Meyers et al., 2015). However, their potential implications on need satisfaction and human motivation remain insufficiently studied (Bakker & van Woerkom, 2018), and SDT could help scholars to fulfill this theoretical gap (Kong & Ho, 2016;Miglianico et al., 2019). ...
... Past research has demonstrated that promoting signature strengths identification and use might favor employees' levels of psychological well-being and strengths use behaviors (e.g., Forest et al., 2012;Ghielen et al., 2018;Schutte & Malouff, 2018). Moreover, psychological needs and work motivation might be considered as two explanatory mechanisms justifying why strength interventions could improve employees' well-being (Bakker & van Woerkom, 2018;Kong & Ho, 2016;Miglianico et al., 2019). However, to the best of our knowledge, the potential effects of using mobile technology to promote signature strengths identification/use through anonymous 360-degree feedback have not yet been studied. ...
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Strength interventions at work have been shown to influence workers’ optimal functioning and well-being. To increase the accessibility of these interventions in the workplace, relying on digital platforms would be a realistic idea. Akin to the Character Strengths 360-degree feedback activity, a smartphone (and computer) application allows users to send or receive anonymous strength-oriented descriptive feedback to/from colleagues, hence disseminating the identification and use of each other’s signature strengths associated with their enacted behaviors. Drawing on Self-Determination Theory, an intervention was developed to investigate if the use of the online platform may impact psychological well-being, by increasing psychological need satisfaction and autonomous motivation and decreasing need frustration and controlled motivation. A sample of full-time workers (n = 112) experienced the application, while participants who did not use the platform were assigned to the a posteriori control condition (n = 54). Data were collected before and after the 4-weeks intervention. Results showed (1) that participants from the experimental group reported significantly higher levels of strength use, need satisfaction, autonomous motivation, and psychological well-being compared to the a posteriori control group, and (2) that increases in the levels of need satisfaction reported by participants from the experimental group were related to increases in autonomous motivation, which in turn resulted in higher levels of well-being. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
... Research confirms that positive emotions resulting from a focus on strengths and opportunities promote the success of an individual and team performance in organizations (Fredrickson, 2003a(Fredrickson, , 2009aMiglianico et al., 2020;Dubreuil et al., 2021). A McKinsey Quarterly study of 1,300 global executives echoes this sentiment; in that, the highest performing organizations have a clear purpose, an understanding of strengths, shared aspirations, and leaders who know how to unleash ideas (opportunities) with a result-driven process (Isern and Pung, 2007). ...
... Focusing on strengths means identifying and building on strengths as opposed to identifying and correcting weaknesses (Seligman, 2002;Clifton and Harter, 2003). Research shows that strengths-based interventions have positive outcomes for individuals and groups in the areas of wellbeing, work performance, work engagement, and organizational citizenship behaviors (Park et al., 2004;Littman-Ovadia and Steger, 2010;Lavy and Littman-Ovadia, 2016;Ghielen et al., 2018;Miglianico et al., 2020). The strengths factor in SOAR is defined as natural capacities, assets, or capabilities in self and others that allow optimal performance. ...
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Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results (SOAR) is a strengths-based framework for strategic thinking, planning, conversations, and leading that focuses on strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results. The SOAR framework leverages and integrates Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to create a transformation process through generative questions and positive framing. While SOAR has been used by practitioners since 2000 as a framework for generating positive organizational change, its use in empirical research has been limited by the absence of reliable and valid measures. We report on the reliability, construct validity, and measurement invariance of the SOAR Scale, a 12-item self-report survey organized into four first-order factors (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results). Data from a sample of 285 U.S. professionals were analyzed in Mplus using confirmatory factor analysis and exploratory structural equation modeling. The Four-Factor first-order exploratory structure equation modeling (ESEM) had the best model fit. Measurement invariance tests found the scalar invariance of the SOAR Scale across gender and education groups. Implications are discussed for using the SOAR Scale to build resilience at the individual, the team, and the organizational levels.
... But, the most important finding of this research is the significant cross-level effect that strengths use has on work engagement and on the relationship between daily proactive vitality management and work engagement (Pap et al., under review). Thus, as a stable self-crafting strategy, strength use has an essential role in the motivational gain cycle described in the JD-R theory (Miglianico et al., 2019). Based on these results, strengths use and proactive vitality management could be part of the JD-R theory as self-crafting behaviors that facilitate engagement by having a positive effect on personal, energetic, and emotional resources. ...
... This suggests that opportunities to apply one's strengths provide a feeling of professional effectiveness, promote excitement, and heighten motivation. Previous studies have indicated that SU and skill development are strongly linked to work performance as well as personal wellbeing [10,[16][17][18]. Considering the observation that only a limited proportion of individuals believe that they identify with and take advantage of their strengths in the professional setting [19], enhancing such strengths is vital to the effectiveness of individual professionals. ...
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Work engagement is a core indicator that reflects the quality of teachers’ occupational lives and the development of students, but few studies have explored the connection between strengths use and work engagement of teachers and the mechanisms underlying this relationship. This paper aimed to investigate how the relation of strengths use with work engagement is affected by a teacher’s satisfaction of basic psychological needs. For this purpose, 648 teachers in China completed questionnaires. The results revealed that strengths use exhibited a positive correlation with work engagement and needs satisfaction. Furthermore, autonomy, competence, and relatedness satisfaction mediated the effect of strengths use on work engagement for teachers. The results suggest that autonomy, competence, and relatedness satisfaction serve as factors that mediate the effect of strengths use on work engagement. The significance and limitations of the study are discussed.
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This analysis aims to be able to develop an understanding of the management and transformational leadership of Mochamad Ridwan Kamil S.T., M.U.D. with a millennial-style leader who can make the jurisdiction or community in his leadership period better. Each leader has his method determining the direction of his leadership period. This analysis will focus on the leadership style of Ridwan Kamil S.T., M.U.D. Leadership style is very important in exercising control in society. Transformational leadership is a very ideal method to apply in creating a region to is Democratic, Open, and Progressive. Transformational leadership methods have now been widely used by leaders in The world. One of them is the Governor of West Java Ridwan Kamil who has an open, dynamic, and communicative leadership style that is his trademark in building bonds with colleagues and their communities. The conclusion from this analysis, Ridwan Kamil is ideal for carrying out social control and progress in developing jurisdictions.
This study uses the full-range leadership model to argue that on days when leaders engage in transformational leadership behaviors, they identify follower strengths and stimulate followers to show personal initiative. We propose that transformational leadership is related to follower work engagement and performance through follower strengths use and personal initiative. Moreover, we hypothesize that followers' personal initiative is most effective when followers use their strengths. A total of 57 Norwegian naval cadets filled out a diary booklet for 30 days (response = 72.6%; n = 1242). Multilevel modeling analyses largely supported our hypotheses. On the days when leaders used transformational leadership behaviors such as intellectual stimulation and individual consideration, followers were more likely to use their strengths and take initiative. These behaviors, in turn, predicted next-day work engagement and next-day job performance. Moreover, followers’ personal initiative was particularly related to work engagement when strengths use was high rather than low. We discuss how these findings contribute to the leadership literature by showing how leaders inspire their followers to lead themselves. In addition, we elaborate on the practical implications for leadership training.
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Positive psychology postulates that using one’s strengths can facilitate employee well-being and performance at work. However, whether strengths use is associated with attentional performance has remained unanswered in the literature. Attention plays a role in job performance, and previous literature has suggested a contrasting link between well-being (i.e., positive affect) and attentional performance. We hypothesize that, within work episodes, strength use is positively associated with eudaimonic (i.e., meaningfulness and personal growth) and hedonic well-being (i.e., positive affect). Further, we test the episodic process model by arguing that strengths use and well-being during one work episode are negatively related to subsequent attentional performance. In total, 115 participants registered for the current study, and 86 participants filled out the daily questionnaire once per day across five working days (a total of 365 daily reports). Multilevel analyses showed that episodic strengths use was not directly related to subsequent attentional performance. Episodic strengths use was positively related to a higher level of meaningfulness, personal growth, and positive affect. In turn, experienced meaningfulness was negatively related to subsequent attentional performance. However, personal growth and positive affect did not explain variance in attentional performance. These findings suggest that strength use may be accompanied with higher experienced meaningfulness, although the latter may be detrimental for subsequent attentional performance. Theoretical implications and contributions are discussed.
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This paper investigates the relationships between optimism, mindfulness, and task engagement. Specifically, we hypothesized that optimism, mindfulness, and their interaction would facilitate individuals’ task engagement. We tested our research model in four studies: two surveys among gig workers and two experiments. The results of the two surveys among gig workers indicated that optimism predicted higher task engagement, but trait mindfulness did not, and that a multiplicative interaction existed between high optimism and high mindfulness in stimulating task engagement. Our two experiments confirmed a significant interaction between optimism and induced state mindfulness and showed that the most engaging situation is being high in both mindfulness and optimism. Although optimism predicted task engagement, the experiments indicated that the effect of the state mindfulness manipulation was above and beyond that of optimism. Finally, we discuss the nuances of the interaction between optimism and mindfulness in predicting task engagement.
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Personal growth is not only a central individual need but also a key requirement for organizational success. Nevertheless, workplace interventions aimed at stimulating the personal growth of employees are still scarce. In this study, we investigated the effectiveness of an intervention that aimed at the identification, development, and use of employee strengths in stimulating personal growth initiative. We conducted a field experiment with a sample of 84 educational professionals who were either assigned to a strengths intervention or a wait‐list control group. In a 1‐month follow‐up study, we found that the intervention had a direct effect on general self‐efficacy (GSE) and an indirect effect on personal growth initiative. Moreover, in line with plasticity theory we found that the intervention was especially effective for participants with low to medium initial levels of GSE. We conclude that a strengths intervention may provide a brief and effective tool for organizations that aim for self‐directed learning among their staff, in particular when offered to employees who lack confidence in their own abilities. Practitioner points • In a 1 month follow‐up study, we found that a strengths intervention had a positive direct effect on general self‐efficacy and an indirect effect on personal growth initiative. • In line with plasticity theory, we found that the strengths intervention was especially effective for participants with low to medium initial levels of general self‐efficacy.
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Research in the field of work and organizational psychology increasingly highlights the importance of meaningful work. Adding to this growing body of research, this study examined the complex linkage between meaningful work and performance. More specifically, we hypothesized that meaningful work has a positive relationship with an employee’s performance in several and interrelated ways, via employees’ use of strengths, via work engagement, and via strengths use affecting work engagement. We conducted a structural equation modeling on a sample of 459 professionals working at a global operating organization for health technology. The results provided support for the proposed model which showed a better fit than the sequential mediation model and the direct effects model. This indicates that the meaningful work–performance relationship is predicted best by multiple pathways via employees’ use of strengths and work engagement. The main theoretical, practical, and methodological implications of the results are discussed.
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Orientation: The motivational process of the Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) model indicates that job resources are the main predictors of work engagement. Previous research has found that the two job resources perceived organisational support (POS) for strengths use and POS for deficit correction are also positively related to work engagement. However, the causal relationships between these variables have not been investigated longitudinally. Research purpose: To determine if POS for strengths use and POS for deficit correction are significant predictors of work engagement over time. Motivation for the study: In the literature, empirical evidence on the longitudinal relationships between work engagement and specific job resources, namely POS for strengths use and POS for deficit correction, is limited. Research design, approach and method: A longitudinal design was employed in this study. The first wave elicited a total of 376 responses, while the second wave had a total sample size of 79. A web-based survey was used to measure the constructs and to gather data at both points in time. Structural equation modelling was used to investigate the hypotheses. Main findings: The results indicated that both POS for strengths use and POS for deficit correction are positively related to work engagement in the short term. However, only POS for deficit correction significantly predicted work engagement over time. Practical and managerial implications: The results provide valuable insights to organisations by providing knowledge regarding which approach influences work engagement levels of their employees in the short and long term. Contribution or value-add: The study contributes to the limited research on what job resources predict work engagement over time.
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This paper reviews studies of strengths interventions published between 2011 and 2016. Strengths interventions aim to promote well-being or other positive outcomes by facilitating strengths identification, and sometimes also strengths use and/or development. The present review provides an overview of the different strengths interventions that are investigated, their effectiveness, and moderating and mediating factors. Results of the 18 (quasi-)experimental studies that were identified through a systematic literature search showed that all types of strengths interventions had positive outcomes in terms of well-being, job outcomes (e.g. work engagement), personal growth initiative, and group or team outcomes (e.g. class cohesion). Hope, positive affect, authentic selfexpression, perceptions of the employment relationship, and feelings of social worth were identified as mediators, whereas extraversion and having specific strengths (e.g. persistence) were identified as moderators. Based on these findings, we discuss implications for future research and practice.
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Recent research has identified three virtues from the 24 strengths in the VIA Classification of Strengths and Virtues, labeled caring, inquisitiveness, and self-control. This article explored this model further. Study 1 demonstrated substantial congruence in three-factor loadings across 12 samples (total N = 1,082,230) despite substantial differences in methodology. Study 2 (N = 1719) provided support for the use of aggregate scores for the three virtues. Study 3 (N = 498) demonstrated substantial overlap between measures of personality and the virtues. We conclude these three are potentially essential components of a theory of virtue. They cannot be considered a sufficient model, which may be unattainable. We also note that treating virtue as an individual difference concept neglects key elements of our understanding of virtue as a social construct, and these more amorphous elements must be considered in developing an optimal model of virtue.
Positive psychotherapy (PPT) is an emerging clinical approach that systematically and deliberately integrates symptoms with strengths, risks with resources, vulnerabilities with values, deficits with assets and despair with hope to ameliorate symptomatic distress through enhancing various elements of wellbeing. In PPT, clients fully acknowledge and appraise their struggles while simultaneously learning to develop and integrate their cognitive, emotional, social and cultural strengths to promote adaptive actions and habits. Th e goal is to understand clients in a balanced and coherent manner. Th is does not reduce them to conglomerates of symptoms nor elevate them to idols of strength. Th is chapter expands the psychotherapeutic notion of recovery to include nurturing wellbeing through building the client's positive attributes in addition to nursing illness and symptoms. The theoretical and empirical foundations of PPT will be discussed. Practical demonstrations and instruction on how it is to be conducted with be outlined. © Mike Slade, Lindsay Oades and Aaron Jarden 2017. All rights reserved.
The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions stems from a set of twin hypotheses. First, the broaden hypothesis proposes that positive emotions momentarily expand our perception of the world in ways that facilitate global visual processing, better attentional flexibility, and larger thought-action repertoires. The build hypothesis purports that, over time, these fleeting experiences of expanded awareness that accompany positive emotions such as joy and excitement accumulate over time to facilitate growth of a person's social, cognitive, emotional, and physical resources. Empirical evidence supporting these hypotheses is discussed, as well as the theory's implications for behavior, psychological resilience, social interaction, and health.
In this article, we review theory and research on strengths use in an organizational context. We identify important antecedents of strengths use, including personal initiative, organizational support for strengths use, autonomy, and opportunities for development. In addition, we position strengths use in Job Demands–Resources theory as one of the possible proactive behaviors that may foster the acquisition of personal and job resources, and indirectly promote work engagement and performance. Since strengths use has important ramifications for employee functioning, strengths use interventions seem an important next step in strengths use research. We outline important questions for future research, and discuss practical implications of our theoretical analysis. We conclude that organizations should encourage employees to use their strengths, because when employees capitalize on their strong points, they can be authentic, feel energized, and flourish.