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How to Mitigate Security-Related Stress: The Role of Psychological Capital

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How to Mitigate Security-Related Stress: The Role of Psychological Capital
Muriel Frank
Goethe University Frankfurt
frank@wiwi.uni-frankfurt.de
Vanessa Kohn
Goethe University Frankfurt
kohn@its.uni-frankfurt.de
Abstract
In an organizational context, individuals are
prone to feel stressed by overwhelming and
complicated security requirements, which can result
in noncompliance with security policies and
guidelines. While previous research has mainly
focused on identifying distinct dimensions of security-
related stress (SRS) and their behavioral impact, this
paper is the first to examine factors for mitigating
SRS. A study with 150 participants reveals that
psychological capital (PsyCap) here comprising of
domain-specific self-efficacy and resilience may
work as such a means as it significantly reduces
perceived SRS. However, the positive effect of
PsyCap diminishes when becoming a victim of
cybercriminals. Said differently: victims displaying
high or low PsyCap tend to feel more stress
compared to non-victims. Our findings imply that
organizations should invest in measures that help
their employees to develop positive mental
capabilities before experiencing an information
security incident.
1. Introduction
Over the last decade, both the quantity and
severity of information security breaches have
increased tremendously [34]. Cybercriminals
continuously find new ways to compromise, steal, or
manipulate sensitive data confronting organizations
with massive financial losses [54]. In many cases,
such attacks are successful because they take
advantage of the weakest link, the human factor [24].
To counteract these security risks, organizations have
started to employ different kinds of measures, such as
specific security guidelines and policies [1]. These
measures are designed to provide employees with the
necessary knowledge to reduce the probability of
becoming victims of malicious hackers.
Concurrently, employees often perceive those
measures as overwhelming and difficult to
understand [17]. Besides, seeing their information
security behavior to be monitored and, consequently,
their privacy invaded also puts stress on individuals
[1]. Therefore, it is not surprising that security-related
stressors negatively relate to information security
compliance intentions [1, 17].
In order to achieve secure information systems, it
seems necessary to help individuals to face security-
related stress and still evince sound information
security behavior. So far, researchers have only
focused on dimensions or the outcome of security-
related stress (SRS) [1, 17], leaving room for
investigations on potential stress mitigators.
We argue that employees need to develop a
positive mental state, also known as psychological
capital (PsyCap), to counter the harmful effects of
security-related stress. PsyCap is positively related to
desirable employee attitudes, behaviors, and
performance measures while it decreases undesirable
attitudes such as cynicism, turnover intentions, and
deviant employee behavior [3]. Yet, the impact of
PsyCap in information security remains unexplored,
though we see promising research findings
concerning the two PsyCap subdimensions resilience
and self-efficacy. For instance, Bulgurcu et al. [8]
confirm a significantly positive relationship between
self-efficacy and compliance with security policies.
McCormac et al. [45] recently explored how job
stress relates to resilience and information security
awareness. They find that resilience effectively
mediates the relationship between job stress and
awareness, meaning that even when faced with lots of
stress at work, resilient employees still report higher
levels of security awareness. By investigating the role
of PsyCap in mitigating security-related stressors,
this study aims at closing this research gap.
Accordingly, the main research question is:
Does psychological capital work as a means to
mitigate employees’ information security stress?
To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to
test whether PsyCap works as a mitigator with regard
to SRS. By doing so, we can gain essential insights
into employees security behavior and understand
what factors contribute to the extent people
Proceedings of the 54th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences | 2021
Page 4538
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10125/71167
978-0-9981331-4-0
(CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
experience security-related stress. Our findings are of
high practical relevance as managers in charge learn
how individual characteristics and mental capabilities
affect their employees security-related stress levels
and, consequently, may adjust their strategies.
The paper is organized as follows. First, we
describe the studys primary constructs, namely
PsyCap and security-related stress. The next section
entails information on the research method as well as
the data collection procedure, sample characteristics,
as well as the applied measures. This is followed by
the analysis. Afterward, we discuss theoretical as
well as practical implications and finalize the section
by looking at future research endeavors.
2. Theoretical context
The purpose of this study is to gain a better
understanding of whether a positive psychological
state can reduce the unwanted outcomes of security-
related stress. In the following, we give a brief
overview of the constructs our research model
consists of, including current research findings. The
final subsection presents the model (see Figure 1) as
well as our hypotheses.
Figure 1. Research model
2.1. Psychological capital
The concept of psychological capital emerged in
the late 1990s as part of the positive psychology
movement [9], which aims at focusing on strengths,
motives, and capacities of human beings rather than
their errors and weaknesses [11, 58]. It comprises,
amongst others, the two components self-efficacy and
resilience [39], which are necessary to successfully
reach a goal [11] and already played a significant role
when examined as individual components in
information security [8, 45].
Self-efficacy draws on Social Cognitive Theory
[16] and is defined as ones confidence in his or her
ability to mobilize the motivation, cognitive
resources, and courses of action necessary to execute
a specific course of action within a given context
[40:158]. It is essential to distinguish self-efficacy
from the general term confidence. Confidence
describes the strength of a belief without specifying
to what the certainty refers. For instance, one can be
highly confident to fail at a task. In contrast, self-
efficacy refers to a persons belief in their capability
to follow a course of action leading to the attainment
of given objectives [5]. While confidence is a general
characteristic of a person, self-efficacy is a domain-
specific construct containing both the affirmation of
ones ability and the strength of belief [48]. Drawing
on the difference between the terms, confidence
rather works as a dependent variable in the
information security context, whereas self-efficacy
can be characterized as an independent variable that
may be targeted for interventions and utilized as an
antecedent of change [16].
A significant number of studies proves the
positive relationship of self-efficacy on behavioral
outcomes in different settings [62]. People who are
confident about being able to cope with any situation
tend to carry on higher risks [4]. The concept of self-
efficacy has also been transferred to the field of
information security. Several studies reveal the
positive relationship self-efficacy has on information
security policy compliance [8, 27, 31, 32, 60] and
information security knowledge sharing intentions
[63]. The more individuals believe in having the
skills and capabilities to follow the information
security rules or to have the necessary security
knowledge, the higher their intention to comply or
share.
In the literature devoted to psychology, resilience
is seen as a phenomenon of competence despite
adversity [42:554] and good outcomes in spite of
serious threats to adaptation or development
[44:228]. These definitions suggest that individuals
are capable of adapting well even under challenging
life conditions such as adversity, trauma, or stress [2,
67]. Findings show that resilience is also associated
with self-efficacy [44]. In an organizational context,
resilience describes the ability of employees to use
existing resources to overcome challenging situations
and to bounce back in the workplace [49]. It is
characterized by three underlying factors:
adaptability, networking, and learning [35]. Research
therefore suggests that resilience can be specifically
developed and promoted through organizational
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measures [65]. The concept of resilience has only
recently found its way into the field of information
security. Ole Johnsen [50], for instance, explored
how to increase resilience to mitigate unwanted
intrusion into networks. More recently, [34] links
employees resilience to improved information
security behavior in terms of proactive awareness,
password generation, as well as device securement
and updating. Additionally, [45] analyze how job
stress connects to resilience and security awareness.
The authors find that resilient individuals have more
security knowledge and are more aware of potential
security issues. The same applies to those who
reported being less stressed at work.
2.2. Security-related stress
At least since organizations know about the
potential threat of abusive insiders, they require their
employees to abide by strict security rules and
regulations [55]. For instance, workers are not
allowed to share their passwords with colleagues,
send sensitive data unencrypted, or read confidential
data [66]. However, when being confronted with
complex and obscure security practices, most
employees feel stressed, which has a negative impact
on their intention to comply [1, 36]. Puhakainen and
Siponen [56], for instance, demonstrate employees’
stressful reactions to such requirements. And Posey
et al. [55] find employees who are confronted with
constantly changing security environments to be
prone to computer abuse.
Early work in the realm of security-related stress
also proves that information security requirements
may create stress. D’Arcy et al. [17], for instance,
transfer the concept of technostress to information
security. Drawing on coping theory as well as prior
technostress research, they explore the three factors
security-related overload, security-related
uncertainty, and security-related complexity. They
find these stressors to negatively affect an
individual’s willingness to comply with security
policies. Ament and Haag [1] approach the topic
from a different perspective. They expect security-
related stress to be a multidimensional construct,
spanning not only employees’ work but also their
personal and social environment. With the help of
165 participants, they identify three additional
stressors, namely privacy invasion, conflict, and
news, which all have a significant impact on
information security awareness.
Recent research approaches examine other stress-
related antecedents of security policy compliance.
Hwang and Chao [30] demonstrate that security-
related role stress as well as security-related
technostress creators, such as complexity, overload,
and uncertainty, decrease one’s organizational
commitment, which indirectly affects one’s
compliance with security policies. Building on
protection motivation theory, [12] find that stress
significantly influences coping strategies and, thus,
security policy compliance.
2.3. Hypotheses
Today’s organizations often have security
requirements, rules, and policies in place, which may
have an opposing effect (though). Instead of
promoting information security, employees often feel
overwhelmed and stressed, making them less willing
to follow the rules [17]. As highlighted in the
previous section, information security researchers
have identified several stressors that negatively
impact one’s compliance intention, including
complexity, uncertainty, and overload [1, 17].
Individuals do not have the resources to invest
heavily in understanding changing or overwhelming
policies.
Previous findings have already confirmed the
important relationship of PsyCap with positive
organizational outcomes, like job satisfaction [3] and
reduced turnover [53]. Directly relevant to the
present study, Baron et al. [6] find psychological
capital to be a sufficient buffer against stress.
Additional findings from McCormac et al. [45]
confirm that more resilient people tend to report
lower stress levels. As PsyCap reflects how people
cope with stressful or disastrous events [39], we
assume this positive mental state to play a significant
role in the security context as well. Those who feel
confident to cope with information security incidents
should report significantly lower stress levels. This
notion is backed up by findings which show that the
concepts of stress and self-efficacy are closely related
[69], suggesting that people who feel self-confident
are more likely to assess a given situation as rather
challenging than threatening [13]. Based on the
above evidence, we assume employees with higher
psychological capabilities such as self-efficacy and
resilience to experience less security-related stress
and thus hypothesize:
H1: PsyCap is negatively related to security-
related stress.
Research shows that traumatic incidents are often
followed by stress [37]. For instance, employees who
experienced workplace bullying commonly report a
loss of confidence and increased stress levels [64].
Stressors can be classified into four categories: major
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life events, catastrophes, daily hassles, and conflict
[52]. Major life events are good or bad life changes
(e.g., a divorce or a jail term) that require an
individual to adjust. Catastrophes encompass natural
disasters and wars, whereas daily hassles (e.g.,
concerns about money or discrimination) add up over
time. Crises require individuals to choose between
multiple demands, needs, or desires.
Depending on the severity and consequences,
being the victim of an information security incident
at work can be classified as a daily hassle, conflict, or
even a life event if an employee loses their job and
reputation over the incident. To the best of our
knowledge, no prior research has analyzed the post-
incident stress levels of employees who experienced
information security incidents. Based on the above
classification and evidence from other contexts, we
assume employees who were already once tricked by
cybercriminals to perceive higher levels of security-
related stress, as they realize their blatant
incompetence to behave securely.
H2: Previous exposure to information security
incidents is positively related to security-related
stress.
To further investigate the relationship between
PsyCap and SRS, we focus on interaction effects
between both constructs. As stated above, we assume
psychological capital and security-related stress to be
negatively related. But while we expect a stress-
reducing impact of self-efficacy and resilience for all
employees, we assume that the strength of this impact
differs for those who already experienced
information security incidents either in their private
or in their professional lives (see Figure 1). Drawing
on findings from the psychological sphere [48, 59],
we expect former victims of cybercriminals to feel
more stressed by complex security requirements
compared to individuals with no incident experience
and, therefore, less confident about coping with
future information security incidents. That may be
because employees who already experienced a
security incident may realize that they failed to fully
understand all security requirements or to act
accordingly. In other words: Prior incident
experience may work as a stress trigger showing
those affected their incompetence to abide by security
guidelines. A positive mental state is then less
effective. Employees with no incident experience,
however, may still be confident to handle security
practices and, hence, feel less stressed.
Correspondingly, we hypothesize the following:
H3: The relationship between PsyCap and
security-related stress is moderated by previous
exposure to information security incidents.
3. Methodology
In the ensuing section, we present details on the
scale development, the demographic characteristics
of the data sample, and the collection procedure. To
investigate whether psychological capital relates to
security-related stress, we collected data from 150
employees through an online survey and then applied
structural equation modeling in Amos 27.
3.1. Scale development & measures
The Psychological Capital Questionnaire (PCQ)
is considered to be the standard scale to measure
PsyCap in an organizational setting [38]. Its 24 items
revolve around the workplace (e.g., If I should find
myself in a jam at work, I could think of many ways
to get out of it), but do not capture security-specific
situations. As a result, a more targeted PsyCap scale
in the context of information security is needed,
which has been recently highlighted by Burns et al.
[9], who established a connection between PsyCap in
general and all components of protection motivation
theory. As no prior research has transferred the
concept of PsyCap to the context of information
security, we followed the approach of Morgado et al.
[47] for item generation. This implied a literature
review, expert sessions, and psychometric analysis.
We developed items for self-efficacy based on
Luthans et al. [39] and Klesel et al. [33]. The
resilience items are adapted from the Employee
Resilience Scale [34, 49]. For instance, the item I
effectively collaborate with others to handle
unexpected challenges at work was modified to I
effectively collaborate with others to handle
unexpected security challenges. All items were
checked by three experts in terms of coherency and
comprehensibility.
In order to measure participants’ positive mental
capabilities, we asked them to read a short scenario
of an information security incident and subsequently
evaluate their agreement with the items presented in
Table 1. Using scenarios to measure behavior is well
established in the field of information security [see
i.e. 33]. Based on the contextual information
provided, participants tend to answer the questions
honestly [22]. Here, participants were asked to
imagine that they have accidentally downloaded a
virus on their work computer. By specifying the
nature and consequences of the security incident and
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giving examples for security guidelines, we align
participants’ answers irrespective of external factors
such as the presence of certain security policies in the
participants workplace.
We drew on established items to measure
security-related stress [17]. We further asked
participants to indicate whether they have previously
been a victim of any security incident affecting either
their private or professional life.
Table 1. Final PsyCap survey items
Item
Self-Efficacy
I feel confident that I can adapt to new
security requirements.
I am willing to put in effort to understand new
security policies.
I re-evaluate my security performance and
continually improve the way I do my work.
I make a plan to integrate new regulations in
my work routines.
Resilience
I effectively collaborate with others to handle
unexpected security challenges.
I seek assistance when I need specific
information security resources.
I approach managers when I need their
support regarding information security.
I learn from my mistakes and improve the way
I follow security guidelines.
I effectively respond to feedback about my
security behavior, even criticism.
I use this change at work as an opportunity for
growth.
With the collected survey data, we first performed
an exploratory factor analysis to confirm that all
newly developed items load together as
psychological capital. In the course of this, the items
for hope had to be excluded due to cross-loadings.
Afterward, we conducted a confirmatory factor
analysis to specify whether to use a first-order or a
second-order construct. For optimism, however, we
found issues regarding its internal consistency, so we
decided to drop it from further analysis. Results
suggested proceeding with the better-performing
second-order construct of PsyCap, containing the
individual components self-efficacy and resilience,
which is in line with prior research [9, 39]. The
internal consistency of PsyCap is 0.954.
3.2. Sample data
We collected 150 data sets by distributing an
online questionnaire over crowdsourcing marketplace
Amazon MTurk, which is no longer an exception in
scientific research [51]. Data collected via online
labor markets are externally and internally valid [7].
We required participants to live in the United States
to avoid cultural biases in our sample. To further
guarantee high data quality, we controlled for
incomplete data sets and low participation times.
Besides, the survey included control questions, and
we eliminated data sets of participants who failed to
give the right answers. In total, 13 data sets had to be
removed. The remaining 137 data sets were used for
further analysis, such as exploratory and
confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation
modeling in Amos 27.
The majority of participants are males (62.8 %).
The average respondent is 36.0 years old and has a
working experience of 13.65 years. Participants
spread almost evenly over all industries, with a
majority working in Software & IT Services (25.5%)
and Retail, Wholesale & Distribution (13.1%).
Furthermore, participants reported a relatively high
educational level, with more than 52% of them
having a Bachelors degree. The majority of the
respondents work in companies with more than 100
employees.
3.3. Analysis
A KMO value of 0.924 and a significant Bartlett
spherical value indicate that our data is suitable for
factor analysis. Initially, we included all four sub-
constructs of PsyCap in our exploratory factor
analysis.
All items in the confirmatory factor analysis show
loadings above 0.6. Reliability and validity values are
well above the recommended thresholds [23], with all
three factors having an average variance extracted of
0.8 or more and composite reliability of above 0.9.
Following Fornell and Larcker (1981), we also
checked discriminant validity and compared the
square root of the AVE with the correlations between
constructs. All values confirmed validity. Comparing
the fit indices against the acceptable thresholds [23],
we find the model to have excellent goodness of fit.
CFI and TLI amount to 0.972 and 0.929,
respectively, SRMR and RMSEA to 0.052 and 0.041.
4. Results
As displayed in Figure 2, the path between
PsyCap and security-related stress is significantly
negative (-0.256). Hence, the model confirms our
expectation that employees with high PsyCap
experience less stress when being exposed to
complex, overwhelming, and uncertain security
requirements (hypothesis 1).
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As expected, employees who previously
experienced an information security incident
displayed significantly higher levels of security-
related stress (.277). This finding supports our second
hypothesis.
Figure 2. Research results
In line with hypothesis 3, we detect a moderating
effect (.144) of previous exposure to security
incidents on the relationship between PsyCap and
security-related stress. This implies that the negative
impact of PsyCap on security-related stress is
dampened when an employee has already become the
victim of an information security incident. Figure 3
illustrates this interaction effect.
We also find victims to be more stressed
compared to employees who have no incident
experience (3.420 vs. 2.686). These differences are
statistical significant (Z=-4.217, p<0.000).
Furthermore, the latter reported higher PsyCap levels
compared to those who already had to deal with a
security incident in the past (4.368 vs. 3.996). Again,
these group differences are significant (Z=-2.757,
p<0.006).
Figure 3. Interaction effect
When controlling for gender, we found no
significant effect. However, age has a small positive
effect on PsyCap (.174*), indicating that older
employees show a slightly higher positive mental
state.
5. Discussion
In this paper, we introduced the concept of
security-specific PsyCap and demonstrated its impact
on security-related stress. In the following section,
we will discuss the practical and academic
implications of our findings. We conclude by making
suggestions for future work while accounting for the
limitations of the current study.
5.1. Contributions and implications
To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to
develop and validate a scale measuring psychological
capital specific to the information security context.
By doing so, we contribute to the emerging body of
PsyCap research in general [6] as well as to more
recent findings with regard to information security
[9]. Our PsyCap scale comprises ten items divided
into the two components resilience and self-efficacy.
Yet, it is noteworthy that these constructs of PsyCap
may not be seen as an exclusive taxonomy of what
constitutes the determining factors for an employee’s
security-related stress level. Instead, we suggest them
to play an essential role in contributing to a better
understanding of whether individuals experience
security-related stress and abide by security rules and
regulations. As this is the first empirical study to
apply our new scale, further validation is needed.
Hence, we highly encourage future researchers to
draw on our scale when investigating psychological
and behavioral influences in the field of information
security.
Moreover, we are the first to discover that PsyCap
can work as a mitigator on security-related stress,
which is a new and important finding. People scoring
high on PsyCap are less prone to stress. This finding
is in line with previous studies from other disciplines.
Baron et al. [6], for instance, confirm that PsyCap
leads to improved well-being. Our result underlines
the importance of investing in employees PsyCap to
reduce their perceived stress levels. By doing so, the
overall compliance with security requirements can
increase [1, 36]. In other words: If organizations want
their employees to follow security guidelines, they
should write them in a clear language and
communicate them through high-level managers [60].
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Our results also advise managers in charge to
focus their efforts on strengthening their employees
PsyCap through targeted training measures [53].
Intervention strategies could encompass including
employees in the process of developing security goals
and breaking them down into small achievable tasks
as well as encouraging employees to perceive
security threats as opportunities to protect the
organization rather than potential points of failure
[9]. PsyCap thus represents a powerful lever for
reducing a workforces security-related stress and
thereby improving their compliance with security
policies. Prior research has also shown that the
compliance behavior of employees positively affects
the security behavior of their peers [25]. We therefore
assume that employees with high PsyCap are
contributing to a higher security level in their
organizations not only by being less stressed about
security requirements and more careful in following
security policies but also by inspiring their colleagues
to do the same.
Literature confirms higher levels of stress
amongst those who experienced traumatic situations
such as being the victim of a crime or going through
emotionally intense experiences [52]. We were the
first to study the influence of exposure to information
security incidents on employees security-related
stress levels. In line with research results from other
fields, victims of cybercrime reported significantly
higher security-related stress. We advise practitioners
to foster a proactive workplace culture in which
employees feel safe to make mistakes and share their
failures [19]. When promoting proactive
communication, organizations can decrease or even
prevent their employees from experiencing security-
related stress and making mistakes in the future [15,
29, 43]. That is because scholars have already proven
a positive relationship between learning from
mistakes and resilience [10]. Employees who are able
to cope with setbacks better generally also perform
better and show greater commitment because they are
aware of challenging situations and expect failure
[28]. As a result, they will develop a stronger sense
of responsibility and a higher intrinsic motivation for
dealing with and correcting mistakes [21], which is
what we find here. Those scoring high on
psychological capital perceived less security-related
stress compared to employees with low PsyCap.
Noteworthy is the moderating effect of exposure
to information security incidents. If employees had
become a victim of cybercriminals, the negative
effect of PsyCap on SRS was less strong, meaning
that the positive impact diminishes. This finding
implies that companies should already focus on
building PsyCap capabilities amongst their
employees prior to the occurrence of information
security incidents. According to our results,
prevention rather than reaction strategies maximize
the stress-reducing benefits of PsyCap in the
workplace. Following the immediate occurrence of
information security incidents, it is recommended to
debrief the affected employees within the first 72
hours. During a critical incident stress debriefing, the
victims are encouraged to express their feelings
regarding the incident, receive confirmation for these
feelings to be normal in such situations and that they
are supported in assimilating the experience.
Providing immediate assistance to the victims can
disrupt or prevent the onset of more severe issues
[37]. This could reduce the security-related stress
employees build up after having become victims of
cybercrime. We recommend organizations to
supplement these acute debriefs with long-term
PsyCap training to effectively mitigate SRS amongst
their workforce.
While most previous studies found no significant
effect of gender and age on PsyCap [41, 46, 59], we
found older employees to demonstrate a slightly
higher PsyCap. Since one’s life experience increases
with age, it is more likely that older employees had to
overcome more challenges in their lives, allowing
them to develop a more positive mental state.
5.2. Limitations and future work
As indicated in the analysis section, we had to
eliminate two of the four sub-constructs of PsyCap
during the factor analysis. To be able to study all
aspects of PsyCap in the future, it is necessary to
revise the respective items. Rephrasing them to
distinguish their unique characteristics while
maintaining their role within the overall PsyCap
construct can increase the validity.
Future work can help identify other factors not
considered in the current study that impinge the
relationship between PsyCap and SRS. For instance,
cultural factors [14], organizational commitment, and
social influence [26] have been linked to improving
employees security behavior, so it remains to be
tested to which extent these factors affect the
security-related stress levels of employees as well.
To the best of our knowledge, no classification of
security-related stressors with regard to their stress
impact in the information security context exists.
Future work can fill this research gap, which will
benefit the investigation of SRS in the future
tremendously.
According to D’Arcy and Teh [18], employees
respond to security-related stress with adverse
emotional reactions which, in turn, increase
Page 4544
neutralization of security policy violations and
thereby decrease compliance behavior. Sommer et al.
[61] link negative emotions to decreases in resilience,
whereas positive emotions strengthen resilience. This
can be explained by the supporting role positive
emotions play in the recovery process from negative
experiences. It has been shown that strong positive
emotions can even replace negative ones [20]. It thus
remains interesting to identify whether psychological
capital creates positive emotions that are strong
enough to suppress negative emotions associated
with experiencing security incidents and dealing with
strict security rules.
More importantly, changes over time represent an
important factor not considered in our study. By
applying a longitudinal approach, future work can
investigate how PsyCap impacts individuals stress-
levels over time. We especially recommend focusing
on causality when examining the relationship
between these constructs. As reported by McCormac
et al. [45], high stress levels do not necessarily
translate to lower security awareness as resilience
mediates this relationship. Future work can test
whether PsyCap represents a similarly strong
mediator.
As with any empirical study relying on self-
reported data, our results are subject to response bias
and social desirability bias. We attempted to counter
these effects by carefully designing the questionnaire
and ensuring anonymity and confidentiality.
Moreover, we applied statistical techniques to
identify dishonest reporting (e.g., we included control
items to check if participants carefully read the
instructions) and checked the validity and reliability
of our results. Nevertheless, future work can further
explore the concept of PsyCap following an
experimental or a mixed-methods approach. For
instance, Zhu et al. [70] created scenarios of
encounters in a work environment to test the
influence of humble leadership on employees’
resilience.
Reichard et al. [57] placed PsyCap into the
context of cross-cultural interactions, and Wernsing
[68] applied a PsyCap measurement in twelve
different national cultures while highlighting the
importance of testing measurement invariances
across cultures. Since all our participants are
Americans, it remains unclarified how the construct
of PsyCap performs in other cultures. The cultural
context of our study thus represents a final limitation.
6. Conclusion
In contrast to existing psychological capital
scales, the newly developed PsyCap items are
explicitly targeted to psychological capabilities
relevant to information security. This encompasses
not only confidence in their abilities but also their
ability to bounce back from challenges after
information security incidents.
Building on previous research that associates
PsyCap with multiple positive organizational
outcomes, this study confirms desirable
organizational security outcomes for the adapted
PsyCap construct as well. Specifically, organizations
can expect reductions in security-related stress when
investing in building their employees PsyCap. This
provides a competitive advantage for organizations in
a digitalized world, in which the frequency and
severity of information security attacks continuously
rise.
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