Workplace Bullying and Harassment and Positive Organizational Scholarship

  • Charlotte RaynerEmail author
Living reference work entry
Part of the Handbooks of Workplace Bullying, Emotional Abuse and Harassment book series (HWBEAH, volume 1)


The last decade has seen positive organizational scholarship (POS) coalesce from a general notion in positive psychology to a coherent set of propositions and an academically delineated topic. Central to the recent development of POS has been the partnership of Gretchen Spreitzer and Kim Cameron which has drawn a diverse range of scholars into the POS topic (Cameron & Spreitzer, 2013). Workplace bullying and harassment are located firmly in the negative elements of social science, with scholars tracking negative behaviour together with negative impact on individuals, groups and organizations. Current gaps in bullying and harassment include effective measures to tackle such negative consequences. This chapter reaches towards POS from the field of workplace bullying and harassment to ask how (if at all) each field might benefit from links and cross-fertilization.

The chapter begins with the development of POS from positive psychology, provides a definition and exemplars POS approaches within the work context. The second section begins with a critique of POS, which challenges the validity of separating positive from negative, and progresses with the inclusion of negative issues (workplace bullying and harassment) to sit alongside positive issues. Some areas in the field of bullying and harassment have included positive elements, such as coping mechanisms for stressful bullying experiences, and an increasing number of researchers include positive and negative constructs in the same study. The last substantial section examines how POS constructs could extend our scholarship in workplace bullying and harassment, and this is followed by a call for changes to enable a strong future for both topics.


Positive organizational scholarship (POS) Positive organizational behaviour Workplace bullying Workplace harassment Coping Stress Recovery Happiness Values Virtues Culture change 

1 Introduction

The urgency to understand and tackle workplace bullying and harassment has meant that many scholars in our field apply existing theory and knowledge (e.g. Einarsen, Aasland, & Skogstad, 2007), or adapt theory (Barney, 2018), rather than creating new theory. As a consequence, scholars in the bullying and harassment field often have wide knowledge of theory bases and are open to new application of existing theory which may provide insight into workplace bullying and harassment. This chapter evaluates POS, incorporating the associated fields of positive organizational behaviour and positive change for their utility in the field of workplace bullying and harassment. Unless good reason exists, the constructs of workplace bullying and POS will be used interchangeably with their relevant related topics.

Many scholars have heard of the POS suite but have little grasp of its subtleties beyond their base in positive psychology, launched by Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000). From its inception at the turn of the millennium, the positive psychology founders saw themselves building on the work of others such as Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and the “third way” humanist psychology movement of the 1960s, which included human strengths within constructs like hope and virtue (e.g. Maslow, 1964). The floundering of the “third way” movement of the 1960s was analysed by Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000, p. 7) as being the result of not producing sufficient empirical evidence to warrant continued funding. This led to attention being put into mending the negative aspects of human existence—disease and incapacity—where the main funding and focus remained until Seligman’s positive psychology initiative. It was only a few years later that POS grew out of positive psychology as the occupational studies branch of the topic (e.g. Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003; Dutton, 2003). POS remains a lively field of enquiry within business and applied occupational studies (e.g. Cameron & Spreitzer, 2013).

Contemporary POS is not without its critics, whose commentary will be examined in the chapter. It will address whether we should consider POS to be sidelined to a shelf in our virtual libraries to gather virtual dust or whether there is the potential for the POS approach to provide a central contribution to workplace bullying and harassment. The structure of the chapter follows a conventional shape. It will begin with a detailed introduction to POS from its roots in positive psychology, early development and definition. It will then examine and appraise the critiques of POS (e.g. Fineman, 2006a, b; Hackman, 2009; Warren, 2010), thus providing an informed balanced background to the final contribution of the chapter, namely, an evaluation of the potential for POS for inclusion by academics and practitioners involved in bullying and harassment. The chapter will finish with a shortlist of suggestions for the future.

2 Positive Organizational Scholarship

Rarely do academic topics begin with the clarity of delineation found in positive psychology. Martin Seligman, when President of the American Psychological Association (APA), used his 1998 Annual Conference speech to introduce the construct of positive psychology. The speech sought to balance what he saw as an academic and professional community overly dominated by the negative: “since the end of World War II, psychology has moved too far away from its original roots which were to make the lives of all people more fulfilling and productive … (including) optimism, courage, work ethic, future mindedness, interpersonal skill, the capacity for pleasure and insight, and social responsibility … what makes life worth living” (Seligman, 1999, p. 559). The speech also called for a stronger stance to achieve better ethnic balance. Seligman, together with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, subsequently published a definitive article in APA’s journal American Psychologist which has acted as a grounding for positive psychology (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). The article drew a plethora of responses from APA members such that in 2001 Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi needed to respond. One critical group addressed in the reply was the behaviourist academic community studying positive reinforcement in rats and another group of academics continuing the thrust of humanistic psychology (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2001). Readers are left to imagine the text from other APA members. What then was the content of these exchanges which prompted such objections?

One aspect of the APA piece that may have caused upset was the introductory paragraph “the United States can continue to increase its material wealth while ignoring the human needs of its people and those of the rest of the planet. Such a course is likely to lead to increasing selfishness, to alienation between the more and the less fortunate and eventually to chaos and despair” (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 5). Perhaps the statement was interpreted as political and unpatriotic? The article went on to chart the recent direction of psychology towards the negative, usefully healing those in poor health and dealing with damage, but always focussing on the negative, thus not providing psychology for everyone. The clearest argument for a change in direction was the need for positive thinking and attitude when designing preventive measures, for which they claimed the current negative approaches in psychology had no contribution. The positive was invoked as useful in ameliorating the negative impact of mental illness by acting in a variety of buffer roles, including “courage, future mindedness, optimism, interpersonal skill, faith, work ethic, hope, honesty, perseverance and the capacity for flow and insight” (2000, p. 7). More research into these positive psychology topics was called for which, they claimed, had only attracted scant attention to date. The article introduced a Special Issue that included those who have been working for decades on the positive such as Deci and Ryan (2000a) and an essay from a critic of the approach (Schwartz, 2000). Taking Seligman’s speech, the initial article, the criticisms and the second riposte as a group, this reader was left wondering why there was such an apparently high level of resistance to positive psychology from its inception when the presentation was slow and showed attempts at balance.

The years after the launch of positive psychology saw some groups of academics and professionals embrace the field in overt ways and others in subtle ways. Three pillars of interest were distilled quickly, positive states, positive traits and positive organizations which are institutions that impact positively on the traits and states of employees and others (Fineman, 2006b; Rosso, Dekas, & Wrzesniewski, 2010). Readers should note that traits and states are individual phenomena, reflecting the psychology base of the discipline (for a more sociological view, see Warren (2010)). Positive states include hedonistic happiness connected to mood which is short term and eudemonic happiness which is longer term incorporating satisfaction, pleasure, flow, fulfilment and feelings connected to well-being. Positive traits, more stable than the states, include the capacity for love, forgiveness and vocation as well as courage, wisdom and originality (Park & Peterson, 2003) having strong links to Aristotelian virtues (Newstead, Macklin, Dawkins, & Martin, 2018). The final pillar of positive organizations is presented by Park and Peterson (2003) and forms the “O” of POS pointing to the collective rather than the individual (Meyer, 2018). At which level of analysis (individual, group, organization, sector, society, etc.) the focus of POS rests is an issue that will be revisited throughout the chapter.

Jane Dutton’s essay (Dutton, 2003) is an early piece that reflects on gaps in contemporary research and was published at the same time as the co-edited book that launched POS (Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003). Rather like the APA’s Special Issue in 2000 which marked the beginning of positive psychology, the 2003 text showed multiple senior academics willing to get behind a new idea, thereby creating political capital as well as academic capital. Ten years later the Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship with Cameron and Spreitzer as editors (2013) repeated the process which, at over 1000 pages, had 79 chapters contributed by 150 authors, mostly North America based. Its presence suggests a gathering of acceptance of POS by the US academic community. Close reading reveals that support for POS from contributors is rarely total (e.g. Biron, Cooper, & Gibbs, 2013). However, the formation of the book appears to have drawn many US academic leaders to the topic and it remains a remarkable work.

It is appropriate to turn to the 2013 text edited by Cameron and Spreitzer for clarification on the nature and scope of POS.

Just as positive psychology focuses on exploring optimal individual psychological states rather than pathological ones, organizational scholarship focuses attention on the generative dynamics in organizations that lead to the development of human strength, foster resilience in employees, enable healing and restoration, and cultivate extraordinary individual and organizational performance. (Cameron & Spreitzer, 2013, p. 1)

Note the last phrase where the authors indicate they are interested in “extraordinary” performance. These scholars see “positive” in POS not as just the other side of negative but as being unusually or deviantly positive. Hence Cameron singles out organizations which have achieved remarkable performances rather than just good ones (e.g. Cameron & Lavine, 2006). To illustrate, if one considers a scale 1–7 where 1 is negative, 7 is positive and 4 neutral, Cameron ideally wants to look at those scoring 7 (Cameron & Caza, 2002, p. 35). An important facet for POS scholars is that even if they are reporting on achievements that may equivalent a 5 or 6, the goal is 7 since that is where exceptional excellence is found (Meyer, 2018). For those new to the topic, the focus on excellence rather than moderate positivity is important as other levels of the positive are excluded.

The Cameron and Spreitzer (2013) definition goes on to state that POS is interested in the positive aspects of the organization/employee interface “in addition to” negative states and situations as follows:

POS emphasizes what elevates individuals and organizations (in addition to what challenges them), what goes right in organizations (in addition to what goes wrong), what is life-giving (in addition to what is problematic or life-depleting), what is experienced as good (in addition to what is objectionable), and what is inspiring (in addition to what is difficult or arduous). While not ignoring dysfunctional or typical patterns of behavior, (POS) examines the enablers, motivations, and effects associated with remarkably positive phenomena – how they are facilitated, why they work, how they can be identified, and how organizations can capitalize on them. (ibid.)

In the last phrase the writers refocus the definition back to the organization. Thus one can be working at the individual level, but the content needs to be something which the organization can “capitalize on”. The bracketed caveats in the main paragraph counter a series of received comments asserting that the positive cannot and should not be separated from the negative (e.g. Biron, Cooper, & Gibbs, 2013; Fineman, 2006a, b; Hackman, 2009). For those involved with bullying and harassment, such explicit inclusion of the negative in the POS definition provides a green light for the engagement of POS with our field, and the interplay between the highly positive and negative issues in their definition lies at the heart of this chapter. To illustrate deeper aspects of the definition of POS, some examples are needed, to which we now turn.

A strand of recent POS work by Seligman and associates concerns training non-commissioned officers (NCOs, such as sergeants and corporals) in the US army to be more focussed in their mission and resilient to distraction and setbacks (see Seligman, 2011, pp. 126–149). A Special Issue from the APA American Psychologist journal outlines different aspects of the programme. Soldiers are trained to be constructive and positive, changing (“adapting”) negative thoughts and judgements into positive thoughts and non-negative judgements (Reivich, Seligman, & McBride, 2011). The programme offers a good example of POS in action as negative ideas are put aside to embrace the positive both cognitively and emotionally. Situations are reframed away from fear and anger, frustrations and negative judgements of juniors and colleagues, and are changed into helping and support behaviours so that mission objectives can be met by the team. The applicability into soldiering, where absolute adherence to unwavering mission objectives may win a day in battle, can be appreciated. The desire of battlefield commanders to have an organizational programme that engenders extreme courage, perseverance, optimism and other positive traits and states exemplars the “positive organization” aspect of POS. Such aspirations may not lie only with the military. A sales department might reflect similar circumstance where focus and determination could enhance performance. As the approach is entirely positive, it could be adapted to civilian occupations, an exception for much military training where differences in aims and methods preclude cross-fertilization.

The link between positive action taken at the individual level and positive outcomes at the organizational level should be clear in POS. In the previous military example, there is logic that if individual NCOs all treat their team of soldiers as they are trained to, then the organization capability improves, showing a clear link between individual and organizational outcomes. Although individuals are the focus of the study, the outcome is the very high performance of the collective, thus conforming to POS definitions. While it is inevitable that individuals are the focus of action, there need also to be clear links to organization performance; otherwise, the work belongs in positive psychology, not POS. For example, there are many studies showing clear links between positive well-being dimensions such as mastery and health at the individual level (e.g. Surtees, Wainwright, Luben, Khaw, & Day, 2006). While the benefits for individuals are clear (lower heart attacks in this instance), how it affects the organization is unclear and unlikely to be included as part of POS. For POS inclusion, very high performance must at least be the aspiration, even if it is not attained (Cameron & Spreitzer, 2013; Meyer, 2018).

Another illustration of POS comes from Linley, Harrington and Garcia (2010) who have conceived the Abundance Approach as a POS technique in change management. The Abundance Approach comprises four stages. Stage one locates peak performance episodes (aka Maslow, 1964) for employees and the organization on the topic in focus and describes what happens during those peak performances, which may include the notion of “flow” (Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Stage two finds enablers of the peak performance, followed by stage three which works through how to replicate and extend enablers. Stage four is the point at which the intervention design occurs and uses these peaks as ideals. The distinction of this POS approach can be seen when applied into workplace bullying. Consider the situation where an organization seeks to combat bullying and harassment. A conventional approach would be focus on the problem, for example, to start by understanding what causes the bullying and harassment, such as poor recruitment, poor induction and a lack of signals that bullying is unacceptable. The traditional problem-centred approach seeks tangible problems that, if solved, relate to our outcome. The conventional next step would be to solve the problem. In this example, that might include upgrading recruitment, introducing an enhanced induction and a mechanism to broadcast when an employee has been fired for bullying. The conventional problem-solving process keeps the negative at the centre of the frame. POS would counter that such an approach is very limited. In the Abundance Approach, staff would work in teams to recall a time of little or no workplace bullying and harassment (peak experience) and keep that positive vision at the centre. They then work out the enablers of the peak performance, such as clear direction from leaders, leadership that included and modelled how people were treated and fast feedback processes on projects so the best ways forward were identified and followed (Tummers, Steijn, Nevicka, & Heerema, 2018). Finally, they plan the embedding of strong enablers, such as the positive valuing of achievements done well and sharing of good ideas to communicate and techniques for employees to own positive ethics and values (Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001), and undertake a specific project such as helping managers implement flexible working (Linley, Harrington, & Garcia, 2010). The POS and the problem-centred approaches differ markedly in tone and thrust.

As shown in the definition, it is seen as appropriate that the study of POS includes negative issues, so long as the focus is on achieving the positive at a high level and the improvement can benefit the organization (Cameron & Spreitzer, 2013, p. 1). Workplace bullying and harassment researchers rarely consider examining positive outcomes from targets’ experiences (see D’Cruz and Noronha, chapter “Mapping Varieties of Workplace Bullying” this volume), but this is changing (e.g. Mishra, D’Cruz, Gupta, & Noronha, 2018). Before examining the contributions of POS to workplace bullying and harassment, the conceptual criticisms of POS need to be examined so that the reader has a full contextual framework to evaluate potential contributions to and from each field.

3 Critiques of POS Relevant to Its Combination with Workplace Bullying and Harassment

Seligman’s original (1999) attempt to rebalance psychology towards the positive led some to suppose that the proposition concerned only examining the positive in psychology. This was not the case, but it led to a serious and useful discussion about separating positive and negative, or dealing with them together. Readers of this text are likely to be familiar with the negative, and in workplace bullying and harassment, most studies examine only the negative leading to recent calls for balance (e.g. D’Cruz and Noronha, chapter “Mapping Varieties of Workplace Bullying” this volume; Glaso, Skogstad, Notelaers, & Einarsen, 2018). It is important to visit contemporary debate as it is not straightforward to examine both positive and negative simultaneously. This section of the chapter will examine two quite different aspects of blending positive and negative elements: first, how we choose (or not) to disaggregate positive and negative elements within our research and practice, and second, how we deal with positive and negative aspects of the same phenomenon to be sure that they are indeed the same phenomenon. The latter is a more technical discussion for the research-based community and shorter than the first part.

The incorporation of positive and negative has pervaded many academic endeavours concerning organizations and employment studies in modern times. As Fineman points out in his critique of POS, negative emotions are intrinsically caught up with positive ones. He exemplars people who are very happy. Very happy people will become anxious about how long their happiness will last (Fineman, 2006b). Fineman’s comments regarding the positive spectrum are reflected in the findings of a recent study by D’Cruz and Noronha (2018). Here the focus was on cyberbullying where highly successful freelancers (positive) spent considerable time working out and executing strategies to cope in a market where negative online ratings from their customers were possible (D’Cruz & Noronha, 2018), causing them anxiety and stress. Nevertheless the freelancers retained their positive and successful status with pride. In workplace bullying and harassment, the pioneer Andrea Adams reported how targets of bullying felt cathartic positive emotions connected to retribution for awful treatment (Rayner, Hoel, & Cooper, 2002). Even early work on bullying included positive clinical therapeutic intervention. Groeblinghoff and Becker (1996) described the positive effect when therapists listen to and believe targets’ experiences at work and the potential of therapy to build self-confidence for eventual return to work. As research extends into therapeutic intervention and recovery for organizations and individuals, workplace bullying is likely to link into positivity and researchers will need to grasp some fundamental issues when dealing with the positive and the negative together. Can the positive exist on its own? Can POS or positive psychology claim a unitary focus?

In the study of positive organizations, all POS work reflects a striving to be “better” (Peters & Waterman, 1982; Reid, Short, & Ketchen, 2018), which necessitates being better than something else: sensitive to weaknesses, imperfections and therefore the negative. The negative is intrinsic in achieving the positive. As well as needing the other pole for objective measurement of achievement, both positive and negative are needed for change achievement. Fineman (2006b, p. 275) correctly demonstrates how the base of organizational and individual development cycles relies on “double loop” learning where sensitivity to failures and setbacks form the base of deep change. Effectively, Fineman and others argue that positive change and development cannot be achieved without the negative (Bagozzi, 2003; Fineman, 2004). Hence it is not surprising that the 2013 definition of POS pays explicit attention to the negative. Commentators such as Fineman argue convincingly that one needs to hold both positive and negative in the same space, rather than only use the positive or negative. It is possible that workplace bullying and harassment are at a similar turning point as the traditional pre-2000 negatively biased psychology.

When the overt turn into the positive occurred, Seligman (1999) wanted psychology to be for everyone, not just for those who have a mental disorder or other difficulties. However, there had been significant developments on the positive prior to this within psychology. Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory (SDT) was developed in the 1980s and suggested three positive needs: autonomy, relatedness and competence. The theory was relaunched in 2000 (Deci & Ryan, 2000a) with Seligman’s propositions. SDT remains a cornerstone construct, exemplifying how the positive in psychology can be applied at the clinical, individual and organizational level (Deci & Ryan, 2000b). The value of well-established theories is that their use moves with developments in academic and practice issues. At the millennium, Deci and Ryan (2000b) reported on links of SDT into well-being and the very high association of well-being with all three elements of relatedness, autonomy and competence. They also discussed the issue of cross-cultural variations. Despite making the theory one of the psychological needs (very deep and intrinsic to human nature), Deci and Ryan have reiterated the need for cross-cultural studies and expected variations to inform the progress of the theory. Such work continues—for example, Roche, Haar and Brougham (2018) found that while Maori leaders reflected the Western constructs of relatedness, autonomy and competence, their well-being held other elements concerning the community and relationships. The authors pointed to a relational process difference in the Maori culture not shown in the existing individualistic conceptualization of SDT (Roche, Haar, & Brougham, 2018).

Fineman’s (2006b) comments on the positive and negative existing together have validity. However, it will be argued here that the study of both positive and negative phenomena can exist separately from each other, and examples have been shown of negative occurring in negative situations and positive situations building on the already positive. The Abundance Approach by Linley (2008, p. 201), like the strengths, opportunities, aspirations and results (SOARs) technique from Stavros and Wooten (2013), is entirely positive, and Roche, Haar and Brougham (2018) examine improvement in already achieving Maori leaders. These are examples of positive with positive. Negative with negative is perhaps normative for workplace bullying and harassment research and especially for research directed at the individual level. Groeblinghoff and Becker (1996) discuss patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms getting worse patterns. In this volume there will be scant positive commentary (see, e.g., Conway et al., Volume 2, Section A, and Field and Ferris, Volume 3, Section A), although it will be demonstrated that there are examples reflecting change to incorporate positive issues into workplace bullying and harassment.

Discussion in psychology on the positive in the last two decades has brought us closer to the blended reality of the lived experience of workplaces where positive and negative exist together, as Seligman (1999) suggested. How we frame questions to explore and then design studies to understand what is going on is becoming progressively more important. On 1 November 2018, Google workers staged protests about the company’s handling of claims of sexual harassment and unfairness (Murphy, Bernal, & Dodds, 2018). We may consider sexual harassment always an individual experience; however, this case study shows escalation to the organizational level, very much within the scope of POS. Media reports described the substantive issue of Google apparently paying off employees in cases of sexual harassment and not achieving fairness or perceived justice for female employees. However, the subsequent issues raised in reports (e.g. Murphy, Bernal, & Dodds, 2018) included the sexual proclivities of senior (male) managers and Google’s involvement with a Chinese data project that could threaten citizens’ freedom, which were reputation damaging for Google, raising issues beyond the original story. Also of note is the positioning of the employees as taking action to demonstrate their loyalty to their brand, co-workers and their workplace. To this author’s knowledge, no employees have been sanctioned for taking action.

The Google incident occurred after a previous set of incidents when high-profile women in the entertainment industry revealed that they had been targets of sexual harassment. This developed into the #Me-Too campaign. The targets were often successful women; hence, commentators probed their actions during the sometimes repeated incidents as several senior women appeared to have “freely” continued to be abused. Dionisi and Barling (2018) have analysed the early reports around these cases and found evidence of a complex multiplicity of feelings and cognitive logics. The women’s silence and apparent complicity in their sexual harassment was, in some cases, fuelled by apparently positive characteristics such as optimism (that it will come to an end), courage (based on the belief that it needed to be endured as it was part of the film industry induction to the job) and self-efficacy (that they were strong enough to endure the treatment) (Dionisi & Barling, 2018). Previous research has found the existence of positive traits while also experiencing negative reactions of fear and anger (Barling, Dupre, & Kelloway, 2009; Harrington, Rayner, & Warren, 2012). This jumble of emotions—both positive and negative, concerning short-term and longer-term issues—can be further complicated by beliefs about being hired or fired, beliefs which may or may not be true (Brotheridge & Lee, 2010). A taboo around the issue of sexual harassment maintained dynamics of silence, prolonging the pattern of treatment in some cases as the harassment remained unchallenged.

Conventional questionnaire-based studies, with a single focus on either the positive or the negative, are challenged to access such complex realities. Interviews from a study on workgroups (Miller & Rayner, 2012) identified informal processes that inducted them as new members into the workgroup and may have been judged as fun, or perhaps as part of a punishing process. How any individual weighs the various components depends on many issues including their past experiences and cultural background as well as what is happening at the time. A good interviewer will be able to facilitate a picture that includes both positive and negative and shares the interviewees’ insights. Power and other facets will help us see a more rounded picture to understand the dynamic of the interplay of positive and negative perceptions and emotions. While it is likely that those used to handling data from interviews will be better prepared, there is a need to develop quantitative methods too, an issue returned to in the last section of the chapter. The existing conventional quantitative positivist linear systems reflect analysis that needs augmenting, and this will be returned to.

In summary this first section of dealing with the positive and the negative together (as urged by the critics of POS) shows that there is a need for tools to be able to handle highly complex data gathering and analysis. Several scholars in the field have undertaken studies enabling the dynamics to be explored simply because they have asked about the positive as well as the inevitable negative in reports of bullying and harassment. For example, data gathered by D’Cruz and Noronha (2018) contained balance. They discovered a rich picture of positive and negative interplay within the individuals’ evidence where there is much going on at multiple levels, short term and long term. Their data concerned microbusinesses and a large virtual platform provider so that the results could be used at a strategic level; thus, although its purpose began with cyberbullying, the result could link into POS.

3.1 Measurement of the Positive and the Negative

The second part of this section for the positive and negative concerns more technical issues about how we conceive positive and negative in order to then measure them in some way. Quantitative measurement concerns having scales with a construct at one end of the scale (e.g. unafraid) and another at the other end (e.g. afraid) and asking people to label their experience or attitude on a scale (e.g. 1–7) between them. More can be found about the flaws in such an approach in Section B of this volume (see, e.g. “Workplace Bullying and Harassment as Group Dynamic Processes: A Multilevel Approach”, this volume) and other quantitative research methods books (e.g. Coolican, 2014). The point to be made is that one must consider carefully what is being positioned opposite what in order to have the positive and negative together. The comments made here apply to any area of study, but especially those of us involved in social science.

If quantitative researchers are going to incorporate the positive into studies of negative behaviour such as workplace bullying and harassment, there is a need to be scrupulous in execution. There are examples of apparent opposites which are not accurate, such as pessimism and optimism which are separate constructs (Petersen, 2000).

Of concern to this author is also how one treats quantitative scores that are “in the middle”—what exactly does that mean? Bagozzi (2003, p. 178) states in his opening pages “Often emotions are valued at the extremes … or for some emotions intermediate levels are preferred”. Bagozzi’s statement illustrates the difficulties some academics have with the style of writing around POS. In this sentence, who is the person appreciating “valued”? What is the nature of the “value” to which he refers, and what can or should be considered to be “intermediate”? The point is not to criticize Bagozzi but to alert readers who come from other disciplines that the POS genre requires the reader to stand back and scope the larger picture before delving into detail. The essence of Bagozzi’s statement is nevertheless pertinent—we all need to consider how we are thinking through such scales and interpreting their results.

J. Richard Hackman (2009) was asked to critique a “POS” special issue of the Journal of Organizational Behavior. He suggested many articles were positive psychology, not POS. Before discussing Hackman’s specific criticisms, it is worth highlighting his unhappiness with the process of research in the special issue. He includes a scathing parody (Hackman, 2009, p. 314) of research which will be summarized. Hackman saw the researcher beginning with the generation of “some interesting-seeming concepts of the positive kind” that are written into statements with face validity for a survey. The survey is administered and the concepts are used simply (e.g. mean score) or through factor analysis with internal consistencies worked out which are of course “satisfactory”. Finally, Hackman suggests the analysis uses correlation for all the factors/concepts with other independent variables of interest and discussion. Hackman acknowledges such simplistic patterns are common for all new areas of investigation (2009, p. 317). His critique of POS and its measurement standards can be directed at every applied area of social science, including workplace bullying and harassment. Low levels of “scholarly standards” are exactly what journal editors and the reviewing process are in place to deal with. Nevertheless, it is useful that these concerns are voiced occasionally.

Hackman (2009, p. 312) seeks far more depth in construct establishment. He perceives the POS scholars as having insufficient rigour in working through what their constructs mean and calls for proper academic rigour to achieve validation (see also Newstead, Macklin, Dawkins, & Martin, 2018). Workplace bullying and harassment are also constructs that lack what Hackman would term rigour, but there are good reasons as harassment and bullying are partly dependent on societal norms which vary between cultures and subcultures and can change in a week. The #Me-Too campaign has begun to change thresholds and the measurement of sexual harassment. It prompted a recent review of women’s experience of sexual harassment in America. The research included items beyond physical touching, such as verbal harassment. It also found twice the number of harassment incidents occurred in the street as at the workplace (Stop Street Harassment, 2018). The national data gathered by the US agency for occupational safety and health, NIOSH (, does not yet include this update from the less formal but nevertheless informative research. No doubt it will include the street as a location for harassment in future data gathering. Similarly the construct of workplace bullying will evolve however much one seeks stasis (e.g. Cox, 2018; D’Cruz and Noronha, chapter “Mapping Varieties of Workplace Bullying” this volume), thus always frustrating those who seek stasis (Hackman, 2009; Nielsen & Einarsen, 2018).

The final critique of POS concerns the organizational level of analysis. Hackman (2009) raises the issue of aggregation of data taken from individuals to make inferences about a group and perhaps higher levels of the organization. While the organization is the focus of POS (Spreitzer & Cameron, 2012), the vast majority of research data comes from individuals. The critics of POS call for highly overt and valid aggregation processes. Like construct definition, the aggregation issue applies across much of applied social science (Branch, Ramsay, & Barker, 2013). POS distinguishes itself from positive psychology using the organization as its analytical point of reference rather than the individual. Hence there is urgency to avoid aggregation criticisms. Critics of POS make no comment of (and thus one assumes they are content with) the in-organization work that has been done, mostly through case studies (e.g. Cameron & Lavine, 2006; Mroz & Quinn, 2010). Researchers in workplace bullying who use case studies (e.g. D’Cruz, 2015) may be able to provide further contribution to help with aggregation methods.

In this section the key criticisms of POS have been examined, ensuring positive and negative are properly conceptualized, measured and balanced. It is now to the integration of the positive with the negative that this chapter turns.

4 Contribution of POS to Workplace Bullying and Harassment

Seligman’s original premise for positive psychology was to draw the lens away from (in his view) an overly negative focus and to see the role of positive approaches. It was through contributing to prevention strategies that he saw a unique role for the positive (Seligman, 1999). As POS has progressed, the potential for exchange between the two fields has become more diverse. This section will begin by looking at prevention at the organizational level (e.g. Dooris, Farrier, & Groggett, 2018) and move to interventions (e.g. Mroz & Quinn, 2010) and finally to tertiary work that concerns recovery after collapse (e.g. Chakhssi, Kraiss, Sommers-Spijkerman, & Bohlmeijer, 2018). The latter holds few examples, as when organizations fail they are often dissipated, leaving scarce data sources.

The spirit of POS points to a process of beginning with the positive view of an organization and working towards that (Linley, Harrington, & Garcia, 2010). What can we expect from POS for a positive view? Reid, Short and Ketchen (2018) reviewed the impact of influential business books, with In Search of Excellence (Peters & Waterman, 1982) being the earliest modern example and which is clearly a proto-POS project. In Search of Excellence is the product of a 2-year project by McKinsey, the international auditor and management consultancy, 20 years before the launch of POS (Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003). Peters and Waterman (1982) found 43 companies that consistently outranked their competition on financial and other performance indicators. Peters and Waterman distilled eight themes (presented as maxims such as “stick to the knitting”, “close to the customer”, “hands-on, value-driven”) and invented the 7-S model (actually a list where all lines led to the other six items). The 1982 text still provides relevant core advice for any organization. It is not one best way in its approach as the maxims are far from formulaic.

Although these “excellent” firms fell by the wayside (Peters, 2001), the text prompted business and management teaching and practice to embrace a far wider curriculum (e.g. Pink, 2009). This expansion included notions such as corporate culture, emotion at and in work and the ripple effect of the inspiration of leaders at all levels of the organization, not just at the top. Interviewed later, Peters said,

Somebody has to show some passion. (In)Search (Of Excellence) put the blood back into business … at the time you had ‘numbers, bureaucracy and control’. We (Peters and Waterman and their 43 companies) desired ‘people’ (love thy people), ‘customers’ (love thy customers), and ‘action’ (keep it simple). We got it right when we said we were in search of excellence. Not competitive advantage. Not economic growth. Not market dominance or strategic differentiation. Not maximized shareholder value. Excellence. It’s about passion and the selfless pursuit of an ideal. Enterprise is about heart. About beauty. It’s about art. About people throwing themselves on the line. Life at work can be cool – and work that isn’t confined to Tiger Woods, Yo-Yo Ma or Tom Hanks. Its available to all of us and any of us. (Peters, 2001)

The initial book and subsequent promotion changed the search for success on the balance sheet away from finance to the organizational tone and the decisions, priorities, passions and attitudes of managers at all levels as well as senior leaders.

Case studies were used in 1982 to distil and illustrate findings for In Search of Excellence (Peters & Waterman, 1982). Cameron and Spreitzer (2013) also use case studies as research success stories, to provide examples of POS in action. Cameron was involved with understanding the success of a firm (Kaiser-Hill) cleaning nuclear waste at Rocky Flats in the USA. Kaiser-Hill delivered the project years ahead of schedule and $60bn under budget (Cameron & Lavine, 2006). From interviews, the researchers distilled 21 principles, 16 enablers and the competing values framework (Cameron & Lavine, 2006) as underpinning the success. The content has much in common with the Peters and Waterman (1982) text and reinforces the importance of the findings of both projects. The 21 principles from the Rocky Flats project, which include one entitled “Paradox and Contradiction”, do not make easy reading for academics seeking to base further research on the findings or indeed verify them. Case study methodologists need to help us take their work forward.

Another example of POS work to contribute to workplace bullying and harassment comes from a substantial well-being project in the North of England. Dooris, Farrier and Groggett’s paper (2018) comments on a large regional POS project designed to invigorate well-being in an area of the United Kingdom (UK). The project comprised several hundred staff servicing users mostly in towns and cities. Their description of the dynamics on the use of the word “well-being” between delivery staff and users of the project is especially interesting. Of immediate note is the alignment of the authors, staff and project users against the project designers’ compartmentalization of well-being into diet, exercise and mental health. Any project activity had to belong to one of the three categories and evaluation was in the three silos. This POS project saw staff and users rebel against the “reductionism” of the well-being construct and engage in what Cameron would term “heliotropic” behaviour where people seek the positive (e.g. Cameron & McNaughton, 2014, p. 449). Dooris et al. reported,

There was widespread understanding that the concept of well-being is unruly and cross-cutting and essentially characterized by holism,… many cross-cutting projects were categorized for convenience under a priority outcome that did not readily match its full range of activities or aspirations. This appreciation naturally resulted in discontent about the value of the quantitative impact evaluation in capturing the real changes to people’s lives. (Dooris, Farrier, & Groggett, 2018, p. 95)

The “unruly and cross-cutting” well-being construct they sought included pleasure, self-development, flourishing, eudemonic happiness and “effective and authentic functioning in society” and far better acknowledgement of the social aspect where well-being was overtly discussed, generating energy for change in the group (Dooris, Farrier, & Groggett, 2018, p. 97). This paper makes very useful reading for researchers to prime themselves on venturing into the positive. It points to people energized and engaged in ways unfamiliar to some of us studying the negative.

Meyers, van Woerkom and Bakker (2013) reviewed studies in organizational-level intervention for the link between positive interventions and organizational-level performance (i.e. POS). There were few studies that spread across different topic areas, so the authors caution the readers to take this into account. A cluster of studies using appreciative enquiry (Cooperrider, & Whitney, 2005) were not as significant regarding organizational performance as were those using solution-focussed coping (Grant, Curtayne, & Burton, 2009), gratitude (Chan, 2010) and meditation (Cohn & Fredrickson, 2010). Studies which focussed on positive psychological capital (psycap) were significant in their effect on performance (Meyers, van Woerkom, & Bakker, 2013, pp. 23–25). All the studies examined by Meyers, van Woerkom and Bakker (2013) linked to better individual well-being which included positive emotions, optimism, resilience, psycap and satisfaction (eudemonia). The review included studies targeted at well-being, and those which included psycap as a subset were especially positive (Luthans, Avolio, Avey, & Norman, 2007). Psycap comprises hope, optimism, resilience and self-efficacy (Luthans, Avolio, Avey, & Norman, 2007) and overlaps with the well-being constructs. The related Promoting Adult Resilience programme (e.g. Loissis, Shochet, Millear, & Biggs, 2009) comprising a 7-week intervention to build strengths was also very positive in its effect on well-being of staff.

In order to establish efficacy, most of the studies reviewed by Meyers, van Woerkom and Bakker (2013) needed to make the case for performance impact through invoking the well-being/good performance link rather than measuring it directly (p. 628). The reviewers also tested the effects of positive interventions on negative emotional states such as depression and anxiety and found mixed results with Luthans, Avolio, Avey and Norman (2007) and Loissis, Shochet, Millear and Biggs (2009) being positive and others insignificant or the impact extinguishing quickly (Luthans et al., 2010, p. 626).

Meyers, van Woerkom and Bakker (2013) undertook a conventional review. The founders of POS challenge the measurement of impact. Cameron and McNaughton (2014) state, “by definition, positive practices do not need to produce traditionally pursued organizational outcomes in order to be of worth. An increase in profitability, for example, is not the criterion for determining positive change in organizations. Positive phenomena are inherently valued because they are eudemonic. People are heliotropic in that they seek inherently for that which is life giving and nurturing” (2014, p. 449). The strongest claims concern virtuosity (Cameron & McNaughton, 2014, p. 450; Stichter & Saunders, 2019), which is for people-centred leadership that inspires and nurtures staff. Readers should note that authentic leadership is rarely included as the term relates to the match between the leaders’ behaviour and their own personality and preferences, without reference to style, which is the focus of other types of leadership (Yukl, 2016). Hence, one can be an authentic leader and also a bully or a harasser.

There is currently a growing interest in virtue as a paradigm to be included in organizational change (e.g. Roche, Haar and Brougham, 2018; Stichter & Saunders, 2019). Meyer (2018) found associations between virtuousness and POS in all studies he reviewed but was careful to point out inconsistencies in method. A recent paper on the ontology of virtue using critical realism as a framework (Newstead, Macklin, Dawkins, & Martin, 2018) could be replicated for many constructs in this chapter.

Several points can be taken forward from examining POS studies, most of which challenge conventional researchers. First, case studies are difficult to generalize (e.g. Cameron & Lavine, 2006). POS constructs are many (Hackman, 2009), sometimes poorly defined and overlapping (Biron, Cooper, & Gibbs, 2013; Meyer, 2018), perhaps reflecting an immature field with frustrations, or perhaps a smorgasbord of choice for the researcher (Meyers, van Woerkom, & Bakker, 2013) depending on ones’ attitude. Simply put, almost all the studies show complexity in the relationship and interlinking of sub-constructs, where disaggregation risks diminishment (Dooris, Farrier, & Groggett, 2018). In addition and importantly, the positive studies have not found congruence with negative constructs, leaving much for us to explore. Well-being and psycap appear to be the strongest contesters for implementation if one is seeking to measure impact on performance. That said, a rare study that examined psycap and bullying by Laschinger, Spence and Nosko (2015) found no moderation from psycap for the experience of PTSD symptoms in Canadian nurses being bullied. Some effect from the sub-construct of self-efficacy was present. This is a useful study, and one that points to the value of more research to unpick the complexity of the phenomenon at the individual level in order to achieve organizational relevance.

Of the 79 chapters in the Oxford Handbook (Cameron & Spreitzer, 2013), one of the most relevant to this text is from an Anglo-Canadian trio (Biron, Cooper, & Gibbs, 2013) who extended a stress intervention framework into POS. It provides an excellent example of scholars, who normally study the negative, upending their focus and looking at the positive. Biron et al. use Cooper and Cartwright’s (1997) three-level approach to stress (i.e. problem-solving) initiatives. The primary level concerns eliminating or controlling the source of stress in the organization, relationships and roles. The secondary level helps workers deal with stress once experienced, and the tertiary level involves rehabilitation. Similar frameworks continue to have currency within the academic community (e.g. Branch et al., “Theoretical Frameworks That Have Explained Workplace Bullying: Retracing Contributions Across the Decades”, this volume; Nielsen & Einarsen, 2018). Interventions at the organizational units of analysis are dealt with separately (Biron, Cooper, & Gibbs, 2013, p. 941).

At the primary level, Biron, Cooper and Gibbs (2013, p. 942) note that Dollard and Bakker’s (2009) psychological climate model is close in several ways to POS at the organizational level. They draw attention to the input of positive managerial attitude in maintaining a positive psychological climate that concern virtuosity, as mentioned previously. Of note is how the impact from positive (or not) attitudes of managers is incorporated into the model for top-down effect both positively (towards well-being) and negatively (towards bullying, harassment and stress) (Biron, Cooper, & Gibbs, 2013). Climate surveys have been used in the UK as a preventive measure in themselves and also as a way of measuring progress on issues such as workplace bullying and harassment since 2000 (see New work from Canada ( and the US undertakes similar cross-national work (, and in other countries more local agencies are involved such as Worksafe in Australia (e.g. Thus the impact of asking about work conditions retains a positive effect at the organizational level.

Some organizational case studies examine interventions which attempt to reduce the negative, thus providing links to the positive (e.g. Berligieri, 2015; Golden-Biddle & Mao, 2013), and the author has been part of a national programme which successfully surfaced initiatives (Rayner, 2005). We rarely contact organizations who are successful at the primary level, and here POS could be very useful.

The secondary level is concerned with how people cope with and respond to problems; knowledge of this pervades workplace bullying and harassment (e.g. Van Den Brande, Baillien, De Witte, Van Der Elst, & Godderis, 2016, and van Heugten et al., Volume 2, Section A). The extensive body of applied and conceptual work in bullying and harassment at the individual level has both positive and negative measurements and may be candidates for POS, for example, on bystanders (Baez-Leon, Moreno Jimenez, & Aguirre-Camacho, 2016; Bowes-Sperry & O’Leary-Kelly, 2005), cyberbullying (Baldry, Farrington, & Sorrentino, 2015) and occupational experience (e.g. Catling, Reid, & Hunter, 2017; D’Cruz, 2015; Einarsen, Aasland, & Skogstad, 2007; Escartin, 2016; Laschinger, Spence, & Nosko, 2015; Luckhaupt, Alterman, Li, & Calvert, 2017; Sguera, Bagozzi, Huy, Boss, & Boss, 2016). In these studies some level of “positive” has been investigated and discussed along with the negative issues of bullying and harassment. They are useful exemplars of the benefits accrued by inclusion of the positive. The new conceptualization of workplace bullying by D’Cruz and Noronha in chapter “Mapping Varieties of Workplace Bullying” of this volume provides a multidimensional framework for enabling progress towards research that reflects the complexities of real life (e.g. Dionisi & Barling, 2018). Using frameworks enables research to be systematic and coordinated and of better utility to practitioners (e.g. Pink, 2009). Thus the section now turns to current models.

The comprehensive theoretical model presented by Van den Brande, Baillien, de Witte, Vander Elst and Godderis (2016, p. 68) is anchored in the stress literature and applied to workplace bullying. Their model concerns both the primary and secondary levels, namely, identification of causes and coping strategies. Like Biron, Cooper and Gibbs (2013), their literature review is excellent, especially regarding coping. Coping is interesting since it has asymmetrical properties as the positive and negative sides of coping are associated with very different outcomes. Van den Brande, Baillien, de Witte, Vander Elst and Godderis (2016) identified five sets of coping: two concerning coping strategies—problem-focussed strategies (such as reappraisal, confrontation and practical) and emotion-focussed strategies (such as wishful thinking, avoidance and suppression)—and three concerning their potential resources, which may or may not be present or could be introduced. These included personal resources (including POS characteristics such as optimism), the level of social support at work from co-workers and managers and finally a set titled environment support that is located in the job, such as autonomy. Their model is complex and opens the door to looking at positive outcomes. As the elements of their model become understood, we may see the interplay of different elements in a manner that was discussed in the first part of this chapter where separating positive and negative was examined. The authors mention the buffering effects of their postulated strategies on the strain felt by employees (2016, p. 68) showing how positive trends can be included in research models. Moreover, the models shown in the theoretical frameworks chapter of this volume (see Branch et al., “Theoretical Frameworks That Have Explained Workplace Bullying: Retracing Contributions Across the Decades”, this volume) will be useful in case they can be brought together.

It is a challenge to bring the results on coping to the organizational level, thus warranting their inclusion in POS. But as we have seen with the example of Seligman’s work in the military, this can be done. Studies likely to be judged at individual level (thus being positive psychology, not POS) hold value as providing research indicators for scholars wishing to undertake work at POS level. For example, Mishra, D’Cruz, Gupta and Noronha (2018) found a positive role for forgiveness in their targets of workplace bullying. If such a process can be scaled to the organizational level, then it will warrant POS status. Rodino-Colocino (2018) examined the role of empathy in the #Me-Too movement as a socially powerful tool for change that empowered both targets and bystanders. Their paper provides potential insight into explaining the escalation at Google on sexual harassment and is a useful contribution. Hunter, Snow and Warriner (2018) showed how midwives could reframe stressful events, which is reminiscent of the military training undertaken by Seligman and colleagues (Seligman, 2011) where again there is interchange between positive and negative, also found in D’Cruz and Noronha’s study of resilience (2018) discussed earlier.

Moving from resilience to recovery, there are some elements which provide buffering effects. Rodriguez-Munoz, Sanz-Vergel, Antino, Demerouti and Bakker (2018) studied “daily recovery” incidents. There is potential for this to be seen at the organizational level. Awareness of micro-recoveries to maintain health is emerging in other areas of occupational health. Stephan (2018, p. 301) links these all the way through to small business performance where the individuals in question are the entrepreneur (ibid, p. 313). Micro-recoveries concern being able to disengage for work in the evening and explain why those with family at home can be better buffered (Meyers, van Woerkom, & Bakker, 2013; see also Pellegrini et al., Volume 2, Section B, for a discussion of the role of significant others and workplace bullying). In POS, this is seen as recovery (e.g. Sonnentag, Niessen, & Neff, 2013) and is a nexus for work environment, home environment, emotion and a positive–negative examination. Tertiary rehabilitation especially emphasizes the need for downtime. Diary studies have been shown to be very informative (e.g. Rodriguez-Munoz, Antino, Sanz-Vergel, 2017) but might increase the lack of downtime for participants and will no doubt be considered by researchers. Nevertheless, a better understanding of the interplay of work and home is needed, both to assist sustainable return to work and as a preventive strategy (see Pellegrini et al., Volume 2, Section B).

Emotions and their dynamics have peppered this chapter. Emotions can be considered at the organizational level (e.g. Collins, 2004). For example, Bagozzi (2003, p. 178) claims that positive and negative emotions “reciprocally moderate each other” and further “found that fear of retribution and anticipated regret are two negative emotions that function to manage one’s pride” (2003, p. 191; see also Bagozzi, Sekerka, & Sguera, 2018). Through mapping positive and negative emotions and other construct types (e.g. states and traits), one can begin to work out how they may be used together for better resilience and recovery. One study of emotions in workplace bullying has been included in a model on cyberbullying (Vranjes, Baillien, Vandebosch, Erreygers, & De Witte, 2017, p. 327). Beginning at the individual level with stressors, it is labelled an emotional “reaction” model. The interplay between positive and negative emotions is a thread within existing research emerging in workplace bullying and harassment (e.g. Brotheridge & Lee, 2010; Catling, Reid, & Hunter, 2017; Dionisi & Barling, 2018; D’Cruz & Noronha, 2011; Rodriguez-Munoz, Moreno-Jimenez, & Sanz-Vergel, 2015). At the individual level, POS contributes a broader range of emotions (e.g. the uplifting construct of meaning as described by Rosso, Dekas, & Wrzesniewski, 2010), adding to the pool for potential research.

Dionisi and Barling’s (2018) study explored the effect of male–male gender harassment on women at work. Although not the main focus, the study showed how interactions between men were sometimes positive bonding, sharing and establishing masculinity to be proud of in the male group. Other times the same behaviour belittled and shamed the recipient, linking into sexual harassment experiences. Such differences in perception are nuances that those studying workplace bullying and harassment know well (see Rayner, this volume), where some individuals judge the same behaviours differently. Dionisi and Barling (2018) also point to issues of identity that are difficult to scale up to organizational level, but working through such a process could be very fruitful, especially when connected to standardized organization-wide roles (e.g. Miller & Rayner, 2012, and police officers).

In summary, this section has taken as its start the POS contribution to envisioning a positive workplace. It has been seen that some POS work already includes the negative. While POS naturally seeks to work at the primary level of prevention, the section illustrated how POS can contribute to secondary intervention. The final subsection has examined work that currently exists at the individual and thus the positive psychology level, rather than POS. The section has demonstrated how many researchers in workplace bullying and harassment are already moving towards the inclusion of positive in their work.

5 The Future for POS and Workplace Bullying and Harassment

This section will pick up the key points already made concerning the ability to make a future for POS integrated into the field of workplace bullying and harassment. It will cover the need for new methods and the development of existing methodologies. It will also encourage a better understanding of highly subjective notions such as energy, meaning and emotion. The call for cross-cultural considerations within every research project will be made.

Hackman points out the need for all academic study areas to be constantly developing tools of analysis (2009). Workplace bullying and harassment have benefitted greatly from postpositivist tools and techniques as reflected by the large number of qualitative studies included in this chapter (see also Cowan and Toth, Tye-Williams, Fahie and McGillicudy, and Einarsdottir, this volume). Glaso, Skogstad, Notelaers and Einarsen (2018) comment on the need to balance negative with positive which is not difficult for the postpositivist. However, such a call challenges most quantitative researchers in workplace bullying to broaden their arsenal of tools to those that can cope with the resultant complexity of asymmetric properties. Fuzzy set analysis (e.g. Miller, 2018) provides great promise but needs to be better understood for its full exploitation (e.g. Lopez-Cabarcos, Vasquez-Rodriguez, & Gieure, 2017). A technique still undergoing development, fuzzy set analysis integrates researchers from many fields who seek to reflect complexity in their research (e.g. Hilliard & Priede, 2018). Equally promising is the social network analysis demonstrated by Cross, Baker and Parker (2003). This paper on organizational energy asks managers to identify who creates and who depletes energy. The resultant graphics are intriguing and show how certain workers affect organizational dynamics as staff avoid energy depleters. For some workplace bullying and harassment researchers, this will prompt us to want to engage with such methods (see also Paukstrat and Salin, this volume). The final method we need to extend is that of case studies so that we can work towards more generalizable findings. Much useful knowledge is contained in case studies (Yin, 2016), and researchers need to consider how to display and interrogate their findings to enable generalization as those involved in interview analysis have done (e.g. Miller & Rayner, 2012).

The initial reading of POS revealed very little evidence that was as solid as that expected in the annals of psychology. There is a need for new techniques which cope with constructs that morph on analysis, such as well-being in the Dooris, Farrier and Groggett example (2018). Deconstruction can be destruction. This is not a new problem and will have been solved elsewhere; we just need to locate the solution. To be able to generate good data, we need to have a better grasp, acceptance or tolerance of constructs (see also, e.g., changes in the stability of personality; Tasselli, Kilduff, & Landis, 2018). The call for better construct conceptualization and definition (e.g. Hackman, 2009; Nielsen & Einarsen, 2018) will be unending unless we change how we consider a construct to be formulated, come up with new ways of defining constructs or have better tolerance of vagueness, overlap and repetition, because some of our constructs change. Newstead, Macklin, Dawkins and Martin (2018) pursue critical realism as a framework to explore the deep ontology of virtue and virtuousness. Their approach could be used to adapt to construct changes as events such as the #Me-Too movement challenging sexual harassment.

A last point for methods is to encourage those in the field of workplace bullying and harassment to embrace wider issues such as emotion, energy, purpose and meaning (Rosso, Dekas, & Wrzesniewski, 2010). Delivering “dignity at work” is not only about enabling workers to be free from bullying or harassment or violence but includes having worthwhile tasks, purpose, meaning, autonomy and respect (Bolton, 2007, p. 8). Positive constructs are critical, as initially observed by Seligman (1999). To be able to achieve their integration, complexity and dealing with the subjective (Fineman, 2003) are challenges that remain. Those working with evidence that includes these topics are truly in the three-dimensional world providing exciting evidence for everyone to learn from. Those at the forefront may need to extend helping hands to those of us who prefer safe, but limited, data and analysis.

Finally, the groundbreaking leaps which are often made when “cross-cultural” issues are explored in research are worth noticing (Warren, 2010; see D’Cruz and Noronha, this volume, and Salin, Volume 3, Section B). As a conventional example, the Maori leader study by Roche, Haar and Brougham (2018) should affect self-determination theory through the consideration of the individualistic nature of the theory and its potential to expand into social dimensions. In addition we need to broaden our thoughts on what constitutes cross-cultural. For example, Sweetman (2018) examined trade union representatives who were themselves from ethnic minorities and exposed a set of presumptions within the trade union and its leadership, thus cutting across racial, social, power and gender cultural issues. The Dooris, Farrier and Groggett (2018) study stated “well-being is essentially social as well as individual, and it is therefore important that research, policy and practice move beyond personal psychological constructs, being informed by psychosocial perspectives and utilising models that incorporate individual, family, community and societal dimensions” (Dooris, Farrier, & Groggett, 2018, p. 98). Their report held data from users who may have had little formal education, but, by listening carefully, the users convinced the staff and the study authors to shift their conceptualization from well-being at the individual level to its social and emotional dimension. “Although participants often mentioned pleasure gained from projects, they also revealed understandings that ranged from a focus on provision of basic needs – elsewhere understood as prerequisites for health – to a cross-cutting and eudemonic focus on purpose and identity, referring to self-development, self-realisation and a renewed sense of direction” (2018, p. 95). Equivalent content would benefit workplace bullying and harassment scholars too.

6 Conclusion

The chapter opened by describing the inception of positive psychology, POS and its main critiques. Kim Cameron, a founder of the field, has been abundantly clear that POS concerns deviantly positive organizations (e.g. Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003; Spreitzer & Cameron, 2012) where excellence (not average positive) is achieved (Cameron & Caza, 2002). Smith, Lewis and Tuchman (2013, p. 799) elaborate, “At the firm level, positive deviants are flourishing, thriving, and resilient, generative institutions”.

While POS is attracting contemporary attention, the positive had been studied from an early time (e.g. Maslow, 1964). Discovering the elements of top-performing organizations is one aspect of POS on an already well-trodden path following, for example, Peters and Waterman’s In Search of Excellence (1982). But such case study exemplars need to be further processed so that stronger academic knowledge can be established.

The field of workplace bullying and harassment is developing towards the positive. Sometimes, whether through design or grounded discovery, positive aspects within workplace bullying and harassment are becoming common. For example, buffering (e.g. Baez-Leon, Moreno Jimenez, & Aguirre-Camacho, 2016), micro-recovery (e.g. Stephan, 2018) and developing resilience (e.g. D’Cruz & Noronha, 2018) have been studied in workplace bullying. New models using positive elements such as coping (e.g. Van den Brande, Baillien, De Witte, Van Der Elst, & Godderis, 2016) and psycap (e.g. Laschinger, Spence, & Nosko, 2015) are showing the way.

The incorporation of POS into workplace bullying and harassment could enhance both fields and bring researchers in both fields closer to the lived experience of workers (e.g. Dionisi et al., 2018) where positive and negative are dealt with in the same, realistic envelope. Ideally, cooperation between fields could achieve linked frameworks in order to progress our scholarship and thus our knowledge.

It is important to avoid the notion that there is one solution. Fineman suggests there is a “totalizing” (Fineman, 2006b, p. 307) and a “deterministic” (2006a, p. 274) direction of travel for POS that can be crudely summarized as “one best way” for realizing human potential in a POS world. Warren (2010) picks this up and counsels for cultural (in all senses) sensitivity to avoid suggesting one best way. As such, the chapter urges all involved to consider every level of diversity including but beyond ethnicity and sociocultural issues (see Volume 3, Section B) to those of belief and difference in perception and experience (see Rayner, this volume). By truly embracing “cross-cultural”, the integration of POS with workplace bullying will enliven both topics for a generation.

7 Cross-References

8 Cross-References to Other Volumes


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Portsmouth Business SchoolUniversity of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK

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