Unleashing Positivity in the Workplace: Positive Organizational Scholarship Has Helped Answer Important Questions about Why Some Companies Perform So Much Better Than Others. Concepts about Virtue, Compassion, and Positivity May Seem Simple, but They Turn out to Be Crucial Implements for Broader Success

By Pace, Ann | T&D, January 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Unleashing Positivity in the Workplace: Positive Organizational Scholarship Has Helped Answer Important Questions about Why Some Companies Perform So Much Better Than Others. Concepts about Virtue, Compassion, and Positivity May Seem Simple, but They Turn out to Be Crucial Implements for Broader Success


Pace, Ann, T&D


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In 1989 in Rocky Flats, Colorado (a small town 16 miles west of Denver), the FBI raided and temporarily closed a nuclear weapons production facility in response to continued allegations of environmental violations. The U.S. federal government estimated that it would take 70 years and more than $36 billion to close and clean up the site. Employees who had worked at the 6,000-acre facility since the 1950s were suddenly ostracized by the surrounding community, which feared radioactive pollution. Seemingly in a day, the Rocky Flats workforce--once hailed as patriotic heroes aiding the United States' Cold War nuclear proliferation efforts--became environmental criminals without a mission.

Six years later, the government awarded the contract to close the Rocky Flats facility to a local engineering and environmental firm, CH2M HILL. Astonishingly, CH2M HILL finished the job 60 years ahead of schedule, $30 billion under budget, and 13 times cleaner than federal standards required. The employees, who had initially filed 900 grievances, were transformed into an engaged force that worked themselves out of their jobs.

CH2M HILL's extraordinary performance has prompted the question: What did the organization do to produce such phenomenal outcomes?

The theory

The cleanup at Rocky Flats is an example of positive deviance, or extraordinary success. The study of positive deviance within the workplace is a core emphasis of positive organizational scholarship (POS). According to the Sage Handbook of Organizational Behavior, "positive organizational scholarship is a broad framework that seeks to explain behaviors in and outside of organizations. It focuses explicitly on the positive states and processes that arise from, and result in, life-giving dynamics, optimal functioning, or enhanced capabilities and strengths." This approach focuses on both an individual's and an organization's strengths and virtues.

While POS is a recent development in organizational sciences, it serves as an empirical basis and connection mechanism for preexisting topics such as appreciative inquiry, organizational change, creativity and innovation, engagement, and leadership.

The origins

The POS movement originated within the organizational studies field nearly a decade ago. Jane Dutton, a Robert L. Kahn distinguished professor of business administration and psychology at the University of Michigan, recalls that after the tragedies of September 11, 2001, she and her colleagues realized that their field had little to offer companies in terms of rebuilding strength and capability. To meet this need, the department reorganized its annual conference in November 2001, and focused on the positive cases of strengths-building in organizations during that trying time.

Additionally, the faculty created the Leading in Trying Times website, an online resource that provides a series of offerings to leaders based on the field's best research about organizational strengths building. The website received 30,000 hits within the first month. "This was an indicator to us that the world was hungry for this and that we needed to do more," Dutton says.

Kim Cameron, a William Russell Kelly professor of management and organizations at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and professor of higher education at the School of Education, traces his POS roots to the mid-1980s, when he began studying downsizing in the auto industry. From his dozen or so years of research, Cameron learned that 80 to 85 percent of organizations that implement downsizing experience significant deterioration in performance, including decreased productivity, curtailed creativity and innovation, low morale, and restricted communication. However, Cameron also discovered that the remaining 15 or 20 percent of organizations flourished after downsizing. He began referring to these flourishing few as "virtuous organizations" because they were set apart by their virtuous practices.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Unleashing Positivity in the Workplace: Positive Organizational Scholarship Has Helped Answer Important Questions about Why Some Companies Perform So Much Better Than Others. Concepts about Virtue, Compassion, and Positivity May Seem Simple, but They Turn out to Be Crucial Implements for Broader Success
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?