The Different 'Faces' of Happiness - Unhappiness in Organizational Research: Emotional Exhaustion, Positive Affectivity, Negative Affectivity, and Psychological

By Wright, Thomas A.; Larwood, Laurie et al. | Journal of Business and Management, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

The Different 'Faces' of Happiness - Unhappiness in Organizational Research: Emotional Exhaustion, Positive Affectivity, Negative Affectivity, and Psychological


Wright, Thomas A., Larwood, Laurie, Denney, Philip J., Journal of Business and Management


This research examined relations among several commonly considered indicators ofaffectivebased "happiness - unhappiness" in organizational research with job performance ratings. While psychological well-being predicted job performance, the results failed to establish relations among emotional exhaustion, positive affectivity (PA) and negative affectivity (NA) as correlates of job performance. Suggestions and implications for future research are introduced.

INTRODUCTION

Happily may I walk.

May it be beautiful before me.

May it be beautiful behind me.

May it be beautiful below me.

May it be beautiful above me.

May it be beautiful all around me.

In beauty it is finished.

(Anonymous, Navaho Night Chant)

As the above quote taken from a Navaho Night Chant indicates, the pursuit of "happiness" transcends both time and cultural boundaries. Nowhere does this appear more evident than in organizational research undertaken over the years to identify whether "happy" workers are also "productive" workers (Staw, 1986). In fact, many applied researchers have come to consider the happy/productive worker thesis as a "holy grail" of the organizational sciences (Landy, 1985). Despite the longevity of this ongoing discussion, the veracity of the happy/ productive worker thesis remains in doubt, even as we enter the new millennium (Wright & Staw, 1999). We propose that part of this confusion may result from the widely varied manner in which "happiness" has typically been understood and measured in organizational research. Without question, happiness is an imprecise term (Myers, 1993; Veenhoven, 1991). However, virtually all scientific approaches to happiness appear to converge around three defining phenomenon (Cropanzano & Wright, 2001; Diener, 1984, pp. 542-544). First, happiness is a subjective experience (Diener, 1994; Diener, Sandvik, Seidlitz, & Diener, 1993). Second, happiness includes both the relative presence of positively-toned emotions and the relative absence of negatively-toned emotions (Argyle, 1987; Diener & Larson, 1993; Warr, 1987; 1990). Third, happiness is a global judgment; it is an overall evaluation that appears to exhibit some measure of stability over time (Diener, 1994; Myers, 1993). In organizational research, "happiness - unhappiness" has typically been operationalized by such seemingly disparate constructs as emotional exhaustion, dispositional affect, psychological well-being and job satisfaction (Wright & Bonett, 1997a; Wright & Staw, 1999). Typically, [un]happiness has been equated to job [dis]satisfaction in work-related research (Wright & Doherty, 1998). More specifically, we suggest that work-related research has primarily focused on examining the potentially negative consequences of worker distress or dissatisfaction, ie., absenteeism, turnover, poor performance, or a reliance on what is called the "disease model" (Wright & Cropanzano, 2000b).

The focus of the disease model involves attempts at minimizing the financial costs attributable to an unhappy or dissatisfied employee. This disease-based or utilitarian model is considered by a number of scholars to now be the prevailing research values perspective in the organizational sciences (Wright & Wright, 2000). As a result, an overriding emphasis of organizational research appears to be one concerned with identifying the pecuniary costs to the organization of distressed, dissatisfied and unhappy workers, as opposed to examining the possible benefits to all relevant organization stakeholders of research focusing on maintaining or developing attributes or profiles of physically and psychologically well employees. Interestingly, a similar emphasis appears to exist in the psychological sciences. Myers and Diener (1995) found that psychological publications focusing on negative states outnumber their positive counterparts by a ratio of 17 to 1! …

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