Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Validating Strengths Use and Deficit Correction Behaviour Scales for South African First-Year Students

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Validating Strengths Use and Deficit Correction Behaviour Scales for South African First-Year Students

Article excerpt


As is the case with new recruits and newly appointed employees in organisations, first-year students face many challenges adjusting to a new academic environment. Some of these challenges include exposure to independent living, academic pressure, emotional vulnerability, social adaption and problems managing time and finances (Darling, McWey, Howard, & Olmstead, 2007; Fairbrother & Warn, 2003; Misra, Mckean, West, & Russo 2000). The university environment also pose stressors of its own, including adapting to an academic environment (Awino & Agolla, 2008; Ongori, 2007), a new semester system and often inadequate resources available for students to perform effectively (Agolla, 2009; Fredrickson & Losada, 2005; Reeve, Shumaker, Yearwood, Crowell, & Riley, 2013).

Proactive behaviours are crucial for new students' successful transition from secondary to tertiary education because proactive behaviour is seen as a key component of individual career success (Erdogan & Bauer, 2005; Seibert, Kraimer, & Crant, 2001). They are now entering a new and unfamiliar life phase and need to utilise self-regulatory resources that facilitate new problem-solving skills and improve person-environment fit during this transition period, which is crucial for newcomers who are being socialised into their new roles (Ashforth, Sluss, & Saks 2007; Saks, Gruman, & Cooper-Thomas, 2011). Parker (2000) describes proactive behaviour as active, self-starting, persistent, anticipatory and future- or change-oriented conduct. Different types of proactive behaviour are identified in the literature, including seeking feedback (Ashford, Blatt, & Van de Walle, 2003), demonstrating initiative (Frese & Fay, 2001), building networks (Ashford & Black, 1996), gathering information (Morrison, 1993), helping others (Organ, 1988), taking charge (Morrison & Phelps, 1999) and redefining work (Ashford & Black, 1996; Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001).

Recently, and in line with the positive psychology approach, two additional forms of proactive behaviour were identified, namely strengths use behaviour and deficit correction behaviour (Van Woerkom et al., 2016). Individual strengths refer to specific individual characteristics, traits and abilities and when used energise a person and allow performance at his or her personal best (Linley & Harrington, 2006; Wood, Linley, Maltby, Kashdan, & Hurling, 2011). Individual deficits refer to ways of behaving, thinking or feeling, which do not necessarily come naturally to an individual, which the person does not necessarily enjoy doing, but in which the person can become competent if these deficits are developed (Meyers, Van Woerkom, De Reuver, Bakker, & Oberski, 2015).

The introduction of these two specific types of proactive behaviour is based on the notion that the ultimate challenge for positive psychology is to synthesise positive and negative aspects of human behaviour and to develop a combined focus of strengths and deficits, rather than an exclusive focus on one or the other. Therefore, it is important to develop and eventually overcome weaknesses as well as nurturing strengths (Linley, Joseph, Harrington, & Wood, 2006; Lopez, Snyder, & Rasmussen, 2003; Seligman, Parks, & Steen, 2004). Indeed, several recent studies have demonstrated that both strengths use and deficit correction behaviour can be related to valuable outcomes (Meyers et al., 2015; Peterson & Seligman, 2004; Van Woerkom et al., 2016).

Originally, the strengths use and deficit correction scales were introduced as additional forms of proactive behaviour and were conceptualised and measured in the organisational context (Stander & Mostert, 2013; Van Woerkom et al., 2016). However, the constructs of strengths use and deficit correction behaviour seem valuable to apply to first-year students. Strengths use behaviour is positively associated with well-being and vitality (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004) and enables individuals to achieve success by fulfilling their potential (Govindji & Linley, 2007). …

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