July 27, 2012

Study: high work engagement and low burnout associated with focus on improving deficiencies not with focus on using strengths

A pro-active perspective of employees’ focus on strengths and deficiencies in relation to work engagement and burnout

by Sanne Smits

Abstract: Traditionally, the improvement of employees' weaknesses predominated in the literature. This negative perspective has started to change with the upcoming positive psychology; the focus then shifted to positive constructs and strengths of employees. This current study has attempted to build further upon literature in both areas by introducing strengths- and deficiency oriented behavior. These constructs refer to self-starting behavior of employees that is either focused on using strengths or on addressing deficiencies. The relationships with both work engagement and burnout were investigated. Moreover, the combination of displaying the two types of behavior simultaneously in relation to work engagement and burnout was examined as well. 95 respondents from a high-tech organization located in the Netherlands participated in this research. The findings led to unexpected results. Surprisingly, only deficiency oriented behavior was positively related to work engagement, and negatively related to only one of the subscales of burnout: reduced accomplishment. The remaining hypotheses could not be confirmed. These findings were not in line with work in the positive psychology area. It is expected that this is the result from the very specific and homogeneous sample that is being used in this study, as well as the fact that the organizational climate of the participating company is already focused on utilizing the strengths of their employees. This gives some leeway to employees and could in turn inspire them to become also pro-actively focused on improving their weaknesses, next to playing to their strengths.

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  1. Very interesting article. I miss the reference...

  2. Hi Caroline, Thanks. I am not sure what you mean by 'I miss the reference'. Can't you access the article?


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