BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    Can thinking positive go wrong? A mixed-method study of positive thinking at work

    Garayeva, Shafag (2022) Can thinking positive go wrong? A mixed-method study of positive thinking at work. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

    Thesis for library_Shafag Garayeva_27 June 22.pdf - Full Version

    Download (6MB) | Preview


    Positive thinking is widely encouraged and promoted in the popular and practitioner literature as a hallmark of the compliant employee and a requisite of good organisational practice. Yet, apart from remaining elusive what it means and how it can be developed, research reports side effects related to its overpromotion. This thesis therefore seeks to understand how individuals in organisations define and understand positive thinking, what influences its development and manifestations, and what effects its promotion in the workplace can have. Given that positive thinking has been studied in diverse sub-disciplines of psychology and other disciplines, an integrative literature review appraises state of knowledge to identify that there is no commonly accepted definition and individual meanings vary. Taking a mixed method approach, the research then investigates individual understandings of positive thinking among 19 employees and managers using semi-structured interviews involving vignette discussions, supplemented with data analysis of organisational documents and communications. Through grounded theory method analysis, it identifies key concepts which explain that positive thinking comprises cognitive, affective, and behavioural elements directed at the self, others, and the environment; it is shaped both by individual (self-efficacy and self-regulation) and contextual (psychological safety, work meaningfulness, organisational functioning) factors; and imposing it can end in resisting including faking it. Drawing on the grounded theory study results and existing literature, the research develops an individual-environment interaction model of positive thinking and tests it in an online experiment and two-wave survey. Specifically, the studies examine if psychological safety and self-efficacy can facilitate PT and whether external pressure to demonstrate positive thinking results in faking it. The analysis shows that psychological safety and self-efficacy enable positive thinking, whereas imposing positive thinking predicts faking it and detrimentally affects psychological safety perceptions. This thesis extends theory by addressing conceptual confusion pertinent to positive thinking, identifying it as a unique construct incorporating elements of a systematic cognitive inquiry and distinguishable from other constructs it is used interchangeably with, and discerning its antecedents. The study is the first to investigate individual understandings of positive thinking in organisational settings and examine consequences of its promotion in the workplace. The results also add to existing research on positivity by identifying the role of both individual and contextual factors in development of positive thinking, thus shifting the focus away from the sole individual responsibility for it currently dominating in the popular discourse. From a practice perspective, understanding that positive thinking is an indicator of underlying factors is essential for creating fertile conditions for it instead of putting pressure to demonstrate it.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2022 15:37
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 15:41


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item