Positive psychology, change and confidence

Kelly Moller, shared an interesting article on how Positive Psychology can support Change Management.

Confidence plays a key role in enabling people to embark on change, however I think Positive Psychology has only a limited role to play in this process for the following reasons:

  1. Positive Psychology’s message that human strengths and virtues can buffer people from the sense of loss that change brings is an appealing one. However, it inadvertently focuses attention on the individual who is seen as responsible for their own well-being and away from organisational factors. Consequently, if people are unhappy with in their jobs, it is their fault for not thinking in the right way, rather than the result of hierarchical structures, organisational culture or inefficient work processes etc.
  2. In many ways Positive Psychology is like decaffeinated coffee, as it looks like and sounds like mainstream psychology in its scientific approach. However, by denying the need to address the negative aspects of working life it takes away a key element of what it means to be human. It also sustains an illusory conception of the individual as being ‘complete and autonomous’ that is unattainable in real life.
  3. As far as change management goes motivating people towards an outcome is always preferable to using fear. Unfortunately, while Positive Psychology and change management tools such as Appreciative Inquiry, give people hope, they often fail to deliver on the promises that are made, as they fail to take into account the underlying power dynamics of the situation. Or, as in case of the Kubler Ross model encourage people to search for an ‘okayness’ that they may never have actually had.

How people engage with change rather than what approach is taken – decaf or not – is what is important. Giving people the confidence to see that something else is possible in a given situation and helping them to work towards it should lie at the heart of what Learning & Development practitioners do.