Optimism: The Critical Workplace Skill

Editor’s note: We are pleased to welcome Kjersti Bergheim of the University of Bergen, Norway, whose article “The Role of Psychological Capital in Perception of Safety Climate Among Air Traffic Controllers” was co-authored by Jarle Eid, Sigurd William Hystad, and Morten Birkeland Nielsen, all of the University of Bergen; Kathryn Mearns of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland; Gerry Larsson of the National Defense College, Sweden; and Brett Luthans of Missouri Western State University. The paper is forthcoming in the UntitledJournal of Leadership & Organizational Studies and now available in the journal’s OnlineFirst section.

Air traffic controllers (ATCs) do an important job, guiding pilots and their passengers to safe take-offs and landings. Even if part of their job is monotonous, they have to stay focused to keep safety the top priority.

JLOS_72ppiRGB_150pixWWhich factors contribute to maintain the safety focus and a good safety climate? We wanted to explore whether Psychological Capital (PsyCap) was related to the ATC’s perceptions of safety climate. PsyCap (efficacy, optimism, hope and resiliency) is part of the individual’s job motivation, and we found that it explained almost 1/3 of the variation in the ATC’s perceptions of safety climate.

Having an optimistic attribution style and being able to redirect your way to the goal seem to be of special importance when it comes to safety climate in ATCs. Since the PsyCap factors can be developed and strengthened, this might be something worth focusing on in ATC training programs.

BergheimClick here to read “The Role of Psychological Capital in Perception of Safety Climate Among Air Traffic Controllers” in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.

Kjersti Bergheim is a PhD-candidate in the marine insurance company Norwegian Hull Club, and a member of the research group for operational psychology at the University of Bergen, Norway. Her field of research is positive psychology, human factors, and safety in high reliability organizations.

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