Hope…and Improved Job Performance?

Topic(s): job performance

Topic: Job Performance
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior
Article: Exploring the role of hope in job performance: Results from four studies.
Blogger: Benjamin Granger

Yeah sure, hope isn’t as common a concept in organizational research as job satisfaction or commitment, but Peterson and Byron (2008) found that hope does indeed play a role in predicting employee job performance.  In addition, the authors were interested in finding out if hopeful employees solve work-related problems differently than their less hopeful colleagues.  Although we are all somewhat familiar with hope (seriously, who doesn’t hope to win the lottery?), the way in which it is defined by Peterson and Byron is not necessarily what we might expect.  According to the authors, the concept of hope, as it applies to the organizational setting, is not a passive emotional state (i.e., I hope the Rays win the pennant!).  Rather, hope involves an active component, and it refers to an overall feeling that one can achieve his or her goals.

The authors found that employees who were more hopeful did in fact perform better on the job one year later than those who were less hopeful.  Impressively, these results held true for three different samples involving different job types and levels at different organizations (i.e., retail associates, mortgage brokers, and management executives).  Utilizing a fourth independent sample, the authors found that hopeful executives created more potential solutions and had higher quality solutions to a work-related problem than less hopeful executives.

But before we jump to conclusions about what these results actually mean, it may have occurred to you that the definition of hope used here seems strikingly similar to concepts that we already know a lot about, namely self-efficacy (confidence that one can successfully perform a task). In fact, the findings of Peterson and Byron’s study suggest that hope predicts job performance over and above self-efficacy as well as cognitive ability (which is the Big Mac of job performance predictors).

So what does this mean for organizations? This study suggests that employees who are generally more hopeful will tend to outperform those who are less hopeful, and they may even solve problems more effectively.  So it seems that hope is not just for the movies!  It’s also an important factor in predicting performance at work!

S. J., & Byron, K. (2008). Exploring the role of hope in job performance: Results from four studies.
Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29, 785-803.