McDonald, M., Thi Nguyen, L., Bubna-Litic, D., Nguyen, T.-N., Taylor, G.
Positive Psychology Applied to the Workplace: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis
(2021) Journal of Humanistic Psychology
An ever-expanding literature now exists critiquing the theory and philosophy of positive psychology, however, research has yet to provide a critical analysis of its practical application. The current study extends on these critiques by exploring how positive psychology is applied to the workplace by investigating practitioner-based sources including interviews with workplace coaches who use positive psychological interventions and applied published texts. The study draws on Michel Foucault’s concepts of power/knowledge and discourse as a theoretical and methodological framework. Three dominant discourses were identified which illustrate the ways in which positive psychology is applied to the workplace. These include the promotion of its scientific credentials, employing a strength-based approach and using goal-setting and behavioral reinforcement interventions. When applied to the workplace, these discourses psychologize workplace problems, resulting in potentially negative outcomes for employees. However, interviews with some of the workplace coaches indicate they practice a degree of reflexivity, providing a salutary lesson for the science of positive psychology.
applied positive psychology; discourse; Foucault; humanistic psychology; power/knowledge; workplace