Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Management, Operations and Marketing


Central to this thesis is the exploration of the impact of organisational context on individuals’ ability to know and use their strengths in the workplace. Strengths-based approaches (SBAs) are a key process of the positive psychology movement (Oades et al., 2017). Strengths are especially relevant to the workplace due to their association with individual wellbeing and performance (Biswas-Diener et al., 2017) and have been enthusiastically adopted by practitioners and organisations. However, there are several conceptual issues pertinent to the strengths construct, which have implications for how strengths are implemented. A summary of the history and research of the emerging strengths concepts is followed by a critique of these relevant conceptual issues. This thesis then reviews the empirical strengths literature and concludes that it is dominated by correlational studies. The limited longitudinal and intervention studies conducted to date have found mixed results for the effectiveness of strengths-based interventions (SBIs), thus, a systematic narrative synthesis review of strengths-based intervention studies is undertaken. SBIs may include a wide range of people management activities, which incorporate the identification and use of strengths, such as coaching (Elston & Boniwell, 2011), recruitment (Linley & Harrington, 2006a), and performance management (Williams, 2010). This thesis then reports a study undertaken with 297 teachers and staff from a large Australian school. The study examines the contextual factors of organisational climate and manager behaviour (as characterised by Self-Determination Theory) (Deci & Ryan, 2008) to determine their impact on strengths use and strengths knowledge within that workplace. Contrary to existing research (e.g., Kong & Ho, 2016), manager behaviours did not moderate nor mediate the relationship between strengths knowledge and strengths use, however organisational climate did. Three organisational climate factors (wellbeing, engagement, and organisational purpose) predicted strengths use, and mediated the relationship between strengths knowledge and strengths use, but only organisational purpose moderated this relationship. Further clarification of the strengths constructs as informed by such concepts as implicit and explicit knowledge and intentionality is suggested for future research. The study found that as organisational purpose increased, the relationship between strengths knowledge and strengths use weakened. The study concludes that organisational climate impacts employees’ ability to translate knowledge of their strengths into use and needs to be considered in the design of SBIs in order that they achieve desired outcomes. Furthermore, organisational climate needs to be considered in the design of SBIs.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.