Original Research

Towards understanding causality between work engagement and psychological capital

Johannes J. de Waal, Jaco Pienaar
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 39, No 2 | a1113 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v39i2.1113 | © 2013 Johannes J. de Waal, Jaco Pienaar | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 March 2013 | Published: 04 October 2013

About the author(s)

Johannes J. de Waal, WorkWell Research Unit, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa
Jaco Pienaar, WorkWell Research Unit, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa


Orientation: It is of theoretical and practical interest to establish the sequential relationship between work engagement and positive organisational behaviour, as represented by the psychological capital (PsyCap) construct.

Research purpose: The main aim of this study was to conceptualise and investigate the causal relationship and temporal order in the relationship between PsyCap and engagement by means of longitudinal data.

Motivation for the study: The rationale for establishing the sequence of engagement and psychological capital lies in the fact that training interventions to enhance the organisational well-being of employees may need to be focused on either one or the other.

Research design, approach and method: A longitudinal study with a cross-lagged panel design was conducted; data was gathered by means of a survey that was constructed for the purpose of the study. The survey contained the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES), and a measure of PsyCap. All employees within a chemical factory (N = 1003) were approached to provide data; 163 employees participated.

Main findings: Results revealed that PsyCap at Time 1 (T1) did not significantly predict engagement at Time 2 (T2). Evidence does however exist that initial levels of employee engagement predict subsequent PsyCap.

Practical/managerial implications: Results suggest that employee interventions aimed at protecting and fostering employee engagement may have implications for subsequent employee psychological capital.

Contribution/value-add: As an empirical, longitudinal study to address the temporal order between PsyCap and work engagement, this study makes a contribution especially to theory, but also with practical implications by indicating that engagement precedes employee psychological capital.


Engagement; Psychological capital; Positive organisational behaviour


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Crossref Citations

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