An investigation of business mental toughness using personal construct psychology.

  • Lee Williams

Student thesis: Doctor of Business Administration


The current economic climate has placed a tremendous amount of pressure on businesses and their staff to perform and as a consequence the number of lost workdays associated with work place stress is becoming a significant burden upon the UK economy. In order to improve and reduce the cost burden of lost workdays many businesses, and more specifically their leadership teams, have now started to look at non-business related environments in their search for success and ways in which to combat workplace stress. On such environment that business leaders have shown a growing interest in is that of sport and in particular the development and utilisation of mental toughness in order to achieve and sustain high performance. As a result there is a growing, if not an insatiable, desire to create mentally tough business professionals. However even though there are numerous books describing mental toughness to date no one has determine whether its 'stress coping' capability will actually benefit business professionals and whether the [sporting] definitions and frameworks are really appropriate for use in a business context. Existing examinations of sporting mental toughness have successfully adopted a qualitative approach in order to examine mental toughness. Similarly this research thesis adopted a qualitative approach using both Personal Construct Psychology and Appreciative Inquiry in order to capture business professional's individual views, experiences, meanings, and perceptions of theirs or other people's responses to events and situations in order to describe and characterise business mental toughness. Twelve business professionals participated in the study from which a definition of business mental toughness was developed and the attributes of the ideal mentally tough business person documented. The findings suggest that business mental toughness does exist but is different to that observed in sport and draws on our own values, beliefs, motivations and emotional intelligence and a set of coping mechanisms that enable business professional to cope with the stress and pressure of the work environment whilst maintaining emotional control and delivering on their objectives. This thesis provides the basis for further empirical research into business mental toughness, as well as providing guidance as to some of the conceptual and practical implications for the use of mental toughness techniques within a business environment. Given that £25.9 billion is lost due to work place stress in the UK alone, there is sufficient demand and reason to further the research into the stress coping capabilities of mental toughness and ensure that the correct type of mental toughness is developed within business.
Date of Award1 Aug 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMark Batey (Supervisor)


  • Business Mental Toughness
  • Mental Toughness
  • Personal Construct Psychology
  • Resilience

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