Blurring Work and Non-Work Boundaries: Two Sides to the Story (IO Psychology)
The rapid advancement of communication technologies (CTs) in recent years is widely believed to be one of the main drivers behind changes in work. The ease and availability of CTs allows employees unprecedented access to information, people, and most importantly, their work from anywhere and at anytime. While previous generations of workers “stopped the clock” at 5:00pm, many modern employees continue to check-in to work after traditional work hours – leading to blurry work-non-work boundaries. Researchers have predicted both positive and negative outcomes to result from this shift in working hours. Specifically, using CTs to check-in to work after hours, may be a sign of greater commitment to the organization, or high job involvement and ambition on the part of the employee. But, the negative side of greater time spent working is less time for non-work activities possibility resulting in work-family conflict.
Researchers Boswell and Olson-Buchanan were interested in examining the effects of checking-in on work during non-work hours from the perspective of the organization, the employee, and the employee’s spouse. Specifically, they recorded after-hours CT usage, both spouses’ perceptions of work-family conflict, and levels of the employee’s affective organizational commitment to the organization, ambition, and job involvement.
The results showed that highly ambitious employees who are greatly involved in their work are more likely to use CTs for longer time periods after work hours then employees who lack ambition and job involvement. Interestingly, however, employees spending a greater number of hours connecting to work after hours are not more committed to their organizations. Based on this, it seems that highly determined employees (i.e., ambitious and involved) are using CT after hours to “get ahead” rather than because they feel loyal or obligated to the organization.
However, there does seem to be a price to getting ahead by utilizing CTs during non-work hours – employees who spent greater time using CTs to connect to work during traditional “family time” experienced greater levels of work-family conflict as reported by the employee and by the employee’s spouse. Specifically, employee use of CTs after work explained an additional 2% of the variance in work-family conflict from the perspective of the employee and an additional 13% from the perspective of the spouse, suggesting that the employee may not fully realize the negative impact of his/her CT after hours usage from the perspective of his/her spouse.
Taken together, although employees may willingly engage in CT usage after traditional work hours to get ahead, this activity results in negative work-family balance implications from the perspective of the employee and, to a greater extent, from the perspective of the employee’s spouse. Organizations can help employees by discouraging after-hour and weekend email communication. More realistic an option may be to employ family-friendly practices and policies designed to decrease work-family conflict such as flex options or child-care benefits.
When Customers Attack: Verbal Aggression and Employee Performance (IO Psychology)
Topic: Job Performance, Training, Conflict
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (SEPT 2012)
Article: When Customers Exhibit Verbal Aggression, Employees Pay Cognitive Costs
Authors: A. Rafaeli, A. Erez, S. Ravid, R. Derfler-Rozin, D.E. Treister, R. Scheyer
Reviewed By: Ben Sher
What happens when customers get angry? For starters, they may yell, scream, pound their fists, emit a plume of smoke from their ears, and occasionally rip off their t-shirts like Hulk Hogan. But then what happens to the employees? Research by Rafaeli, et al. (2012) examines the negative effect this kind of behavior has on the people working behind the counter.
The researchers conducted four experiments and found that employees’ performance suffers when customers become verbally aggressive. Under these circumstances, employees will have a harder time remembering things and have worse perception. Why? Exposure to anger requires people to make sense of why someone is angry. It also requires people to plan a response to dealing with the anger. These processes use up valuable mental resources, which are best reserved for focusing on the job at hand.
Another reaction that anger causes is a state of arousal, which happens any time people are faced with a threat. When this happens, employees focus their attention on the angry customer and lose sight of the task at hand. When people perceive a threat, they also may be more likely to retaliate, even when it is not a beneficial reaction.
These findings became even stronger when customers were considered high status. This means that employees became even more distracted by aggression from the biggest-spending customers, arguably the people whose satisfaction is most important. On the other hand, the findings of this study became weaker when employees were able to engage in “perspective taking”, which is the ability to consider and understand the viewpoint of another person. In this situation, understanding why the customer is angry leads to patience, while also freeing up mental resources.
What can be done to counter the harmful effects of customer aggression? The researchers emphasize the importance of training to deal with verbal aggression. They say that training to deal with anger needs to occur at the same time employees train for other job components. This makes the anger training more naturalistic. Treating anger as a separate topic with no context might be ineffective when real-life situations arise. Finally, training may want to include strategies for perspective-taking, which might be the best antidote for the angry customer.
Rafaeli, A., Erez, A., Ravid, S., Derfler-Rozin, R., Treister, D.E., & Scheyer, R. (2012). When customers exhibit verbal aggression, employees pay cognitive costs. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(5), 931-950.
human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management
When Does Conflict Improve Team Performance? (IO Psychology)
Topic: Teams, Conflict, Culture, Performance
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (JAN 2012)
Article: Reaping the Benefits of Task Conflict in Teams: The Critical Role of Team Psychological Safety Climate
Authors: B.H. Bradley, B.E. Postlethwaite, A.C. Klotz, M.R. Hamdani, K.G. Brown
Reviewed By: Ben Sher
There’s a battle in the meeting room! Tempers flare, fists pound the table, insults are hurled, a chair flies through the air! No, this is probably not the best way to get things done. But what happens if team members engage in spirited debate that is strictly focused on the work at hand? Will that be productive? According to research by Bradley, Postlethwaite, Klotz, Hamdani, and Brown (2012), the answer depends on the type of team climate already in place.
First, the authors discuss the difference between relationship conflict and task conflict. Relationship conflict is when team members argue on a personal level, which only leads to tension and animosity. Task conflict is when team members express differences of opinion that relate only to work tasks. Past research has shown that task conflict may sometimes be beneficial and sometimes be detrimental to team performance.
So what determines when task conflict is productive? According to this study, it is the presence of something called psychological safety climate. The authors explain that safety climate occurs when team members are not afraid to speak up and offer dissenting opinions that challenge the status quo. If people believe that they will be attacked for expressing alternative viewpoints, the climate is said to have low psychological safety. In this case, the team could be in danger of groupthink, which is when reluctance to speak up leads to poor or catastrophic team decision making.
The authors found that under a psychologically safe climate, task conflict leads to better team performance. This is because team members feel secure with discussing differing viewpoints and they understand that these opinions are strictly related to the work at hand. Under these circumstances, the team will produce more ideas and engage in healthy debate to arrive at the best solution. When psychological safety is low, team members may interpret any type of dissent as personal and threatening, even when it is task related.
This study highlights the importance of maintaining a work environment that encourages people to speak up and does not punish people for offering alternative opinions. When this happens, conflict related to work tasks will become a conduit for improving team performance and not a potential pitfall.
human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management
A Bad Boss Can Ruin Your Marriage
Topic: Conflict, Stress, Work-Life Balance, Workplace Deviance
Publication: Personnel Psychology
Article: The Fallout from Abusive Supervision: An Examination of Subordinates and Their Partners
Authors: Carson, D. S., Ferguson, M., Perrewé, P. L., & Whitten, D.
Reviewed By: Katie Bachman
Maybe this can be filed in the “Well, Duh” folder, but new research has shown that bad bosses can mess up your relationships at home. “What?,” you say, “stress from work means that I’m not my best at home?!” Yeah. If you are one of the unfortunate people to have an emotionally abusive supervisor (one that gets mad at you for no reason, belittles you in front of people, etc.), you can end up taking that stress home with you in the form of work-family conflict. To make matters worse, that conflict that you’re experiencing affects your spouse or significant other and makes them tense. Then, the snowball gets a little speed from your partner’s tension by affecting important family outcomes (like staying together). Bottom line: an abusive supervisor isn’t just a pain at work for you – you end up taking that negativity home with you, which hurts your family.
Bad bosses exist, so is there anything we, the supervised, can do about it? The authors of this article say that organizations and human resource departments should do what they can to stamp out abusive supervision (easy-peasy, right?). Beyond that, on the front lines, I think the best you can do is try to keep work and home stress separated. There’s no quick fix for this problem, but maybe just knowing that bad supervision spills over into your family’s lives can help you keep from passing on the bad mojo.
Keep Cool: The Effectiveness of Avoiding Anger and Maintaining Poise in Negotiations
Topic: Conflict, Emotional Intelligence, Human Resource Management
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (SEP 2011)
Article: Hot or Cold: Is Communicating Anger or Threats More Effective in Negotiation?
Authors: Sinaceur, M., Van Kleef, G. A., Neale, M. A., Adam, H., & Haag, C.
Reviewed By: Thaddeus Rada
Although there are few certainties in organizational life, the presence of conflict is one facet of organizational dynamics that is virtually guaranteed to occur from time to time. When conflict does occur, there is likely to be a negotiation process between the parties involved to resolve it, and as part of this negotiation process, two things that may be communicated are anger or threats. Although these communication strategies are similar, there are some key differences between them that may impact their effectiveness in negotiations. A new paper by Marwan Sinaceur and colleagues explores these differences.
After an initial pilot study, the authors conducted three experiments to assess the effectiveness of conveying anger or threats in negotiations. Among the authors’ hypotheses, they suggested that threats (i.e. “If you do not submit your report by Friday, there will be x consequence”) would be more effective than anger at obtaining concessions in negotiations, and that threat would be mediated by poise. The authors note that anger is more emotion-based, while threats are more calculated and emotionally-neutral. This relates to the hypothesis of poise mediating the threat-concessions relationship: the authors believe that the calmer, relatively controlled nature that may characterize the communication of threats may be viewed more favorably than a more dramatic, emotional communication of anger.
Results of the experiments supported the authors’ hypotheses. The main practical implication of these findings is that it is beneficial to be rational and focus on the problem itself in negotiations, as opposed to being emotionally involved and focusing on the other participant personally. By conjunction, organizational training programs that cover conflict resolution, and even informal instruction from managers to employees, might emphasize the importance of communicating rational threats, instead of anger, when confronted with conflict and disagreements in the workplace.
human resource management,organizational industrial psychology, organizational management
Fighting Bullies Beyond the Schoolyard: Bullying in the Workplace as a Competition for Resources
Topic: Conflict, Work Environment, Workplace Deviance
Publication: Business Horizons
Article: Eating their cake and everyone else’s cake, too: Resources as the main ingredient to work place bullying
Authors: A.R. Wheeler, J.R.B. Halbesleben, and K. Shanine
Reviewed By: Allison B. Siminovsky
It is a basic tenet of economics that there are limited resources for infinite demand, and the workplace is no exception to this rule. Resources in the organizational context are thoworkse things that workers need in order to perform their jobs–social relationships, job-skill set match, and a positive environment in which to work among them. In order to attain these resources, workers sometimes act in a counterproductive manner, psychologically or physically abusing those co-workers that seem to have the resources in their possession. This behavior is also known as bullying, and it is a serious problem facing organizations the world over.
This article not only asserts the belief that organizational policies on bullying should be proactive, preventing maltreatment from occurring in the first place, but that such policies should focus on environmental causes of bullying rather than personal qualities. That is, the authors assert that being a bully is not a disposition of one’s personality, but rather a defensive response to an unsupportive work environment. If the bullying begins as a means to attain and protect one’s resources, then companies can prevent bullying by reinforcing their environments against such activity. This can include better designing jobs so that available resources match job requirements and implementing zero-tolerance policies for bullying behavior.
Equality Versus Differentiation: Why Your Boss Shouldn’t Always Have the Stage
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (NOV 2010)
Article: Equality versus Differentiation: The Effects of Power Dispersion on Group Interaction
Authors: L.L. Greer, and G.A. van Kleef
Reviewed by: Holly Engler
It should be no surprise that power can shape an individual’s behavior. Just think about politics, past employers, or even your parents. The dispersion of such power may also shape behavior. Current research proposes that there are important relationships among power, power dispersion, and conflict resolution.
Power refers to an individual’s capacity to modify others’ states (e.g., emotions, behaviors). Not surprisingly, in organizational settings, power is most common amongst top management employees. For jobs such as factory line workers or retail associates, employees generally experience low power as they are not as likely to be able to influence others’ and thus organizational decisions. The dispersion of power, on the other hand, refers to the differences in the concentration of group members. Where there is high dispersion, one person is likely to influence the group; where there is low dispersion, power is equal among group members.
Research conducted by Greer and van Kleef suggests that this knowledge of power may have an effect on conflict resolution in the workplace.
Who Leads Diverse Teams to Less (More) Conflict?
Topic: Conflict, Diversity, Teams
Publication: Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (JAN 2011)
Article: When team members’ values differ: The moderating role of team leadership
Authors: K.J. Klein, A.P., Knight, J.C. Ziegert, B.C., Lim, and J.L., Saltz
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger
The necessity of team-based work coupled with an increasingly diverse workforce makes team-based conflict not only possible, but likely. A key question is what happens in teams when team members differ in their fundamental values. Since individuals’ values shape their behaviors and beliefs about how others should behave (at work), value diversity among team members can be a bomb just waiting to explode.
In theory, if team members hold very different beliefs and expectations about how they and others should behave, team conflict is likely to arise making vital team processes such as decision making and collaboration very difficult. Ultimately, this can damage a team’s performance. However, as Klein et al. (2011) find, the leadership style of team leaders plays an important role in determining how value diversity impacts team conflict. More specifically, leaders with a task-focused leadership style (focus on defining roles and tasks and maintaining formal work standards) restrict the expression of team members’ values that can potentially cause team conflict while leaders with a person-focused leadership style (focus on expressing concern for each team member) exacerbate this problem.
In their study, teams high in value diversity (e.g., team members differ in their views about work ethic) experienced more conflict when leaders did not use a task-focused leadership style.
Task Conflict, Team Creativity and…Goldilocks?
Topic: Conflict, Creativity
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (AUG 2010)
Article: Task conflict and team creativity: A question of how much and when
Authors: Farh, J. L., Lee, C., & Farh, C. I.
Reviewed By: Bobby Bullock
The concept of team creativity has become more and more salient in recent years due to an increasing reliance on teams to enhance an organization’s competitiveness. Team creativity is defined as the creation of new and helpful ideas concerning services, procedures, products, and processes by a team of individuals. So while, yes, we all want our teams to be creative, what environmental factors will encourage this?
Searching for such factors, Farh, Lee, and Farh (2010) set out to examine the roles that task conflict (or conflict about policies, procedures, decisions, interpretation of facts, and the distribution of resources) and the phase of a project team’s lifecycle (i.e., team formation, mid-point, and project deadline) have in determining team creativity.
Consistent with previous findings, Farh et al. (2010) found that there is a curvilinear relationship between task conflict and team creativity, meaning that when task conflict was extremely low or extremely high, team creativity was at its lowest, and moderate amounts of task conflict were linked with the highest amounts of team creativity. This supports the ‘Goldilocksian’ idea that too much disagreement and team members may become frustrated or lose sight of the group’s main goal, while too little disagreement could lead to groupthink and complacency. However, ‘just the right’ amount of disagreement can expose members to new ideas and stimulate divergent thinking!
Farh et al. (2010) also found that project team lifecycle interacted with task conflict to produce creative outcomes. Their findings indicate that the curvilinear relationship was only present at the early phase of a team’s lifecycle. This means that, as project teams near their deadline, task conflict will cease to produce creative solutions. They theorized that this is due to a team’s inability to change course or incorporate new ideas when they are nearing their deadlines.
The implications to this research are valuable for any organization that wishes to get the most from their project teams:
- Managers or team leaders should not discourage conflict based on ideas, decisions, etc… In fact, if they encourage some level of task conflict, they can expect their teams to come up with more creative solutions through the dissemination of more ideas and divergent thinking.
- Task conflict should be embraced particularly at the early phases of a team project, when members are defining/refining objectives and planning a course of to attain those objectives.
- According to Farh et al. (2010), managers should also “build a psychologically safe team climate early on in the project, so that team members feel safe to bring up ideas that may be counter to the majority opinion,” (pp. 6-7).
With all this said, it’s important for managers to keep in mind that too much task conflict and too many arguments can shift a team towards relationship conflicts, frustration and lack of productivity! Just like that old story with the blond girl, the three bears and the porridge!
The Dissolution of Alliances: It’s Business, But It’s Also Social
Publication: Academy of Management Journal
Article: Built to last but falling apart: Cohesion, friction, and withdrawl from interfirm alliances
Authors: H. R. Greve, J. A. C. Baum, H. Mitsuhashi, & T. J. Rowley
Reviewed By: Katie Bachman
Forming alliances between organizations is all well and good when the groups have a cohesive vision and sunny prospects, but sometimes the more interesting question is: how do alliances dissolve and why? In a study of transoceanic shipping companies, researchers assess these questions. Transoceanic shipping is an interesting situation in itself because firms often team up with others to share shipping routes. Multiple firms operate ships on the same route and single ships may carry cargo from multiple firms. Hence, there’s a lot of overlap and interdependence among allied firms.
If you’re reading this post, then you’re probably not bobbing around at sea, but bear with me because the reasons for which alliances disband is applicable in many realms.
Before talking about the factors that lead to the dissolution of alliances, let’s talk about how alliances are formed. Organizations see an opportunity to cut costs by sharing the burden of operating multiple vessels along one route. Thus, those firms can increase their presence in other markets because the ships are not all tied to a particular route.