Mindfulness in the Workplace
One of the newest concepts that people are talking about (at least here in Colorado) is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state in which you pay attention to the present without making judgments, negative or positive, about the feelings or thoughts you have. You’ve probably heard of it, and maybe you’re a little bit skeptical. Very few studies are out there that investigate mindfulness in the workplace, but a team of researchers in the Netherlands, led by Ute Hülsheger, recently set out to determine the benefits of mindfulness at work.
Hülsheger and her colleagues studied workers in service industries, because these fields tend to demand that employees fake their emotions at work; in I/O psychology, we call this surface acting. For example, an employee might be really angry with a rude customer, but in a customer service role she must surface act, hiding her true feelings and pretending to be happy.
Through two studies, the researchers found that people vary both in how mindful they are at any given time (state mindfulness), as well as how mindful they are overall (trait mindfulness). The level of mindfulness also predicted job satisfaction and emotional exhaustion, with higher levels of mindfulness resulting in greater job satisfaction and less emotional exhaustion. In addition, mindfulness training reduced the need to fake positive emotions, causing job satisfaction to increase and emotional exhaustion to decrease.
These results imply that mindfulness training can be beneficial in your organization, especially in service industries. People can be taught to be mindful, improving job satisfaction and reducing emotional exhaustion.
Survey Nonresponse and Job Satisfaction
Using surveys to assess the job satisfaction of employees is widely understood to be a vital part of successful management and employee retention. However, not all employees respond to these surveys. Gauging the job satisfaction of employees who don’t respond to a survey is at least as important as gauging the satisfaction of those who do respond. But how can survey nonresponse be accurately assessed? A recent study conducted by Fauth and his colleagues aimed to answer this question.
In this study, job satisfaction scores were combined by work group. The researchers then correlated that to the responses of four different groups. Group-level job satisfaction was significantly connected to response rates for the groups. In other words, more satisfied workers were more likely to respond to employee satisfaction surveys. Those in smaller groups were also more likely to respond.
In plain language, this means that when you interpret the results from your employee opinion surveys, you should consider the response rates. Lower response rates may indicate unsatisfied employees. Also, be wary of comparing the job satisfaction results for two different groups, if the groups have different response rates. Try to increase the response rates by stressing that positive changes can result from employees taking the survey and emphasizing that you value the results whether they are positive or negative.
The Connection Between Self-Esteem and Job Satisfaction
Previous research (e.g., Chang, Ferris, Johnson, Rosen, & Tan, 2012) has shown that core self-evaluation – an umbrella term that includes self-esteem, self-efficacy, locus of control, and emotional stability – predicts job satisfaction. Simply put, if an employee thinks highly of herself, she tends to be satisfied with her job. Furthermore, these investigators found that if an employee feels good about herself and has success at work, she is even more satisfied with her job.
In contrast, if an employee feels bad about herself and has failures at work, she thinks even less of her job. This is important for employers to be aware of as failures at work could have much more negative impact on those employees with lower self-esteem or confidence. In addition, how the manager responds to the failure may further exacerbate the issue (“How could you do such a thing?!”), or start to turn things around (“Learning is an important part of development, so let’s see what we learned and what we need to do to get this right next time”). The right type of intervention may be a means of improving job satisfaction, and ultimately job performance.
Data were collected from two samples: 137 matched pairs of employees and their immediate supervisors as well as 227 participants recruited via StudyResponse, a nonprofit service that matches researchers to participants.
Fake Smile at Work? How you do it may determine your job satisfaction
Have you ever given a fake smile to someone at work even though you weren’t feeling happy or very excited to see him? If so, you’ve engaged in a process known as emotional labor in which you manage your emotions in order to act in an appropriate way in a work setting. Maybe you wouldn’t go to such efforts when around friends and family, instead feeling free to express the emotions you actually feel. In a work setting though, it may not be best to show your irritation about missing lunch to your brand new client.
Previous research has divided emotional labor into two categories: surface acting and deep acting. Surface acting refers to expressing the emotion that the situation requires even though it may not be the emotion that you are feeling. For example, you may need to smile and be cheerful when greeting a client even though you feel neither happy nor cheerful. Deep acting also refers to expressing the emotion that the situation requires, but instead of merely faking it, you try to generate the required emotions by thinking of historical events or associations. For example, you may need to smile and be cheerful when greeting a client, and even though you’re feeling tired and grumpy, you generate happiness and cheer by thinking of positive associations or of things that make you happy.
Through a literature review of over 116 samples, the results of this investigation indicate that the type of emotional strategy utilized – surface or deep – affects job performance. Specifically, those who use a surface-emotional-labor strategy are less satisfied with their job and more stressed and exhausted, while those who use a deep-emotional-labor strategy are more satisfied, less stressed, and perform their job better. In explaining this finding, the authors believe that surface emotional strategies have worse affects on job performance because they require more effort in order to overcome the cognitive dissonance between an emotion felt and an emotion expressed. Though this result is important for the job performance of anyone with a client-facing role, it is particularly important for those in the service industry in which customer satisfaction is key.
Assessing idiosyncratic deals (IO Psychology)
When people are being hired or negotiating the terms of their employment, they often make idiosyncratic deals, also known as i-deals. I-deals are informal, nonstandard agreements between the employee and the employer that lead to beneficial outcomes for both parties. For example, they might negotiate compensation or work hours.
In a recent series of studies, Christopher Rosen and his colleagues set out to determine what exactly i-deals are, develop a measure of i-deals, and then establish that measure’s validity.
According to the authors, i-deals have four distinguishing characteristics. They are individually negotiated, heterogeneous (in other words, they’re not the same for everyone), mutually beneficial, and vary in scope. The authors proposed four main dimensions of i-deals: schedule flexibility, location flexibility, financial incentives, and task and work responsibilities. They then developed a measure that can be used to assess to what extent an employee reports negotiating i-deals.
Using the measure that they developed, the authors found that employees with better exchange relationships with their supervisors or who have more political skill are more likely to negotiate i-deals. Schedule flexibility i-deals and task and work responsibilities i-deals were positively related to job commitment and job satisfaction.
As a result of this work, we have a reliable and valid measure to assess i-deals. In addition, we now better understand what i-deals are, what may influence their occurrence, and what they may lead to. I-deals are related to employee satisfaction and commitment, so they are an important part of the negotiation process with employees.
Talkin’ ‘bout my generation: Does it affect work-related attitudes?
Topic: Job Attitudes, Organizational Commitment, Job Satisfaction, Turnover
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (in press)
Article: Generational differences in work-related attitudes: A Meta-analysis
Authors: D. P. Costanza, J. M. Badger, R. L. Fraswer, J. B. Severt, & P. A. Gade
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin
Do generational differences predict work-related attitudes, like job satisfaction and commitment? Although many organizations base training programs and interventions on the belief that there are generational differences, research has found mixed results. David Costanza and his colleagues recently conducted a meta-analysis using the available research findings to determine if there really are generational differences in work-related attitudes.
Contrary to popular belief, there were not meaningful differences in work-related attitudes (like job satisfaction or organizational commitment) due to the generation of the worker. Older workers were slightly more satisfied than younger workers, but this result was likely due to the difference in age or tenure of the employees and not due to generational differences. Also, older workers were less likely to leave their jobs; but again, this result is best explained by factors other than generational differences.
So what’s the takeaway message from this meta-analysis? Don’t just assume that there are generational differences that you have to deal with. The research doesn’t support the idea that workers’ attitudes are affected by their generation, so before implementing any interventions or programs based on mitigating generational differences, conduct a needs assessment of your employees. Find out if there are any differences that need to be addressed before just assuming that you need to develop an intervention.
Costanza, D. P., Badger, J. M., Fraser, R. L., Severt, J. B., & Gade, P. A. (in press). Generational differences in work-related attitudes: A meta-analysis. Journal of Business and Psychology. doi: 10.1007/s10869-012-9259-4
human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management
EMPOWERMENT Is Everything! What Does It Take? (IO Psychology)
Topic: Job Satisfaction, Organizational Commitment, Performance
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (SEP/OCT, 2011)
Article: Antecedents and Consequences of Psychological and Team Empowerment in
Organizations: A Meta-Analytic Review
Authors: Scott E. Seibert, Gang Wang, and Stephen H. Courtright
Reviewed By: Mary Alice Crowe-Taylor, Ph.D.
Are you a manager or an HR professional who thinks that your workplace is a pretty good place to work for your employees? Think that your employees are empowered? Well, see how well your organization measure up against 30 years of research into what empowerment looks like!
This study combined over 150 samples of adult workers in organizational settings. It looked at the key factors needed for employees to be intrinsically motivated to perform their jobs well; that is, to be empowered. Needless to say, it indicates some key organizational conditions needed as well as other great outcomes (correlates) of empowerment in addition to better performance.
First, organizations that utilize high-performance managerial practices (like open information sharing; decentralization; participative decision-making; extensive training; contingent compensation) are on the right track to empower their employees. Those companies that provide material, social and psychological support for employees also are. When positive, trustworthy leaders who coach well and provide effective feedback are in charge, and the work is well-designed, the company also empowers!
What about the employees themselves? Empowered employees had more positive self-evaluations; they felt better about themselves. They felt that they were worthy, competent and capable at work. It didn’t matter whether they were male or female; had a certain level of education, or length of tenure, or a certain job level.
What about the great outcomes? Well, when employees felt empowered, not only did they perform better, they were more innovative. They also reported greater job satisfaction, greater organizational commitment and performed more organizational citizenship behaviors. They also felt less job strain and were less likely to leave their organizations.
This research also showed that empowerment works for teams in the same ways! That is, teams managed with high-performance systems, in a supportive manner with positive leadership and well-designed work, reported greater team performance.
To see an integrated model, based on 30 years of theory and research, that lists the antecedent conditions and the solid outcomes of empowerment, pull up this article and make it your wallpaper! Be positive and empower your employees if you’re not already! You won’t regret it, and your organization will be both more effective and more innovative. In today’s business world, empowerment is a must!
Seibert, S.E., Wang, G., and Courtright, S.H. (2011). Antecedents and Consequences of Psychological and Team Empowerment in Organizations: A Meta-Analytic Review. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(5), 981-1003.
human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management
If you’re trying to cut costs, don’t cut the engagement survey
Topic: Engagement, Job Satisfaction, Surveys
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (JUN 2011)
Article: Measuring employee engagement during a financial downturn: Business imperative or nuisance?
Authors: Van Rooy, D. L., Whitman, D. S., Hart, D., & Caleo, S.
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin
In these difficult economic times, organizations have been forced to cut costs. One way in which organizations are saving money is by reducing the use of employee surveys, but Van Rooy et al. (2011) contend that these surveys are valuable and should not be cut. The authors argue that measuring engagement is important because engagement has been shown to be related to many important business outcomes, such as turnover, efficiency, and performance. By researching engagement, an organization can better protect its current talent and prepare itself to attract talent that may leave other organizations.
The authors provide advice for practitioners who want to measure engagement but are looking to save money. Re-administering a survey without making changes from the previous administration will reduce costs, though it will present challenges if edits need to be made. Items should be directly actionable, so that responses to the items can be used to make real changes.
Do HRM Practices Lead to Satisfaction? Depends on Employee Entitlement
Topic: Fairness, Strategic HR, Job Satisfaction
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (MAR 2011)
Article: Trait Entitlement and Perceived Favorability of Human Resource Management Practices in the Prediction of Job Satisfaction
Authors: Z. S. Byrne, B. K. Miller, V. E. Pitts
Reviewed By: Lauren A. Wood
The use of human resource management (HRM) practices has gained popularity within organizations due to their perceived success as a competitive advantage for attracting and retaining the most qualified individuals. Past research suggests that job satisfaction is a key outcome in this relationship. Specifically, favorable perceptions of the organization’s HRM practices tend to increase employee perceptions of job satisfaction.
However, this statement should not be used to blanket all employees—job satisfaction theories suggest that an employee’s perceptions of job satisfaction results from an appraisal of what others are receiving from the company vs. what he or she is getting from the company. Here, an individual difference in equity sensitivity may come into play. Equity sensitivity concerns the degree to which people vary on their level of entitlement in the workplace (benevolent or having a lower need for rewards compared to coworkers, equity sensitive or desiring an equal amount of rewards, entitled or preferring more awards than coworkers). The authors of the current study suggest that the favorability of HRM practices—job satisfaction relationship will be moderated by each employee’s degree of entitlement.
Does Being Proactive in Your Job Positively Relate to Your Performance, Satisfaction, and Commitment? Yes, Yes, and Yes!
Topic: Job Performance, Organizational Commitment
Publication: Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology (JUNE 2010)
Article:Employee proactivity in organizations: A comparative meta-analysis of emergent proactive constructs
Authors: Jeffrey P. Thomas, Daniel S. Whitman, and Chockalingam Viswesvaran
Reviewed by: Mary Alice Crowe-Taylor
Given the dynamic nature of the work environment, being proactive has become necessary for today’s leaders and managers. What does that mean? More specifically, what is Employee Proactivity and what does it lead to? Measuring Employee Proactivity has varied from measuring “proactive personality”, which is considered a steady, natural propensity to direct or control circumstances and dynamically provoke change, to measuring “voice” which measures the tendency to constructively discuss change. Two other ways of measuring it are the self-explanatory variables “personal initiative” and “taking charge”.
In this study, using meta-analysis, these authors analyzed 103 data sets totaling 32,967 participants and empirically determined the relationships between these types of measures of Employee Proactivity and job performance, job satisfaction, organizational commitment as well as: “the big five” personality traits; social networking ability; work experience; age; and general mental ability.
Whew! What a lot of variables! Well, the good news is that the authors were very comprehensive and exacting in their analysis. Employee Proactivity, measured as “proactive personality”, ”taking personal initiative” and “taking charge”, positively correlated with both subjective and objective job performance.