Organizational Attachment: An Outcome of Social Satisfaction and Relationships
Previous studies on organizational attachment have looked at the role of positive relationships on the attitudes of employees. But, for the most part, they have ignored the impact negative relationships can have.
To examine the influence of negative relationships, authors Venkataramani, Labianca, & Grosser (2012) conducted a study on employees in a midsize manufacturing company and a product development firm.
In these samples, they found that both negative and positive connections impact workplace relationship satisfaction. This level of satisfaction, in turn, influenced employee feelings of attachment to the organization. The article also found that positive networks became increasingly important to worker satisfaction when negative relationships were more central.
The relationships found in this study existed regardless of the employee’s age, gender, part-time or full-time status, education, ethnicity, years worked at the company, location, or number of required work ties. Additionally, the emotions employees often experienced did not affect the findings in the study, and neither did whether or not a leadership position was held.
To maintain employee satisfaction, the study suggests that companies should encourage positive employee relationships and lessen negative ones. Doing so can ensure that employees will stick around, as satisfaction leads to higher job satisfaction and feelings of commitment.
To aid employee satisfaction, the authors suggest managers should:
- Support informal get-togethers among co-workers.
- Proactively resolve employee differences early on to decrease the occurrence of negative exchanges in workgroups.
- Form a climate of open communication to promote trust and relationship building.
- Adjust the workflow and communication arrangements in workgroups so that workers with negative relationships do not work together.
The authors also propose ways for employees to increase their own satisfaction levels:
- Work on fostering positive connections as opposed to socially withdrawing when negative relationships exist.
- Stop negative relationships when they begin to form, and before they affect promotion and other growth-related opportunities.
- Use negative relationships as feedback to bring about personal change.
How Power Distance Agreement Improves Performance in the Workplace
Research in I-O psychology suggests that, when leaders and their employees share similar attitudes about how work should be done, it creates positive outcomes in the workplace.
A recent study by Cole, Carter, and Zhang (2013) has found that agreement on the appropriate amount of power distance– the disparity in control between employees and their supervisors– can play an especially significant role in workplace harmony, leading to improved performance.
When people expect leaders to assume complete authority and make all decisions, the company’s culture is said to be high on the power distance index. When those leaders are expected to make decisions democratically, using employee input, and employees are assumed to be on equal footing, the culture is said to be low on the power distance index.
As part of the study, researchers examined the extent to which leaders and their employees agreed on power distance expectations. When this agreement was higher, two positive outcomes were usually found: Team performance improved, as did organizational citizen behaviors (when employees go beyond their formal job descriptions to benefit the organization).
But why did this happen? The authors found that, when leaders and employees had similar expectations regarding power distance, there was agreement as to who should be making the decisions. For example, when high power distance was expected, all parties agreed that the leader should be making decisions unilaterally.
This type of agreement leads to a perception of procedural justice, or the feeling that employees are being treated fairly. In our example, the employees do not expect to make decisions, and perceive it as fair when they are not asked to do so. Procedural justice was ultimately associated with higher job performance and organizational citizenship behaviors.
The authors concluded that organizations should find ways to discover the power distance expectations of leaders and their employees. When agreement is low, the organization can then take steps to help correct the mismatch and train leaders to better suit their followers. Ultimately, this knowledge of team members’ preferences can be an important step towards improving overall team performance.
Problem Solving at Work: It’s Not What You Know, but WHO You Know
When it comes to problem solving at work, it doesn’t necessarily matter what you know as much as who you know.
Employees who work directly with products or customers have first-hand experience with some of their company’s biggest issues. But many don’t have the influence or resources to solve those problems without assistance from organizational leaders. Who they turn to for help is often more about their relationships with the various leaders than on the person’s position, or company protocol.
A recent study examined the role supervisors have on problem solving at work, both within and between organizations. The authors found that employees who have strong relationships with their direct supervisor feel more comfortable communicating issues with them, which ultimately promotes positive organizational change.
The study also found that the strength of workplace communication depends on how close the employee’s direct supervisor is with his or her boss. If employees are comfortable with their direct supervisor, but perceive the supervisor’s relationship with their boss as weak, they tend to share less with their supervisor, because they don’t believe them to have the influence needed to initiate meaningful organizational changes.
Perhaps more surprisingly, the study found that, with the flattening of organizational hierarchies, more employees are comfortable with going to their boss’s boss in order to get things done, especially if the employee’s relationship with their direct supervisor was poor.
In other words, the opportunity to communicate with more than one level of leadership within an organization gives employees a better chance to solve critical problems. Why is this important?
For frontline employees: Your position within a company and the relationships you make are valuable to the organization’s ultimate success. You can utilize your relationships– not only with your supervisor, but also your supervisor’s boss if necessary– in order to get important problems solved.
For first-level supervisors: You need to build strong relationships with both your subordinates and your own supervisor in order to properly manage your leadership resources.
For second level supervisors: Having a strong relationship with the supervisors you manage will enable employees to trust their ability to solve problems. But if employees are continually coming to you instead of their direct supervisor with their issues, it may indicate problems with that supervisor’s management style.
Long story short, better relationships build better, stronger organizations. So start investing in those you work with to solve workplace problems more efficiently and effectively.
An Easy Recipe for Improving Team Performance on Creative Tasks
Leaders and I-O Psychologists are always trying to discover new ways to improve team performance. New research by Ellis, Mai, and Chrisitan (2013), has found an interesting new way to do this for creative tasks. When team members have different approaches to achieving goals, team performance may improve.
This research is rooted in goal setting theory (Locke & Latham, 1990), which asserts that people who set specific and challenging goals will outperform people who merely “try their best”. Results of the current study also support this classic I-O Psychology theory, but in this case, the researchers went one step further. They also analyzed teams which had two members who set specific, challenging goals, and two other members who were trying their best.
What happened? When the teams were asked to perform creative tasks, these mixed teams outperformed everybody. When the teams performed routine tasks, the mixed teams were not very effective. The authors explain that creative work is best accomplished when team members are able to build on top of each other’s ideas. When one team member has a novel suggestion, someone else will have to “reframe” the idea and offer a practical way of applying it to the problem at hand. This process is easiest to do when team members are approaching problems differently, which is the case when they are using different approaches to achieve goals. When work is more routine, team members will not benefit from having different approaches.
This research is practically important because it provides an easy recipe for improving team performance on creative tasks. Although creativity is naturally strengthened through diversity, the “diversity of perspective” that is suggested here may work better than “social category diversity”, which the authors note can unfortunately sometimes lead to negative outcomes.
Diversity Cues on Recruitment Websites: How to Stand Out to Jobseekers
In a complex and competitive business world, many organizations seek to recruit a diverse workforce. This diverse workforce is often sought through the use of the Internet, as most modern day jobseekers turn to company websites to learn about organizations and their opportunities. But with so many websites available to jobseekers, how can an organization present itself online in order to make sure minority individuals remember it?
So far, research has shown that individuals who thoroughly evaluate information presented to them will have strong attitudes that can be predictive of behavior. In recruiting, the content or attributes of the recruitment information (e.g., the attractiveness of a website) is related to how thoroughly an individual will process the information. In the case of a recruitment website, thorough information processing can be demonstrated through lengthier website viewing time, as well as the amount of website information recalled. Additionally, research has indicated that racial minorities will likely be more concerned with an organization’s diversity climate, or how accepting and inclusive an organization is of minorities.
In the study by Walker and colleagues, the researchers tried to understand how diversity cues on recruitment websites affect how Black and White viewers process the information presented. They found that diversity cues induced organizational attraction for Blacks; this attraction motivated them to evaluate the recruitment website further. Interestingly enough, diversity cues also lead White viewers to evaluate the website more, though this was not due to organizational attraction. More research is needed to clarify this finding. The presence of diversity cues also helped both Black and White website viewers to remember the recruitment information they viewed.
The findings suggest that adding images of diverse employees and diversity initiative information to recruitment websites may initiate more attentive information processing in both minority and non-minority jobseekers. More attentive information processing may help jobseekers to develop strong attitudes, and if jobseekers develop strong attitudes towards an organization they perceive as positive, then this could lead them to apply for openings.
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.
When Leaders Do Not Treat Employees Equally
New research by Tse, Lam, Lawrence, and Huang (2013) has discovered what happens when leaders have better relationships with some employees and worse relationships with others. The results are discouraging. When leaders do not treat employees equally, many problems arise, and ultimately job performance may suffer
When a leader forms relationships of different quality among their subordinates, coworkers are more likely to develop contempt for one another. When we think about coworkers who have better relationships with the leader than we do, we may want to “put down” those people, in order to fight off feelings of inferiority. When we consider coworkers who have worse relationships with the leader, we may think those people have been excluded due to a failing on their part. Perhaps they are unworthy and have not met group standards.
The authors also found that not all people react to these workplace disparities in the same ways. Some people, they say, feel the need to frequently compare themselves to others in order to reduce their own insecurities. People of this kind are more likely to compare themselves with coworkers, and therefore more likely to develop contempt in cases where their coworkers have different relationships with the leader.
What happens when these feelings of contempt develop? We tend to perceive that these other employees are not helping us as much at work. This feeling is associated with decreases in job performance.
This study shows the importance of treating all employees equally. Managers and leaders should try to develop positive relationships with all of their employees, or risk seeing a decline in job performance across their organization. When leaders maintain stronger relationships with some employees than with others, both groups are negatively affected. In other words, when some employees are treated unequally, nobody wins.
Idiosyncratic Deals: How work arrangements affect job performance
Typically, when an employee and an employer enter into a work agreement, the employee has pre-defined responsibilities. For instance, an employee must complete tasks a, b, and c during a specified time period in a specific location. A marketing manager, for example, must develop the company’s marketing strategy over two months, while working at an office in San Francisco. However, there are exceptions to this typical work arrangement. An employee may be assigned additional roles or tasks that make a flexible schedule or alternate work location more appropriate. Despite the fact that the employee was originally expected to work eight hours a day from the San Francisco office, the employer agrees to allow this employee to work from any location. These exceptions to employer-employee work arrangements are known as idiosyncratic deals or “i-deals.”
In response to receiving an i-deal, an employee usually is more emotionally committed to the job, and will go above and beyond in trying to help the company. Though this relationship between idiosyncratic deals and work outcomes is relatively well understood, what is less known is exactly why i-deals lead to positive work outcomes. Previous research indicated that part of the reason is due to social exchange theory. According to this theory, when an employee is granted an i-deal, they feel grateful and want to pay back the favor, which they do by performing at an even higher level, as a way of compensating their employer for the benefits they receive from the modified work arrangement. However, in shedding more light on the relationship between i-deals and job performance, the authors of this study found that, in addition to social exchange theory, self-enhancement theory offers another reason why idiosyncratic deals lead to positive work outcomes. According to this theory, when an employer grants an i-deal, the employee feels valued and important; thus, confidence is built and job performance improves. The authors found that this was a better explanation for why i-deals lead to positive work outcomes than the gratitude-based social exchange theory.
Selection Tests and Job Performance
Ideally, when we test prospective employees, we gather valuable information that will help us determine if a candidate is suitable for a given job. But that’s not all. We also create an impression in the candidate’s mind about our company, its culture, and its values. Research has found that candidates’ reactions to selection testing do affect their attitudes. For example, candidates may react anxiously or perceive unjust treatment. These reactions can influence a candidate’s view of an organization, as well as determine whether they would recommend it to others. New research (McCarthy, Van Iddekinge, Lievens, Kung, Sinar, & Campion, 2013) explores the possibility that selections tests could also be influencing subsequent job performance.
The authors conducted four different experiments in a variety of settings. They found that reactions to selection tests did relate to job performance. However, they go on to explain that this connection is nothing to be concerned about. Many of the same personal characteristics that influence reactions to testing also influence job performance, so we’d naturally expect a relationship between the two. Similarly, reactions to testing may also have an effect on test scores, and test scores themselves are (hopefully) related to job performance. Additionally, the major finding of the study was that candidate reactions to testing did not diminish the usefulness of selection tests. That is to say, it makes little difference if some candidates feel discouraged by the testing, while others feel elated. Either way, the selection test will have the same ability to predict performance fairly.
The authors caution that these findings should not give an organization the go-ahead to completely disregard a candidate’s attitude. It is logical to expect that many benefits occur when candidates feel they are treated fairly. A company’s reputation is, in part, determined by word of mouth, and a sense of fair play may result in favorable attitudes toward the organization that are subsequently communicated to others (Hausknecht, Day, & Thomas, 2004).
This study is important, because it demonstrates that organizations need not make positive or negative feelings of candidates a primary objective when designing selection tests. Simply build a fair test that follows best practices. No matter how the candidates feel, we can be confident that a properly designed selection test is gathering the valuable information needed to hire the right employee for the job.
Relationship Between Situational Demands and Job Performance
When attending a dinner party, you would not show up an hour late, remark that the food was cold, and blithely inform the hostess that she appears to be carrying an extra 10-20 pounds since you last saw her. Well, most wouldn’t. Most people are aware of what is expected of them at a dinner party. At some point they learned the manners and etiquette required, and they perform accordingly. Most are able to learn the situational demands of different environments and apply them appropriately. So, how does this relate to job performance?
Jansen et al studied 67 men and 57 women. Participants were run through a process that mimicked the selection process for a new job. Organizational skills, consideration of others, persuasiveness, analytical skills, presentation skills, assertiveness, and creativity were measured. Afterwards, participants completed a situational assessment questionnaire.
The researchers found that performance during the simulated selection process was linked to a candidate’s ability to assess the situational demands of the process. In short, they knew what was expected of them. Those who didn’t do well often didn’t understand what behavior was needed of them, while those who excelled were able to accurately determine what was wanted. This suggests an under-examined element (i.e., the awareness of situational demands) that may come into play during the hiring process.
However, not only was the ability to gauge expectations and situational demands related to performance at a selection process for a new job, but it was also related to job performance at the candidate’s current employer. In short, poor job performance may be due to an employee’s inability to determine from normal context what exactly is expected of them.