Top 5 Most Popular Article Reviews – February & March 2014

For 2014, I/O at Work is trying something new. We will be listing our top 5 most popular article reviews by month. Since February was such a short month, we’ve combined it with March. Our list might surprise you so check it out and let us know what you think!


resistance-to-change5. How leaders may affect followers’ resistance to change
Does your organization go through change? I’d be willing to bet that it does, so you may be interested in what kind of impact leaders have on their followers’ intentions to resist organizational change. The authors of this study investigated how the traits, values, and behaviors of leaders explain their followers’ resistance intentions.


4. How Service Employees React to Mistreatment by Rude Customers
We’ve all seen employees in the service industry subjected to abusive behavior by rude customers. A new study by Ruodan Shao and Daniel P. Skarlicki finds that employees’ reactions to mistreatment by customers varies in individualistic and collectivistic cultures. It also suggests several solutions for dealing with the stress such rude treatment often causes.


3. How Positive Events Can Impact Work-Related Stress
Everyone knows that stress can cause health problems such as high blood pressure, depression, and exhaustion. But a new study found that positive events such as a compliment from a supervisor or achieving a work-related goal can go a long way toward improving employee health, suggesting that “positive intervention” can lead to less work-related stress.


2. Are You Promoting Work Engagement, or Workaholism?

There’s a fine line between work engagement and workaholism. The former can lead to positive, dedicated employees; the latter can lead to burnout, bad attitudes, and quitting. Youngkeun Choi examines the differences between the two, offering organizations guidance on encouraging work engagement and discouraging workaholism.


1. Taking Feedback to Heart: How To Find the Coaching In Criticism
All too often, we respond to constructive feedback defensively, getting hurt feelings over what we consider to be criticism of our performance. In their article, Find the Coaching in Criticism, authors Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone suggest six simple steps that can help you take feedback to heart without getting hurt, and instead using it to grow and improve as a person.

Are You Promoting Work Engagement, or Workaholism?

Publication: Social Behavior and Personality (November, 2013)
Article: The Differences Between Work Engagement and Workaholism, and Organizational Outcomes: An Integrative Model
Reviewed by: Mary Alice Crowe-Taylor, Ph.D.

All business organizations want their employees to be highly involved in their work (which is also known as Work Engagement), but not obsessive-compulsive about it (a.k.a. Workaholism).

Unchecked workaholism can eventually lead employees to burnout, inclinations to leave the company, and other behaviors that put good organizational citizenship at risk.

But how can organization leaders spot the difference between healthy and unhealthy levels of work engagement, and encourage employees towards the former? In “The Differences Between Work Engagement and Workaholism, and Organizational Outcomes: An Integrative Model,” author Youngkeun Choi offers some guidance.

Knowing The Difference

While at work, truly engaged employees tend to be positive, dedicated, and absorbed in their work (Schaufeli et al, 2002).

From previous research, we know that employees suffering from workaholism usually work excessively hard without finding any enjoyment in it. They tend to be perfectionists, distrusting of their coworkers, and often suffer from poorer mental and physical health.

Encouraging Work Engagement

So what can a business organization do to encourage healthy levels of Work Engagement?

The best solution is to provide job resources for its employees. In this article, Choi found that both social support from colleagues and supervisory coaching have a positive impact on Work Engagement, leading to employees who approach their jobs with more vigor, dedication and absorption.

To the organization’s benefit, employees with greater work engagement more often reported that they didn’t intend to quit, and that they were more likely to help others and be a good organizational citizen.

Discouraging Workaholism

What can an organization do to discourage Workaholism among its employees?

Perhaps not surprisingly, the solution is the same: Provide job resources. According to Choi’s research, when ample job resources were available, fewer characteristics of workaholism were reported, regardless of the demands of the job.

Choi concluded that providing resources such as performance feedback, supervisory coaching and colleagues’ support is the key to developing engaged workers who don’t fall into the trappings of becoming workaholics.

Top 5 Most Popular Article Reviews – January 2014

I/O at Work is trying something new for 2014. We will be listing our top 5 most popular article reviews by month. Take a look at the list and see if anything surprises you. We’re always open to feedback so if you find this top 5 format helpful please let us know!


Who-You-Know.700 5. Problem Solving at Work: It’s Not What You Know, but WHO You Know

Better relationships build better, stronger organizations. To start problem solving at work, invest in forming relationships with those you work with.


Abusive-Supervisor.7004. Consequences of Abusive Supervision

Schools have adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying. But what about bullying in the workplace? A new study on abusive supervision suggests that supervisor aggression can create emotional exhaustion among employees, ultimately leading to feedback avoidance.


Executive Coaching.700

3. What Does an Executive Coach Do? 7 Things You Should Know

There is a lot of buzz around the term “Executive Coach” so what does an executive coach do and what do you need to know before you hire one?


Emotional-Intelligence.3002. Managing Your Emotions: Four Simple Steps to Success

Everyone has negative thoughts and feelings from time to time. It’s how we process and deal with these emotions that define us. Read on to learn four easy practices that can help with managing your emotions and erasing obstacles in your path to success.


Burnout.7001. Can Personality Predict Burnout?  *Most Popular Review*

A new study suggests that certain personality traits may be able to predict manager burnout. Guess which ones they are.

How Power Distance Agreement Improves Performance in the Workplace

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology, November 2013
Article: Leader–Team Congruence in Power Distance Values and Team Effectiveness: The Mediating Role of Procedural Justice Climate
Reviewed by: Ben Sher

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.

Top 10 HR Stories 2013

I/O at Work has had a busy year bringing you the latest findings in I/O research and its applications in the HR world. Our writers have reviewed some of the most useful research articles enabling our readers to stay informed about new HR strategies and developments. Below is a list of our top 10 HR stories of the year in descending order. Check the list for important and useful information and let us know if you’re surprised by #1 .


10.  Are turnover rates and organizational performance related?



9. Further predictors of academic performance



8. Whistle While You Look For Work



7. Talking about my generation: Exploration of the impact of generation on motivation



6. Empowering Leaders vs. Directive Leaders: Which is more effective?



5. How to get Promoted: Lessons from the movie Office Space



4. Does a Job Furlough Affect Performance?



3. How to Become Indispensable



2. Leave a Penny, Take a Penny: Effective Giving



1. Dealing with Difficult Customers: address the problem, not the emotion



What’s Missing from the Research on Work-Family Balance?

Publication: Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice (April, 2011)
Article: How Work-Family Research Can Finally Have An Impact on Organizations
Reviewed by: Nupur Deshpande

Although research on work–family balance has continued to grow and develop in recent years, there is a notable gap between what we know and what actually gets implemented in the workplace. Initially it was a field that focused on women and minorities as they began to join the workforce; however, in the modern era, work-family research has gone through quite a bit of evolution. As companies began to offer work-family related perks in an effort by human resource management to make their companies more attractive to employees, work-family balance began to become a vital part of any discussion regarding benefits and productivity. The term family now holds many more meanings than it did before, and the phrase work-family balance is being replaced in many discussions with work-life balance, so as to include a broader spectrum of non-work and personal roles held by employees at various stages of personal, social, and professional development.

Unfortunately, a growing number of employers are reducing or eliminating some family friendly benefits. Generally, the first programs to go are flextime, elder care referral, and adoption assistance, as well as paid maternity leave. Research presents a compelling argument for why employers should continue to offer and enhance their work-family policies despite the economic downturn. Research indicates that these work-family balance oriented policies promote positive employee attitudes, such as Job Satisfaction and Organizational Commitment, and foster a continued supply of potential candidates, who stay with an organization and thus save the organization money due to low turnover, decreased absenteeism, and fewer accidents.
So, why are more and more employers turning away from family friendly policies? The article suggest that, in part, the fault lies with the type of research being done.

More work needs to be done examining the pivotal role technology plays in blurring work-family boundaries. Researchers must realize that policies do not affect everyone in the same way. In this era of globalization, researchers also need to focus more internationally, where work is very much an offshoot of the culture in which it resides. Additionally researchers should focus on discovering how employees cope with the burdens of managing limited resources, such as their time and energy, while attempting to achieve and maintain a healthy work-family balance.

In short, we need to speak more practically about what is working; why it is working; and what employees and companies can do — whether it’s policies that support working from home, various types of telework, flextime, maternity and paternity leave, or something new – to ensure that work-family balance creates a happy, productive employee, enabling companies to achieve their full potential.

Employee Behavior and Wearable Monitoring Devices

Publication: Harvard Business Review
Article: Wearables in the Workplace
Reviewed by: Megan Leasher

Is big brother watching you? Is he hiding in your clothes?

This article focuses on wearable computing and tracking devices that record the behaviors of employees. They both monitor and measure the speed of task completion, as well as any changes in the way tasks are completed. The goal of these wearable monitoring devices is to provide feedback on employee behaviors and task performance that can be used to better design work, improve the efficiency of task flow, and hold employees accountable to certain productivity standards.

The idea behind this research is not new, and was actually made very popular by Frederick Taylor’s time and motion studies a century ago. What is new is the technology now available for monitoring. In the modern era of technical sophistication, a human doesn’t have to observe employees’ actions. Instead, highly advanced wearable monitoring devices can easily scrutinize employee behavior and generate data for three kinds of analysis:

  1. Measurement of people’s work movements to track the speed of work tasks.
    When these wearable monitoring devices are used for productivity reasons, employees are generally annoyed by the feelings of “surveillance;” however, when they are used for safety and/or fatigue monitoring, employees find them much easier to accept.

  3. Analyzing time and motions needed to successfully complete a complicated process
    This type of monitoring can be used with groups to help employees collaborate better and work smarter, if not necessarily faster. Also, these are commonly used with pilots to improve communication and allow better interpretation of information in the cockpit.

  5. Data quantifying the physiological things inside of us: Monitoring things like heart rate and cognitive processing to understand health and or thought patterns.

It almost sounds like a psychological debate over mind versus body. Are we just fancy, mindless robots to be tweaked and refined for ultimate production outputs, or are we humans making critical judgments to accomplish the goals of our work, in the way we each best see fit? As a scientist, I find these devices fascinating and beneficial. But, as a human, I also find them somewhat intrusive and borderline invasive. My own polarization makes me wonder how they will be used and received in more organizations going forward.

Raise employee engagement with volunteerism

Publication: Personnel Psychology (2013)
Article: Win–win–win: The influence of company-sponsored volunteerism programs on employees, NGOs, and business units
Reviewed by: Scott Charles Sitrin

In this study, learn how strong volunteer programs are a win for the NGO, a win for the employee who volunteers, and a win for the company that sponsors the volunteerism. To measure the actual benefits or drawbacks of company-sponsored volunteerism programs, Caligiuri, Mencin, and Jiang gathered responses from employees, NGO managers, and line managers.

Here’s how each group benefits from volunteerism:

  • Employees, who were from a Fortune 500 company, indicated that corporate volunteerism provides fresh ideas and alternative perspectives they can use at work;
  • For the employee’s business, corporate volunteerism leads to increased employee engagement;
  • For the NGO, corporate volunteerism increases sustainability of the organization and leads to continued involvement by the employee even after volunteer assignment.

Additionally, the study found that some volunteer assignments are more valuable than other. A number of factors can increase the value of the volunteerism program. Volunteer program are valued more when they are international, when volunteers can use their professional skills while volunteering, when volunteers’ get to develop skills that will help in their regular work, when the volunteers believe their projects contribute meaningfully the NGO, and when there are concrete resources to sustain the volunteers’ projects.

Does your company offer volunteer programs? Have you participated? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Keeping Your Business Model Afloat Before It Goes Under Water

Publication: Harvard Business Review (Dec 2012)
Article: Surviving Disruption
Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

At some point in our lives we’ve all had that nagging worry of being replaced or displaced by someone younger, smarter, better looking, or more talented. Well, navigating the business world is much the same. You’ve got to be vigilant and constantly on the lookout for new products or services that come to market and threaten to steal your client base.

The best way to protect your organization from a typhoon that could be heading your way is to accurately assess the current state of your business environment, and compare the pros and cons of the goods or services you provide against those of potential threats or “disruptions” to your business. Disruptive innovations are those products that possess technological or business model advantages over their competitors. These advantages enable them to gain traction and maintain their industry status as they become more advanced and continue to gain market share.

Wessel and Christensen provide a basic framework through which you can accurately evaluate whether a threat is looming on your horizon, and if so, plan a strategic response accordingly. First off, identify the strengths of your disruptors’ business model, or their “extendable core.” What are your competitors doing really well that is allowing them to expand their market share and gain traction? Next, identify what your organization’s strengths or areas of competitive advantage are, and why consumers turn to your company to meet their needs. What aspects of your competitors’ “extendable core” may enable them to develop better products or offer better services, but in what strategic spheres might you still have a clear advantage? Finally, look to the future. What conditions could enable a looming disruptor to subsume your business and what circumstances might thwart or hinder its hostile takeover within your domain?

Consider online grocers, for example. Consumers love that they no longer have to drive to the store, search for their items, stand on long lines and drive all the way back home again. With one click of a button you can have everything you need brought straight to your door. At the same time though, your local supermarket or grocery store serves its purpose for last minutes runs to pick up ingredients for dinner. Also, there’s something about being able to squeeze your tomatoes before you buy them that online grocers will never be able to compete with. Online grocers certainly have a clear advantage when it comes to nonperishable, staple items that people stock up on. However, the necessary changes to their business model that would allow them to meet consumers’ last minute shopping needs would destroy their competitive advantage.

Hold on tight: How to prevent choking under pressure

Topic: Performance
Publication: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (2012)
Article: Preventing motor skill failure through hemisphere-specific priming: Cases from choking under pressure
Authors: Jürgen Beckmann, Peter Gröpel, and Felix Ehrlenspiel
Reviewed By: Scott Charles Sitrin, M.A.

Cropped_view_football_player_1In 2012, soccer players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – two of the best in the game – missed penalty kicks that would have sent their respective teams to the final of the UEFA Champions League.  To those unfamiliar with soccer, Messi and Ronaldo’s misses are akin to Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant missing an open layup.  If this analogy still falls short, let’s have coffee, and we’ll talk sports.  Anyway, in both instances, a penalty kick or a free throw is made more times than not, and the probability of success increases with the skill of the player.  So, in short, Messi and Ronaldo choked – they messed up when they should have succeeded.  Given that choking occurs in most every sport and the consequences can make or break a season – not to mention the team’s finances – Beckmann, Gröpel, and Ehrlenspiel discovered that a possible antidote is squeezing a ball or your left hand in order to stimulate a particular part of the brain.  In three experiments with soccer, tae kwon do, and badminton teams, athletes who squeezed their left hand, an action that stimulates the brain’s right hemisphere, performed better than a control group who did not.  Though helpful for athletes who perform sports that require precision, the authors caution that the results are likely not applicable to, for instance, runners and those who engage in stamina and strength-related sports.

Beckmann, J., Gröpel, P., & Ehrlenspiel, F. (2012, September 3). Preventing Motor Skill Failure Through Hemisphere-Specific Priming: Cases From Choking Under Pressure. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication.

human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management





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