Relax! You just had vacation! (IO Psychology)
Topic: Stress, Wellness
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (JUL 2012)
Article: Academics’ Experiences of a Respite From Work: Effects of Self-Critical Perfectionism and Perseverative Cognition on Postrespite Well-Being
Authors: Paul E. Flaxman, Julie Menard, Frank W. Bond, and Gail Kinman
Reviewed By: Isaac Sabat
For once, researchers and employees agree—it is absolutely necessary to take a vacation. If employees are not given breaks from work, they experience physical and mental fatigue, which puts them at risk for a variety of other more serious health problems. Vacations offer many important benefits to employees, such as the ability to recharge their batteries and increase their happiness. These effects have also been found to carry over into the subsequent work-weeks following vacations.
However, it has recently been found that not everybody is able to reap these same lingering benefits that vacations have to offer! If you are a self-critical perfectionist (i.e., somebody who sets overly high goals for him/herself and evaluates him/herself in an extremely critical manner), the data suggest that you will not properly enjoy your vacation. While self-critical perfectionists are able to relax and be as happy as non-perfectionists during the vacation period (possibly, because they are not engaged in activities that allow for self-criticism while on vacation), they almost immediately return to their pre-vacation stress-levels after returning to work!
Researchers found that this difference is caused by the tendency that many of these perfectionists share of ruminating about past errors and worrying about future errors. So, what does this mean for the self-critical perfectionists of the world? Well, they certainly shouldn’t worry about worrying too much. Researchers have proposed that the solution lies in mindfulness interventions that teach employees how to identify and reduce their anxiety-producing thoughts and stop repetitively worrying and ruminating about performance based tasks. As always, more research is needed to determine if these interventions could be effective.
Flaxman, P. E., Menard, J., Bond, F. W., & Kinman, G. (2012). Academics’ experiences of a respite from work: Effects of self-critical perfectionism and perseverative cognition on postrespite well-being. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97, 854-65.
human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management
Whistle While You Work: The Importance of Work Enjoyment for Managers (Human Resource Management)
Topic: Motivation, Performance, Wellness
Publication: Journal of Management (SEP 2012)
Article: Driven to Work and Enjoyment of Work: Effects on Managers’ Outcomes
Authors: Laura Graves, Marian Ruderman, Patricia Ohlott, & Todd Weber
Reviewed By: Thaddeus Rada
Work motivation, a topic that is relevant to almost all employees in almost every organization, is a common research area in IO psychology. Within the vast motivation literature, two types of motivation that have emerged in recent years are the driven to work and enjoyment of work motives. The driven to work motive is based on the feeling that a person should work (they feel compelled to), while the enjoyment of work motive emphasizes intrinsic motivation and personal enjoyment of the work itself. Recently, Graves and colleagues conducted a study to identify the role that these two types of motivation might have on managers’ performance, career satisfaction, and psychological strain.
Using a sample of over 300 managers, Graves and colleagues found that, while the driven to work motive did not seem to be substantially related to the outcomes in question, the enjoyment of work motive was related to the outcomes. Specifically, managers who reported higher levels of work enjoyment were also likely to have higher levels of job performance and career satisfaction, and lower levels of psychological strain, than managers who reported lower levels of work enjoyment.
Based on these results, it appears that the enjoyment of work motive is an effective and desirable motive to cultivate in managers. Fortunately, this motive may be emphasized in a variety of ways, including training, personnel selection, and through a company’s culture; doing so may result in a number of positive outcomes for managers (and, by conjunction, some positive outcomes for managers’ employees as well).
human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management
Thinking About Downsizing? Read This First!
Topic: Wellness, Work Environment
Publication: Human Resource Management (JAN 2011)
Article: The effects of downsizing on labor productivity, the value of showing consideration for employees’ morale and welfare in high-performance work systems
Authors: R.D. Iverson, C.D. Zatzick
Reviewed By: Rebecca Eckart
As economic conditions weaken, downsizing has become an increased reality for many organizations. Typically aimed at decreasing operational costs, often downsizing has the unintended consequence of also lowering employee productivity and morale.
To harness costs and increase efficiency, an increasing number of organizations are adopting High -Performance Work Systems (HPWS).These are typically defined by multiple separate but interconnected human resource practices aimed at increasing employee commitment, skills, and productivity. Examples include such practices as selective hiring, information sharing, job design, employee participation, and HR planning. HPWS center on encouraging and motivating employees to use their enhanced skills and knowledge to increase individual productivity and thus aid in the accomplishment of organizational goals.
HPWS are often a significantly large resource and cost expense for organizations, leading researchers to investigate HPWS in the context of downsizing. Iverson and Zatzick (2011) report that organizations with HPWS have lower levels of productivity following downsizing, but this relationship is more pronounced for those that give little consideration to employees’ morale and well-being during the process.
Go Ahead, Take That Vacation – It’s Good For You…and Your Company!
Topic: Burnout, Wellness, Work-Life Balance
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior (JAN 2011)
Article: How long do you benefit from vacation? A closer look at the fade-out of vacation effects
Authors: J. Kuhnel and S. Sonnentag
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger
We all look forward to vacations and other extended breaks from our hectic work schedules, and fortunately, the case is building for the importance of these hiatuses from work. Research suggests that because normal work demands drain our limited physical and mental resources, employees need sufficient time to recharge their batteries if they are to operate at full capacity on the job.
Research by Kuhnel and Sonnentag (2011) shows that vacation time can positively impact employees’ psychological well-being when they return to the job. In their study of German teachers, vacation time was favorably related to work engagement and burnout after returning to work. In other words, after returning from vacation, teachers tended to report high levels of work engagement and low levels of burnout. The benefits of vacation time, however, dropped off after about one month back on the job.
But why exactly do the benefits of vacations wear off over time? The authors found that job demands (e.g., student behavior problems, time pressures in this particular study) counteract the positive benefits of vacation time over time. Said another way, while vacations help us recharge our batteries, job demands begin to take their toll and drain our limited resources after some time back on the job. However, the authors found that experiencing leisure time following vacation helps preserve the positive effects of vacation on employee well-being.
Results such as these highlight the importance of taking vacation time.
When Mental Detachment from Work is a Must
Topic: Stress, Wellness, Work-Life Balance
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (AUG 2010)
Article: Staying well and engaged when demands are high: The role of psychological detachment
Authors: S. Sonnentag, C. Binnewies, and E.J. Mojza
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger
When we’re faced with high job demands at work, stress and emotional burnout often lurk right around the corner. Regardless of the potentially harmful effects of high job demands, they’re a reality for many of us. But before we throw up our hands in surrender when work piles up, there are buffers against the dreaded consequences of excessive job demands. One such buffer is known as psychological detachment, which is a fancy term for “leaving work at work” and devoting mental resources to non-work-related things while not on the clock.
In a recent study, Sonnentag et al. (2010) explored how psychological detachment helps employees stay healthy and engaged over time when job demands are high. The findings suggest that employees who do not detach themselves from work during non-work times experience increased emotional burnout over time (one year later in the study). High job demands also have detrimental effects on employees’ physical health and work engagement, but only for those who do not psychologically detach themselves from work. For employees who do “leave work at work”, high job demands do NOT appear to lead to lower work engagement, increased physical health issues or increased burnout.
Sonnentag et al.’s study reminds us that preoccupying ourselves with work during our off time (e.g., evenings, weekends, vacations) can lead to health issues and lower work engagement.
Heavy Workloads: Much More Than Just a Nuisance
Topic: Stress, Wellness, Work Environment
Publication: Personnel Psychology (Summer 2010)
Article: Psychological and physiological reactions to high workloads: Implications for well-being
Authors: R. Ilies, N. Dimotakis, and I.E. De Pater
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger
In a rather unique study by Ilies, Dimotakis and De Pater (2010), the authors found that heavy workloads can have negative psychological (distress) and physiological (blood pressure) effects that fluctuate depending on an employee’s daily workload. The authors also investigated how daily changes in workload affect employees’ daily well-being when they get home from work.
Ilies et al. employed a sample of 64 technical, clerical and administrative employees at a large U.S. university. Employees were given PDAs and an apparatus to measure their blood pressure at several time points throughout the day for a period of two weeks. On days in which employees reported having higher workloads, they also experienced higher levels of distress at work and had higher blood pressure readings. Higher workloads were also associated with lower perceptions of well-being at the end of the work day.
The good news is that the unfavorable effects of workload tend to be much less dramatic for employees who perceive that they have more control over their work and employees who perceive that their organization values their contributions (i.e., perceived organizational support).
On the other hand, heavy workloads seem to have a very serious effect on employees who have little control over their work and feel that the organization does not value their work.
One important implication of Ilies et al.’s findings is that workload may ultimately lead to very serious psychological and physical health issues in the long run (e.g., increased blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular disease). While it seems that our workloads continue to increase over time, organizations should note that the greater degree of control employees have over their work and the degree to which their employees feel that they support them and value their contributions seems to diminish the negative effects of heavy workloads.
The Unemployment Blues may be More Serious than You Think!
Does unemployment CAUSE poor mental health? After all, isn’t it possible that poor mental health can cause unemployment? Seriously, what employer wants to hire a distressed, anxious, depressed employee with low self-esteem?
In an attempt to arrive at a firm conclusion about whether unemployment actually causes changes in mental health, Paul and Moser (2009) report on the results of two meta-analyses that included 237 cross-sectional studies as well as 87 longitudinal studies. In addition to their primary goal of uncovering the causal link between unemployment and mental health, the researchers also investigated a number of factors that might affect unemployment’s role in predicting mental health.
Overall, Paul and Moser’s results suggest that unemployement does indeed have a negative influence on mental health outcomes (e.g., symptoms of distress, anxiety, depression, self-esteem). If this seems obvious, Paul and Moser also uncovered several factors that make some individuals more prone to poor mental health during unemployment. For example, the negative effects of unemployment were greater for men than for women, greater for blue collar workers than white collar workers, and greater for the long-term unemployed than the short-term unemployed.
But most interesting of all, the results of the meta-analysis on the longitudinal studies lend strong support for the long held assumption that unemployment does indeed cause changes to mental health! Across many studies, losing one’s job leads to a subsequent decrease in mental health. However, once individuals become re-employed, their mental health improves substantially. And importantly, intervention programs were found to positively influence the mental health of unemployed individuals (finally some good news!). The upshot here is that unemployment can have a very serious impact on individuals’ mental health, especially when long-term,and more so for men and blue collar workers.
Fortunately, the results of this meta-analysis also suggest that interventions can help the unemployed (although the specific nature of these interventions is not made explicit in the article – they may have differed substantially).
The Researcher’s Advantage to Chilled-Out Survey Participants
Topic: Stress, Wellness
Publication: Journal of Organizational and Occupational Psychology
Article: Too stressed out to participate Examining the relation between stressors and survey response behavior.
If you’re in the kind of work I’m in, your projects thrive off of survey response rates. Yes, that
is only one element to a successful organizational study, BUT CLEARLY response rates are a big deal to research! You probably have read some articles on how to boost your survey response rate (e.g., is handing out free candy or instilling guilt ACTUALLY
effective to your cause?), but a recent article by Barr, Spitzmüller, and Stuebing (2008) takes a new perspective.
Instead of investigating the effectiveness of methods like initiating reciprocity or offering cash rewards, these researchers examined the impact of job stress on the likelihood that survey recipients
would go ahead and complete the surveys. There are many reasons why any given survey recipient may NOT complete a survey. Some consciously choose not to respond (referred to in the study as “active non-respondents”) while others may instead get distracted by something else (maybe they’re in the
middle of trying to make a quickly approaching deadline) and just so happen to not respond (the study refers to these people as “passive non-respondents”). Note: look into Rogelberg, et al. (2003) for more information on the difference between “passive” and “active” non-respondents.
What types of stress did they study? Role stress. The different role stressors they measured were role overload (having too much to do in too little time – yes, we can ALL relate to that), role conflict (having incompatible job demands, so it’s impossible to make everyone happy), and role ambiguity (not being entirely sure what is or isn’t your responsibility).
So, let’s get to it already: Is STRESS one reason why people may not respond to a survey? Barr et
al. conducted their 2008 study to find out. As the researchers had anticipated, more overloaded respondents were less likely to respond to surveys (this showed for both active and passive non-respondents).
Not surprising. The role conflict measure of stress did not show a significant relationship to
unresponsive behavior. What was surprising was that those high on role ambiguity were more likely to respond to surveys (but this was only for passive non-respondents). The authors suggest that people who are unsure of their role in their organization or group may mistakenly view surveys as a mandatory part of their job rather than a voluntary activity. Ah-HA! So we finally found an advantage to employees not knowing what their roles and responsibilities are. Hurry up and send out your surveys before they figure it out. J
Barr, C.D., Spitzmuller, C., Stuebing, K.K. (2008). Too stressed out to participate? Examining the relation between stressors and survey response behavior. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 13(3) 232-243.
Rogelberg, S. G., Conway, J. M., Sederburg, M. E., Spitzmüller, C., Aziz, S., & Knight, W. E. (2003). Profiling active and passive nonrespondents to an organizational survey. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 1104–1114.
Managing Grief in the Workplace
To shed light on the issue of grief in the workplace, Mary Ann Hazen (2008) provided several suggestions for how managers and organizations can effectively respond to grieving employees.
Several suggestions provided by Hazen (2008) are presented below.
(1) First, acknowledge that an employee is grieving (this seems simple, but it can have a major impact on the griever).
(2) Make themselves available to listen to the griever if he/she needs to talk (this communicates compassion and caring and may lead to less strain on the part of the employee).
(3) Recognize and make themselves aware of the common responses of grievers (e.g., understand how people typically respond as they move through stages of grief).
(1) Support and encourage the managerial behaviors listed above (managers cannot be effective without organizational support).
(2) Provide opportunities for employees and managers to learn about the grieving process (provide courses, workshops, referrals and/or employee assistance programs).
(3) And MOST IMPORTANTLY, recognize that although employee grief can hurt the organization as a whole (e.g., lost productivity), it’s not all just about dollars and cents!
Most successful organizations maintain “a sense of moral purpose, extra-organizational support, and excellent leadership” (p. 84), and this contributes to the emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of their employees.
Doing what Simon Says Regarding Safety
How do you know that you won’t trip on the telephone cord your coworker has stretched across the entryway of your cubicle? You don’t (until the inevitable happens). How do you know whether or not workplace safety behaviors are actually practiced in your organization? A study by Parboteeah and Kapp (2008) says that the company’s ethical climate may provide some clues.
Although the link between safety and ethical climate hasn’t been examined to a great extent in previous literature, Parboteeah and Kapp found some evidence suggesting this link may exist. The authors measured three different types of ethical climate: egoist (Edgar acts ethically because he knows it’s in his self-interest to do so), benevolent (Brittany acts ethically for the sake of the common good), and principled (Pete acts ethically because of the laws, rules, or professional codes surrounding him).
So which type of ethical climate did the authors find to be associated with workplace safety? Of our three exemplified employees, we can aim our laser pointer on Pete. Workplaces with stronger principled climates were more likely to have lower injury rates and higher safety-enhancing behaviors than workplaces with weaker principled climates.
Surprisingly, no significant relationships were found with egoist climate and safety (the authors initially expected organizations with this type of climate to fall on their faces when it came to safety, which didn’t come out either). But we CAN throw a cookie to our friend Brittany because benevolent climate was negatively related to workplace injuries. (She only gets one cookie, not two, because the hypothesized positive relationship between benevolent climate and safety-enhancing behaviors was not supported.) I guess you can say that genuinely loving your neighbor (in the form of caring about their well-being) may lower work-related injuries. What you learned in pre-school prevails.
Savor it. Given the findings around principled climates in terms of workplace safety behaviors, it may be a good idea to make your organization’s rules regarding safety visible and talked about regularly. Lead by example! This may start with removing that loose phone cord lying across the beginning of this blog. Oh wait, that’s my job.