1. Study looks at why we keep difficult people in our lives

    February 3, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Bar-Ilan University press release:

    Chances are, you have someone in your life who causes a lot of tension and stress. Difficult relationships are common. They are also commonly difficult to evade. Who are these people and why can’t we just cut the cord?

    New research explores these questions and sheds light on the answers. Plain and simple: They are people you are stuck with, either because you need them or because you can’t ignore them.

    “The results suggest that difficult people are likely to be found in contexts where people have less freedom to pick and choose their associates,” says Dr. Shira Offer, of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Bar-Ilan University, who co-authored the article with Prof. Claude Fischer, of the University of California at Berkeley.

    Yes, that often means family and coworkers.

    Offer and Fischer published their findings in a recent issue of American Sociological Review. Their research is based on data from the University of California Network Study, which collected data about the social ties of over 1,100 adults in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

    Respondents in the survey were asked to provide the names of people to whom they were connected in different ways, for example those with whom they socialized, in whom they confided, and from whom they would ask for help in emergency situations. They were also asked to name and describe the people in their lives they found demanding or difficult. The “difficult” comprised about 15 percent of all the people respondents named.

    Close kin, especially female relatives and aging parents, were most likely to be listed as “difficult.”

    “These are people with whom our lives are so complexly intertwined,” says Dr. Offer. “Many are close family whom we need and even love; others we just can’t escape. Social norms do not allow us to simply walk away from them, however much this might be tempting to do sometimes.”

    The disproportionate presence of women on the “difficult” list is best understood as reflecting women’s more intensive role in the family, providing more fodder for tension and conflict. Non-kin described as friends were less likely and those described as co-workers more likely to be named as difficult.

    Finally, the study examined what kinds of interactions seemed to characterize a “difficult” relationship. Providing support to other people, but not receiving support from them — say, caring for a failing parent-was a major source of difficulty in these relationships.

    Overall, this study highlights how normative and institutional constraints may force people to retain difficult and demanding connections in their networks.


  2. Study suggests employees who work in open-plan offices feel worse and are more dissatisfied with their work

    February 1, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Karlstad University press release:

    It is becoming increasingly common for employees to share the workplace with their colleagues in large open-plan office areas. In this way, companies and organizations want to save money, but also facilitate the interaction between the employees. However, a new study from CTF, Service Research Center at Karlstad University, Sweden, shows the opposite. The more co-workers that share the workplace, the less satisfied the employees are, and the more difficult they think it is to have a good dialogue with their colleagues.

    Numerous private and public organizations have already adopted the concept of open-plan offices and many other companies are currently considering a switch from traditional cellular offices to such open layouts. Common arguments for investing in such open spaces are their claimed cost efficiency and flexible layout; their assumed ability to facilitate interaction among employees; and, ultimately, their presumed potential to improve work performance and productivity.

    In a new study researchers have investigated the associations between office type (cellular office, shared-room office, small open-plan office, and medium-sized open-plan office) and employees’ job satisfaction, well-being, and ease of interaction with co-workers.

    “The results show a negative relationship between the number of co-workers sharing an office and employees’ job satisfaction. This association was mediated by ease of interaction with co-workers and subjective wellbeing, with employees working in small and medium-sized open-plan offices reporting lower levels of both these aspects than employees who work either alone in cellular offices or together with up to two colleagues in shared-room offices,” says Ph D Tobias Otterbring and continues:

    “The open-plan offices may have short-term financial benefits, but these benefits may be substantially lower than the costs associated with decreased job satisfaction and wellbeing. Therefore, decision-makers should consider the impact of a given office type on employees rather than focusing solely on cost-effective office layout, flexibility, and productivity.”

    They study was recently published in Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health. The article “The relationship between office type and job satisfaction: Testing a multiple mediation model though ease of interaction and well-being” is written by Tobias Otterbring, Jörg Pareigis and Erik Wästlund at CTF, Service Research Center at Karlstad University, Sweden, and Alexander Makrygiannis and Anton Lindström at Aarhus University, Denmark.


  3. Study looks at factors that drive collaboration

    January 28, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Ohio State University press release:

    The key to getting people to work together effectively could be giving them the flexibility to choose their collaborators and the comfort of working with established contacts, new research suggests.

    For starters, it’s important to recognize that cooperation between humans makes no sense, said David Melamed, an assistant professor of sociology at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    “From an evolutionary perspective, cooperation shouldn’t exist between people — you always do better by not cooperating because then people can’t rip you off or take advantage of you,” Melamed said.

    “Especially in a one-time interaction, it’s essentially paying a cost for someone else to benefit, and researchers have been working for a long time to understand why people evolved to work together.”

    In this study, Melamed and his co-authors aimed to uncover what conditions led people to collaborate most willingly.

    To answer their questions, they found participants through the Amazon Mechanical Turk website — a service that allows researchers and others to hire or recruit people from around the world for a variety of purposes. For this study, all participants were from the United States.

    Those who agreed to participate played online games in which each player started out with 1,000 monetary units that translated to $1 in real money that they could pocket. If one player agreed to pay another player 50 monetary units, that second person would actually acquire 100 units.

    “So, if you essentially agreed to give up five cents, someone else gained 10 cents,” Melamed said.

    Each of the 16-round games examined in the study included about 25 participants, some of whom participated in multiple games with different scenarios. In all, 810 people participated in the research.

    Some of the games generated random networks, where certain people could interact. Others included clustered networks, in which a small group had multiple connections — an arrangement that was designed to mimic real life, where humans often run in packs socially and at work.

    And the networks were either static or dynamic. In static networks, a player could interact only with the assigned partners for the duration. In the dynamic networks, participants could cut ties with another player and form new connections.

    Furthermore, some of the games included reputation information. Participants were labeled based on their history of willingness to share money. The idea was to test whether those known to collaborate were favored by other players based on reputation — a factor shown in previous research to play a significant role in whether a person is likely to partner with another.

    Melamed and his research partners were surprised to find that reputation played no role in collaboration in this study. The findings might have departed from prior studies because of the difference in size and study design, he said, explaining that much of the previous work in this area has been conducted in groups of 100 or fewer and mostly involved student subjects. The Turk network used for the new study has been shown to be representative of the U.S. population in terms of age, race and other factors, Melamed said, and introduced players who had no previous connections.

    Collaboration rates overall were high — and highest when the participants were operating in clusters and had the ability to drop a partner in favor of another.

    “What really seems to matter is the ability to alter the structure of a network,” Melamed said. “And the pattern of relationships also made a difference. Those in a known cluster with multiple connections collaborated more, which seems intuitive if you think about how we interact in the real world.”

    The findings from this study could have important implications in a variety of settings, including the workplace and the battlefield, Melamed said.

    “Applying what we learned could help encourage cooperation,” he said.

    The U.S. Army, which supported the study, could use this type of information to better develop strong, cooperative teams in the field, Melamed said, adding that the armed forces could also use the science to seek ways to undermine enemy forces.


  4. Study suggests use of mobile devices at home can carry conflict to workplace

    January 16, 2018 by Ashley

    From the University of Texas at Arlington press release:

    A University of Texas at Arlington researcher is part of a team of authors who have found that using a mobile device at home for work purposes has negative implications for the employee’s work life and also their spouse.

    Wayne Crawford, assistant professor of management in UTA’s College of Business, was one of five authors on “Your Job Is Messing With Mine! The Impact of Mobile Device Use for Work During Family Time on the Spouse’s Work Life,” recently published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

    Dawn Carson, Baylor University; Meredith Thompson, Utah State University; and Wendy Boswell and Dwayne Whitten, Texas A&M University; also contributed to the study.

    In all, 344 married couples were surveyed. All participants worked fulltime and used mobile devices or tablets at home for work purposes.

    “There is plenty of research on technology and how it affects employees,” Crawford said. “We wanted to see if this technology use carried over to affect the spouse negatively at work.”

    The couples’ survey results showed that use of a mobile device during family time resulted in lower job satisfaction and lower job performance.

    “It’s really no surprise that conflict was created when a spouse is using a mobile device at home,” Crawford said. “They’re sometimes engaging in work activities during family time. What that ultimately leads to, though, is trouble at work for both spouses. So, whether companies care or don’t care about employees being plugged in, those firms need to know that the relationship tension created by their interaction with their employees during non-work hours ultimately leads to work-life trouble.”

    Abdul Rasheed, chair of the Department of Management, said Crawford’s work is illuminating for businesses.

    “That extra time spent on mobile devices after hours might not be worth it if the grief it causes results in productivity losses once the conflict is carried back to work,” Rasheed said. “Businesses have to think about accomplishing tasks more efficiently while people are at work.”


  5. Study suggests bargain hunting affects perceptions of customer service workers

    January 6, 2018 by Ashley

    From the University of British Columbia press release:

    Everyone loves a bargain, but new research suggests some employees may be getting short-changed when it comes to how consumers perceive them when they are price-conscious.

    The UBC Sauder School of Business study, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, found that bargain-hunters who adopt a “price-conscious mentality” — meaning their main goal is to save money and get the cheapest deal — tend to see employees who they interact with as less human.

    “When shoppers focus only on paying the lowest price, they become less attuned to understanding the human needs of others, or even recognizing them,” said Johannes Boegershausen, a UBC Sauder PhD student who co-authored the study.

    For the study, the researchers conducted several studies. One study showed that consumers used fewer humanizing trait words in reviews of the discount carrier Ryanair than in reviews of the higher-end airline Lufthansa, even after accounting for quality differences between brands.

    In another experiment, study participants were either shown photos of a flight attendant wearing uniforms from Ryanair, Lufthansa, or one wearing a neutral uniform. The researchers found that respondents saw the flight attendants from Lufthansa and the non-employee as relatively equally human, but the Ryanair employee was seen in a poorer light.

    “We simply varied the brand, and found that people ascribed lower capabilities for experiencing emotions and feelings to the Ryanair flight attendant,” said Boegershausen, adding that this subtle dehumanization can take many forms and is not necessarily intentional.

    Another experiment had participants interact in a live chat with a rude customer service representative. They were then given the chance to punish the employee through a complaint. The researchers found participants were 18 per cent more likely to give a rating that would lead to disciplinary actions against the employee when shoppers were adopting a price conscious mentality than when they were not.

    The researchers say the findings could have implications for owners and management of discount stores, as the problem could affect employee retention.

    Previous research has also found employees who experience rude and inconsiderate customer behaviors report higher levels of emotional exhaustion, job dissatisfaction, and burnout. Potentially, those unhappy employees subsequently might mistreat the next customer, who in turn gets angry and mistreats employees, creating a vicious circle for companies and employees alike.

    Since discount-based companies such as Walmart and Ryanair are experiencing unprecedented growth, it’s important to pinpoint what’s going on, said Boegershausen.

    “I think most consumers, myself included, are guilty of this at some point. When you really drill down, you don’t really recognize that someone is fully human anymore,” said Boegershausen. “But it doesn’t take much to be human and to let others know you recognize them as human. Everyone has the right to be considered human.”


  6. Study suggests bosses who ‘phone snub’ their employees risk losing trust, engagement

    January 2, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Baylor University press release:

    Supervisors who cannot tear themselves away from their smartphones while meeting with employees risk losing their employees’ trust and, ultimately, their engagement, according to new research from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.

    James A. Roberts, Ph.D., professor of marketing, and Meredith David, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing, published their latest study — “Put Down Your Phone and Listen to Me: How Boss Phubbing Undermines the Psychological Conditions Necessary for Employee Engagement” — in the journal Computers in Human Behavior. Roberts and David are known nationally and internationally for researching the effects of smartphone use on relationships.

    Their newest study examines “boss phubbing” (boss phone snubbing), which the researchers define as “an employee’s perception that his or her supervisor is distracted by his or her smartphone when they are talking or in close proximity to each other” and how that activity affects the supervisor-employee relationship.

    “Our research reveals how a behavior as simple as using a cellphone in the workplace can ultimately undermine an employee’s success,” the researchers wrote. “We present evidence that boss phubbing lowers employees’ trust in their supervisors and ultimately leads to lower employee engagement.”

    The research is composed of three studies that surveyed 200, 95 and 118 respondents, respectively. Those 413 who were surveyed — representing both supervisors and employees — responded to statements that assessed the nature of their work, levels of trust and engagement. Examples of survey statements included: “My boss places his/her cellphone where I can see it when we are together,” “When my boss’ cellphone rings or beeps, he/she pulls it out even if we are in the middle of a conversation” and “I can rely on my supervisor to keep the promises he/she makes.”

    The study found:

    • 76 percent of those surveyed showed a lack of trust in a supervisor who phubbed them
    • 75 percent showed decreases in psychological meaningfulness, psychological availability and psychological safety
    • The lack of trust and decreases in those key areas led to a 5 percent decrease in employee engagement

    “Employees who experience boss phubbing and have lower levels of trust for their supervisor are less likely to feel that their work is valuable or conducive to their own professional growth, and employees who work under the supervision of an untrusted, phubbing supervisor tend to have lower confidence in their own ability to carry out their job,” David said. “Both of those things negatively impact engagement.”

    Roberts, who authored the book “Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?,” said this study offers significant managerial implications.

    “Phubbing is a harmful behavior,” he said. “It undermines any corporate culture based on respect for others. Thus, it is crucial that corporations create a culture embodied by care for one another.”

    David said employees and supervisors alike cannot be fully present in face-to-face interactions when distracted by their smartphones.

    “Developing the self-control to put away your smartphone in favor of meaningful, distraction-free interactions with your supervisor and other coworkers will yield benefits that far outweigh that text message, unread email or social media post,” she said.

    The study offered several steps that managers could take to change the culture and mitigate the negative effects of smartphone use.

    • Create a culture in which supervisors do not feel pressure to immediately respond to emails and messages from their superiors while meeting with their employees.
    • Structure performance criteria in a manner which motivates bosses to build healthy superior-subordinate relationships. This might include annual ratings by their subordinates.
    • Train supervisors and employees on the importance of face-to-face interactions and sensitize them to the potentially negative consequences of phubbing on employee attitudes and engagement.
    • Set formal smartphone policies by setting clear rules for smartphone use, access and security — and detail specific consequences for violating those rules.

    Roberts and David said as smartphones become more ubiquitous, researchers need to continue to study the implications in the workplace.

    “Given that smartphone use in the workplace is nearly universal and has become an integral mode of communication, it is crucial that researchers investigate the impact of smartphone use in the workplace on career choices and adjustment,” they wrote. “Today’s employees face the real possibility that, left unattended to, smartphone use may complicate their careers by undermining vocational adjustment and lowering their job engagement.”


  7. Study suggests blurring the boundaries between work and personal life can lead to exhaustion

    December 29, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Springer press release:

    In working life it’s now almost expected that employees answer work-related emails after hours, or take their laptops with them on holiday. But the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life can affect people’s sense of well-being and lead to exhaustion. This is according to Ariane Wepfer of the University of Zurich in Switzerland who, together with her colleagues, published a study in Springer’s Journal of Business and Psychology.

    Wepfer and her colleagues recruited 1916 employees from a broad range of sectors in German-speaking countries to take part in an online study. Most were married (70,3 percent) and their average age was 42.3 years. Half of the participants (50.1 percent) worked 40 hours or more per week, while 55.8 percent were men. They were asked how well they were able to manage the boundaries between their work and non-work lives, for instance, how often they took work home, how often they worked on weekends and how often they thought about work during their time off.

    Participants also indicated whether they made time to relax after work to socialize or to participate in sports and other hobbies, and how diligently they made sure that their work did not interfere with their private lives. To measure a person’s well-being, the researchers considered participants’ sense of physical and emotional exhaustion as well as their sense of balance between work and non-work.

    The researchers found that employees who did not organise a clear separation between work and free time were less likely to participate in activities that could help them relax and recover from career demands. They were therefore more exhausted and experienced a lower sense of balance and well-being in the different key aspects of their lives.

    Employees who integrated work into their non-work life reported being more exhausted because they recovered less,” Wepfer explains. “This lack of recovery activities furthermore explains why people who integrate their work into the rest of their lives have a lower sense of well-being.”

    Wepfer says that within the contexts of occupational health it is important to understand the findings, the mechanisms behind them and the factors that determine to what degree people are able to draw a line between their careers and their personal lives. She believes that companies should have policies and interventions in place to help their employees to segment different aspects of their lives better, to their own benefit.

    “Organizational policy and culture should be adjusted to help employees manage their work-non-work boundaries in a way that does not impair their well-being,” says Wepfer. “After all, impaired well-being goes hand in hand with reduced productivity and reduced creativity.”


  8. Study suggests being treated unfairly at work increases risk of long-term sick leave

    December 18, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of East Anglia press release:

    Staff who feel they are treated unfairly at work are at increased risk of being off sick more frequently and for longer, according to new research by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Stockholm University.

    Sickness absence is a major health concern for organisations and important contributing factors are found in the work environment. For example, low job control and decision-making opportunities have previously been shown to increase the likelihood of sick leave.

    A relatively new determinant of employee health is their perception of fairness in the work place, known as organisational justice. The new study, published today in BMC Public Health, focused on one element of this, called interactional justice, which relates to the treatment of employees by managers.

    Interactional justice itself can encompass informational justice — defined as receiving truthful and candid information with adequate justifications — and interpersonal justice, concerning respectful and dignified treatment by the manager.

    Using data from more than 19,000 employees in Sweden the researchers, from UEA’s Norwich Business School, the Stress Research Institute and Department of Psychology at Stockholm University, investigated the relationship between interpersonal and informational justice and long and frequent sickness absence. They also explored whether times of high uncertainty at work, for example perceived job insecurity, had an effect on sick leave.

    The team found that lower levels of justice at work relate both to an increase in shorter, but more frequent sickness absence periods, and to an increased risk of longer sickness absence episodes, irrespective of job insecurity and demographic variables of age, gender, socio-economic position and marital status. Also, higher levels of job insecurity turned out to be an important predictor of long and frequent sickness absence.

    Co-author Dr Constanze Eib, a lecturer in organisational behaviour at Norwich Business School, said: “While shorter, but more frequent periods of sickness absence might be a chance for the individual to get relief from high levels of strain or stress, long-term sickness absence might be a sign of more serious health problems.

    “Our results underline the need for fair and just treatment of employees irrespective of perceived job insecurity in order to keep the workforce healthy and to minimise lost work days due to sickness absence.”

    The study analysed data from participants in a long-term biennial survey — the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH) — that focuses on the association between work organisation, work environment and health. It used data from the 2010, 2012, and 2014 waves of the survey, with the final sample consisting of 58,479 observations from 19,493 employees.

    Lead author Dr Constanze Leineweber, from the Stress Research Institute, said: “Perceived fairness at work is a modifiable aspect of the work environment, as is job insecurity. Organisations have significant control over both and our results suggest that they may gain by investing or improving their policies and rules for fair treatment of their workforce and by improving job security.

    “Organisations might also gain from the selection of managers for their qualities associated with fair practices, training them in justice principles, and implementing performance management practices for them that consider their use of organisational justice. Indeed, training in justice principles has been shown to be successful in different organisational contexts.”


  9. Study suggests duration of sleep increases and sleeping difficulties decrease after retirement

    December 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Turku press release:

    When people retire from work life, they sleep approximately 20 minutes longer than before retirement. The quality of sleep also improves, as retired people experience less early morning awakenings or nonrestorative sleep, unlike in their last working years.

    Researchers at the University of Turku, Finland, discovered in collaboration with the Finnish Institution of Occupational Health, University of Helsinki, and University College London Medical School that self-reported duration of sleep increased approximately 20 minutes after retirement, and stayed on the achieved level for years after retirement.

    Duration of sleep increased especially for people who had had sleep difficulties or were heavy alcohol users prior to retirement. The duration of sleep increased the most for people who did not get enough sleep during their employment and they slept 45 minutes longer during their retirement.

    – A sufficient amount of sleep is very important for our health and functioning. Individuals have different needs of sleep, but it is recommended for people over the age of 65 to sleep for 7-8 hours a night. Retiring enables people to sleep longer, as work schedules no longer determine the times for sleeping and waking up, states Doctoral Candidate Saana Myllyntausta from the University of Turku, whose dissertation research is part of the study.

    During their last years of employment, different sleep difficulties were experienced by 30 percent of the people. After retiring, only 26 percent of the people were experiencing sleep difficulties. The researchers discovered that, of different kinds of sleep difficulties, people experienced a decrease especially in early morning awakenings and nonrestorative sleep, where a person experiences tiredness and fatigue after sleeping for a regular duration. Sleep difficulties decreased especially among people who experienced their work as stressful and their health as poor before retirement. Sleep difficulties decreased the most for people who experienced psychological distress before retirement.

    – For example, work-related stress is known to disturb sleep. One reason for the decrease in sleeping difficulties during retirement could be the removal of work-related stress, says Myllyntausta.

    The study followed approximately 5,800 people who participated in the Finnish Public Sector study by the Finnish Institution of Occupational Health and who retired on a statutory basis in 2000-2011. The participants estimated their sleep duration and the prevalence of different kinds of sleep difficulties in surveys before and after retiring. The research was funded by the Academy of Finland, Ministry of Education and Culture, and Juho Vainio Foundation.


  10. Study looks at factors that make a happy working mom

    by Ashley

    From the Springer press release:

    A happy working mom feels competent in interacting with her child, experiences a sense of freedom and choice in her actions, while having a warm and affectionate relationship with her baby. She is also not too hard on herself about how she is faring as a mother. So says Katrijn Brenning of the University of Ghent in Belgium who led research that investigated what affects a working mother’s sense of well-being. The study is published in Springer’s Journal of Happiness Studies.

    Brenning and her colleagues showed that a mother’s sense of well-being drops when she feels inadequate, under pressure, and is alienated from her social circle by her efforts to get to work and be a good parent all at once. Her own baby’s temperament has little influence on her sense of well-being, but having a more extrovert child does help some women to feel more positive about motherhood, and to be less hard on themselves.

    “Our findings point to a complex interplay between parent and child characteristics in the prediction of maternal wellbeing,” says Brenning.

    The research team analyzed five days of diary entries made by 126 mothers after their maternity leave ended and they had to leave their babies at a day-care facility for the first time. This tends to be a particularly stressful episode in the life of working mothers because it is often the first time that they are separated from their children. With maternity leave over, they also need to learn how to balance their work and family lives effectively.

    Although the temperament of their children did not have much influence on the mothers’ sense of well-being, Brenning says: “More positive perceptions of the child’s temperament were found to buffer to some extent against the affective difficulties associated with a lack of need satisfaction, high need frustration and maternal self-criticism.”

    Brenning believes that in their interaction with their children, mothers should seek out experiences that also help to satisfy their own daily psychological needs. Mothers should not be too hard on themselves about how they are faring as a mother, search for activities with their baby that they enjoy, and create opportunities to spend with their offspring in a warm and affectionate way. The positive influence and energy this creates could be beneficial in that it allows mothers to interact with their child in a more sensitive, patient, and positive fashion.

    The researchers also believe that clinical counsellors should highlight to their female patients how important it is to ensure that their own psychological needs are met, amid the pressures of motherhood and work.

    Need frustration relates to daily distress and to more cold and intrusive parent-child interactions,” she says.

    The findings highlight how difficult it is for women whose personalities tend to veer towards the depressive and the self-critical to adjust to parenthood. Brenning therefore thinks that prevention and intervention strategies should be in place to help such women cope in their first few months of parenthood.