1. 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.”


  2. 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.”


  3. Study suggests sexual harassment on the job still carries large impact

    December 15, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Texas at Arlington press release:

    Two University of Texas at Arlington researchers have revisited workplace sexual harassment issues after the initial study was done nearly 20 years ago.

    How well is society doing?

    The answer is mixed. Although there has been a 28 percent decline in complaints, sexual harassment is a continuing, chronic occupational health problem in the workplace.

    James Campbell Quick, the John and Judy Goolsby-Jacqualyn A. Fouse Endowed Chair in UTA’s Goolsby Leadership Academy, initially published the report in a 1998 special section on sexual harassment in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

    Quick and M. Ann McFadyen, a UTA associate professor of strategic management, conducted the review earlier this year. It comes at a time when noteworthy sexual harassment and assault incidents have permeated all aspects of American society.

    “Our current examination of the evidence suggests that sexual harassment is a continuing occupational problem,” Quick said. “Have we made progress? Yes, there has been progress on some fronts but not on others and the problem has morphed, becoming more complicated for a variety of reasons found in the current data.”

    Society and the workplace continue to struggle with the very definition of sexual harassment, which limits the ability to develop effective strategies in the workplace.

    Plus, McFadyen said that the workforce is changing.

    “Sexual harassment in the workplace is costly, not just to the organization,” McFadyen said. “The behavior impacts the victim, the aggressor, bystanders, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders in terms of tarnished reputations and trust, disengaged employees, decreased commitment, turnover, depression, stress, eating and other health disorders and in extreme cases bodily harm, even death.”

    She said that the recent publicity regarding sexual harassment is a signal of the beginning of a revolutionary change in the workplace demanding a different type of training.

    “Training not only for leaders and management but employees at all ranks, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders,” McFadyen said. “Successful leaders and management of organizations cannot afford to simply maintain the status quo.”

    Both believe that there is a real need from a public heath perspective to know more about the aggressors’ use of power in sexual harassment cases.

    The two professors believe that if the workplace is equipped with this information, surveillance indicators and systems can be put into place to address this preventable occupational health problem.

    Antonio Puente, the American Psychological Association president, used the Quick-McFadyen report in a letter to members last month.

    “Sexual harassment in the workplace is a significant occupational health psychology problem,” Puente said. “Psychological research has offered understanding into the causes of workplace harassment, as well as some strategies for preventing or reducing it. However, there is limited research regarding the characteristics of harassers, which makes it difficult to predict who will do it and where and when it might happen. What we do know is that harassers tend to lack a social conscience and engage in manipulative, immature, irresponsible and exploitative behaviors.”

    He said organizations need to be proactive in establishing policies prohibiting sexual harassment, raising employee awareness, establishing reporting procedures and educating employees about these policies.

    “More research is needed to identify the antecedents to harassment that will help employees and managers identify and respond appropriately,” Puentes said.


  4. Study suggests delegation of power can cause uncertainty and resentment in staff

    December 12, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Exeter press release:

    Attempts by managers to empower staff by delegating different work to them or asking for their opinions can be detrimental for employee productivity, research shows.

    Giving employees more authority can have a negative impact on their day to day performance and perhaps give the impression that their boss is just seeking to avoid doing their own work, according to the study.

    Managers have increasingly sought to empower workers because they had thought it allowed staff to develop their skills and would result in better job satisfaction. But promoting good relationships between bosses and staff can be a more effective way to make them more efficient, academics have found. However empowering some workers can help with being more creative.

    The style of empowering leadership, developed two decades ago, has become more popular in the past decade as the organisational structures of companies have become flatter. It involves giving employees authority to get on with their work without regular monitoring, asking for their opinions and letting them participate in decision making.

    Research by the University of Exeter Business School, Alliance Manchester Business School and Curtin Business School shows empowering workers can be effective when used for employees who have to carry out creative tasks. Then it motivates them to work harder and to help others, and helps them be proactive. But if used for staff who only carry out routine, structured tasks, empowering them may be counterproductive. There is a danger that they interpret the style of leadership as just a way of their boss delegating more of their workload to others.

    Academics examined information about 105 companies around the world, and looked at the performance of 8,500 individual people working in mixture of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, sales, and schools.

    The study also found bosses and employees need to trust each other if empowering leadership is to be effective. Bosses need to show they trust their subordinates, and allow them to be creative. Workers need to show they can be trusted to work without being closely supervised.

    Dr Allan Lee, from the University of Exeter Business School, who led the research, said: “Using an empowered style of leadership can be detrimental and create uncertainly and even chaos if used for workers who have non-creative tasks.

    “Workers have got to feel that their boss supports them to take risks when empowering leadership is being used. But bosses are also vulnerable when they manage people in this way. People could take advantage of the trust put in them. Trust is a powerful factor in how effective empowering leadership can be.

    “Being an empowering leader is not just about sitting back and letting people get on with their work. You have to be supportive and willing to listen, and ask for opinions. It must be done in a way which builds trust.”

    The research found workers in Eastern cultures had the same views about empowering leadership, and it had a similar impact on their work. It also found people new to their job respond better to empowering leadership and perform better than their more long-standing colleagues when managed in this way — perhaps because they are less cynical and more open to trying new things. Empowering leadership: a meta-analytic examination of incremental contribution, mediation, and moderation is published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.


  5. Study suggests employee-job personality match linked with higher income

    December 11, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Association for Psychological Science press release:

    coworker, managerAn employee whose personality traits closely match the traits that are ideal for her job is likely to earn more than an employee whose traits are less aligned, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

    “Our findings show that looking at the combination of personality traits and job demands is key to predict important outcomes, like income,” says lead researcher Jaap J. A. Denissen of Tilburg University. “This updates the notion that you only have to look at the personality traits of an individual to predict his or her life outcomes. Our results indicate that it’s more complex: You also have to take that person’s environment into account.”

    Findings from previous research have indicated that some personality traits are generally beneficial when it comes to a work environment. Being highly conscientious, Denissen notes, is associated with being hard-working, well-organized, and rule-abiding, qualities that are typically prized in employees.

    But Denissen and coauthors questioned the notion that there is an “ideal” personality type. They hypothesized that the match, or mismatch, between an individual’s traits and job demands might be critical when it comes to important outcomes like income.

    The researchers developed a novel strategy for directly comparing the fit between a given employee and a given job, using the well-established Big Five personality traits to quantify the traits that a job requires.

    Analyzing data from the nationally representative German Socio-Economic panel, the researchers examined personality profiles, annual income, and jobs of 8,458 individuals living in Germany. Due to the fact that men were more likely than women to be employed full-time in Germany at the time of the data collection, the sample was 68% male and 32% female, with a mean age of 43.7 years old.

    Each individual in the sample completed a brief version of the Big Five inventory in German, rating the degree to which they thought 15 personality-related statements applied to them (e.g., “I see myself as someone who has an active imagination” for openness to experience.

    Participants’ jobs were classified using the International Labour Organization’s International Standard Classification of Occupations. Two psychologists with extensive expertise in occupational issues (but who were unaware of the researchers’ hypotheses) then assessed each job for its ideal levels of Big Five traits. They determined, for example, that a bookkeeper required the lowest level of extraversion, whereas an actor or director required the highest level.

    The researchers used a statistical technique called response surface analysis to create a 3D model that identified how each employee’s personality traits and the ideal personality traits for each job contributed to employee income.

    The results showed that fit really does matter, at least when it comes to extraversion, agreeableness, and openness to experience. For these three traits, greater congruence between an employee’s own personality and a job’s demands was linked with higher income — what the researchers call a “fit bonus.”

    Importantly, the data also revealed that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing: Employees who were more agreeable, more conscientious, or more open to experiences than their jobs required actually earned less than people who had congruent levels of those traits.

    The model showed that, in some cases, having too little of a given trait was actually less costly than having too much:

    “Personality characteristics that have long been thought of as universally adaptive were not very beneficial or even detrimental, given particular job characteristics,” says Denissen. “For example, highly conscientious individuals whose jobs did not demand such levels actually had lower earnings than individuals who were low in conscientiousness and had jobs that demanded high levels.”

    The researchers note that additional studies will be required to understand how individual job experiences, job satisfaction, and job performance might sway the association between individual-job personality fit and income. The results of the current study do suggest that achieving the right fit requires a more nuanced approach to assessing both individual traits and job-related traits than previously thought. Paying attention to these nuances could have important implications for both employees and employers.

    “From a practical perspective, companies should be interested in these results because they imply that it’s really important to invest in solid personality assessment,” Denissen explains. “And individuals should care because our findings suggest that if they manage to find jobs that fit their personalities, they can earn more money.”


  6. Study suggests humility from the boss may encourage employee activity

    December 7, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Ohio State University press release:

    It’s good to be humble when you’re the boss — as long as that’s what your employees expect.

    Researchers studying workplaces in China found that some real-life teams showed more creativity if the employees rated their bosses as showing more humility.

    “Whether leader humility is a good thing really depends on the team members’ expectations,” said Jia (Jasmine) Hu, lead author of the study and associate professor of management and human resources at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

    Humble leaders are most effective when team members expect a low degree of distance between the leaders and followers, Hu explained. When there is low power distance, employees share power with their boss in a collaborative way.

    But humility may be seen as a weakness when the power distance is high and employees expect their boss to be dominant, take charge and give strong direction, she said.

    “One practical implication for managers is that they need to understand what their team members expect and value from them,” Hu said.

    The study, conducted with colleagues at Ohio State, Portland State University, and Renmin University of China, was published online recently in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

    For the study, the researchers collected data on work teams and team leaders from 11 information and technology companies in a major city in northern China at three time points over six months. In all, the final study sample included 354 members from 72 teams.

    At the beginning of the study, team members rated their leaders’ humility on a six-item scale. Workers rated how much they agreed with statements like “Our team leader is open to the advice of others.”

    Humble leaders were those who gave employees a chance to speak up and have a voice in the decision-making process and who also acknowledged their own limitations,” Hu said.

    Power distance between team members and leaders was measured by asking workers how much they agreed with statements like “When a performance appraisal made by the supervisor does not fit with subordinates’ expectations, the employees should feel free to discuss it with the supervisor.” The more employees agreed with a statement like this, the lower the measured power distance assigned by the researchers.

    Three months later, team members rated how much they shared information with each other. And six months after the start of the study, team leaders rated how creative their teams were.

    Results showed that humble leaders promoted higher levels of creativity on their teams when team members had low power distance values.

    The reason appeared to be that these teams exchanged and shared more information with each other than did other teams.

    Leaders who scored higher on humility tended to facilitate information sharing between team members,” Hu said.

    “And when they shared more information with each other, they broadened the scope of team skills, more actively looked for novel solutions to problems, and were more creative.”

    While this study was done in China, Hu said the results should be applicable to the United States. Other research has shown that, both in the United States and China, there is a wide variation in what employees expect from their managers and what they think their relationship should be like.

    Other studies have also shown that levels of leader humility are similar in Chinese and U.S. samples.

    One lesson from these results should be that a business leader’s success is not dependent only on his or her attributes, she said.

    “It is not as easy as saying humility is always a good or a bad thing for leaders,” Hu explained.

    “We often ignore the contextual factors that explain the failure or success of leaders. Leadership is not just about how leaders behave, but also about their team members and what they want and expect.”

    Hu’s co-authors were Kaifeng Jiang, associate professor of management and human resources at Ohio State; Berrin Erdogan and Talya Bauer of Portland State; and Songbo Liu of Renmin University.


  7. Study suggests more needs to be done to ensure 24-hour working is not the new norm

    December 3, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Surrey press release:

    Employers should do more to ensure employees do not feel pressured into working outside of their contractual hours and offer more support regarding how they work flexibly, a new study in the International Journal of Management Reviews reports.

    During the comprehensive evidence-based review, led by the University of Surrey in collaboration with Birkbeck, University of London and the University of Exeter, researchers scrutinised 56 studies examining the use of technology during non-working hours. They found that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the use of technology outside working hours, such as switching off email servers outside of office hours, is not conducive to the needs of every employee.

    Researchers identified a number of factors that contribute to people choosing to work outside of hours. The internet and improvements in ICT have made non-manual work increasingly portable and accessible, resulting in employees finding it far easier to work during non-contractual hours.

    It was found that many employees felt pressure from their organisation to be constantly available and to engage in work during non-work time, which was exacerbated when expectations about what was required was vague. A desire to prove dedication and ‘go the extra mile’ were also found to be reasons why people were working more than their contracted hours.

    An employee’s behaviour may in turn also shape what is expected and lead to additional out of hours working (e.g. a colleague who has been available at all times is expected to be available in the future).

    However, the researchers also found that increased access to technology and working outside of office hours is actually preferred by some employees, who felt it gives them greater flexibility and control over their workload, leading to increases in self-reported efficiency and performance. The study also found that employees appreciated the benefits of being able to monitor continuously the information flow and stay on top of their work.

    To overcome this disparity in how employees chose to work, researchers recommend that employers give individuals control over their working patterns and actively involve them in any decisions or policies about technology use so employees can reap the benefits of modern technologies without being enslaved by them.

    Lead author Svenja Schlachter from the University of Surrey said:

    “A failure to disconnect from work can negatively impact on a person’s wellbeing and health. Many individuals report feeling pressured into logging in after hours to complete work, a task that is becoming more commonplace with the advance of technology. However, the flip side of this is that some actually prefer the flexibility this offers.

    “Although employers implementing policies such as restricting accessibility to emails outside of office hours take a step in the right direction to ensure a good work/life balance for their workers, such regimented approaches to when you should and shouldn’t be working do not work for everyone. Employers need to work with their staff to understand their individual needs wherever possible. However, employees also need to take responsibility for their working behaviour, as it is ultimately up to them if they switch their phone off or not.”

    Dr Almuth McDowall, from Birkbeck, University of London said: “Our research stresses two facts. First, there is no blanket solution to how to maximise technology use for communication. Second, we need to put the issue on the table and spell out expectations about what is reasonable. Then agree on some boundaries whilst retaining flexibility.”

    Professor Ilke Inceoglu, from the University of Exeter Business School, said: “We have found the internet and new technology can give people flexibility in the way they work, and they feel this can make them more efficient and feel empowered. But other people feel enslaved by the constant need to check and reply to emails, and managers must lead by example to ensure their wellbeing is protected.”


  8. Study suggests employees want to sit down less and walk more during work days

    November 27, 2017 by Ashley

    From the BioMed Central press release:

    Desk-based workers would like to spend less time sitting down and more time walking or doing physical activity as part of their working day, research published in the open access journal BMC Research Notes suggests. To match these preferences, health promotion activities to reduce sitting time in the workplace should not only offer options for employees to stand up more, but also offer opportunities for walking, according to researchers at German Sport University Cologne and colleagues.

    Dr Birgit Sperlich, lead author of the study said: “To our knowledge this is the first study to investigate how long desk-based workers actually want to sit, stand, walk and be physically active. So far, plans to increase physical activity in the workplace primarily focus on health outcomes without asking the target group what they prefer. Interventions to reduce sitting time may need to include more options for walking rather than only for standing.”

    Participants reported spending 73% on average of their working day sitting down, 10.2% standing, 12.9% walking and 3.9% doing physically demanding tasks. However, they wanted to spend 53.8% of their working day sitting down, 15.8% standing, 22.8% walking and 7.7% doing physically demanding tasks. The desire of employees to spend about half of their working day (4.0 hours) sitting differs considerably from the time they actually report to spend sitting (70% or 5.4 hours). On average, employees wanted to spend an additional 46 minutes per eight-hour working day walking and an additional 26 minutes per eight-hour working day standing.

    The researchers interviewed 614 desk-based workers across Germany by phone to find out about their actual and desired levels of sitting, standing, walking and doing physically demanding tasks at work. They found that the more hours per day a person spent working, the greater the differences between the actual time they spent sitting down and the time they wanted to spend sitting down, indicating that the longer an employee spends working, the less time they want to spend sitting down. By contrast, the longer employees spent working, the smaller the difference between the time they actually spent standing and the time they wanted to spend standing.

    The authors caution that the findings rely on self-reported data and employees may not have correctly estimated the 73.0% of time they reported to spend sitting during working hours and that the study did not assess pre-existing health conditions that could influence desired sitting time which would need to be addressed in future studies.

    Nonetheless, the findings suggest that health promotion activities to reduce sitting time in the workplace are supported by desk-based workers, which could be a helpful foundation when implementing strategies to enhance wellness in the workplace.

    The authors of the study conclude: “Our results lend some support to the recommended reduction of sitting time to 50% of the work day which seems feasible in light of workers’ preferences for sitting, standing and walking that we have identified. Alternatively, these results may reflect respondents’ awareness of recent guidance about occupational sitting time. Either way, interventions that take into account workers’ personal preferences for sitting, walking and physical activity could help reduce the risk for various negative health outcomes.”


  9. Study looks at how well we perceive other people’s stress levels in the workplace

    November 21, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American Friends of Tel Aviv University press release:

    A new Tel Aviv University study finds that people often project their own experiences with stress onto their colleagues and employees, causing miscommunication and, often, missed opportunities.

    “This study is the first to show that our own psychological mindset determines how we judge other peoples’ responses to stress — specifically, whether we perceive stress as positive or negative,” said principal investigator Prof. Sharon Toker of TAU’s Coller School of Management.

    The research was published online in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

    The positives and negatives of stress

    “This research informs the way managers assess their employees’ ability to take on different workloads. It may also inform our relationships with our spouses — or with our children,” Prof. Toker says. “For example, a typical ‘tiger mom’ is sure that stress is a good thing. She may simply not see how burned out her child may be.”

    Experiments conducted by Prof. Toker and researchers Prof. Daniel Heller and Nili Ben-Avi, also of TAU’s Coller School of Management, found that a person’s individual stress mindset colors the way he or she will perceive a colleague or employee’s health, work productivity and degree of burnout.

    “If a manager perceives that a certain employee doesn’t suffer from stress, that manager will be more likely to consider the employee worthy of promotion,” Prof. Toker says. “But because the manager believes that stress is a positive quality that leads to self-sufficiency, the manager will also be less likely to offer assistance if the employee needs it,” Prof. Toker says.

    Prof. Toker and her colleagues recruited 377 American employees for an online “stress-at-work” questionnaire. Participants were asked to read a description of “Ben,” a fictitious employee who works long hours, has a managerial position and needs to multitask. The employees then rated his burnout levels and completed a stress mindset questionnaire about Ben.

    The more participants saw stress as positive and enhancing, the more they perceived Ben as experiencing less burnout and consequently rated him as more worthy of being promoted,” Prof. Toker says.

    Changing minds

    The researchers also wanted to see whether they could change people’s perceptions of stress and consequently change the way they perceive other peoples’ stress. They conducted a series of further experiments among 600 employed Israelis and Americans to determine whether their stress mindset can be cultivated or changed.

    The researchers randomly assigned the employees to “enhancing” or “debilitating” stress mindset groups of 120-350 people. Using a technique called “priming” — prompting participants to think of the word “stress” in either positive or negative terms — the participants were asked to write about past stress experiences in either a “positive/enhancing” or “negative/debilitating” way. They were then asked to read a description of Ben’s workload and assess Ben’s burnout, rate of productivity and psychosomatic symptoms.

    Participants were also asked whether Ben should be promoted and whether they would be willing to help him with his workload.

    “Study participants who were primed to have a positive/enhancing stress mindset rated Ben as suffering less from stress-related symptoms and were consequently more likely to recommend Ben for promotion. They were also less likely to offer him help,” Prof. Heller says. “But those primed to feel as though stress was debilitating/negative felt that Ben was more burned out and consequently less fit to be promoted.”

    “Your stress mindset will affect your judgement of other people’s stress responses,” Ben-Avi concludes. “But we have shown that even if stress affects you positively, it can distort the way you see your colleagues, your employees, your spouses, even your own children. We should be very careful about assessing other people’s stress levels.”


  10. Study suggests staff satisfaction affects company performance

    November 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of East Anglia press release:

    Companies with high levels of staff satisfaction perform better financially, according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

    The study examined the effect of staff satisfaction on corporate performance using employees’ online reviews of where they work.

    Writing in the journal Economic Letters, the researchers from Norwich Business School say that firms rated highly by their current employees in terms of satisfaction achieve greater financial performance compared to firms characterised by low levels of employee satisfaction.

    They add that this association between employee satisfaction and corporate performance indicates that employees’ online reviews are good predictors of a firm’s financial results, and so of value-relevance for investors.

    However, they find that positive employee satisfaction is not fully reflected in equity prices on the stock market, as an analysis using a trading strategy based on investing in firms characterised by high levels of employee satisfaction achieved statistically and economically significant abnormal returns.

    Lead author Efthymia Symitsi said the findings have significant implications for both managers and investors: “Increasingly researchers from a wide range of disciplines argue that in the current knowledge-based economy, employees are a particularly valuable organisational asset as they can contribute to firm value through innovation and customer relationships.

    “Therefore, ensuring their wellbeing and general satisfaction should be a major concern for businesses. This human-centred view of the firm is in direct contrast to the traditional view, according to which employees perform unskilled tasks and, therefore, are expendable commodities. Naturally, which of the two views is the appropriate one is an issue of the utmost importance for both managers and investors.”

    The study, published online this month, analysed more than 326,000 employee ratings of 313 US public firms from 2009-2016. The sample only included firms that had more than 500 reviews during the period studied, with quarterly financial data also collected for each firm.

    Co-author Dr George Daskalakis said: “Our results provide empirical support for a human-centred view of the firm. Interestingly, however, it seems that this is not wholly recognised by equity investors, providing further evidence that intangibles are not fully priced in the stock market and, most importantly, that this is not due to lack of information, since we measure employee satisfaction on the basis of freely available online reviews.

    “The reason we find abnormal portfolio returns and, therefore, conclude that this intangible is not fully priced in the stock market, could be because equity investors don’t believe that employee satisfaction is value-relevant for firms or perhaps because it is difficult to actually quantify its value.”

    Previous studies investigating the effect of employee satisfaction on corporate performance are relatively limited and commonly based on the ‘100 Best Companies to Work for in America’ list, published annually by Fortune magazine.

    However, to potentially be included in the list a firm needs to be certified for a fee first by the California-based Great Place to Work Institute. Therefore, only firms that have, or believe themselves to have, significant levels of employee satisfaction have an incentive to pay this fee and get certified. The authors argue that this can result in any conclusions drawn being driven by self-selection bias.

    To avoid this possibility, this study based its analysis on freely available online reviews that employees posted on job and recruiting site Glassdoor.