Tag Archives: Human Resources

Perseverance Negatively Correlated with Counterproductive Work Behaviours

New research shows that perseverance might be a key character strength when it comes to counterproductive work behaviours. The researchers were interested in finding the character strengths that were most correlated with work performance and counterproductive work behaviours (things like absenteeism, lateness, incivility, etc.). As the title of this post suggests, the researchers found that perseverance is the character strength that is most negatively correlated with counterproductive work behaviours. Meaning, when a person is found to have a lot of perseverance, they’re also found to have a lower level of counterproductive work behaviours.

In thinking about these findings, the thing I most wonder about is when we draw out perseverance to an unhealthy form. That is, of course, it’s great when employees are driven and they persevere, but what happens when they “go over the edge” in their pursuits? I suspect that as we get employees who persevere to these great lengths, it should no longer be thought of as a character strength. And similarly, the negative correlation with counterproductive work behaviours might not hold. In fact, I’d expect that we’d then see a positive correlation with counterproductive work behaviours. Meaning, when the perseverance becomes pathological, I’d expect the employee to exhibit some counterproductive work behaviours. Of course, this is all speculation, so it’d be interesting to see someone test for this in future iterations of this research.

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The researchers of this study also tied in studies on the Big 5, specifically as it relates to conscientiousness. It seems pretty well-known that conscientiousness is the characteristic of the Big 5 that is mostly closely correlated with work success and so the researchers of this study made mention of the fact that perseverance is shown to be highly correlated with conscientiousness. If we draw this out a little, the implication is that employees who demonstrate perseverance as one of their character strengths should also show signs of higher work performance (through their expected Big 5 personality trait of conscientiousness).

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I suspect that research like this will give folks in HR something else to look for when recruiting new employees. There was already information out there about conscientiousness, but now they can also look for candidates who demonstrate a higher degree of perseverance. Maybe when contacting their references, the recruiter can ask about whether the candidate has demonstrated (or how the candidate has demonstrated) perseverance in their work.

ResearchBlogging.orgLittman-Ovadia, H., & Lavy, S. (2015). Going the Extra Mile: Perseverance as a Key Character Strength at Work Journal of Career Assessment DOI: 10.1177/1069072715580322

Do Public Salaries Increase Performance?

With the recent news regarding Jill Abramson and the New York Times, I wanted to take a closer look at the academic literature to see if I could find something about public salaries. There’s certainly been a lot written about whether she was fired or she quit or whether it had to do with secretive salaries or her gender. I’m not writing this post to debate any of that because I consider myself grossly uninformed on what may or may not have happened, but I am writing this post to talk about pay secrecy.

The research showed that pay secrecy adversely affected individual task performance. Meaning, the absence of public salaries led to a worse performance. Why? Pay for performance. That is, because the salaries weren’t public, workers didn’t have a perception that an increase in performance would lead to better pay.

There were a couple other important pieces that I wanted to highlight.

1. The best workers were more sensitive when it came to the perception of link between pay and performance.

This certainly makes sense as those folks who are working the ‘hardest’ would want to know that they’re being appropriately compensated for their hard work. An implication from this point is that organizations that don’t have public salaries might have a harder time retaining their top talent. We can tie this back to the situation between the New York Times and Abramson. Again, I wouldn’t say I’m informed of the situation, but from what I understand, Abramson was rather high up in the NYT hierarchy, which indicates to me that it was fair to consider her “top talent.”

2. If public salaries isn’t an option, partial pay openness could mitigate the negative effects of pay secrecy.

It might be that a firm or organization isn’t yet comfortable with releasing all data about salaries, so an intermediary step could see them gently open up the salaries by talking about ranges. This point reminded me about government salaries that often have ranges for each level that an employee reaches. One may not know exactly what their co-worker makes, but if one knows that their co-worker has reached a certain level, one would know that one’s co-worker’s salary is in a certain range.

Just before ending this post, I wanted to circle back to the point about pay for performance. In this study, the task that participants completed was a “computer matching game.” Based on what’s been written about pay for performance, this is the right kind of task to test these sorts of hypotheses. However, when it comes to more creative tasks, the pay for performance model doesn’t always fit the best. Tying this back to the situation with Abramson and the NYT — it’s not clear to me whether the “pay for performance” model fits best. Having never worked at a newspaper or publishing outlet, I don’t exactly know the role of an Executive Editor, but from what I’ve been able to read through Google searches, it sounds more like creative tasks.

ResearchBlogging.orgBelogolovsky, E., & Bamberger, P. (2014). Signaling in secret: Pay for performance and the incentive and sorting effects of pay secrecy Academy of Management Journal DOI: 10.5465/amj.2012.0937

Is There Really Less Turnover in Fun Workplaces?

In first considering this question, my reflexive response is — of course! But do you know why fun contributes to less turnover? Hold onto that thought and see if it turns out to be the same answer that researchers came up with earlier this year.

Three researchers took a closer look at fun and the workplace. Specifically, they looked at how three forms of fun affected turnover: fun activities, coworker socializing, and manager support for fun. They looked at almost 300 servers (from 20 restaurants) at national restaurant chains in the US. So right away, we need to be careful generalizing these results outside of the service industry and in particular, servers at restaurants in the service industry. The results:

First, this research demonstrated that fun is significantly related to employee turnover, serving to further validate claims in the popular management press that fun has a beneficial impact on individuals and organizations. Second, this research highlighted that only some forms of fun relate directly to employee turnover. These results signal the importance of focusing on the component parts of workplace fun, rather than treating fun as a single construct, as has been done in other research (Fluegge, 2008; McDowell, 2004). Third, this research demonstrated that constituent attachment is a key mediator in the fun−turnover relationship. In doing so, this research has helped to answer how and why fun impacts the turnover process.

That third and final point is the key: constituent attachment is a key mediator in the fun-turnover relationship. Meaning, relationships/friendships at work help to mitigate one’s likelihood of quitting. And one way of enhancing relationships/friendships at work? Fun. That is, fun can facilitate the opportunities by which co-workers can get to know each other and develop relationships. By doing so, employees are less likely to quit.

So, while the research helped to confirm previously held thoughts about fun having an impact on employee turnover, the important discovery here is that fun isn’t the “end,” but merely the means to an end. By promoting and facilitating fun in a workplace environment, a manager can create the opportunity for employees to develop relationships.

As the researchers mention in the discussion section, I wonder how generalizable these results can be across industries. Of course, there’d need to be more research to validate it’s reliability in other industries, but my guess is that the results are going to hold across certain industries. For instance, I’d imagine that many office cultures that are similar to the restaurant industry might show a similar effect. That is, office cultures that have ups and downs in workloads, like you would find in the restaurant industry.

ResearchBlogging.orgM. J. Tews, J. W. Michel, & D. G. Allen (2014). Fun and friends: The impact of workplace fun and constituent attachment on turnover in a hospitality context Human Relations DOI: 10.1177/0018726713508143

I’d Love to Get Inside Marissa Mayer’s Head: The End of Telecommuting at Yahoo

By now, you’ve no doubt heard that Marissa Mayer is ending telecommuting at Yahoo. There’s been lots of opinion written about why what she’s doing is wrong and lots written about why what she’s doing is right. In general, I think that the research supports the plethora of pros to working from home, but of course, a blanket generalization across all situations stating that working from home is better than being in the office would be near-sighted. There are two articles that I want to highlight.

The first doesn’t specifically state that what Mayer’s doing is “right,” but does lend credence to her decision:

So when Mayer decrees seven months into the job that she wants people to, you know, physically show up at work instead of telecommuting — or else — I’m pretty confident this reflects a data-driven decision more than a cavalier command. In all likelihood, Mayer has taken good, hard looks at Yahoo’s top 250 performers and top 20 projects and come to her own conclusions about who’s creating real value — and how — in her company. She knows who her best people are.

Certainly, this makes sense. It’s unlikely that the executive team of Yahoo woke up one day and said that we need to bring those telecommuters into the office because they’re not working hard enough!

The second is of the opinion that Mayer and Yahoo might be erring in their decision:

The working-from-home ban also reveals that Mayer doesn’t know how to measure her workers’ performance. Swisher quotes a source who says that Mayer has been “irked about Yahoo parking lots that are slow to fill in the morning and quick to empty by 5 p.m.” This is a classic bad-manager misconception—that a full parking lot means people are getting stuff done. And it’s easy for employees to game that system. If my boss makes it clear that she’s looking for my car in the parking lot in the evenings and on weekends, all I’ve got to do to get noticed is spend a lot of time at the office. Sure, this will ruin the rest of my life, but otherwise it’s easy—as long as I’m in the office, even if I’m just playing solitaire, I know I’ll be making a good impression.

An important point, indeed.

As I said earlier, in looking specifically at this situation at Yahoo, I don’t know which side I come down on. In fact, it’s really impossible to know, unless I could get a hold of the data that Mayer used to make this decision. That being said, based on the research that supports working from home, part of me wonders if the data that Mayer used to make this decision isn’t accurately capturing what Yahoo thinks that it is.