Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Leadership Style and Organizational Commitment

Level of commitment to an organization structure may be the difference between thriving and faltering corporations.  Understanding the mechanisms behind employee dedication is an urgent matter for any leader.  This review is a compilation of 15 peer-reviewed research articles observing the correlation between leadership style and commitment.  An emphasis was placed on discerning whether consideration leadership style (a construct of transformational leadership) related significantly with affective organizational commitment.  The research provides strong evidence in support of consideration leadership style and its connection to employee involvement.

Leadership Style and Organizational Commitment
People face the choices of commitment every day.  Some commitment is semi-subconscious, like deciding which brand of cereal to buy or what to watch at 8 o’clock.  Yet other decisions like who to marry, where to live, and where to work are very deliberate processes.  Deciding to commit to an organization is, next to marriage, one of the toughest assessments people make.  Beyond that, deciding whether to merely fulfill obligations at work or supersede narrow job definitions may be the difference between faltering and thriving organizations (Moss, 2006).  Companies and leadership should take note that success depends largely on whether employees are affectively committed.  Namely, are employees highly dedicated, involved and loyal?  It is hypothesized that leaders who adhere to consideration leadership styles will foster high levels of affective organizational commitment.  The following literature review attempts to demonstrate and support this hypothesis.
            Within the United States Army’s core doctrine, leadership is identified as the most essential factor in whether the U.S. wins or loses (Kane & Tremble, 2000).  Since Bass’s studies in the 1980’s describing transactional[1] and transformational leadership styles, the military has tried to decode the link between leadership styles and levels of motivation.  Transformational leadership has become the primary focus of recent research.  Understanding its link to the consideration style of management is important.
Consideration Leadership
            Lewin, Lippitt, and White (1939) conducted the original studies involving leadership styles and productivity.  Comparing and contrasting democratic, authoritarian, and laissez-faire approaches, their conclusions pointed to a positive correlation between democratic leadership techniques and productivity.  Building on these findings in the 1960’s, the University of Michigan and Ohio State University further defined managers as either product-oriented or employee-oriented leaders.  However, rather than place product-oriented and employee-oriented variables on different scales, the Ohio State University sought to combine the styles.
            Leaders were now measured on both scales simultaneously, forming a graph with four quadrants.  Leaders focusing on task orientation could still pay attention to subordinate’s feelings and attitudes.  These new dimensions were renamed initiation of structure and consideration.  Bozeman (1979) described initiation of structure as the leader’s behavior in delineating the relationship between himself and members of the work group and in endeavoring to establish well-defined patterns of organization, channels of command, and methods of procedure.
            To compliment initiation of structure in the Ohio State University studies, leaders were also rated on consideration or “any action which the leader takes to perceive the human needs of his subordinates and to support the subordinates in their own attempts to satisfy their needs” (Hampton et al., 1982, p. 569).  While consideration leadership style was originally measured independently, in modern leadership studies it is measured as a component of transformational leadership.
            In its original definition, transformational leadership was reported as one who must develop and communicate a new vision and get others not only to see the vision but also to commit to it (Tichy and Ulrich, 1984).  While at the core, the definition has remained the same, two major changes have occurred.  Transformational leadership has moved away from its “great man” focus and more recently adopted a strong consideration component.  Note the last part of Kane and Tremble’s (2000) description of a transformational leader:
Transformational behaviors promote the following subordinate outcomes: admiration, respect, and trust of the leader; motivation and commitment to shared goals and visions; innovative and creative approaches; and growth reflecting the unique needs and desires of individual followers. (­p. 137-138)
Another strong example of transformational leadership’s move towards consideration style is evidenced in Walumbwa and Lawler’s 2003 article in the International Journal of Human Resource Management.  Within the five transformational constructs (charismatic leadership, individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, contingent reward, and management-by-exception) is the condition that connects directly with previous definitions of consideration: individualized consideration.  This variable of transformational leadership is concerned with developing followers by coaching and mentoring (Bass, 1985; Bass and Avolio, 1990; Dubinsky et al., 1995).
A leader displaying individualized consideration pays special attention to each individual’s abilities, aspirations and needs to enhance followers’ confidence in responding to problems facing them and their organizations (Avolio, 1999). By providing mentoring and one-to-one communication, such leaders are able to build a sense of determination and self-confidence in their followers (Bass, 1998; Dubinsky et al., 1995).  So, while the original definition of transformational leadership borders closely with trait theories of leadership[2] (Ott, Parkes and Simpson, 2008), it would appear that later definitions synthesize consideration approaches into their models. 
Organizational Commitment
As a dependent variable of leadership, organizational commitment has received as much scrutiny as transformational leadership and is the focus of studies aimed at determining its levers.  This makes sense because empirical studies describing the mechanisms of dedication are invaluable.  Managers actively seeking to cultivate supportive atmospheres can use these studies to modify their behavior (Crawford, Lok, and Westwood, 2005) and subsequently satisfy employee needs. 
Definitions and constructs of organizational commitment remain varied.  At its simplest, Allen and Meyer (1996) suggest that organizational commitment may be thought of as the psychological tie between the organization and the employee, which increases the chance that the employee will remain with the organization and contribute above-average effort to the organization.  Allen and Meyer (1990) have also studied commitment as a multi-dimensional variable comprised of three components: affective, continuous, and normative commitment.  Affective commitment is the employee’s emotional attachment and identification with the organization.  Continuance commitment is defined as dedication based on the costs of leaving the organization while the normative component is best described as the employee’s obligatory feelings to stay in his or her current situation (Crawford & Lok, 2001).  This literature review will focus primarily on affective commitment and its correlation with supportive leadership styles.
In all but two studies reviewed, researchers utilized blends of transformational and consideration styles.  Correlations between organizational commitment and transformational leadership were measured both as holistic variables (the convergence of the constructs) and by separate components.  Thus, it was quite simple to focus directly on the correlation between individualized consideration style and affective organizational commitment. 

Strong Support
In 1995 the Journal of Applied Psychology published a research article by Allen, Bycio, and Hackett deeply examining the core constructs of transformational leadership.  The research team deconstructed the multifactor leadership questionnaire (MLQ) and its correlations between transformational leadership’s prediction of satisfaction, intent to leave and organizational commitment.  Their findings showed that as an independent variable individualized consideration correlated strongly (.90) as a predictor of organizational commitment.  Because of this they suggested that the five separate constructs of transformational leadership (charismatic leadership, individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, contingent reward, and management-by-exception) should be measured separately.  Subsequent leadership research was built on the notion of differentiated modules.
In the July 2001 issue of the Journal of Managerial Psychology, researchers Peter Lok and John Crawford examined the antecedents of organizational commitment and job satisfaction in hospitals in Sydney, Australia.  Their sample included 251 nurses employed in seven large hospitals.  Along with survey questions about ward culture and job satisfaction, Lok and Crawford looked at the nurses’ perceptions of their manager’s leadership style and postulated its link to level of commitment.  Using the attitudinal definition of commitment (Steers, 1977), which overlaps with affective commitment, they hypothesized that a consideration leadership style would have a more positive effect on commitment than an initiating structure leadership style.
            The nurses responded to both Stodgill’s (1974) Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire (LBDQ) and Mowday et al’s (1979) Organizational Commitment Questionnaire (OCQ).  Lok and Crawford point out, despite the LBDQ’s age, it is popular and reliable.  The OCQ is also a well-established scale.  In the end, their results supported the hypothesis of this investigation as well as their own.
            One interesting addition the researchers found was that an “innovative ward culture had the strongest positive effects on commitment” (Crawford & Lok, 2001, p. 608).  Both consideration leadership style and innovative ward culture were statistically significant (p < 0.05) when correlated with commitment.  However, consideration ranked at 0.25 while innovative showed at 0.34. It will take further studies to determine a link between leadership styles and culture styles, yet it may be that supportive leadership styles foster innovative cultures, thus leading to even more dedication.
Building on their excellent research from 2001, Crawford, Lok, and Westwood (2005) examined the link between leadership style and organizational commitment again.  The focus of the investigation was on 258 nurses within the Sydney, Australia metropolitan area using a survey aimed at hospital wards rather than hospitals in general.  Two of their nine hypotheses focused directly on leadership style and commitment, with 3a claiming “there will be a significant relationship between perceived leadership style and commitment” and 3b stating “a perceived consideration leadership style will be perceived to be more positively correlated with commitment than a perceived initiating structure leadership style” (p. 499).  More specifically, the researchers were trying to figure out whether leader behavior had a direct impact on nurses’ daily lives within the ward and if this perception led to greater individual commitment towards the hospital.  To properly measure leadership style and commitment the researchers utilized two well-known surveys: Stodgill’s (1974) LBDQ was sent again along with Mowday et al’s (1979) Organizational Commitment Survey (OCS).
The results in this study supported the hypothesis that leaders who adhere to consideration leadership styles will foster high levels of affective organizational commitment.  Both hypotheses, 3a and 3b, were found to be statistically significant.  Confirming that leadership style was a relevant antecedent of commitment, Crawford, Lok, and Westwood went on to suggest that to genuinely change an organization for the better, leaders must attend to their mode of leadership. 
It should be noted that the studies by Lok and Crawford (2001) and Crawford, Lok, and Westwood (2005) were cross-sectional studies, not longitudinal, thus the results were merely a snapshot.  But, combining the two does show that consideration leadership style has a significant impact on dedication.  Also, the fact that these studies focused on nurses and ward culture in hospitals means the results may not be transferable to other professions.
To remedy this, Peter Lok and John Crawford teamed up again in 2004 and took their hypotheses out of the hospital wards and into the Australian and Hong Kong business worlds.  Sampling 219 managers from Hong Kong and 118 from Australia, the researchers examined the effects of a consideration leadership style on organizational commitment and job satisfaction. 
Unlike their previous study, Crawford and Lok were trying figure out if Eastern management styles were significantly different from Western styles.  The thought was that employee perception of consideration leadership styles would correlate negatively in Hong Kong and positively in Australia, citing cultural differences.  Surprisingly, the hypothesis stating that consideration style would correlate negatively among Hong Kong subordinates was rejected.  In both cases, supportive leadership was sought after for higher levels of employee satisfaction and commitment.
Adding to the urgency that management should monitor their leadership style, whether Western or Eastern, was Walumbwa and Lawler’s (2003) research aimed at building effective organizations.  They examined 213 employees from China, 206 from India, and 158 in Kenya totaling 577.  All personnel were from the banking and financial sectors.  Once again the MLQ survey was utilized and measurements were based on a 5-point Likert scale with subordinates directed to rate their management and organization.
Primarily concerned with the moderating effect of collectivism in regards to transformational leadership, the findings pointed once again to a strong, positive correlation between leadership style and organizational commitment.  The researchers even postulated that transformational behaviors accentuate collectivist attitudes and direct worker energy into even more collective achievement.  As in previous studies, their definition of transformational leadership included the individualized consideration component.
Walumbwa and Lawler showed that transformational, and particularly supportive leadership styles, worked across cultural boundaries.  Within the future and practical implications section of their study they even suggest that organizations would certainly grow by providing transformational leadership programs for management (p. 1097).
            This research could certainly be generalized to a larger audience since the data was collected in natural settings and because the participants were truly cross-cultural.  However, Walumbwa and Lawler did not measure actual behaviors.  Instead they rated behavioral intentions, which correlate with actual behaviors, but are not true behaviors.
            Other studies that strongly support this literature review’s hypothesis are Bommer, MacKenzie, and Podsakoff’s 1996 work on determinants of employee satisfaction, commitment, trust, and organizational citizenship behaviors along with Jean Lee’s 2005 study on the effects of leadership and leader-member exchange on commitment.  Both articles employed the affective definition of commitment as well as the consideration component of transformational leadership.
            Bommer et al. collected data from 1539 employees across a variety of different industries.  The most notable piece of their results was that as a whole entity, transformational leadership did not provide strong evidence for its effects on subordinates.  However, taken as separate variables, the researchers reveal, “one transformational leader behavior (individualized support) appears to be a particularly important determinant of employee attitudes, role perceptions and behaviors” (p. 290).  Of the five transformational modules measured, consideration style was the most significant.
Lee’s article suggested similar findings while exploring the leader-member exchange (LMX) and its relationship with commitment.  It is important to note that LMX is analogous to consideration leadership style.  It involves the inter-personal communications between leaders and followers classified by high levels of trust, interaction, and support. 
Similar to Lawler and Walumbwa, Lee’s sample consisted of business school graduates in Beijing, China.  Using simple random sampling of the graduates’ e-mails the research team contacted participants and then awaited survey responses.  Altogether, 220 surveys out of 400 returned.  Like previous studies the researchers used the multifactor leadership questionnaire (MLQ) to measure leadership along with Meyer and Allen’s instrument for multidimensional organizational commitment.
Lee found that transformational leadership correlated positively with affective commitment at 0.601 and a significance of < 0.000.  In contrast to Bommer, Mackenzie, and Podsakoff the research pointed out that transformational leadership as a whole did have a significant effect on organizational commitment. 
Despite strong findings in each of these articles, caution in their strength must be considered.  Owing to the cross-sectional designs, the data collected does not allow for an assessment of the direction of causality.  Findings should therefore be considered exploratory until data replication of these studies in a longitudinal design is captured.   When compared and contrasted as a semi-meta analysis however, the combined research sheds light on the hypothesis’ truth.
Moderate Support
            The aforementioned articles strongly supported the hypothesis that leaders who adhere to consideration leadership styles will foster high levels of affective organizational commitment.  The next three articles still provide core evidence, but less intentionally.
In early 2007, Walumbwa teamed with another researcher, Peng Wang to discuss the effects of transformational leadership on family-friendly programs, organizational commitment, and work withdrawal.  Using transformational leadership as a moderator between flexibility-related family-friendly programs and organizational commitment they surveyed 475 employees from 45 different banking institutions.  Like their previous study participants were from China (186) and Kenya (110), but the third sample came from Thailand (179), not India.
As a moderator, transformational leadership proved significant.  It directed a positive relationship between family friendly programs and organizational commitment. Wang and Walumbwa discovered that offering family-friendly benefits on their own was not sufficient enough to affect work attitudes and behaviors.  Leadership in general was still the key to employee satisfaction, while transformational leadership and particularly individual consideration sparked dedication in the sample population.
In an article focused on military leadership, Masi and Cooke (2000) tried to decipher a relationship between transformational leaders and organizational productivity in Army companies.  Organizational productivity was measured as the amount of recruiting activity.  Those companies with commanders and recruiters exhibiting transformational leadership values were hypothesized to recruit more new troops than leaders and recruiters using transactional styles. 
The respondents were surveyed using Bass and Avolio’s (1992) Form 5X MLQ in a stratified random sample of 42 battalions that included 2596 Regular Army personnel.  The findings weakly supported the hypothesis on productivity’s relation to transformational leadership, but interestingly the data showed a strong negative correlation between transactional styles and productivity.  Thus, it may be true that the “wrong” style of leadership is more influential than the “right” style.
Rather than implementing transformational leadership programs for managers and/or leadership, Masi and Cooke believed that removing poor leadership activities would show more immediate improvements in recruiting efforts for the Army.  However, transformational programs that include consideration models were thought to be worthwhile in long term planning.
Other Views
In all the reviewed articles thus far an argument has endorsed the strength of transformational leadership, with an emphasis on consideration.  The research suggests this is probably the right choice for a modern leader.  Moss, Ritossa, and Ngu (2006) support this thesis, but suggest a move towards situational leadership.  Their study of 263 pairs of managers and subordinates found that supportive leadership should be reserved for subordinates exhibiting a promotion regulatory focus versus a prevention regulatory focus
The researchers described promotion-oriented employees as having goals related to advancement, accomplishment, and aspirations.  On the other hand prevention-oriented focus manifested in job protection, safety, and responsibility.
When employees rated highly on promotion Moss et al. suggested that leaders use consideration style.  If an organization showed strong signs of prevention focus, initiation of structure style was hypothesized as a more effective mode for management.  Just like Masi and Cooke’s (2000) Army survey, Moss et al. found that corrective-avoidant (transactional) leadership had a stronger effect on subordinates than transformational styles. They also discovered something interesting:
…the positive association between transformational leadership and commitment was unrelated to regulatory focus. That is, transformational leaders fostered commitment even in employees who demonstrated a prevention focus. Conceivably, employees who habitually adopt a prevention focus might instead experience a promotion focus when their manager exhibits transformational leadership. (p. 104)
This showed that transformational leadership was indeed a powerful tool.  It was better for a manager to focus on building relationships with employees rather than remaining detached and uninvolved. 
This notion was also supported in McCann, Lanford, and Rawlings (2006) research article but they suggested focusing specifically on affective commitment versus continuance and/or normative.  Their validity test of Behling and McFillen’s (1996) Syncretical Model of Charismatic Transformational Leadership revealed an insignificant relationship between continuance and normative commitment when testing the independent components of transformational leadership.
There is no doubt that leadership is complicated and situational, with no direct proven system of success (Goeffe and Jones, 2000).  Despite this, there is strong statistical support that certain ways of “being” will promote productivity, creativity, and strong commitment among employees.  Daniel Goleman (1999) postulates that empathy, a foundation of consideration, is one of the more powerful pieces of a leader’s talents.  Empathy is not word used in many business practices, especially at the top where tough decisions are made with seemingly less emotion. 
            As the business world flattens and globalization marches forward (Friedman, 2005), the ability to empathize and use consideration will become ever more valuable.  To avoid, or at the very least, minimize cross-cultural faux pas or worse, it will take the emotional intelligence of a dedicated and considerate leader.  People who are empathetic are in tune with their surroundings and can more readily avoid misunderstandings.
In an entirely new view, researcher Ed Weymes (2002) suggested that leadership should be completely rethought.  He claimed that outdated language, rooted in military metaphors, was guiding management off course.  His answer to the question of what makes organizations effective was straightforward: relationships.  In Relationships, Not Leadership, Sustain Successful Organizations Weymes completely disregards transformational or transactional styles and goes straight to the heart of why organizations and leaders exist. 
            Organizations are no more than a group of people who come together for a specific purpose (p. 320).  While most outlooks on leadership are synonymous with high-ranking officers in the company, in actuality leadership is a process that ordinary people utilize to bring out the best from themselves and others (Kouzes & Posner, 2000).  This moves away from the model of ‘leaders and followers’ to a more horizontal organization where leaders are inspirational staff.
Weymes tried to show that humans are emotional creatures who desire social interaction more than meeting deadlines.  His prescriptive response for the peak-performing organization was based on the research surrounding emotional intelligence.  Emotional intelligence lies within social awareness and people demonstrating appropriate social skills at the right times. 
            This research strays away from transformational leadership, but still stays on par with the idea that consideration style is a useful construct.  Consideration, empathy, emotional intelligence and social awareness all connect at a level beyond productivity.  Each harkens back to the fact that humans are intelligent, yet social animals.  In Lee’s (2005) study she even suggests that “in the determination of organizational commitment, the importance of building high-quality relationships should not be neglected” (p. 669).   While we can live without organizations, some of the best pieces of our world revolve around communal productivity.  It is essential that leadership continued to be studied, but perhaps Weymes is correct, who leadership belongs to ought to be reexamined.

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[1] Transactional leadership is defined as an exchange-based influence whereby followers exchange effort for rewards from their leaders (Bass, 1985).
[2] The trait theories assume that leaders possess traits that are fundamentally different from the traits of followers (Ott, Parkes and Simpson, 2008, p. 33).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ideal Organization Exercise

During graduate school an excellent exercise we explored related to figuring out our ideal organization, meaning what type of industry, culture and goals you'd definitely like to work for our create (like designing or buying your dream home).  It was an excellent idea and construct I keep referring to in my research on hiring retention models (self-selection) and why people choose the type of work and organizations they ultimately end up working with.  Here's my answer:

Ideal Organization Exercise: Learning Posture
Jack Be Nimble
Face-to-face, client interaction fires me up.  This is a role that has suited me well in the past and something I would like to strive towards in the future.  Thus, my ideal job function a position that requires human interaction, large project management, and a solid, overarching (difficult, but attainable) goal.  This foundation leads towards my ideal organization – while client-facing work can be done anywhere, in my experience, working with small to medium size companies in this capacity is much more rewarding than in larger enterprises.
                  Smaller companies also respond quickly to market conditions and run lean, which is sometimes not as rewarding as a larger organization, but I feel that the intrinsic rewards are worth the hard work.  The problem I have had with working in big companies (Microsoft and Amazon) is that the division of labor is so thinly sliced that it is quite easy to get bored, quickly I might add.  Plus, smaller organizations have a clear focus because they are focused on one specific service and segment of the population.  This means they typically do one or two things well.  Large organizations tend to do lots of things in a mediocre manner.
                  As for industry, I find myself leaning towards biotechnology and higher technology companies which serve a specific base of scientists, not necessarily broad consumers.  But, the products I hope to sell or market will directly affect a broad base (say, rapid DNA testing for the masses).  The other industry I hope to return to at some point is sustainable real estate development.  My time working with Gerding Edlen Development, LLC, based out of Portland, OR was amazing.  It is a place I would work at again in a heartbeat.
                  All the companies I have thoroughly enjoyed working with employed less than two-hundred people, but certainly more than twenty.  Ideally, I would like to find myself within this spectrum: not too small that too much work load is heaped upon one individual, but not to large that job functions are defined too narrowly. 
                  Culturally speaking, I see a relaxed culture at the surface with a strong current and drive underneath.  Also, I am attracted to cultures where the posture aligns with the work of Carol Dweck.  Companies which see failure as a learning exercise motivates me to work hard and find the right path or answer rather than just any path to succeed.  Research supports this attitude in spades, pointing out that motivation increases and people don’t beat themselves up any longer when they face setbacks (Aronson and Tavris, 2007).  In other words, a company which has adopted an incremental approach to learning would attract me.  So, a learning attitude is the most important value I look for in an organization.
                  With regards to management, I prefer a long leash, meaning that I like a larger set of parameters to work within and figure out my own path to the end.  The word “equifinality” sums it up well.  I believe there are many ways to accomplish and goal.  Managers who let their employees figure it out, I believe, will foster creativity and innovative ways to tackle future problems as well as the present setbacks.
                  I would also like a company which gives immediate, real-time feedback to employees.  The latent 360 process bugs me to no end – it is slow, cumbersome and irrelevant unless the point is documenting employees (which I agree is a good thing).  A company which values its employees also invests enough time to make sure they are thriving in the space they’re living in the moment, not just the future.  Specific and timely feedback is necessary to help steer a ship which can easily drift off course.
                  This leads me to name two companies which I know hold values and cultures very similar to what I have described.  First, the aforementioned green real estate development company, Gerding Edlen, was a an amazing place to work.  The culture was relaxed, but people worked hard.  Amenities such as a car allowance, a Nintendo Wii, foosball tables, and a very rewarding beer hour on Fridays drove home the fact that management valued the forty-five employees. 
                  Also, a company I have not worked for, but know quite a bit about, is Affymetrix in Santa Clara, CA.  This medium-sized biotech corporation is working hard on bringing DNA tests to the masses.  They harbor a strong organizational development culture and believe in fostering change to stay competitive. The team-based culture is aimed at fostering creative and new avenues in research and development.
                  In the end, I want work in a setting where development matters, but also where the goals are clear and the culture believes their people will get the job done.  But when people fail, there is enough of a psychological safety net that rebounding is entirely possible.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Workplace Training's Roots & the Purpose of Business

All four premises of Industrial-Organizational (I-O) psychology proposed by Koppes et al. (2007) play out in the history of workplace training, but out of the four, two are substantially connected.   The four themes are as follows: productivity and efficiency, confidence in qualitative methods, employee selection, and the relationship between researchers and practitioners (p. 61).  In the analysis of workplace training I hypothesize that efficiency and the relationship between researchers and practitioners unite considerably with this topic, much more than the other two themes.

                First, the roots of workplace training are without a doubt the work of efficiency experts.  Munsterberg, Myers, Burt and Viteles, early vestiges of I-O psychology, tried to make mass production workers more effective in their movements and the control of their exertion (Koppes, p 282).  This foundation carries through today in every job which exists.  Entire work philosophies are dedicated to the links between efficiency and productivity such as Lean manufacturing or statistical process control.  So, of the four common themes in I-O, workplace training certainly finds its voice in efficiency and productivity measures and the early mass manufacturing environs. 
During this time, 1900-1930, is when training changed from one-on-one apprenticeships to large-scale instruction.  This meant that supervisors were responsible for many employees efficiency, but as a result, experts in training were spawned to train the trainers.  Modern companies like Microsoft have taken these theories to their logical conclusions.  Training at Microsoft begins on day one with New Employee Orientation (NEO) and beyond, all the way through to senior employees who receive training on a regular basis (or are at least offered the opportunity).
                 This leads to the second of the puzzle, or the relationship between researchers and practitioners.  This is also a pertinent pillar in workplace training which owes much of its existence to “detailed a training program for chocolate factory workers” photographing the motion of a glowlamp strapped to experienced worker’s hands and then showing the results to new recruits on how they ought to move (p 283).   The bridge between psychologists in the field like Myers and those in academia proved fruitful for workplace training.  However, it would seem that work in the field was more important, or at least more accepted, than lab trials.  The refinements in methodology have been driven by field experts, helping prove the reliability and validity of tests by using them in the first place. 
Psychoanalysis, Behaviorism, and Cognitive Influences
                Three paradigms of psychology: behavioral, psychoanalytic, and cognitive all weigh in on selection workplace training.  However, behavioral and cognitive psychology have more influence on this topic than psychoanalysis merely because they’re both measureable – behavioral always has been and new tools in cognitive psychology like the MMPI and other intrinsic tests allow researchers to see which training interventions work.
The earliest research in workplace training was perpetrated by behavioral-functionalist psychologists running the “scientific management” era between 1900 and 1930.  The fact that the environment could be manipulated to make any person more productive, more satisfied, or less likely to leave was a straightforward and approachable modus operandi for training experts.  Appropriate behavior for the job, for instance moving a factory worker’s arm a certain way to reduce fatigue, could be demonstrated and copied in a standard manner.  Stimulus-response theory was directly applied to learning and training.
From there, workplace training did not stray too far from its roots, but added a hybrid of cognitive behaviorism during the dubbed “humanistic” era from around 1930 to the 1960’s.  Worker attitudes and beliefs were worked into training models as more jobs left the factory floor and entered the modern corporation with its new challenges. 
Workplace training continues to rely almost entirely on these two methods.  Modern businesses want their employees to be both efficient and cognitively appropriate for their work.  The ultimate goal is to meet the needs of both the corporation and the worker realizing a mutually beneficial contract.
The Purpose of Business
Argument: the purpose of business is to “serve customers by providing for their legitimate needs and to serve employees by providing opportunities for creative work” (Erisman & Duzer, p. 1, 2007).  I completely agree with this, but my reasons are not research-driven answers.  I think what Erisman and Duzer proposed was actually a philosophical framework rather than an intact argument.
                After reading the chapter 12 by Koppes et al. (2007) it seems that very little workplace training research has been focused on anything but efficiency and productivity.  So my first argument against what I hold true is to follow the money.  Groundbreaking research in I-O psychological has had little to do with service, servant-leadership, or how to help employees with creative work.  From an empirical standpoint, employers who exhibit this kind of behavior are few and far between.  Yet as a counter-argument, the companies I have worked for which do share the philosophical view of Erisman and Duzer are profitable and successful businesses.
                Still, the companies I can think of that are the most “successful”, at least monetarily, seem to squeeze workers to burn-out without any thought of replenishment. As we know, the tide can change, but for now the reality is that shareholder value is king, whether that’s the ultimate reality or not.

Erismann, A., & Van Duzer, J. (2007). The purpose of business. Manuscript from SPU Business School.
Koppes et al. (2007). Historical perspectives in industrial and organizational psychology.  London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Spirituality on the Job: It Has a (Researched) Place!

Business settings are a tough place for well-being. The long reigning philosophy of "leaving your emotions at the door" remains entrenched in the American business landscape. Yet tumultuous financial times and generational shifts (Borkowski, 2005) have resulted in questions about "meaning" and "purpose" in the workplace. Employees are less interested in stock options and more focused on the integration of overall well-being, health and spirituality in the work setting (Coombs, 2002).
As more corporations see the benefit of integrating work and life into a more complete package, spirituality has risen to top of researchers' and human resources professional's minds. In an attempt to reduce stress and maintain high levels of motivation and satisfaction, top management is looking at the value in meeting workers' spiritual needs.

Spiritual well-being correlates positively with a number of indicators of psychological adjustment and overall well-being. Researchers Wolf and Stevens (2001) found that higher levels of spirituality are linked to "marital satisfaction, physical health, social adjustment, possession of strong coping skills, and resiliency in times of stress and personal crisis" (p. 67). However, until around 2006, research on the effects of spirituality and its overarching ties to job satisfaction have remained scarce.  While the topic is still in its infancy compared to other aspects of satisfaction literature, spirituality looks likely to continue as a subject of increasing interest in the corporate mindset as well as the healthcare profession (Koenig, 2008, p. 22).

The notion of spirituality in the corporate and work settings is a relatively undiscovered research area.  Its connections with productivity, worker well-being, and job satisfaction have come to light in the literature on management only recently (Ashmos & Duchon, 2000). Previous studies conducted in the workplace pertaining to spirituality were exploratory in nature and few in number (Milliman, Czaplewski, & Ferguson, 2001).
Spirituality, as defined by Harold Koenig (2008) in Medicine, Religion, and Health, is "a personal relation to the transcendent" (p. 16). Koenig's work has focused primarily on the healthcare industry's relationship with spirituality, religion, and well-being, but his definition is clear and straightforward compared to other classifications.  The notion of spirituality is complex and multidimensional - something that is subjective and difficult to measure - thus the corporate world may have a difficult time measuring and otherwise characterizing why it is so important to employees.  However, as the research on the subject of job satisfaction and its link to spiritual matters multiplies, the definition has been refined significantly, down to a measureable variable and one appropriate for conducting research (Koenig, p. 22).
Early research linking the overall psychological well-being to both spirituality and job satisfaction (Adams et al., 2000) provided little empirical evidence to describe the relationship between these two variables. The lack of support is surprising given that spirituality and spiritual well-being has been described as central to an employee's overall wellness.  To remedy this researchers Robert, Young, and Kelly (2006) utilized the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS) and the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire Short Form (MSQ) to examine the direct relationship between two-hundred workers throughout seven different industries and their levels of job satisfaction as predicted by their spiritual well-being.
What they found, based on the SWBS construct sub-scale was that Spiritual Well-Being (SWB) accounted for 10.4% of job satisfaction variability (as recorded by the MSQ) whereas Existential Well Being (EWB) predicted approximately 21% (R2 = .209) and Religious Well Being (RWB) only explained 3.3% of variation in job satisfaction.  While they did find a significant correlation for each of the sub-constructs, the spiritual well-being subscale indicated that SWB is important to adult workers, but that EWB is twice as meaningful in job satisfaction levels.  Therefore, this finding may indicate that adult workers who report meaning and purpose in life will also report high levels of job satisfaction.  Still, employees with high levels of spiritual well-being will be more satisfied than those with low levels of SWB.
To compliment this work, Clark et al. (2007) studied the link between levels of spirituality in hospice workers and their reported job satisfaction. A survey of 215 hospice interdisciplinary team (IDT) members revealed a 22% variation in job satisfaction as explained by spirituality.  They also used the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS), but correlated it with the Job Satisfaction Scale. While statistically significant bivariate relationships were found, the researchers concluded that "job satisfaction is more likely to be related to the transformation of one's spirituality into the process of integrating spirituality at work and self-actualization rather than spirituality having a direct impact on the job satisfaction" (p. 1326).
On a side note, an interesting fact from the Clark et al. study was that Protestants are more likely to integrate spirituality into the workplace than groups of people who defined their spirituality as "other" on the SWBS.
In 2008, an article in Journal of Gerontological Nursing looked at the effectiveness of a spirit at work program in long-term care. The research provided strong support that the program "increased spirit at work, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and organizational culture (particularly teamwork and morale)."  The study suggested that recognizing spirituality at work is a relatively inexpensive way to enhance the work satisfaction of employees. (V, K., & BJ, S., 2008).  All manner of conclusions about this could be used by human resource professionals and upper manage to meet the needs of a changing workforce.

Another promising study in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly (Benda, DiBlasio, & Pope, 2008) examined a random sample of 600 homeless male veterans, aged 46 to 65, who served in the military during the Vietnam War. Among the strongest predictors of whether the sample population would relapse into troubles with alcohol and drugs was their level of spiritual well-being.  It should be noted that readmission (or lack thereof) into the treatment program was also related heavily to the strength of family relationships, friendships, and work satisfaction.

The findings surrounding job satisfaction and the variability explained by spirituality are significant.  While different studies have found a range of correlations, it should be noted that it is conclusive that spiritual well-being plays a role in the way people interact with their jobs.  At the low end, spiritual well-being accounts for approximately 10% of job satisfaction and as high as 22%.  These numbers should give managers and human resources pause.

The lesson behind these findings is that to improve employee commitment or engagement, managers should not rely entirely on extrinsic forms of motivation (i.e., monetary). Employees are searching for a sense of meaning and purpose in the work itself, which if discovered, leads towards higher levels of productivity and positive levels of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB).

Corporations can improve both their bottom line and the health of their employees by focusing on the inner lives of the people that work for them.  Top leadership must provide a culture that encourages a high level of spiritual support and exploration for all employees (Morrison, Burke & Greene, 2003).  However, if spiritual well-being is treated as just another method to improve productivity it will not work.

Adams, T. B., Bezner, J. R., Drabbs, M. E., Zambaratio, R. J., & Steinhardt, M. A. (2000).
Conceptualization and measurement of the spiritual and psychological dimensions of
wellness in a college population. Journal of American College Health, 48, 165-18
Benda, B., DiBlasio, F., & Pope, S. (2008). Spiritual Well-Being, Relationships, and Work Satisfaction in the Treatment of Homeless Veterans with Alcohol/Other Drug Problems. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 24(1), 109-124.
Borkowski, N. (2005). Organizational behavior in healthcare. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
Clark, L., Leedy, S., McDonald, L., Muller, B., Lamb, C., Mendez, T., et al. (2007, December). Spirituality and job satisfaction among hospice interdisciplinary team members. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 10(6), 1321-1328.
Coombs, A. (2002). The living workplace. New York: Warwick House.
Morrison, E.E. 3rd, Burke, & L, Greene (2007, 2007 Summer). Meaning in motivation: does your organization need an inner life?. Journal Of Health And Human Services Administration, 30(1), 98-115.
Robert, T., Young, J., & Kelly, V. (2006, April). Relationships Between Adult Workers' Spiritual Well-Being and Job Satisfaction: A Preliminary Study. Counseling and Values, 50(3), 165-175.
V, K., & BJ, S. (2008, October). The promise of spirit at work: increasing job satisfaction and organizational commitment and reducing turnover and absenteeism in long-term care. Journal Of Gerontological Nursing, 34(10), 17.
Wolf, C. T., & Stevens, P. (2001). Integrating religion and spirituality in marriage and family counseling. Counseling and Values, 46, 66-75.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Managing Your Boss

The shifting nature of American business has reigned in padded corporate accounts and driven leaders towards lean workforces and just-in-time practices. Throughout this churn, layers of management have been stripped away to reveal the underlying interdependent relationship which leaders and followers must uphold to maintain their heavier workloads. Leaders need reliable subordinates just as much as employees need considerate and transformational leaders (Kotter, 2006; Bass, 1985; Tichy and Ulrich, 1984). This interdependent paradigm is now at the forefront of employee-employer relationship research.
Other underlying assumptions about the corporation are also being tested as employee psychological contracts change from relational to transactional (King and Bu, 2005). The relational pieces of the psychological contract focus primarily on long-term growth and socio-emotional obligations whereas the transactional aim emphasizes short-term performance and pay as its main thrust.  New research challenges the traditional literature focused on the leader. Emerging studies aim to break this traditional model and illustrate how much impact followers have and how leveraging that energy for the good of the company, their boss and their own career will prove shrewd.
For any subordinate trying to move forward in the new economy, he should realize how important it is not only to manage himself, but also his boss. While to most ears this may sound politically motivated, it is in fact an important step forward in employee empowerment and company profitability. John Gabarro and John Kotter’s (2006) seminal work on the subject of “managing your boss” points out that “bosses need cooperation, reliability, and honesty from their direct reports.”  This may seem like a “duh” realization, but Gabarro and Kotter are quick to point out that self awareness and the recognition that bosses are just as fallible as you or I is still a notion to be grasped.  The key to reaching an interdependent understanding, and thus a mutually beneficial work relationship with your manager (Gabarro & Kotter, 1980) in a rotating economy is realized by accepting this reality and learning to work within the bounds of an imperfect relationship.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Expecting Success

A popular myth outside the closely linked passages of Hollywood is that actors are “discovered.” The truth is nearly always less enthralling. More often than not, actors have worked hard to catch the eye of a producer or casting agent, laboring to grab a single audition for a soap commercial (Irish Spring perhaps?) or taking a small role in a horror movie rather than being discovered randomly one evening shopping for detergent. Even the superstars who reign from successful families, such as Kate Hudson, daughter of Goldie Hawn and Bill Hudson, have reported having to work diligently for their achievements (Us, 2009). While nepotism is often cited as a winning cause for actors “making it” there is something more. In fact, individuals with the most talent are not always the most successful. There is a force beyond aptitude – something even greater than nepotism (McNatt & Judge, 2004) – which springs people to the top levels of performance. The actors that have landed the most successful gigs were expected to succeed. This motivation technique, aptly named the Pygmalion effect is a special tenet of self-fulfilling prophecy.

From a meta-analysis performed on this effect, we know that in certain contexts the results are strong (McNatt, 2000, p. 314), including sales environments (Schulman, 1999), military settings, and with groups of auditors (McNatt & Judge, 2004). The question remains then: why do so many of those with high ability remain at the bottom while less-talented individuals rise to the top? Expectancy effects are on par with pure self-determination and ability. To be fair, human motivation is a complex matter. Still, there is a growing consignment of research which suggests that the most successful folks are not only hardworking and capable, but they are expecting and expected to succeed. This expectation has been internalized, but harkens from outside, often from an authority figure (e.g., supervisor or parent) and brings the third driving element into light (Schulman, 1999). An individual’s desire to accomplish something is derived from a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Self-fulfilling prophecy theory proposes that “people’s behaviors are consistent with their expectations and those behaviors in turn influence outcomes” (McNatt & Judge, p. 315). Akin to that, self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1982) affirms that to gain information people use a variety of sources and devise judgments based on their ability to perform tasks at expected levels. These judgments then guide how much effort and diligence people use to obtain the anticipated level of performance. It follows that if a person believes he or she can accomplish a task, his or her actions will follow those beliefs and increase the chances of the belief reaching fruition. Why is it then that this straightforward, logical examination has not reached business culture to the degree that it seems it should?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rally ‘Round the Core: a Book Review of “Built to Last”

The title of the business book “Built to Last” conjures up images of marble statues or empire-building and that’s exactly what the authors were trying to infer, but with an unexpected twist. In their bestselling book, professors Jim Collins and Jerry Porras wanted to figure out what factors differentiate so-called visionary companies from the rest of the crowd. But what are visionary companies in the first place?

As Porras and Collins describe them, “visionary companies are the premier institutions – the crown jewels—in their industries, widely admired by their peers and having a long track record of making a significant impact on the world around them” (p. 1). So what separates great companies like 3M, Hewlett-Packard, or Sony, from the rest? As Collins and Porras found out, the answer to the question was counterintuitive.

The authors spent six years researching and comparing the practices of eighteen visionary companies to those of a matched set of good, though not great, companies. Using the research equivalent of “genetic twin studies,” their fundamental observation was that average companies are driven by the power of "or." For instance, you can have either short term profits or long term growth; either stability or progress. Visionary companies, in contrast, embrace the power of "and," i.e., you preserve the core and stimulate progress.

To make sure their conclusions were well received, the authors methodically explained how great companies build foundations that embrace seemingly contradictory goals. The great companies the authors studied, contrary to conventional wisdom, are not profit focused at their core but rather, they are “value” focused. These values are a sort of heart, around which leaders grow the company. Great companies such as Disney, Wal-Mart, Merck, Ford, Hewlett Packard, 3M, and Johnson and Johnson all exuded this yielding to foundational doctrine.

Among the core myths that Collins and Porras shattered are that visionary companies must start with a great product and be pushed into the future by a charismatic leader. Instead the majority of visionary companies were characterized by a total lack of an initial business plan or key idea and by remarkably self-effacing leaders. Along with that, great companies foster an almost cult-like devotion to a "core ideology" or identity, and active indoctrination of employees into "ideological commitment" to the company (e.g., Nordstrom’s). Workers who do not mesh with the company will definitely not fit and be “ejected like a virus” according to the authors.

When it comes to organizational development, Collins and Porras’ insights are invaluable. For an OD consultant, all well-researched knowledge is power and the authors provide key guidelines for working with specific companies.

Focused on planned change, the practice of organizational development seeks to help organizations achieve greater effectiveness. If a consultant understands the core ideology of a business, then he or she is more readily equipped to speak the language of the company. In some ways, this makes working with a visionary company either very easy or incredibly difficult.

Consultants who know themselves well would have to turn down certain jobs if they realized their personality would not mix with the doctrine of the company they are trying to serve. Again, since this is usually spelled out in visionary companies, it would be easy to accept or reject an offer once the consultant knows the limitations and strengths of his or her personality when compared with those of the company values.

As a detailed, conceptual framework, I thoroughly enjoyed reading and digesting “Built to Last.” I mostly took to heart the notion of starting a business as a way to grow within a productive community and as a way to provide for our substantive needs. As a future OD practitioner, I would highly recommend this work to any consultant or business leader.

However, what is unfortunate about the book is that it does not leave much room for companies which are already founded. It would seem that to truly build a long-standing and exceptional corporation, you would have to pretty much start over and found a new company. What happens to companies which were poorly founded or recently lost their charismatic leader? It would seem, and is probably the case that these companies will flounder and eventually pass on.

Another interesting insight from “Built to Last” is using core ideology as a litmus test to figure out if employees truly understand their company and its core values. Simply, if you ask them and they know, then it’s safe to say the company they work for is a good fit. People at 3M, Nordstrom’s, Disney, and Merck would more than likely be able to expound on what their company believes. Others probably wouldn’t know and might not even care.

This type of knowledge, at least for me, is of great value. In one instant you would be able to judge whether or not the company, and its employees, were on a meaningful path or not. With this information, the path to helping guide a company into a longer future would be easier to discern.

In the end, “Built to Last” discovered some of the most important truths of the twentieth century corporation. This book will be utilized for decades to come, partly because the authors developed their strategy on the same principles as the visionary companies they studied. I personally appreciated the author’s due diligence and vested interest in the difference between average companies and those that change the world.