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Archive for June, 2014

Book Review – The New Natural Resource’

The New Natural Resource’ by Hans Christian Garmann Johnsen can be summed up in two words ‘Accessible Academic.’ It is a triumph in covering academic theory in a manner which is a) easy to read b) easy to understand.

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We hear much about the move to the knowledge economy, knowledge society, knowledge workers and knowledge organisations and how knowledge is now a key economic resource in the global economy. How we drive knowledge development, innovation and the development of skills should be the concern of anyone involved in Organisation Development and HRM.

Anyone studying, practicing or interested in social sciences should read this book.  It covers so many theoretical perspectives; modernism, postmodernism, social discourse, critical theory,  justice, ethics, perspectives of social systems and democracy and so on.  The book gallops through the social science landscape with a joie de vivre that you barely realise you are taking in a theory rich text.

Comparing four types of social order: naturalist, rationalist, humanist and discursive perspectives and presenting four perspectives on democracy: libertarian, republican, communitarian and deliberate democracy, Garmann Johnsen provides an overview of how each of these viewpoints says something important about knowledge development and society.

I think Garmann Johnsen succeeds in his effort to “open a debate where we can have a deeper and more nuanced discussion on knowledge development and social and political order” and its “impact on the kind of knowledge that is developed, and the validity, rationality and truthfulness it represents.”

Incredibly interesting read, whether new to social sciences or not.

Plus there is a 25% off discount code G14iQK25 which can be used for A Field Guide for Organisation Development and The New Natural Resource until 1st October 2014

Organizational Psychology – Organizational Culture and Climate

Answers the Question

How are Organizational Culture and Organizational Climate inter-related?

How it Began

Organizational culture and climate focus on how those participating within and with an organization observe, experience, and make sense of their work environment (Schneider, Ehrhart & Macey, 2011).  In regards to Organizational Psychology Climate and Culture are considered to be fundamental building blocks for describing and analyzing organizational phenomena (Schein, 2000). 


Historically, climate, as a construct preceded culture. The social context of the work environ- ment, termed “atmosphere,” was discussed as early as 1910 (Hollingworth & Poffenberger, 1917; Munsterberg, 1915; Scott, 1911), and was investigated in the UK during the 1930s by the National Institute of Industrial Psychology (NIIP). The 1960s introduced Climate as a theoretical concept proposed by Kurt Lewin (Lewin, 1951; Lewin, Lippitt, & White, 1939). As early as the 1930s cultural perspectives within organizations were examined however, it was not popularized in management literature until the 1980s.

Academically culture and climate are viewed as two complementary constructs that reveal overlapping yet distinguishable nuances in the psychological life of organizations (Schneider, 2000). Each is deserving of attention as a separate construct as well as attention to the relationship between the two constructs.

Key Terminology

Culture – the set of ideas, behaviours, attitudes, and traditions that exist within large groups of people (usually of a common religion, family, or something similar).

Climate – the process of quantifying the “culture” of an organization; a set of properties of the work environment, perceived directly or indirectly by the employees, that is assumed to be a major force in influencing employee behaviour

In Brief

While climate is about perceptions of what happens or what people experience, culture helps define why these things happen. Meanwhile, Culture relates to fundamental ideologies and assumptions which are based on a symbolic interpretation of organizational events and artifacts. Culture evolves collectively within the historical context of the organization and is embedded in systems, and resists attempts to change it.

Climate is less stable and more immediate than culture. Upon entering an organization individuals perceive the climate through how the organization looks, emotions and attitudes of employees and the treatment the individual receives. When individuals perceptions become shared, a higher-level social construct emerges.

Climate develops from the deeper core of culture. Climate, or “what,” organizational experience can result from shared values and assumptions based on policies, practices, and as such, their integration can be accomplished by viewing climate as the lens through which the deep cultural layers can be understood.

What does this Mean for Organization Development?

Practices, policies, procedures, and routines play a role in both culture and climate. They are viewed as artifacts in culture and form climate perceptions therefore the organizational practices, management practices, policies, and procedures reflect cultural influences.

Climate perceptions provide employees with direction and orientation about where they should focus their skills, attitudes, and behaviours in pursuit of organizational goals. Alignment between culture, practices, and climate is necessary for employees to respond and behave in ways that will lead to organizational effectiveness.

For an organization to be effective, rganizational members must perceive the practices in a manner consistent with the underlying values and intended strategic goals.  Inconsistencies between culture and climate are likely to have occurred through some misalignment or poor implementation of the set of practices. If practices do not reflect the culture, or are poorly implemented, climate perceptions may develop that are counter to the underlying cultural values and assumptions (Bowen & Ostroff, 2004).

Strong Climate and Cultural situations include:

  1. Agreement – the level of agreement to which employees interpret and encode the organizational situation in the same way.
  2. System-based –  the culture or climate is pervasive and all-encompassing throughout the entire organization, imposing strong expectations on employees in regards to behaviours through strong socialization and sanctions for behaving outside norms
  3. Alignment – the alignment between culture and actual organizational practices and between organizational practices and climate


Organisational Psychology – Job Satisfaction and Job Affect

Answers the Question

What is the psychological responses (work attitudes) to one’s job that leads to job satisfaction

How it Began

Formal research began in mid-1930’s by 1972 over 3000 articles had been published specifically exploring worker attitudes.  There are three important assumptions that underlie the concept of attitudes:

  1. An attitude is a hypothetical construct
  2. An attitude is a unidimensional construct
  3. Attitudes are believed to be somewhat related to subsequent behaviour, although this relationship can be unclear



Work or job attitude is the middle component in a belief about aspects of the job – evaluation, the attitude itself – behaviour, intentions that follow the attitude.  This traditional model suggests that behaviours (including job performance) are largely influenced by job attitudes.  Recently, this traditional model has been questioned as being too simple and some more comprehensive alternatives have been developed.

The Job satisfaction-performance relationship is highly complex (Katzell, Thompson & Guzzo, 1992)
For example, the relationship may be limited by constraints on performance (e.g., group norms for performance, environmental variables such as the speed of an assembly line).  Other research has found a substantial amount of the variability in job satisfaction may relate to “trait affect”

Responses to one’s job have cognitive (evaluative) and affective (emotional) components.  Theories explaining how people find contentment and fulfillment with their occupations express the idea that jobs are perceived as not only a means of earning a living, but also as an important extension of a person’s identity, and, therefore, his happiness. People who have a high level of job satisfaction are observed as having a tendency to be more productive and become successful in their chosen careers.

Key Terminology

Job Satisfaction – multidimensional psychological responses to one’s job

Work Attitudes – certain regularities of an individual‟s feelings, thoughts and predispositions to act toward some aspect of his environment

In Brief

Affect theory

A person’s job satisfaction can depend on two factors: expectations that the individual holds about the job, and the realities of the job itself. The narrower the gap between expectation and reality, the more chances and individual will be satisfied with their  work. The Affect Theory also reasons that a person prioritizes one aspect of the job more than the other aspects, and that certain aspects can affect how satisfied they are.

Two-factor theory

This Theory proposes that two factors can satisfy and dissatisfy an employee in their job. The first factor are the motivational factors which encourage an individual to deliver better work performance, and as a result, attain satisfaction. Motivational factors include job promotions, bonuses, and public recognition. The second factor would be that of hygiene factors, which are not necessarily motivating in an of themselves, but would result in dissatisfaction if they were inadequate. For example; enough money to meet our needs, non-financial employee benefits, the company’s policies, and the overall environment of the workplace.

Dispositional theory

Focuses solely on the natural disposition of a person and states that an individuals personality is an important determinant of the satisfaction level the person gets from the job. From example, an introverted person who may be inclined to have a lower self-esteem may experience a low job satisfaction. One the other hand, an individual who has an internal locus of control and believes they are in control of their own destiny may have a higher level of job satisfaction.

Job characteristics model

The most job-focused theory of job satisfaction, this model lists five features of a job that can affect a person, three of which — skill variety, task identity, task significance — can affect an employee’s perception of how meaningful the work is. The fourth characteristic would be “autonomy”; the more independence an employee experiences, more feelings of responsibility will occur. The final factor is feedback or evaluation, which puts across how well an employee does his tasks.

What does this mean for Organisation Development

Organisational climate and job satisfaction are distinct but related constructs, and both appear to influence employees’ understanding of the work environment and their level of job satisfaction.

Employees with high job satisfaction do exhibit higher organisational citizenship behaviour, which ultimately does have positive effects on the productivity of the entire organisation.  Individuals in the organisation have certain expectations, and creating an environment where  these can be fulfilled, depends upon an individuals perception as to whether organisational environment suits their needs or not.

Line managers and human resource practitioners should be aware that different groups have different needs that can influence their job satisfaction levels and different perceptions of the organisation and that this impacts on their behaviour. Organisations that understand their employees and are aware of what they need go on to create an environment in which employees can thrive and be creative and productive – all characteristics of successful organisations.

Organisations that exhibit characteristics such as having a high degree of autonomy, providing opportunities for employees, nurturing relationships among employees, showing interest in and concern for their employees, recognising employees’ accomplishments and holding employees in high regard result in more satisfied workers.

  1. Focus on Structure, Identity and Human Relations which are positively related to the job satisfaction
  2. Promote the advantages of equitable treatment (organisational justice) of employees
  3. Promote the practice of delegation of power, greater involvement in decision making, capacity building and proper Rewards for good performance


Organizational Psychology – Socialization

Answers the Question

What is the learning and adjustment process that enables an individual to assume an organizational role that fits both organizational and individual needs?


How it Began

Uncertainty reduction theory

Berger and Calabrese (1975) drawing on the work of Heider presented a number of ‘universal truths’ describing the relationship and communication factors.  Uncertainty reduction theory (URT) developed to describe the interrelationships between several factors: verbal communication, nonverbal expressiveness, information-seeking behaviour, intimacy, reciprocity, similarity, and liking.

The Need to Belong Theory

n Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, belongingness is part of one of his major needs that motivates human behaviour.  The need for love and belonging lie at the center of the hierarchy as part of the social needs. While Maslow suggested that these needs were less important than the physiological and safety needs, he believed that the need for belonging helped people to experience companionship and acceptance through family, friends, and other relationships.

Social exchange theory

George Homans (1958) defined social exchange as the exchange of activity, tangible or intangible, and more or less rewarding or costly, between at least two persons. Homans’ work emphasized the behaviour of individuals in interaction with one another, centering  his studies on dyadic exchange.  Blau and Emerson further developed the exchange perspective within sociology.  Lévi-Strauss is recognized for focusing on systems of generalized exchange, such as kinship systems and gift exchange.

Social identity theory

Tajfel (1979) proposed that people belonged to groups such as the groups social class, family, teams etc. providing an important source of pride and self-esteem. Groups give us a sense of social identity: a sense of belonging to the social world.

We can also increase our self-image through a process of social categorization by discriminating and holding prejudice views against the groups to which we don’t belong; thus dividing the world into “them” and “us.”

Key Terminology

Socialization – a learning process by which an individual develops as a social being and a member of a society or group.

Newcomers – someone who has recently arrived or recently joined a group

Personal Organisation Fit – the congruence of an individual’s beliefs and values with the culture, norms, and values of an organization

Work Adjustment – the relationship of the individual to his or her work environment

In Brief

Uncertainty reduction theory

People are motivated to communicate to reduce uncertainty which is unpleasant. Uncertainty reduction follows a pattern of developmental stages (entry, personal, exit). At Entry stage an individual will obtain information about another’s sex, age, economic or social status, and other demographic information. Interaction at this stage is controlled by communication rules and norms. The personal stage begins when attitudes, beliefs, values, and more personal data are shared, leading to less constraint and more free communication. The exit phase leads to decisions on future interaction plans negotiating ways to allow the relationship to grow and continue.

The Need to Belong

In social psychology, the need to belong is an intrinsic motivation to be in relationship with others and be accepted socially.  Our need to belong is what drives us to seek out stable, long lasting relationships with other people. It motivates us to participate in social activities and by belonging to a group, we feel as if we are a part of something bigger and more important than ourselves.

Social Exchange theory

Social exchange theory proposes that social behaviour is the result of an exchange process. The purpose of this exchange is to maximize benefits and minimize costs. People weigh the potential benefits and risks of social relationships and if we judge that the risks outweigh the rewards the relationship will be terminated.

Social exchange theory suggests that our perception of a relationships worth is essentially taking the benefits and deducting the costs. Positive relationships are those in which the benefits outweigh the costs, while negative relationships occur when the costs are greater than the benefits.

Social Identity Theory

Social identity is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership.  We see the group to which we belong (the in-group) as being different from the others (the out-group), and members of the same group as being more similar than they are. Social categorization is one explanation for prejudice. The central hypothesis of social identity theory is that group members of an in-group will seek to find negative aspects of an out-group, thus enhancing their self-image.

Henri Tajfel proposed that stereotyping (i.e. putting people into groups and categories) is based on a normal cognitive process: the tendency to group things together. In doing so we tend to exaggerate differences and similarities.

What does this mean for Organization Development

The pervasive nature of organizational socialization can have a major impact on organizational behaviour, citizenship and career development.

Organizational socialization is concerned with the learning content and process by which an individual adjusts to a specific role in an organizations.  Socialization is not only an important issue for organizational newcomers, but it is important for established organizational members as well.  The need for resocialization among organizational members may be required as people change jobs or teams.  These changes may be the result of promotion, transfer or reassignment or may be more subtle changes such as job title or design.

Three primary mechanisms have been proposed as Socialization tactics

  1. influencing turnover antecedents:  job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and meeting expectations
  2. influencing adjustment to new jobs and environments: learning and development opportunities, task mastery, role clarity, and workgroup integration
  3. influencing perceptions of person-organization  fit and values

Changing organizational structure, positions, personnel, work procedures, organizational objectives or values may trigger the need for new learning and role adjustment if career effectiveness is to be maintained.



Organisational Psychology – Dynamic Performance

Answers the Question

How can you predict High Job Performance?

How it Began 

Performance is a core concept in organisational psychology but in research regarding selection there is an assumption that performance is stable.  Though convenient acknowledging that performance is dynamic and fluctuates over time helps to facilitate our understanding of job performance and its antecedents (see Hofmann, Jacobs, & Gerras, 1992; Sonnentag & Frese, 2012).


Developing a comprehensive theory of performance covers areas such as learning, forgetting, vigor, fatigue, engagement and burnout by exploring various temporal processes which lead to positive and negative cycles of performance.

Predictors of change have been researched in areas such as job design (Wall & Clegg, 1981), reinforcement (Luthans, Paul & Baker, 1981), training and education (Lipsey & Wilson, 1993) and self regulatory processes bring about performance change and adaptation (Bell & Kozlowski, 2008).  More recent studies have focused on how people adapt over time to workplace or task changes (Lang & Bliese, 2009; LePine, 2003).

Performance dynamism isn’t restricted to individual performance but occurs at team and organizational level.

Key Terminology

Performance – any activity or gathering of reactions which leads to an outcome or has an impact on the surroundings when confronted with a particular job.

Stability – The lack variation or maintenance.

Variability – the quality of being subject to variation

Trajectory – the path followed under the action of given forces

Skill Acquisition – the ability to learn and acquire a new skill

Self-Regulation- the ability to act in your long-term best interest, consistent with your deepest values

Action Theory – theories about the processes causing movements of more or less complex kind.

Life Span – the length of time for which a person or animal lives or a thing functions.

In Brief

To arrive at a better understanding of job performance enables researchers to make predications about performance trajectories over time and improves our predictive knowledge about performance changes over a period of time.  Developing performance concepts also enables the identification of individual characteristics and situations that can help predict performance changes.

Deadrick et al (1997) examinded predictors of individual differences in performance trajectories and identified job experience and abilities as a predictors of performance, with workers with previous experience improving more slowly than workers with no previous experience.  Cognitive ability predicted a fast increase in performance.

Ployhart & Hakel (1998) examined individual variables relating to earnings, persuasion and empathy and demonstrated that past salary and future expected earnings predicted inter-individual performance differences and those who thought they were persuasive and empathetic increased performance at a faster pace than those who rated themselves lower.

There has been research examining motivational constructs such as personality traits in the context of more sophisticated models of individual performance change. (Steele-Johnson, Osburn, & Pieper, 2000)

Thoresen et al (2004) distinguished between maintenance and transitional job stages using research including the Big Five personality variables and demonstrated that job tenure and conscientiousness were significantly related to mean levels of performance; extraversion was a marginally significant predictor of performance and that broad personality constructs did not matter much with respect to performance increase and acceleration over time during the maintenance stage.  In the transitional stages agreeableness and openness to experience were related to performance.  Overall personality factors as predictors of performance trajectories differ between maintenance and transitional job stages.

Cognitive ability and conscientiousness, two most important predictors of performance are more fluid and change over life span. (Baltes, Staudinger & Lindenberger, 1999)  However decreasing cognitive ability do not translate immediately into lower levels of performance.  Although lower levels of absenteeism, reduced tardiness and citizenship behaviour are all positively effected with age.

Two models have emerged directly from the literature on dynamic performance to help explain why the relationship between predictors and performance changes over time: the changing tasks model and the changing subjects model.

The changing subjects model theorises that individuals who possess various characteristics (abilities, motivation and job knowledge) result in performance levels  which change even if the contribution of these characteristics to performance remains constant (Keil & Cortina, 2001).

In the Changing Tasks Model performance changes are attributed to job changes, new job roles, or revised organizational requirements, predicting that an individual’s performance changes because the determinants of performance change (Alvares & Hulin, 1972; Deadrick & Madigan, 1990; Fleishman & Hempel, 1954). The model suggests that changes in job requirements – such as after a promotion, transfer, the introduction of new technology, or other change in job duties – may lead to the need for new sets of abilities while reducing the impact of current abilities on job performance

What does this mean for Organisation Development?

Estimating performance vectors will require the combination of theory, empirical research, individual-specific information, and company-specific information. Existing theory and empirical evidence helps establish expected patterns.

All human resource decisions that involve predicting performance (e.g., who to recruit, who to promote, who to reward, who to train) can be based on the information seeking to understanding dynamic performance.

Similarly, human resource interventions can be evaluated based on the their predicted effects on performance (e.g., what are the expected effects of implementing a new selection system, a new pay plan, a new training program, a new feedback system?).  Estimating performance vectors will require the combination of theory, empirical research, individual-specific information, and company-specific information. Existing theory and empirical evidence helps establish expected patterns.

Performance trends over time can result in outcomes that are highly relevant for organizations and individuals alike.  Examining performance trends makes sense from a practical point of view.  From an individuals perspective they may look at their development and may decide whether to leave the organisation, since performance levels may impact job satisfaction.  A manager may observe performance trajectories of their team and determine whether they should remain in their current role or whether changes to the job role or team dynamics may be required to ensure performance is maintained.


  • Sturman, M. C. The Past, Present, and Future of Dynamic Performance Research, Cornell University, 2007
  • Kozlowski, W. J. The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Psychology Vol. 1 Oxford University Press, 2012