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Organisational Psychology – Team Participation and Empowerment: A Multilevel Perspective

Answers the Question

How can organisations leverage their human resources to meet complex challenges?

How it Began

Interest in empowerment and participation can be traced back to Kurt Lewin’s classic research on leadership styles and the 1930’s Hawthorne studies.  Individual agency needs (e.g. need for control and achievement) have long supported motivation provided by employee involvement and empowerment.  At an organisational level the growing importance of self-managed and self empowered teams has led to a growing interest in participation and empowerment especially with the shift to a knowledge economy and delayering within organisations.

Psychology

Much research into empowerment has been conducted at an individual level.  However, Kirkman and Rosen (1997, 1999) explored empowerment at a team level, arguing that team members can share the belief that their team has autonomy, performs meaningful tasks, is competent and can make an impact.  There is an assumption that these dimensions have the same conceptual meaning as those at individual level analysis.  However, team empowerment is distinct from individual empowerment in that individual members may differ in their beliefs about personal empowerment but have a shared belief and experience among the team members.

A closely related concept is that of Team Participation which entails greater engagement of team members in the processes contributing to team success.  There are three key processes; transition processes, how team task strategies, goals and plans are generated; action processes, how the team coordinate and regulate effort to achieve team goals; interpersonal processes, how teams manage conflict and morale in the team.

Both empowerment and participation assumes that involving team members in core team functions would lead to improved team effectiveness and improve team outcomes.  This would prove satisfying for team members and would further motivate and engage the team further in their work.  Thus capturing important aspects of engagement.   However, team empowerment captures the psychological engagement among team members whereas team participation involves collective behavioural engagement of team members.  The interconnectedness between empowerment and participation across both individual-level and team-level reflect both a bottom up and a top down process through which individual members influence their team, and the team influences individual members.

Key Terminology

Empowerment – an employee’s actual (subjective) sense of being empowered determined by a set of believes or states; autonomy, meaning, competence and impact

Autonomy –  An employee’s sense that they have latitude to choose how and where to get their job done

Team Participation – A process of information exchange and knowledge transfer.  The extent to which team members collectively and actively engage in transition, action and interpersonal processes.

In Brief

Job Characteristics Model (Hackman & Oldham, 1976) – The key to employee motivation  is the task itself.  Monotony stifles motivation to perform well, whereas challenge enhances motivation. Variety, autonomy and the ability to make decisions are three ways of adding challenge to a job. Job enrichment and job rotation are the two ways of adding variety and challenge.

Self-determination theory (Deci, Connell, & Ryan, 1989) is concerned with supporting our natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways.  Thereby capturing the belief that employees possess the competence to perform effectively work tasks and roles and the belief they can make an impact on the workplace.

Participation in Decision Making (Locke and Schweiger, 1979, Locke et al., 1997) assumes that encouraging and allowing employees to be involved in decision making processes motivates employees and promotes decision quality and outcomes.  Perceived fairness, nature of task and employee knowledge contribute to understanding how participation in decision making is related to performance and motivation outcomes.

Proactive and Citizenship Behaviours Personal Initiative (Frese & Fay, 2001), Voice (Van Dyne & LePine, 1998) and Citizenship Behaviours (Podsakoff, Mackenzie, Paine & Bachrach, 2000) directly consider employees’ active and proactive engagement in work.  Employee choose, and are encouraged, to actively participate in and contribute to organizational work.

Self-Managed and Autonomous Work Teams (Cohen & Bailey, 1997) is where members of self-managed work teams are encouraged to be involved and participate in making decisions that previously were made by supervisors and managers.  Self managed teams are reliant on team design and structural empowerment.

What does this mean for Organisation Development?

The OD practitioner must recognise that teams consist of a social system of interdependent individual members – that is, individual team members cannot accomplish their roles effectively, and the team as a whole cannot function effectively, unless members work together in a coordinated fashion.  In this respect individual and team empowerment are positively related.

At an individual level developing individual employees in respect to positive self-views, including self-esteem and general self-efficacy are positively related to psychological empowerment.

Supporting individuals to interpret work experience more positively, as well as enabling individuals to be more proactive at work will enhance the likelihood of an individual being more empowered.  Working with individual’s through coaching and self-awareness can help develop motivational attributes; increase awareness of cultural differences; develop an understanding of employee expertise and highlight the quality of leader-employee relationships.

Other areas to focus on through Management Development is for Managers to support the individuals need for achievement and openness and emotional stability.  This can be achieved through review job characteristics to ensure that job tasks are less ambiguous; there is access to more information; greater skill variety; autonomy; team based rewards, role expectations; task significance and job feedback.  The quality of relationship between employees and their supervisor and co-worker must also be developed through social support structures.

Social-orientated inputs also need tackling, specifically leadership behaviours and climate which exert social influences on teams, and play a major role in allowing, encouraging and enabling team empowerment.  Developing empowering leadership behaviours will help team members to set their own goals, delegate responsibility, enhance the teams’ sense of control and autonomy and raise team members’ expectations regarding team outcomes.

An empowerment climate and participative leadership can be developed through making use of organisational structures, encouraging information sharing, team accountability, policies and practices which support employee empowerment.

References

  • Cohen, S. G., & Bailey, D. E. (1997). What makes teams work: Group effectiveness research from the shop floor to the executive suite. Journal of management, 23(3), 239-290.
  • Deci, E. L., Connell, J. P., & Ryan, R. M. (1989). Self-determination in a work organization. Journal of applied psychology, 74(4), 580.
  • Frese, M., & Fay, D. (2001). 4. Personal initiative: An active performance concept for work in the 21st century. Research in organizational behavior, 23, 133-187.
  • Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1976). Motivation through the design of work: Test of a theory. Organizational behavior and human performance, 16(2), 250-279.
  • Kozlowski, S. W. J., (2012) The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Psyhcology Volume 2, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Pg. 767 – Pg. 788
  • Kirkman, B. L., & Rosen, B. (1999). Beyond self-management: Antecedents and consequences of team empowerment. Academy of Management journal, 42(1), 58-74.
  • Kirkman, B. L., & Rosen, B. (1997) A model  of work team empowerment. Research in Organizational Change and Development, 10, 131 – 167
  • Locke, E. A.,Alavi, M., & Wagner, J. A. (1997) Participation in decision making: An information exchange perspective. Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, 15, 293-331
  • Locke, E. A., & Schweiger, D. M. (1979). Participation in decision-making: One more look. Research in organizational behavior, 1(10), 265-339.
  • Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Paine, J. B., & Bachrach, D. G. (2000). Organizational citizenship behaviors: A critical review of the theoretical and empirical literature and suggestions for future research. Journal of management, 26(3), 513-563.
  • Van Dyne, L., & LePine, J. A. (1998). Helping and voice extra-role behaviors: Evidence of construct and predictive validity. Academy of Management Journal, 41(1), 108-119.
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The Nature of Organisational Psychology

What question does it answer?

How does the science of psychology apply to work and organizations?

How it Began

Organizational Psychology developed from Industrial Psychology as a field of inquiry which endeavours to understand how people working together in organizations.  Since work is central to societal functioning, giving us both material benefits, identity, psychological well-being and a structure to our time and activity, organizational psychology necessitates an understanding of work as a fact of life.

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The nature of work has changed as our society has evolved.  Moving from basic subsistence to a modern understanding of work which seeks to be more meaningful to the individuals.  Work and organizations are not fixed, they are socially constructed and they change and evolve alongside our society and cultural changes.

Key Terminology

Industrial Psychology – Testing, selection and Training applicable to industry

Employee Well Being – That part of an employee’s overall well-being that they perceive to be determined primarily by work and can be influenced by workplace interventions.

Organizational Effectiveness – how effective an organization is in achieving the outcomes the organization intends to produce

In Brief

The purpose of organizational psychology is to “understand the psychology of organizations and people, and to apply that basic psychological science to help people become more fulfilled and to help organizations become more effective.” (Kozlowski, 2012)

There are different approaches to Organizational Psychology which demonstrate the complexities and challenges of studying organizations and the behaviours that occurs within them.

Industrial and Organzational Psychology – Not an either or, but an and.  Industrial and Organizational psychology represent domains of research and application that have evolved historically, focusing on areas such a human characteristics, behaviour and organizational performance.

Employee Wellbeing and Organizational Effectiveness – Applying psychological principles to improve the experience of workers and the effectiveness of the organization and how this work in tandem to improve organizational performance.

Basic and Applied Science – Developmental, Social or Neuroscience.  The fields are vast but the goal is the same – to discover generalized principles of human behaviour that cut across a wide range of situations

Science and Practice – Explaining important phenomena through the development of meta-theories, systematic research, investigation, codification of knowledge and the development of tools – applied by practitioners in the workplace.

What does this Mean for Organization Development?

Organisation Development is a field of knowledge that concentrates on the development of organisation effectiveness, especially during change. It uses group and human dynamic processes from applied behavioural science methods, research and theories to facilitate movement of groups and organisations.  This includes drawing from Organizational Psychology.

Organisation Development is based on research, including that from the field of organizational psychology, which demonstrates that every part of an organisation is integral to a system that relies on and impacts other elements of the internal and external environment in which the organisation operates.  Key areas of research include (although this is not an exhaustive list);

  • Human Characteristics and differences and their impact of individual/team/organizational functioning
  • Assessment, tests and technology used in people activities; including employee performance assessment, job design, training, selection etc.
  • Assessment of individual differences in abilities
  • Organizational systems theory, Organizational Behaviour and change and effectiveness
  • Leadership and Motivation
  • Leveraging synergies across the micro and macro divide e.g. understanding how Organizational strategy shapes the needs of employees
  • Human capital and its impact on strategy, capability and effectiveness
  • Application of psychological principles on well-being e.g. impact of organizational restructuring and business reengineering, including stress and survival anxiety of employees
  • Cognitive neuroscience and brain function – impact on decision making, mood and disorders
  • Personality, attitudes, values and interpersonal interactions
  • Motivation from achievement, power and renumeration
  • Influences on leadership and group processes
  • Behaviour outcomes on job performance, attitudes and other reactions
  • Principles for understanding important classes of work bheaviour
  • Tools to influence, shape and enhance human performance
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Book Review – Leadership Meta-Competencies

It’s rare that a book comes along that covers the topic of leadership in a way which makes me sit up and take notice but that is exactly what Leadership Meta-Competencies by Dimitris Bourantas and Vasia Agapitou has done.

I am very naughty with books and journals, and anything that sparks my interest gets highlighted or I write notes to myself in the margin.  This book is covered in my scrawling meme’s.  I was hooked from the first page and by the time I had read Chapter 1 I had discovered the most succinct yet thorough overview of leadership theories I have ever read – and I have to many books to count on leadership theories.

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Most delightfully, for an academic practitioner was the presentation of theories from a critical perspective.  It didn’t just describe the theories but evaluated their usefulness in the ongoing debate.

But the delights of the book don’t stop there.  You might be put off by some of the academic language – phronsis, existential thinking and meta-competence might not be the language of business, but what is contained within is useful, practice… intelligible.

If you are looking for a book that bridges the gap (the gulf) between academic thinking and research and what to do with it in the real world, then this book does that in buckets.  It takes the theory and does something with it that is rare but so important.  Makes sense of it so that you can apply the thinking in your day to day.

The blurb says “it contains no check lists or recipes for success and it presents no theoretically-based models” and that is true.  But what it does do, is gets you thinking and surely that is the point of any literature.

Whether you are an academic or a practitioner.  Studying or working in the real world.  If you want to understand Leadership competencies in the work place – start here.

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Organizational Psychology – Team Structure

Answers the Question

What the pros and cons of the four types of interdependence in teams?

How it Began

Individuals have their own identity, but they are interdependent when working within a team, which means that the team itself is has a holistic identity of its own, this creates a ‘ground paradox’.  Weick, 1976 developed the concept of loosely structure systems which has lead to literature exploring the operationalization of four specific dimensions of structural interdependence a) Task Allocation Structure b) Decision Making Structure c) Reward Structure d) Communication Structure.

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Key Terminology

  • Interdependence –  A dependence on 2 or more people, things, events or entities on each other.
  • Team Structure – Organized individuals that constitute unity, composed of correlated elements
  • Decision Making – Deciding between alternatives.

In Brief

Task Allocation Structure (Horizontal interdependence)

Where task allocation structures are team based often where jobs are complex and have fairly high levels of autonomy, high level of cognitive ability are needed.  In these situations Ellis et al (2004) discovered that decentralized team members who have authority to make individual decisions, increase their ease of learning and adapting, are more innovative and is conducive to demands for speed or learning.  In functional structures, where roles are fragmented and there are high levels of interdependence, coordination becomes very important which is supported by team members with an agreeable personality trait.  Ellis et al (2004) found that a designated leader with a degree of authority is required in these situations to ensure coordination.  Where the organizational structure is misaligned high levels of stress or conflict may occur increasing the need for emotional stability.

Decision-Making Structure (Vertical Interdependence)

Jundt et al, (2004) found structural contingencies on both horizontal and vertical dimensions impact team performance and the costs and benefits of both type of structure are similar.  They concluded that Horizontal and vertical structures compliment each other.

Reward Structure (Outcome Interdependence)

Bamberger and Levi (2009) investigated reward structure based on norms of equity, equality or some combination of the two and incentive intensity.  Their findings indicated that relative to equity-oriented group-based pay structures, equality-oriented pay structures are found to result in both significantly more help giving in general by team members and the type of help being offered leading to a higher likelihood of enhanced group-level competencies (i.e. autonomous help).  Incentive intensity strengthens the effects of reward allocation on the amount (but not the type) of help giving within teams.  Rosenbaum et al (1980) demonstrated that even a modicum of competitive reward led to lowered efficiency and productivity.

Beersma et al (2003) concluded that in regards to a teams external fit, competitive reward structures enhance speed but decrease accuracy whereas cooperative reward structures enhance accuracy and decrease speed.  In regards to internal fit extroverted and agreeable people are best suited for cooperative reward structures whereas introverted and disagreeable people are best suited for competitive reward structures.

Communication Structure (Spatial Interdependence)

The set of individual differences that predict team performance in a changing situation may be quite distinct from those that predict performance in more routine situations therefore the effective team composition is required if the team is likely to experience unexpected change.

What does this mean for Organisational Development?

To achieve its objectives, an organisation needs to operate within a structure best suited to its purposes. Traditionally large businesses divide the organisation up into functional areas, with a hierarchical top down power structure.  However, depending on the type of organisation and the interdependencies required within teams, as well as the personalities of the team members the traditional pyramid structure may not be suitable for effective performance.

For innovative, fast moving organizations and those which often deliver products and services via project teams bought together for that purpose, a more flexible matrix organizational structure is more suitable.

Some organizations have gone further in their pursuit of collaborative ‘soulful’ organizational structures, with remarkable results.  Laloux in his book Reinventing Organizations argues that the way organizations are managed is increasingly out of date and more enlightened organizational structures and practices are needed.

 

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Organizational Psychology – Leadership

Answers the Question

What do psychologists know about leadership and what has yet to be learned?

How it Began

Hackman and Wageman 2007, stated that the leadership field, despite its long and chequered history in industrial and organizational psychology was “curiously unformed.” This view is supported by the myraid definitions relating to the construct of leadership, a tendency to theorize about leadership that lacks forms, models, and habits of leadership which are essential for transforming the way we use power and how we respond to power and leadership.

Leadership

Since the 1940s many attempts have been made to define and study the process of leadership in terms of the interaction between leader and the organizational environment with all its social complexities.  Research has shifted from a heroic leader centric focus to that which recognizes leaders are part of an inclusive process involving follows and social, organisational and environmental factors.  The necessity being to keep in mind that leadership is a process not a person.

The multi-faceted, multi-level, interpersonal and multi-functional dynamic of leadership coupled with the increasingly complex challenges  makes a scientific definition of leadership impossible to achieve.  However, with the increasing complexity of modern organizational life, leaders need to be more highly developed and more leaders need to be developed.

Key Terminology

  • Leadership – the art of influencing followers to achieve success by identifying joint goals, finding best-fit roles in teams, collaborating constructively and dynamically, and adapting to change within their environments.
  • Traits – A trait is a characteristic of a person’s personality, motives, and pattern of behaviour.
  • Behaviours – The actions by which a leader adjusts to its environment.
  • Contingency – Changing leadership behaviour or style by modifying its consequences
  • Charisma – A rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm
  • Transformational – when leaders and followers make each other to advance to a higher level of moral and motivation.
  • Leader-Member Exchange – The formation of two groups by a leader of an in-group and an out-group, of followers
  • Leadership Perceptions – How leaders perceive subordinates
  • Shared Leadership – Contexts in which leadership and influence is distributed across the teams

In Brief

There are too many leadership theories to cover in brief.  Below are just some of the theories developed over the last 70 years.

  • Situation Leadership – Hersey & Blanchard (1971) – Examines appropriate leadership behaviours for different situations
  • Contingency Theory – Fiedler (1964, 1967) – Assumes that leaders cannot change their behaviour, but instead recommends matching leaders based on the preferred leadership style to specific situations and contexts.
  • Path Goal Theory – Evans, (1970, 1974); House and Dessler, 1974) – Explores how leaders can motivate followers to achieve set goals and improve their own and the organization’s performance.
  • Leadership Substitutes Theory – Kerr and Jermier (1978) – Explores situational variables (contextual aspects of the task, subordinates, organization) that can make a leader ineffective or redundant
  • Normative Decision Model – Vroom and Yetton (1973) – Further decision making procedures of participative leaders and their effectiveness
  • Cognitive Resources Theory – Fiedler and Garcia (1987) – The interaction of different sources of stress on a leadership’s cognitive ability and leadership behaviours and their impact on group performance
  • Multiple-Linkage Model – Yukl (1971) – Examines how situational variables moderate the influence of a leader’s behaviour on individual and group performance
  • Leaders-Member Exchange Theory – Dansereau et al (1975) – The vertical links between the individual leader and follower.
  • Leadership Making – Graen and Uhl-Bien (1991) – Prescribes that it is vital for leaders to develop as many high-quality exchanges and work relationships as possible.
  • Charismatic Leadership – Beyer and Browning (1999) – Behavioural view of charisma, identifying what a charismatic leader does or how they behave.
  • Transformational Leadership Theory – Downton (1973) – The leadership process of changing how people feel about themselves, which in turn raises their motivation and enables them to achieve performance beyond normal expectations.
  • Transactional Leadership Theory – Burns ( (1978) – the transaction or exchange between leader and followers, resulting in a material or psychological reward for followers compliance.
  • Full Range Leadership Model – Avolio and Bass (1993, 2002) – Comprises of three component dimensions; transformational leadership, transactional leadership and laissez-faire or non-leadership.

 

Further Resources

  1. Leadership in Organizations – Deanne, Hartog and Koopman
  2. The New Psychology of Leadership – Haslam, Reicher and Platow
  3. The Psychology of Leadership New Perspective and Research – Messick and Kramer
  4. The New Psychology of Strategic Leadership – Gavetti
  5. A Social Identity Theory of Leadership – Hogg
  6. Trait Approach to Leadership – Fleenor
  7. Leadership Development for Organizational Success -Kraus and Wilson
  8. Leader Effectiveness and Culture: The GLOBE Study
  9. Two Decades of Research and Development in Transformational Leadership – Bass
  10. Organizational Culture and Leadership – Schein

What does this mean for Organization Development?

With Leadership such a complex construct the OD approach to developing effective leaders should be to see it as a component of developing effective teams and organisations.  At times this may involve working intensively with individual skills, aspirations and behaviours; sometimes the focus may be on design and delivery of development activities; at other times the OD practitioner may find themselves supporting teams, whole organisations or systems as they lead people through change.

The central focus however, is always to explore why and how leaders experience of leadership can be improved and enhanced and employees can be mobilized to do their best.