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Posts tagged ‘organizational psychology’

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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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Organizational Psychology – Uncovering Causality

Answers the Question

How do you remove problems to the validity of interpretations of cause and effect in organizational research?

How it Began

Research and statistics play a large role in the studies of organizational psychology. There are many methods of research and statistics used to determine information and answers to the many questions posed by organizational psychologists. When collecting data, researchers must be aware of several issues that can affect the validity of their research. Generalizing information across differing organizations can commonly lead to mistakes. Research methods vary and should be used to suit the questions at hand.

cause and effect

Research and statistics are a key component in organizational psychology, and they are used to determine and analyze data. These tools are used to greatly increase the effectiveness and success of an organization.  Since inferring causal relationships is one of the central tasks of science, it is a topic that has been heavily debated in the use of organizational development consultancy.

Cause and effect is one of the most commonly misunderstood concepts in science and is often misused in an attempt to add legitimacy to research.   The basic principle of causality is determining whether the results and trends observed are actually caused by the intervention or whether some other factor may underlie the process.

Business schools perpetuate the myth that the outcomes of changes in organizations can be managed using models that are rooted in the scientific-rational mode of enquiry. In essence, such models assume that all important variables that affect an outcome (i.e. causes) are known and that the relationship between these variables and the outcomes (i.e. effects) can be represented accurately by simple models. This is the nature of explanation in the hard sciences such as physics and is pretty much the official line adopted by mainstream management research and teaching

The first thing to remember with causality, especially in the non-physical sciences, is that it is impossible to establish complete causality.

Reliability and validity are extremely difficult to achieve in organisation studies. Unlike chemical and biological processes that can be controlled within laboratories, studying humans has the added complication that the humans can figure out they are being studied and shift results.

But even if a strong case can be made for reliability and validity, three conditions must be satisfied to demonstrate cause and effect (essentially to strengthen the case for it). These conditions are all necessary but no one of them is sufficient:

  • The cause has to occur in time before the effect.
  • Changes in the cause has to create a corresponding change in the effect.
  • No other explanation for the relationship can be present.

Key Terminology

Causality – Causality refers to the relationship between events where one set of events (the effects) is a direct consequence of another set of events (the causes).

Causal inference – the process by which one can use data to make claims about causal relationships.

Reliability – the study is replicable and can be conducted repeatedly in the same manner as before, preferably by other people to reduce bias.

Validity – the study is actually measuring what it is assuming it is measuring

In Brief

Cause and effect means establishing that one variable has caused a change in the other variable for example has an increase in stress levels caused employee turnover. It is important to establish cause and effect, so that an undesirable effect can be changed or eliminated i.e. reducing employee turnover by decreasing levels of stress.

To show that an outcome was directly caused by an intervention, there are three criteria we need to consider:

  1. Time-order effect: The intervention must precede the outcome. The introduction of the OD intervention occurred before the changes in the measured outcome occurred.
  2. Strength of association: There is a correlation between the desired outcome and the intervention. For instance, there should be trend between those who participated in the intervention, and the corresponding increase in a measured outcome.
  3. Exclusion of alternate explanations: There should be no other major explanation attributed to the outcome except for that of your intervention. For example, if significant change in work plans also took place during that period, which subsequently impacted the measured outcome, the causality of the OD intervention on the outcome could be cast in doubt.

Examples of Methods of Research

Simple observation, the most basic of research strategies, involves observing and systematically recording behaviour.  The purpose of observational studies in the Organization Development Diagnostic Phase is to produce data that demonstrates a strong cases for causation is obviously to create effective solutions to real problems. In the evaluation phase the Organization Development consultant will seek to provide data to demonstrate the changes that the intervention has delivered.

Archival data represent any form of data or records that are compiled for purposes that are independent of the research being conducted. By far the most widely used form of data collection in organizational diagnostic intervention is survey research. Survey research simply involves asking participants to report about their attitudes and/or behaviours, either in writing or verbally.

If the data is problematic, the treatment will be ineffective and sometimes harmful.

However, organizations have come to a stark conclusion that understanding the diverse dynamics of organization, group and individual behaviour in the work place is extremely important financially. Employees understanding of their role in a company and their particular enthusiasm and loyalty play pivotal roles. Many companies realize that keeping employees motivated and engaged is a financially sound business practice. High turnover of skilled employees is not a desired effect organizations are looking for. Organizational psychology and the effective employment of causality research design can be and are of tremendous benefit to organizations that realize the importance of the connection between people and performance.

What does this mean for Organization Development?

Research methodology and statistical analysis are crucial to the practice of organizational development. Research methodology and statistical analysis may be used to evaluate some intervention designed to enhance organizational effectiveness.  To date, there are people who still wonder if OD efforts are indeed effective in improving organisational performance. This is why there is a need to show how well OD interventions are working — and having a sound evaluation strategy is key to doing so.

Demonstrating causality can be challenging in organisations given its dynamism and the possible emergence of new factors— internal and external that can have an influence on the desired outcome. This is why it is important to clearly establish the leader’s expectations during the contracting meeting — the face-to-face meeting with the leader, where you get to ask probing questions to better understand his/her expectations on the desired outcome, as well as establish the expectation that the intervention can have a direct influence on the desired outcome. Securing agreement on these expectations can go a long way in ensuring that our efforts in outcome evaluation will be accepted by our leader. But even when agreement is secured, it is advisable that we continually check in with our leader throughout the duration of the intervention implementation to make sure that what we are doing is still on the right path.