Tuesday, December 30th, 2008
Conflict at work can arise due to several factors, such as a disagreement about money factors, working hours, holidays, project deadlines, harassment, bullying, working styles, etc. These issues exist in all organizations. Conflict can sometimes be resolved by negotiating matters quickly or it can rise into a major dispute. Communication can become difficult and break down if there is conflict. This of course results in performance decrements.
Conflict can sometimes be a good thing because it allows the opportunity for some things to change, voices to be heard and compromises to be made. This can result in a positive change. Ensuring that the working environment encourages healthy communication will affect the performance of employees. When two individuals, such as an employee and employer are experiencing conflict, then mediation can occur. Mediation is “assistance to two or more interacting parties by third parties who (usually) have no authority to impose an outcome” (Wall, Stark & Standifer, 2001). Mediation is basically used to resolve conflict issues and is used in several organizations around the world. The aim of mediation is to improve the relationship between individuals.
Two main factors have to occur before mediation can take place. Firstly, the individuals who are in the conflict situation should come to a mutual agreement that another person or party is needed to mediate the situation. Secondly, the third party should agree to help resolve the conflict. Another factor would be to consider how helpful the mediation process will be compared to not using mediation. Mediation can be used at any stage and is voluntary. The process explores the feelings of the individuals involved and helps them to resolve workplace difficulties by encouraging communication and coming up with an agreement.
Mediation is useful in improving the relationships between people, it reduces stress as the process is voluntary and it reduces people being unhappy at work. Mediation can be used to avoid tribunal claims and costs can be reduced. It is also beneficial to employees as it generates a culture in the working environment which focuses on managing and developing individuals needs.
Wall, J. A., Stark, J.B., Standifer, R.L. (2001). Mediation: A Current Review and Theory Development. The Journal of conflict resolution, 45 (3), p. 370-391
Monday, December 29th, 2008
There are several different forms of discrimination which can occur in the work place. Indirect discrimination refers to an implicit form of discrimination which is usually unintended. Direct discrimination is explicit and occurs as a form of intended actions and this can be sex, age, or racial discrimination. Because indirect discrimination is usually unintended, it is critical to assess and monitor practices in the organisation (i.e., success rates of different groups etc.) to ensure that it is not happening.
Research has found that in the workplace environment and in employment decisions discrimination does in fact occur (Maass, Castelli, Arcuri, 2000). Race is an important factor in employment discrimination and many studies have looked at this relationship by investigating how different standards are set to specific groups, and how different individuals apply different standards to a group (Ziegert & Hanges, 2005). Ziegert and Hanges (2005) found that understanding implicit attitudes of individuals is an important aspect of understanding employee discrimination this is predictive of behavior. Explicit attitudes are different than implicit attitudes when discussing race. For example, in an in-basket selection exercise, managers were asked to rate potential job applicants. One group of managers received a memo from the president of the organization, which stated that he wanted a “White” candidate. The other exercise group received a memo which did not contain the statement about racial preference. It was found that based upon the manipulation of the situation racial bias occurred (Brief et al., 2000).
Therefore, it is important to consider factors in the organizational climate. Being aware of what type of behavior is supported and rewarded by management can affect employees and lead them to certain behaviors which are socially acceptable. As noted above, it is also wise to monitor the different groups in organisations (age, sex, ethnic background etc) to ensure that any differences in their treatment at work (e.g., pay-rise, appraisal results) are due to actual performance rather than their group membership.
Brief, A. P., Dietz, J., Cohen, R. R., Pugh, S. D., & Vaslow, J. B. (2000). Just doing business: Modern racism and obedience to authority as explanations for employment discrimination. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 81, 72–97.
Maass, A., Castelli, L., & Arcuri, L. (2000). Measuring prejudice: Implicit versus explicit techniques. In D.Capozza & R.Brown (Eds.), Social identity processes: Trends in theory and research (pp. 96–116). London: Sage.
Ziegert, J.C., Hanges, P.J. (2005). Employment discrimination: The role of implicit attitudes, motivation, and a climate for racial bias. Journal of applied psychology, 90 (3), p. 553.
Wednesday, December 24th, 2008
There are several contracts which exist between an employee and employer. One contract is a written agreement whereby there is an exchange of services for some money. Another contract is a psychological one. This is an unwritten agreement between and employer and employee and this is not specific. A psychological contract is open ended and assumes that there is a social exchange of behaviors. For example, an employee is expected to work and behave in a certain manner and the employer is expected to reward the employee based upon these behaviors. The psychological contract is based on maintaining a relationship. For example, in a psychological contract an employer is expected to provide support, job security, training and development, and some obligations of an employee are loyalty, role behavior or even working overtime. Whereas in a written contract, an employer will have to note down pay details, and employees will have to provide notice for leave, transfers etc. The better the relationship of the psychological contract, the more content the employee is, and this relates directly to performance (Atkinson, 2007). One factor which is crucial to this contract is trust.
If there is a failure to meet the requirements of the psychological contract (and this is based upon individual perceptions) then it can change the attitudes of the employer and employee. It might result in resentment, anger and lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and the employee leaving the job.
Atkinson, C. (2007) Trust and the psychological contract. Employee Relations, 29 (3), pp227-246.
Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008
Stress is a factor which can affect everyone at some point in thier lives. Stress can be defined in general terms whereby mental and physical health is affected by events. A stressor is the condition which causes an individual to feel stressed (physiological response). As organisational psychologists, our focus is on looking at anything which might cause stress in the physical environment at work and looking at how changes in performance occur. Understanding the causes of stress is important for any organisation, as it can have a direct impact on the performance of employees. For example, stress can affect an employee by increased anxiety levels, low morale or even depression. It can lead to drug use, fatigue, muscle aches, high blood pressure, burnout or suicidal behaviours. For example, on the 23rd of December 2008 in Hong Kong, one man attempted to commit suicide by jumping of a building because he had missed a deadline and was stressed that he might lose his job. Work life stress can affect all areas of an individual’s life, such as the social aspect.
Some causes of stress can be the current economic situation, violence, harassment, lack of job security, low decision latitude, high demand to do a job such as increased workload or time pressure. These are just some factors in the environment which organisations have to be aware of when discussing stress and getting affecting treatment for stress management is crucial as this results in job performance being affected. Coming up with solutions to reduce or manage stress is important. PsyAsia offers a Stress Management at Work course which is delivered by organisational psychologists and is beneficial for anyone wanting to know more about this topic.
Beehr, T., (2000). Theories of Organizational stress: An organisational psychology meta-model of occupational stress. University Press, Oxford
Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008
Having a good relationship at work between the employee and others in an organisation is an important part in job satisfaction and organisational commitment. The working attitudes of employees and their performance is affected by the trust they have in an organisation, and this relates to motivational factors which affect contribution to work. The relationship an employee has with an organisation can be defined as either an economic relationship, or a social relationship.
The social relationship is basically the action of an employee, and this is motivated by what they expect from others. The social relationship can also be an exchange of behaviours and can relate to doing someone a favour. For example, if an employee does another employee a favour, then it is expected that there will be some return in the future for that behaviour. The manner in which this favour will be returned is not always specified and there is usually no time limit set, but there is basically an expectation that the favour will be returned. Another relationship an employee might have with an organisation is an economic relationship. This relates to setting a formal contract whereby specific benefits for behaviours are set, and this also has an impact on the relationship and employee has with an organisation.
The social relationship is affected by the way the organisation treats its employees. For example, an employee will be more motivated to do a favour for someone if they believe that they will benefit from it or get some sort of return on the work they put in, and this is also based on a level of trust. Trust can be defined as “the willingness of a party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party based on the expectation that the other party will perform a particular action important to the trust, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control that other party” (Mayer, Davis & Schoorman, 1995). Vulnerability is related to the risk which an employee feels that another person will act in the manner in which they expect. So one factor which affects the social relationship is trust and the employee trusting that the other party will reciprocate.
Previous research has shown that an employees trust in an organisation grows when supervisors are able to fulfil the employees perception of what they think the organisation should do (building on relationships) (Whitener, 1997). This reciprocation contributes to developing trust and trust relates to employees having a positive work attitude and increased organisational commitment. Therefore, having trust in an organisation maintains the relationship between an employees work attitude and behaviour outcomes.
Aryee, S., Pawan, S,B., Chen, Z,X (2002). Trust as a mediator of the relationship between organizational justice and work outcomes: test of a social exchange model. Journal of organizational behavior, 23 (3), p. 267-285
?Mayer RC, Davis JH, Schoorman FD. (1995). An integrative model of organizational trust. Academy of Management Review 20: 709–734.
Whitener EM. 1997. The impact of human resource activities on employee trust. Human Resource Management Review 7: 389–404.
Friday, December 19th, 2008
There is a lot of information (on the internet, books, and magazines) which relates to work-life balance. Work-life balance is about the balance between the personal life and working life. There are several factors which can result from having an imbalance, such as stress or absenteeism. People may be labelled or label themselves as workaholic, and many people might experience burnout as a result of overworking and increased stress. Burnout occurs when a person is very tired (emotionally exhausted) and has feelings of reduced personal accomplishment and/or control. The individual is likely to have a personal sense that they are not effective in working and fulfilling their responsibility at work (Maslach, 1982 cited in Demerouti & Nijmegen, 2001).
Organisations can help employees to cope with burnout by educating them about this factor, and offering some training in how to manage their stress and offering them some support to cope. An employer has to be considerate about maintaining the work-balance of employees; this is because an imbalance can directly affect the productivity, absenteeism and loyalty of the employee. There are several initiatives organisations can take into account when implementing a balance. This can be enforcing strict time limits of working hours and encouraging employees not to work after hours. Sometimes encouraging some employees to work from home and also educating them about how important work-life balance is in their lives can be done. Organisations can offer employees a choice of activities in terms of how they want to manage their time. For example, part-time work or casual work, choosing which days they want to take off and just creating an environment whereby employees are not encouraged to work after hours can help in the long-term. Anyone who is working can be affected by this work-life balance, and this can range from blue-collar workers to upper management.
It is important for organisations to be aware of individual factors affecting this balance and also be aware that this changes with time for the individual. It is a myth that staying long hours at work results in increased productivity. Many other factors are involved and these include perceived control over the work by the employee as well as their ability to effectively manage time. Whilst there will always be periods when the organisation needs “all hands on deck”. This should only ever be temporary. If your employees are always working late they will have little balance in their lives and, over time, will become less effective. If you need your people to continuously work late or at weekends this implies there is too much work for the number of people employed (assuming they have good time management skills!). It would be useful to consider employing more people and although this may cost initially, productivity gains and a happier workforce are likely to offset this cost in the longer term.
Demerouti, E., U, Nijmegen., (2001). The job demands-resources model of burnout. Journal of applied psychology, 86 (3), p. 499-512.
Thursday, December 18th, 2008
Research has shown that people are more satisfied at work if they are treated fairly (compared to similar other people). This concept is often called the justice or equity theory. The concept basically states that employees are also motivated if they think or feel that everyone is treated equally or fairly. The comparison that people make can be between themselves and the organisation.
Psychologically, employees make comparisons with other people and they evaluate their outcome (how much they get from a job) such as recognition or pay with their input (contribution) such as their time, energy or skills. These comparisons are made, and if the difference between the input and outcome in comparison to others is high, then the employee is more motivated to balance this inequity or make the conditions fairer.
For example, if an employee feels that they are putting in more effort, but gaining less recognition in comparison to other people, then they have more of a motivation to restore this inequity. This might be done by exerting less effort into tasks, claiming wages, or even leaving. Knowing which strategy an individual will choose to restore this inequity is not possible, and neither is knowing which person the employee is making their comparisons too. The concept of fairness is very subjective and therefore it is very important for management to be sensitive to this issue, and there is a need to provide accurate information to employees concerning equity and fairness.
Thursday, December 18th, 2008
|Join us for a free Webinar on January 13
Komal Hiranandani, Intern Psychologist, PsyAsia International & University of Adelaide
Aims an objectives:
Job analysis involves factors which directly relate to the world in which we work. A job analysis defines the requirements of a particular job such as the duties and responsibilities involved. The webinar will provide individuals with understanding the process of designing a job analysis and the crucial role it plays within an organization. The main objective is to present an overview of the steps involved in the job analysis process and present the importance of recognizing the value of identifying relevant skills and competencies necessary for jobs.
Outline of webinar:
-Definition of a job analysis
-What is the purpose of job analysis?
-Job analysis techniques
-How to write a job analysis
-Implications to the organization and employee
||An introduction to job analysis
||Tuesday, January 13, 2009
||12:30 PM – 1:30 PM SGT (Singapore/Hong Kong/China Time)
|After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.
Required: Windows® 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, 2003 Server, Vista
Required: Mac OS® X 10.4 (Tiger®) or newer
|Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
Usually some sort of training is required before a new job can be performed effectively because most people are not experts in the tasks needed to complete a job. One method of training someone for the job is called ‘on-the-job training’ (OJT). This involves developing knowledge and learning practical skills which relate to specific competencies. On the job training occurs in working environments where the actual equipment, tools and materials are used to perform tasks which will be used once training has been completed. This type of training is useful if it is well organised, planned and carried out on the work station and is good for jobs where equipment is easy to learn.
Training can be done in several ways. It can be done through demonstration, whereby the employee is shown what to do, or it can be done by coaching, or job rotation. Job rotation involves providing the employee with a range of activities where they will spend a certain amount of time in the different areas. For example, a manager might spend time in the several different departments where they are exposed to other parts of the organisation. OJT is useful in certain types of jobs, such as army training and building up physical fitness and learning the skills needed to perform during combat (using weapons, survival skills for outdoors), or even learning how to use machinery. Another example for on-the job training would be learning to use a computer program (e.g. Microsoft excel, or simulation pilot training) which would be used every day on the job.
OJT is useful because employees are not away from their work station and they will become for confident in the tasks needed to be completed. The trainee is also able to assess the progress of the employee as they are working and it allows the employee to learn more skills and even become more comfortable with the people and develop staff relationships. However, OJT might not be useful in cases where the trainee is not properly trained, or if there is not enough time for the process to be completed.
Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
Knowing how to delegate tasks is useful if it is done right. If an employee feels that they are working too hard, then delegating tasks might be a useful option for them. Delegating work allows the workload to be more manageable, staff can work together to complete tasks and objectives, and it will also develop skills if challenging tasks are given. There are several considerations which have to be taken before a task can be delegated, such as the deadline of the project, and consideration about the task occurring again in the future. Employees also have to take into account considerations such as familiarity with the task, the amount of direction needed (e.g. will it take longer to explain something new to someone, and will it be faster to complete the task themselves?). However, even though it might take up a lot of time delegating a task and micromanaging the task, it might be a long term investment if it will help delegate tasks in the future. So, by meaningfully involving other people in the process of completing a task, their own skills and abilities can be developed, and the next time a task is required to be completed, it will be easier to delegate.
Delegation can become a problem for some people who are not good at giving control to others, and may find it a risky business move to give control to other people if it affects business. People also might avoid delegating tasks because it might take a lot of time and energy and they might consider this is a waste, but what individuals will have to consider is that whether or not it will be a good use of their time.
In order to ensure that delegation is done appropriately, the individuals should clearly state what the desired outcome should be and state the ‘boundaries’ of the task (i.e. who is responsible for what tasks). Setting appropriate tasks depending on the person’s current position (skills level, job position, level of authority) should also be done also with adequate support (i.e. communication, building motivation, recognition of the task). Ensuring that everyone is happy with the tasks and adjusting to any changes or the workload which might occur (e.g. deadlines) will also make delegation of tasks much easier.