How Perceived Control Motivates the Individualization of Work–Life Conflict

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Alison T. Wynn of Stanford University and Aliya Hamid Rao of Singapore Management University. They recently published an article in the ILR Review entitled “Failures of Flexibility: How Perceived Control Motivates the Individualization of Work–Life Conflict,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they recount the motivations for this research.]

While working as a management consultant for two years prior to graduate school, the first author, Alison Wynn, experienced firsthand the intensive work-life expectations that characterize the industry—and many other high-status industries. She became fascinated by the cultural underpinnings of the long hours, extensive travel, and emphasis on “face time.” Despite robust efforts on the part of companies to offer cutting-edge flexibility programs, she could see these programs fell short of their intended effects – providing employees with viable solutions to work-life conflict. This motivated us to pursue research exploring these challenges in more depth.

In an article that was recently published based on some of these data, we analyzed 50 in-depth interviews with management consultants at the top firms. We focused on exactly this issue: management consulting firms provide amongst the best flexibility policies intended to help their employees manage the extensive demands of their work. Yet, in line with our own initial impressions – and as previous research has documented – these policies were not enthusiastically embraced by employees. Why? Prior research has highlighted the role of “flexibility stigma,” which is the notion that using flexibility policies sends a signal to colleagues and superiors that you are not serious about your work. While compelling, we felt this was an incomplete explanation. In our manuscript, we argue that “perceived control” – or the sense control that employees feel they have over managing their work-life conflicts – is a powerful motivator in imbuing a sense of agency and encouraging private and individual solutions to work-life conflict.

In the article, we explain various aspects of perceived control: for example, how our participants saw managing their work-life commitments as a professional test, and how they viewed their ability to manage their work-life challenges as a testament to their suitability for this profession. But one important element that did not make it into the final manuscript was the problematic definition of success at these companies. The very understanding of what makes an employee successful contains built-in assumptions – such as the assumption that long hours translate to better results – when the reality often starkly contrasts with these assumptions. This definition of success was reinforced both culturally, in company norms, as well as structurally, in project assignments and evaluation procedures. By enshrining a definition of success wedded to ideal worker norms, companies create an environment that casts doubt upon flexibility programs promising work-life balance; employees wonder whether they can use available flexibility programs without compromising their own success.

Our study provides evidence that flexibility policies will continue to fall short until and unless they are accompanied by cultural shifts in what “success” entails and how much workplaces can demand from their employees.

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Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Behavioral Norms

LGBTQ_Symbols[Dr. Marina Gorsuch, Professor of St. Catherine University, recently wrote an article in the ILR Review entitled “Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Behavioral Norms in the Labor Market.” We are pleased to feature it and it will be free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Gorsuch discusses how she became inspired to conduct this type of research and provides advice for future researchers.]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

There are striking, persistent differences in earnings based on sex and sexual orientation. I first started this project after wondering if insight from psychology could help economists understand these earnings differences. In particular, I was intrigued by the research from social psychology testing more subtle forms of prejudice and stereotypes based on sex and sexual orientation. I drew on this interdisciplinary inspiration to develop an innovative laboratory experiment that tested how different types of prejudice and stereotypes impact labor market decisions.

Were there any surprising findings?

In this study, I asked participants to evaluate resumes that were manipulated on sex, perceived LGBT status, and whether the resume used traditionally masculine or feminine adjectives. My first set of results is not surprising – I find that male participants penalized resumes with an LGBT activity, and the LGBT penalty was slightly stronger effect for male resumes.

When testing more subtle forms of prejudice, I found some surprising results. Male participants evaluated non-LGBT women who used feminine adjectives more positively than when they used masculine adjectives. However, the resumes of women with the LGBT activity were immune to this effect. This suggests that perceived-heterosexual women are discouraged from masculine behavior that would be rewarded in the labor market, while perceived-LGBT women are not.

Additionally, the same men who had the strongest reaction to perceived-heterosexual women using masculine adjectives also had the strongest negative reaction to resumes with an LGBT activity. I used two different methods to estimate how many men in the study engaged in this form of discrimination. Both methods show that the majority of male participants were biased. This pattern of findings suggests that male decision makers are biased in ways that harm LGBT men, LGBT women, and heterosexual women in the labor market.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

I am a new scholar myself, so will simply repeat good advice I was given: be persistent. Papers and grants will be rejected – it doesn’t mean the paper or the project is bad. Don’t let a rejected paper sit in a drawer. Submit it somewhere else! Most papers you see published were rejected from multiple other journals.

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Gender Photo attributed to Free-Photos  (CC)

Social Exchange and the Effects of Employee Stock Options

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Peter Cappelli of the University of Pennsylvania, Martin Conyon of Bentley University, David Almeda of Kronos Incorporated. They recently published an article in the ILR Review entitled “Social Exchange and the Effects of Employee Stock Options,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they describe the motivation for this research.

The interesting thing about our paper is that both the practice and the research on topics like compensation and rewards is centered on the idea that incentives are the key to motivation. We design rewards to make this happen.

What we investigate is a different motivation, and that is the sense of obligation we might feel to an organization for doing something good for you. In this case it is the granting of stock options to lower-level managers, which the company presents as a way to share in the success of the company’s performance. We can sort out that effect from the effect of incentives, and we find that this obligation has a much bigger effect on employee performance than the effect of an incentive to help the business so the employees will see a bigger payoff from stock options.

The point of this is that companies may be going about this all wrong. Doing nice things for employees can be a terrific way to get them to perform better.

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Academic Entrepreneurship: Bayh-Dole versus the “Professor’s Privilege”

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Thomas Astebro of HEC Paris, Serguey Braguinsky of the University of Maryland, Pont Braunerhjelm of KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and Anders Brostrom of  KTH Royal Institute of Technology. They recently published an article in the ILR Review entitled “Academic Entrepreneurship: Bayh-Dole versus the “Professor’s Privilege”, which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Astebro recounts the motivations for this research.]

ILR_72ppiRGB_powerpointThrough the Bayh-Dole Act (BDA) of 1980, the US pioneered a systemic change in which Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), traditionally held by the granting agency, was transferred to universities if the research had been conducted using federal funds. This change in the IPR regime aimed to simplify relationships with granting agencies and to increase American competitiveness through increased licensing of university-based research. In Europe, the Professors’ Privilege (PP) prevailed. Under the PP, the university has no ownership rights to IP created by a university employee. However, about a decade and a half ago and following the apparent success in the US, many countries were about to abolish the Professor’s Privilege in favor of adopting BDA-type IPR regimes.

We were motivated in writing this paper by the recent evaluations of introductions of Bayh-Dole type IPR regimes in several European countries, including Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. (Other countries have also made such changes.) The evaluations are consistent: these legislative changes have lead to drastic reductions in both the number of patents claimed by university professors, the number of companies started by university professors, and, when measured, a reduction also in the quality of the patents submitted. One of the authors had also recently been appointed advisor to a Swedish Parliamentary investigation on the possibility of abolishing the Professor’s Privilege in Sweden, which would be the third such investigation in a relatively short period of time.

The paper shows that as long as they are stable and supported by an appropriate institutional framework, both types of legislations — BDA and PP — can generate fruitful outcomes in terms of invention commercializations by their creators. However, the many studies investigating the abolition of the Professor’s Privilege in favour of Bayh-Dole type IP regimes in Europe leads one to conclude that wholesale changes to the legislation have had very significant negative consequences, at least when it comes to academic entrepreneurship. Countries have struggled to change the institutional framework to reflect the new legislation, in some cases taking decades to do. The conclusion is thus: don’t rock the boat. Make small changes if necessary. In Sweden, the final report to the parliament suggested that just like in Canada, each university should have the right to decide themselves how to regulate IP rights.

This paper has been challenged by some who do not believe the figures we present on the relative rate of start-ups by academics in Sweden versus the US, which show a slight edge for Sweden. (The US on the other hand outperform Sweden when it comes to start-up rates by non-academics.) This reaction might partly be due to that the US is more known than Sweden, or by some questioning the data. Granted, the two datasets we use are generated in different ways, but on the other hand represent rather substantial efforts to collect either representative data (by the National Science Foundation) or register-based data on all start-ups (Statistics Sweden). Further evaluations will surely appear on this important topic.

 

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What Do Unions Do for Mothers?

Tae-Youn Park of Vanderbilt University, Eun-Suk Lee of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and John W. Budd of the University of Minnesota recently published in article in the ILR Review entitled, “What Do Unions Do for Mothers? Paid Maternity Leave Use and the Multifaceted Roles of Labor Unions,” which is free to read for a limited time. Below they discuss the motivations and challenges of this research.

Paid parental leave is an important issue around the globe. In countries with long histories of universal maternity leave, there is concern with usage rates and with extending this to fathers. In the United States—the lone industrialized country without universal paid leave for new parents (though there are now a very small number of state-based programs and many employer-provided plans)—the central debate is over whether and how to enact such a policy. But a key motivating fact for this research is that simply enacting or offering a paid parental leave plan does not automatically mean that workers will take a leave. So we need to better understand the factors that prevent workers from taking a leave, and ways to reduce these barriers.

One of the challenges with research into these issues, however, is that the decision to take a leave is very complex. So in this project we focus on one important institution: labor unions. Labor unions are popularly associated with higher wages and restrictive work rules, but in reality unions can have many effects in the workplace. We derive a model in which a worker’s decision to take a leave is broken down into four steps: 1) the policy needs to be available, 2) if available, the worker needs to be aware of it, 3) given awareness, the worker needs to believe she can afford to take a leave, and 4) even if affordable, the worker needs to have implicit or explicit assurances that potential negative consequences that make the leave unattractive are unlikely. Based on broad research on what unions do, we discuss how unions have the potential to positively affect all four of these key steps.

To empirically analyze at least part of this framework, we analyze 15 years of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), which is a nationally-representative sample. We are only able to analyze mothers’ decisions to take a paid maternity leave, and our final data set has 27,472 observations from 4,108 female workers across a 15-year period. Ultimately we find that union-represented workers are at least 17 percent more likely to use paid maternity leave than comparable nonunion workers, and that unions facilitate this leave-taking through the availability, awareness, and affordability channels. We also find that mothers who take a paid maternity leave experience a post-leave penalty such that their wage growth is slower when compared to those who did not take a leave. Surprisingly, we did not find that labor unions lessen this penalty. We hope this theorizing and these results spur others to continue to deepen our understanding of the barriers that prevent new parents from taking a paid leave, and help identify ways to reduce these barriers.

Keep in contact with the authors by reaching out to them on twitter: @JohnWBudd!

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ILR Review’s Special Issue on Immigration is now online!

world-map-306338_960_720.pngThe August 2018 Special Issue of the ILR Review is now online to view! This issue gathers cross-national perspectives of immigration legalization to provide a better understanding of immigration as a worldwide phenomenon. Below is an excerpt from the special issue introduction entitled “Introduction to a Special Issue on the Impact of Immigrant Legalization Initiatives: International Perspectives on Immigration and the World of Work,” from authors from Cornell University, Maria Lorena Cook, Shannon Gleeson, Kati L. Griffith, and Lawrence M. Kahn:

“The articles in this special issue draw on studies of legalization initiatives in major immigrant destinations: Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Together they underscore the importance of cross-national perspectives for understanding the range of legalization programs and their impact on immigrant workers, the workplace, and the labor market”

For more from this special issue, which will be free to read for a limited amount of time, click here.


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ILR’s goal is to publish the best empirical research on the world of work, to advance theory, and to inform policy & practice. They welcome papers that are bold and original, and seek to explore new approaches to organizational and public policy. The journal is based in Cornell’s ILR School.

To submit your work to this journal click here!

 

 


World Map Photo attributed to Free Photos.

HRM and Small-Firm Employee Motivation – Before and After the Great Recession

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Alex Bryson of the University College London and Dr. Michael White Emeritus Fellow at Universty of Westminster.  They recently published an article in the ILR Review entitledHRM and small-firm employee motivation – before and after the Great Recession,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Bryson reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

ILR_72ppiRGB_powerpointWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

Controversy surrounds the role of high-performance, or high-involvement, management practices in small firms. Many believe these practices only ‘deliver’ in larger firms. So we wanted to see whether this was the case by looking at links between the intensity of what we term ‘human resource management practices’ and job attitudes among employees in small firms.

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

The additional motivation was to establish whether hypothesised links between HRM in small firms and employee job attitudes would differ pre- and post-recession, as some have suggested. So we produce estimates pre- and post-recession.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

The most challenging aspect was replicating similar data sets for 2004 and 2011 given changes in the design of the survey we were using. The surprising result is that findings generally replicate those for larger firms.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

It is innovative because nobody has examined the links between HRM intensity and job attitudes among employees in small firms using large-scale linked employer-employee data.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

Think hard about motivating your analyses based on sound theory and then search or construct good empirical data to test your hypotheses.

 

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