Work Group Inclusion

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Beth G. Chung of San Diego State University, Karen H. Ehrhart of the University of Central Florida, Lynn M. Shore of Colorado State University, Amy E. Randel of San Diego State University, Michelle A. Dean of San Diego State University, and Uma Kedharnath of the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater. They recently published an article in Group and Organization Management entitled “Work Group Inclusion: Test of a Scale and Model” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they recount the motivations and challenges of this research:]

We decided to pursue this research because of the momentum the concept of inclusion has gained in both the academic and business world. Part of this momentum was generated by a conceptual paper (Shore et al., 2011) we wrote that clearly defined the concept of inclusion in the literature. According to our conceptual paper, inclusion is feeling like you belong and are accepted for your uniqueness in a group. The conceptual paper also forwarded a theoretical model to be tested. The current paper does just that. We test a measure of inclusion that contains both uniqueness and belongingness and we test a complete model of the predictors and outcomes of work group inclusion.

One of the most challenging aspects of doing work on inclusion and diversity is that companies are sometimes weary of providing data regarding these topics. Although the information provided by our research can only help organizations improve, the tendency is to shy away from research that might reveal unbecoming information. However, with persistence and tenacity, we were able to collect the data and validate a measure that is greatly needed to practically assess inclusion in organizations. It is a short measure (10-items) that can help an organization assess whether their employees feel inclusion within their workgroups. We are able to show that these feelings of inclusion have important consequences such as improved performance, creativity, and increased helping behavior. We believe that this article will be useful to both academics and practitioners alike.

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The Cascade Effect of a Workplace Struggle Against Neoliberal Hegemony

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Florence Palpacuer and Amélie Seignour of the University of Montpellier. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Resisting Via Hybrid Spaces: The Cascade Effect of a Workplace Struggle Against Neoliberal Hegemony” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivations for this research:]

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

Certainly, the trigger for this research was the huge media crisis happening in France in the winter of 2010, about a series of employees’ suicides at France Telecom: management practices all of a sudden became a daily topic of debate among a broad variety of stakeholders, from political parties to major corporate leaders, union representatives, religious organizations, and observers of various kinds: everybody had an opinion!

We quickly observed that France Telecom epitomized the kind of restructuring we had studied in other large multinationals in the country, prompted by financialization and deeply undermining the social values and solidarities that had formed the ethics and social unity of these companies.

Looking deeper, we discovered a vibrant, innovative social movement stemming from within the firm to question the role of business in society and the living conditions it offered at the workplace. We were quite fascinated and decided to further investigate this movement.

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

Indeed, we were amazed to discover this incredibly rich and inspired social movement cutting across the firm, civil society, and later on, the State, to turn the issue of work pressure and work organization into a political question, to make visible the suffering of workers who were deprived of their work ethics and identity, and to launch effective policies and actions to transform management practices.

A key challenge for us was to answer the “so what” question in academic terms. We were deeply immersed into the case, and the case itself had such strong resonance with broader transformations of French capitalism, the world of work, and civil society debates, that we believed the case was self-explanatory…well, it wasn’t!

This “so what” question forced us to theorize the case, to go beyond the building up of the story – already quite an intense exercise given the multi-level and multi-actor set up of the case – and to come up eventually with our neo-Gramscian take on the ‘hybrid space’.

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

The neo-Gramscian hybrid space is a very promising tool to explore the kind of social-political transformation we need to see happening in corporations and the economy, if we are to answer the social and environmental challenges of our times.

This framework highlights the key role of movements spanning across the firm, civil society, and the State, in the capacity of resisters to produce lasting changes in the hegemony. We show that change agents should act together both from within and beyond their institutional roles, in order to share and generate new forms of knowledge, resources and actions that will give them a transformative capacity.

We hope that this rich story of resistance, and its conceptual rendering, will inspire others to research and promote such transformations.

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Notes on the Meaning of Work

[We’re pleased to welcome author, Anne-Laure Fayard of New York University. She recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Notes on the Meaning of Work: Labor, Work, and Action in the 21st Century” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, she reflects on the backstory and motivation for this research:]

This piece is a reflective essay that I started a few years ago when I submitted a paper for a subtheme “Reflections on New Worlds of Work” for the EGOS conference. I had at the time two ongoing projects where the concept of “work” emerged as relevant: one was a research project on an open innovation platform for social innovation where I observed people spending a lot of time working on developing ideas and / or giving feedback to other participants although they did not seem to see it as work. At the same time, I had been noticing an increasing dissatisfaction with managers in a big international company where they kept complaining that their work has become boring and felt more like labor than work. These two empirical observations made me curious to explore more how people interpreted work as well as whether work as a practice has changed. Having been trained as a philosopher, I could not help to go back to texts and philosophers I’ve read. This led to a first version that I presented at the conference and the feedback was positive overall.

About a year later, I started reading more and more about AI, automation and future of work. I was invited to various seminars and working groups. One thing that was obvious to me was that the debates, sometime fierce, did not reflect one single understanding of the concept of work. In fact, that was one of the sources of the debates. It seemed to me that turning to philosophy would be generative. Indeed, one of the main preoccupations of philosophy is to clarify, through the analysis of meaning, the questions at stake. A philosophical analysis thus provides concepts that can explain empirical phenomena. I felt that the exploratory piece I had previously written had become particularly timely in the context of the debates on the future of work, and thus I revised it and submitted it to the Journal of Management Inquiry. I was lucky to have an editor and reviewers who thought my endeavor was worthwhile and pushed me to clarify and deepen my argument. In the process, the empirical focus (my original starting point) shifted on the gig economy. Along the way I read a lot about the issues and mobile on-demand platforms such as Uber. I also engaged with literatures that I did not know about and enjoyed learning about and integrating them in my thinking. One of the reviewers framed the review process as a constructive conversation and while the review process does not always feel like this, in this case, it really did feel like a constructive conversation where the reviewers suggested directions to explore theoretically and empirically. In the end, I hope these notes on the meaning of work will provide conceptual distinctions productive for the analysis of the “new worlds of work.”

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The Key to Getting off on the Right Foot – A conversation with James Timpson on Hiring Offenders

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Jenna Pandeli and Nicholas O’Regan of the University of the West of England. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Risky Business? The Value of Employing Offenders and Ex-Offenders: An Interview With James Timpson, Chief Executive of Timpson” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivations for this research:]

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James Timpson delivered a distinguished address at UWE Bristol, following which this paper was completed. I was delighted to be part of the interview team in adding the analysis and reflections to the interview given my research background in offender employment. My PhD research explored the employment of prisoner in private industries during their incarceration (Pandeli et al, 2018) and I am passionate about developing the use of employment as a form of rehabilitation rather than as simply a tool to pass time for prisoners, or as a form of additional income for the prison.

James’s approach provides an example of great practice for working with offenders; he works with them during their incarceration and then provides many with the opportunity to work for Timpson’s upon release. This type of ‘through the gates’ care is exactly what is needed and should be encouraged. Much of the literature on hiring offenders does point towards this approach, and so it is great to provide a real-life example of how this is working in practice to show how the theoretical and practical can go hand-in-hand.

One of the key motivations for writing this ‘meet the person’ piece is the positive impact that we might be able to have by presenting an employer’s insight into working with offenders, to show how providing these individuals with the opportunity to undertake meaningful, empowering work can have a positive impact on their lives and reduce the likelihood of them returning to crime. We believe that this can be useful to a wide range of practitioners including policy makers, the prison and probation service as well as other employers who may be thinking about working with offenders.

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Balancing Frontliners’ Customer- and Coworker-Directed Behaviors When Serving Business Customers

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Michel van der Borgh of Copenhagen Business School, Ad de Jong of Copenhagen Business School, and Edwin J. Nijssen of Eindhoven University of Technology. They recently published an article in Journal of Service Research entitled “Balancing Frontliners’ Customer- and Coworker-Directed Behaviors When Serving Business Customers,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on this research:]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

The motivation for our research emerged from observations that prior literature mainly considered frontline employee (FLE) behaviors in isolation. This stands in sharp contrast with day-to-day practice where FLE’s constantly have to juggle between different tasks for different stakeholders. It is analogous to scholars who constantly have to balance time between research and teaching, among other things. Before this study we did some research on ambidexterity, which focusses more on paradoxical situations where FLE’s seem to be making trade-offs. Although the idea of ambidexterity also fits our research on customer-coworker balance, we felt that the theoretical underpinning was weak. When looking for other theoretical framework we realized that our situation of salespeople trying to balance multiple duties was very similar to something that many people can relate to; work-life balance. Looking into this stream of literature we found some articles pointing to role balance theory, which is rooted in role theory. The ideas of this theoretical framework matched very much with our observations of employees in the frontline. So, our motivation was borne out of personal observations, our knowledge of extant research, and new insights from related fields.

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

In our study we employ a novel approach to study balance. While previous studies on ambidexterity and work-life balance often used difference scores or multiplicative measures of both roles, we employ surface response modeling to tease out the interrelationship between customer and coworker-directed behaviors on performance. We were inspired by a 2014 study by Mullins et al. in the Journal of Marketing who employed the same analytical approach to investigate salesperson perceptional accuracy of customer relationship quality. All in all, our work demonstrates that the surface response modeling approach using polynomial regression techniques is better in capturing true effects. We urge future research to apply a similar approach.

What did not make it into your published manuscript that you would like to share with us?

In our paper we decided not to explicitly link our research with the research on ambidexterity since it complicated the already complex story. This is a pity as ambidexterity research also would benefit handsomely from applying these more advanced analytical approaches to examine the true effects of, for instance exploration and exploitation on performance outcomes.

How important is it for customers to have a positive experience when dealing with a company? The evidence from all manner of research disciplines (Psychology, Management, and Marketing) and reports from the field by consultants and managers is that this encounter is absolutely critical. In the field of services marketing the place where this encounter happens is called the “organizational frontlines.” The frontlines refers to everything that occurs when the customer is in contact with the company: the people, the technology, the facilities and the processes. Research on organizational frontlines has focused in on the immediate contact of the customer with the company, especially contact with employees who serve them and the technology that serves them. This research reveals that knowledgeable and skilled service employees and technology that is accurate, speedy and easy to use play important roles in meeting customer expectations and producing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

This commentary on a special issue of the Journal of Service Research that was about organizational frontlines asks the following question: What kind of company context produces the employees and the technology that meets customers’ expectations and satisfies them? That is, given the importance of what happens at the frontlines the commentary considers what companies can do to ensure that what happens there is maximally positive. So, what can companies do?

We propose that companies must have the following mind-sets to create a context in which customers’ experience at the frontlines is optimal:

1. They must have a socio-technical systems mind-set. Socio-technical systems understand that there is no such thing as technology that stands alone. A socio-technical mind-set ensures that those who design and implement technology have those who use it (employees) and those who are served by it (customers) as there focus.

2. They must have a service climate mind set. A service climate mind-set is created in companies when HR, Marketing and Operations all work together to ensure that the people, the products/services, and the technology of a company all focus in on producing a positive customer experience. These functions can’t be silos because they all impact customers. These functions work together well when there is an internal service mind-set as well: “We help each other produce for our customers.”

3. They must have a strong service HR systems mind-set. Employees who deal immediately with customers must be only one focus of HR; as noted earlier, a service mind-set is critical also in those who design and implement technology and, we would add, those who design products and services.

4. They must have a multi-level mind-set. Companies must see themselves as containing three important levels: A managerial level, an employee level and a customer level. Thus, companies can’t divorce the customer from the company and executives can’t divorce employees from their strategies. In service organizations these different levels are in continuous interaction—at least in the best such companies.

Our proposal is that, while it is very important to focus on what happens in the immediate encounter at the company frontlines, there must also be focus on the context that produces what happens there. Our commentary addresses critical elements of that context and the mind-sets management must have if they wish to deliver excellent service.

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Designing a Human Resource Management Simulation to Engage Students

[Professors Andrea North-Samardzic of Deakin University Victoria and Marlize de Witt of the University of Waikato recently published a research article in the Journal of Management Education which is entitled “Designing a Human Resource Management Simulation to Engage Students“. We are delighted to welcome them as contributors, and their article will be free to read for a limited time. Below they reveal the inspirations and influences behind their research.]

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

I wanted to use a simulation in my classes but couldn’t find one that fit my needs as well as being proven to lead to positive student outcomes. So in the grand tradition of ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ I created one myself.

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

I thought that the students who navigated the software in the simulation program would find it more engaging. But the findings showed that we have tremendous capacity to create new and interesting simulations in traditional learning management systems. You don’t always need new and shiny technology to engage students.

The biggest challenge was finding students to participate in the lab tests and focus group. We can’t provide credit to students for research participation.

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

The roadmap we provide for designing, developing and testing the simulation will hopefully inspire others to create their own simulations. Buying software licenses can be expensive. So why not create your own and test it to show how and why it works?

What did not make it into your published manuscript that you would like to share with us?

There was a lot more attention to design science in the earlier drafts. I was a bit too hung up on this and it took awhile for my co-author to convince me to let it go. Kathi Lovelace was also an incredible editor and helped us with really refining the contribution too and advising us on what to play down and what to emphasise.

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

Make sure you share your work with others in development stages and rewrites no matter how rough the drafts or embryonic the ideas. If things get stuck, you may like to bring on another person as a co-author. I tried to publish the work as a sole author but it didn’t quite hit the mark. Working with Marlize to rewrite and reposition the paper made the world of difference.

Also it took a long time to bring this article to publication. That’s ok. Hang in there. Scholarship is a marathon, not a sprint.

What is the most important/ influential piece of scholarship you’ve read in the last year?

Kathy Lund Dean and Jeanie M. Forray’s editorial ‘Teaching and Learning in an Age of (In)credulity: Facts and “Alternative Facts” in the Classroom’ really spoke to me even though they said some things I didn’t necessarily want to hear at first. It has lead me to do a lot of critical self-reflection about my role as educator and ‘expert’ in the room and how I need to adapt to better address current concerns. For me, a great piece of scholarship not only makes you think about the topic but makes you think about yourself.

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Standing on Top of the Wrong Wall!

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, A. R. Elangovan of the University of Victoria British Columbia and Andrew J. Hoffman of the University of Michigan. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “The Pursuit of Success in Academia: Plato’s Ghost Asks “What then?” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the backstory and motivation for this research:]

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What happens if you spend the better part of your working life fighting to climb the career ladder, succeed with hard work and sacrifice to get to the top, and then discover you have scaled the wrong wall? This was the question that we wrestled with during a chance meeting in February 2017. We were meeting for the first time but quickly recognized during the course of our discussion that we were kindred spirits in how we imagined the conceptualization and enactment of scholarly identities and purpose, and the role of academia in modern society. Our shared sensibilities were tinged with a sense of urgency to elevate this topic towards a broader and more critical debate, especially in light of the political, social and economic shifts that are radically altering the landscape of our professional and personal lives.

Central to our thinking was an unease that academia has drifted away from its primary role as the intellectual conscience of society – a place where we can gather with curiosity and passion to search skillfully for answers to questions that will point us towards better and more enlightened ways of living. We were troubled by what we had experienced as business school professors in how “success” for an academic has been so narrowly construed that it was pushing doctoral students and junior faculty towards a sterile, transactional, “careerist” interpretation of academic life. To paraphrase John Stuart Mill, we felt we were running the risk of creating a generation of academics who have “all the completeness of a limited scholar.” It was an interpretation that was in direct contrast to our belief that being an academic should be imagined and enacted as a calling, one where our creative, curious and skilled search for answers meets the pressing needs of society, i.e., that we see ourselves as actors with a responsibility to help improve the world we live in. We were deeply worried that the way business schools have defined and pursued “success” in recent decades was a self-inflicted wound that only served to undermine our contributions in and to society just as the very value of academia as an institution is being questioned, disparaged, and increasingly dismissed as irrelevant.

We felt compelled to break step with the business-as-usual approach to our work and raise the alarm about this impoverished interpretation of success that permeates our academic trajectories. We were moved and inspired by the message in the poem “What then?” by W.B. Yeats that highlights the life journey of an ambitious young man who does everything “right” as per the societal norms and mores of his time, but ends up feeling unfulfilled and increasingly unsure even as his successes add up. Our paper is wrapped around the four stanzas in the poem and equates them to the four stages of academic life. Our hope is that our call to question, challenge and critique the way we currently define success in academia would ignite a debate within business schools about our identities, responsibilities and opportunities as management scholars.

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