Website Stories in Times of Distress

[We’re pleased to welcome author Alexia Panayiotou  of the University of  Cyprus. Panayiotou recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “Website Stories in Times of Distress,” co-authored by George Kassinis. From Panayiotou:]

What inspired you to be interested in this topic? My co-author and I have been interested in tmlq.jpghe use of corporate websites as a powerful communication strategy for several years. I was mostly interested in the power of visuality and George interested in questions of greenwashing. We had been following the BP website since 2005, as part of a larger project on the use of green imagery by oil companies. A few weeks before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we were ready to submit a paper about BP’s website arguing, in fact, that BP’s commitments offered a novel way through which oil exploration and environmental responsibility could co-exist. We even classified various problems that could have “warned” us about BP’s practices as “accidents.” When Deepwater Horizon happened, our ready-to-be-submitted draft became irrelevant. After the shock we underwent both as researchers and as dedicated environmentalists who had clearly misread the greenwashing signs, we decided to reframe our research question vis-à-vis the disaster to study how a company changes its visual story in times of distress. Our realization that even we could be “hijacked” by the corporate story—the corporate agenda had clearly overflown into our own act of research—forced us to refocus our assumptions and questions. It is in this context that corporate power, enabled through website use, became critical to our investigation as our experience highlighted the dangerous potential of becoming “accomplices” to this power.

Were there findings that were surprising to you? The most “surprising” finding was not only the change in the visual story told but the way in which this new story was constructed on the website. In addition, as noted above, we were shocked by how the “liquid organization” had co-opted us in the telling of its story through our own act of navigating the website, making us potential “accomplices” in the telling of its corporate story. We saw this as problematic for many reasons, but mainly because the co-telling of a story through website navigation could result in (paradoxically) solidifying what Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid power” or “the art of escape from all forms of social responsibility,” especially in cases of corporate hypocrisy.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice? Corporate websites are surprisingly under-explored in organization studies, despite the so-called “visual turn.”  There are several reasons why website study should feature in our research agenda on management learning: First, websites serve as corporate “storytellers” as they transmit both high-level management messages and the corporate identity to outsiders. Second, , websites differ from other forms of corporate communication since the website user is dynamically involved in the “telling” of the corporate story through his or her navigation act; as such, the user is less a recipient and more a co-constructor of this story. Third, websites, as the most ‘fluid’ of all organizational constructs, may be the most appropriate means through which to study the non-committal, shifting organization of “liquid modernity.” Mobilizing website study in management practice and education can provide a better understanding of “corporate hypocrisy” in a liquid, modern world, especially in times of distress!

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Organizational Demands on Productivity, Innovations, and Safety

[We’re pleased to welcome author Marianne Törner of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She recently published an article in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled “Coping With Paradoxical Demands Through an Organizational Climate of Perceived Organizational Support: An Empirical Study Among Workers in Construction and Mining Industry” co-authored by Anders Pousette, Pernilla Larsman, and Sven Hemlin. From Törner:]

Most organJABS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgizations must be able to combine efficiency, innovativeness, and safe and healthy working conditions, but these demands may appear paradoxical to the employees, and if not handled well by the organization, such paradoxes may create stressful goal conflicts. A large amount of research, not least organizational climate research, has focused on how organizations may promote each one of these goals, but we believe there is a need for research that may help organizations to effectively and simultaneously attain different goals. This was the starting point for this study where we investigated how organizations may support the employees’ ability to reconcile conflicting goals, and thereby promote organizational success as well as employee well-being and sense of worth.

The abstract to their article is below:

Organizational demands on productivity, innovations, and safety may seem paradoxical. How can the organization support employees to cope with such paradox? Based on organizational climate measures of safety, occupational health, innovativeness, and production effectiveness, we explored if a second-order organizational climate could be identified, that was associated with staff safety, health, innovations and team effectiveness, and if such a climate could be represented by an organizational climate of perceived organizational support (POS). Questionnaire data were collected from 137 workgroups in four Swedish companies in construction and mining. Analyses (structural equation modeling) were done at the workgroup level and a split sample technique used to investigate relations between climates and outcomes. A general second-order organizational climate was identified. Also, an organizational climate constructed by items selected to represent POS, was associated with team effectiveness, innovations, and safety. A POS-climate may facilitate employees’ coping with paradoxes, and provide a heuristic for managers in decision making.

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Navigating the Study of Executive Leaders’ Spirituality

[Wejmia_26_1-cover’re pleased to welcome Dr. Stuart Allen, Associate Professor at Robert Morris University in Organizational Leadership. Allen recently published an article in Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Navigating the Study of Executive Leaders’ Spirituality: André Delbecq’s Journey.” From Allen:]

We first began to communicate with André Delbecq in 2014. After reading his articles and hearing him speak at conferences we were eager to include him in an instructional video we were working on that addressed the role of spirituality in leadership and the workplace. André invited us to visit him at his home in San Francisco in early 2015 to video-record an hour long discussion. André is a renowned figure in the Academy of Management, and especially in the Management Spirituality and Religion (MSR) Interest Group, due to his long history of contributions to the management field (over 225 scholarly articles) and his pioneering work on topics such as the Nominal Group Technique. In his late career, in the late 1990s, André began to focus on executive leadership spirituality, publishing various accounts of his approach in delivering seminars on this topic to his graduate management students at Santa Clara University, where he served as senior fellow in the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education and professor of management in the Leavey School of Business.

In the months following the interview, while editing the video footage, we realized that we had much more content than we could include in our initial video; we also recognized the depth of André’s rich experience and warm approach in sharing his experiences and perspective. After seeing an article about Fred Luthans (Sommer, 2006) in the unique Meet the Person format included in the Journal of Management Inquiry (JMI), we contacted André and JMI’s editors to gauge interest in an article in this format about André. In August 2016 we met with André for a second interview at the Academy of Management’s 2016 Annual Conference in Anaheim and spent another 90 minutes with André. He elaborated on some of the earlier issues we had explored with him while adding a great focus on his career and experiences as a pioneering teaching practitioner and author. By this time, we had come to know André better, and later that same morning we presented a panel with him and Jody Fry.

Wanting to see the interviews published, we finished the manuscript in September 2016 and sent it to André for his review and approval. He responded on October 1 letting us know that we could publish the article, but also letting us know he was experiencing some health challenges and would be heading to hospital. Twelve days later we heard of André’s passing. This was a challenging end to the beginning of great friendship as we were just getting to know André at a new level. We were also awed by his generosity and commitment to scholarship through the detailed comments we received in his review, even when he was ill and about to go to the hospital.

This article reports on the two interviews, providing a broader picture of André’s career and experiences as a pioneering scholar and teacher. André also shared some of his thinking about the current state of the MSR field and opportunities for new research. He has shared his thoughts on how to approach the challenges of researching new topics and the rewards he received for doing so. It is hard to communicate the full essence of the experience of working with André, who was a wise, patient, generous, bold, and joyful person to be with. He exemplified the transformative presence of a great leader and scholar. We were honored with the opportunity to capture his thoughts and experiences at what unexpectedly turned out to be the end of his life. Anyone who knew André, is interested in MSR research, teaching, and scholarship, or those seeking to learn from the example of pioneering scholar might enjoy reading the interview.

 

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Organization OR Environment?

organization-enviroment[We’re pleased to welcome Jennifer Tosti-Kharas, Assistant Professor at Babson College in Organizational Behavior. Tosti-Kharas recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Organization OR Environment? Disentangling Employees Rationales Behind Organizational Citizenship Behavior for the Environment.” From Tosti-Kharas:]

The origin of this paper came from bridging two different research projects. My co-authors, Tom Thomas and Eric Lamm of SFSU, published a theoretical paper regarding how individuals develop attitudes toward organizational sustainability. Meanwhile, Eric and I have performed research on what motivates employees to perform sustainable behaviors. We look at what we term organizational citizenship behaviors toward the environment ¬ OCB-Es for short ¬ which are voluntary actions at work that help conserve resources, things like recycling, printing double-sided, etc. This paper joined these two streams of inquiry to examine how the reasons why people think it is important to act sustainably at work relates to their performance of OCB-Es and we tested it empirically.

Most past research on this topic has used a measure of how important people think sustainability is in general, meaning for broad ecological reasons, but never contextualized within a work organization. In the paper we distinguish between believing sustainability is important in and of itself, what we term an ³eco-centric rationale,² and believing it is important as a means to an end, specifically a business end, which we term an ³organization-centric rationale.² We also differentiate employees¹ own rationales about why it is important for their companies to operate sustainably from their perceptions about why their organizations believe it is important. Perhaps the most surprising finding when we surveyed 489 working adults across a wide range of organizations and occupations was that people were more likely to perform OCB-Es when they believed their organizations valued sustainability, regardless of their own personal beliefs about the importance of sustainability. These findings held for both eco-centric and organization-centric rationales. This to us was surprising, as lots of research would lead us to predict that personal values would trump perceived organizational values. Yet, we find the opposite, which suggests that perhaps people perform voluntary sustainability behaviors at work not just because they think it¹s important, but because their company believes it is important. It is worth noting that we included in our OCB-E measure not only simple, everyday tasks, but also ³higher-level² behaviors, like collaborating with other employees or making suggestions to supervisors to increase organizational sustainability.

These findings raise several interesting and timely implications for organizational leaders looking to increase employee sustainability behaviors. Since employee perceptions of organizational rationales for sustainability were so important in motivating OCB-Es, we advise communicating corporate values around sustainability and resource conservation as clearly as possible. By contrast, trying to screen employees for pro-environmental values seemed to be less important in a company that clearly communicated these values, since even employees who didn’t buy in on their own behaved more sustainably when they believed their employers cared about the environment.

 

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How Does Organization Culture Act As A Driver Of Competitive Advantage?

[We’re pleased to welcome back Pankaj M. Madhani of ICFAI Business School (IBS). Pankaj cbrpublished an article in Compensation & Benefits Review entitled “Sales Organization Culture, Compensation Strategy and Firm Valuation.” Notes from Madhani:]

The culture of sales organization is comprised of fundamental principles and beliefs that are shared by its members and hence determines the norms that dictate how sales employees should think and behave. In addition to this, compensation systems promote behaviour of sales employees that ultimately becomes dominant behaviour in the sales organization. Thus, many sales organizations today are focusing on their culture as a strategic tool, deciding what it should be, aligning with strategic goals, business strategy and sales compensation design. Sales organization culture is defined both in terms of its causes and effects such as process-oriented culture and outcome-oriented culture, respectively.

A process-oriented culture focuses on behavior controls and emphasizes sales behaviors, whereas an outcome-oriented culture focuses on outcome controls and emphasizes sales outcomes. This research provides various frameworks and models for establishing relationship between organization culture and compensation structure and deriving its impact on sales performance. Study also provides numerous illustrations to calculate optimal compensation structure and corresponding organization culture to achieve maximum valuation of sales organization. An effective sales performance supported by an appropriate compensation strategy and culture of sales organization plays a significant role in determining financial performance, enhancing valuation of the sales organizations and increasing competitive advantage in the market place.

 

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What Goes Unsaid: Studying Nonverbal Behavior in the Workplace

2177716513_8732301485_zEffective communication between employees is integral to the performance and success of any organization. Communication between individuals is much more complex than it may appear on the surface, with nonverbal cues adding depth to interactions beyond verbal exchanges. As a result, it comes as no surprise that studies of employee communication cannot be complete without considering the implications of nonverbal behaviors. In a Journal of Management paper published this year entitled “Nonverbal Behavior and Communication in the Workplace: A Review and an Agenda for Research,” authors Silvia Bonaccio, Jane O’Reilly, Sharon L. O’Sullivan, and François Chiocchio argue that nonverbal behavior should be further integrated into organizational research. The abstract for the article:

Nonverbal behavior is a hot topic in the popular management press. However, management scholars have lagged behind in understanding this important form of communication. Although some theories discuss limited aspects of nonverbal behavior, there has yet to be a comprehensive review of nonverbal behavior geared toward organizational scholars. Furthermore, the extant literature is scattered across several areas of inquiry, making the field appear disjointed and challenging to access. Current Issue CoverThe purpose of this paper is to review the literature on nonverbal behavior with an eye towards applying it to organizational phenomena. We begin by defining nonverbal behavior and its components. We review and discuss several areas in the organizational sciences that are ripe for further explorations of nonverbal behavior. Throughout the paper, we offer ideas for future research as well as information on methods to study nonverbal behavior in lab and field contexts. We hope our review will encourage organizational scholars to develop a deeper understanding of how nonverbal behavior influences the social world of organizations.

You can read “Nonverbal Behavior and Communication in the Workplace: A Review and an Agenda for Research” from Journal of Management free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

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*Employee image attributed to jeanbaptisteparis (CC)

Employees and the Environment: Promoting Eco-Friendly Behavior in the Workplace

blue-truck-recycle[We’re pleased to welcome Jennifer Tosti-Kharas of Babson College. Jennifer recently published an article in Organization & Environment with co-authors Eric Lamm and Tom E. Thomas entitled “Organization OR Environment? Disentangling Employees’ Rationales Behind Organizational Citizenship Behavior Toward the Environment.” From Jennifer:]

The origin of this paper came from bridging two different research projects. My co-authors, Tom Thomas and Eric Lamm of SFSU, published a theoretical paper regarding how individuals develop attitudes toward organizational sustainability. Meanwhile, Eric and I have performed research on what motivates employees to perform sustainable behaviors. We look at what we term organizational citizenship behaviors toward the environment ­ OCB-Es for short ­ which are voluntary actions at work that help conserve resources, things like recycling, printing double-sided, etc. This paper joined these two streams of inquiry to examine how the reasons why people think it is important to act sustainably at work relates to their performance of OCB-Es and we tested it empirically.

Most past research on this topic has used a measure of how important people think O&E_Mar_2012_vol26_no1_Cover_Final.inddsustainability is in general, meaning for broad ecological reasons, but never contextualized within a work organization. In the paper we distinguish between believing sustainability is important in and of itself, what we term an ³eco-centric rationale,² and believing it is important as a means to an end, specifically a business end, which we term an ³organization-centric rationale.² We also differentiate employees¹ own rationales about why it is important for their companies to operate sustainably from their perceptions about why their organizations believe it is important. Perhaps the most surprising finding when we surveyed 489 working adults across a wide range of organizations and occupations was that people were more likely to perform OCB-Es when they believed their organizations valued sustainability, regardless of their own personal beliefs about the importance of sustainability. These findings held for both eco-centric and organization-centric rationales. This to us was surprising, as lots of research would lead us to predict that personal values would trump perceived organizational values. Yet, we find the opposite, which suggests that perhaps people perform voluntary sustainability behaviors at work not just because they think it¹s important, but because their company believes it is important. It is worth noting that we included in our OCB-E measure not only simple, everyday tasks, but also ³higher-level² behaviors, like collaborating with other employees or making suggestions to supervisors to increase organizational sustainability.

These findings raise several interesting and timely implications for organizational leaders looking to increase employee sustainability behaviors. Since employee perceptions of organizational rationales for sustainability were so important in motivating OCB-Es, we advise communicating corporate values around sustainability and resource conservation as clearly as possible. By contrast, trying to screen employees for pro-environmental values seemed to be less important in a company that clearly communicated these values, since even employees who didn¹t buy in on their own behaved more sustainably when they believed their employers cared about the environment.

The abstract for the article:

Scholars and managers have raised the question of how to encourage employees to perform discretionary pro-environmental behaviors at work, termed organizational citizenship behaviors toward the environment (OCB-Es). This study examined how rationales for organizational sustainability relate to employees’ OCB-Es. We considered two rationales—eco-centric and organization-centric—and two sources—employees’ rationales and their perceptions of their employers’ rationales. Results from 489 working adults across a variety of organizations and occupations revealed that both eco-centric and organization-centric rationales at both individual and perceived organizational levels related to employees’ OCB-Es. Furthermore, we found interactive effects, such that employees’ perceptions of their organizations’ rationales were more important than their own rationales in determining OCB-Es. These findings contribute to a theoretical understanding of the complex and interrelated factors motivating employees to perform voluntary sustainability behaviors in organizations. In addition, our results are valuable for managers looking to increase employee sustainability behaviors.

You can read the article “Organization OR Environment? Disentangling Employees’ Rationales Behind Organizational Citizenship Behavior Toward the Environment” from Organization & Environment free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

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*Truck image attributed to MIKI Yoshihito (CC)