Deconstructing Privilege and Equalizing Access to Employee Engagement

1118629691_d977a99f65_z[We’re pleased to welcome Brad Shuck of University of Louisville. Brad recently published an article in Human Resource Development Review with co-authors Joshua C. Collins, Tonette S. Rocco, and Raquel Diaz, entitled Deconstructing the Privilege and Power of Employee Engagement: Issues of Inequality for Management and Human Resource Development.” From Brad:]

We were inspired to write this article due to some experiences that each author had encountered in their own personal lives. In some situations, we found ourselves thinking about what work must be like for people we met in our daily lives, how they might be treated as an employee, and how their co-workers and leaders were experienced. I personally had a profound experience while traveling aboard, watching a man dig hundreds of small square holes in the blazing sun, with no break or water in long sleeves. Despite the conditions outside and what seemed to be the grueling nature of his work, he was smiling and seemed to be enjoying his duties. He moved from hole to hole with energy and presence, paying close attention to the details of the earth he was moving.

I wondered if it were possible for this man to be engaged when the conditions of his work seemed so tough. After some reflection, I realized that I needed to check my own privilege, realizing that I had a lot to learn about deconstructing issues related to privilege – and inherently power – when it came to exploring the idea of employee engagement. It was of course entirely possible for the man I met to be engaged – and for any person to be fully engaged in any work – and that so much of what I was assuming about his work – and again, the work of others – was wrapped in the ways individuals encountered experiences of privilege in their own work settings. It became important for us to explore these issues, as we suspected that both privilege and power potentially influenced experiences of engagement, although we knew very little about how and why this might happen.

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We were initially struck by the fact that almost universally, every organization wants higher levels of engagement, and despite decades worth of research and practice, the numbers on engagement have changed very little. Some have suggested that this is due in large part of the failure to win the hearts and minds of employees. We offer, however, that perhaps it is not a massive failure at all; rather for the many who go to work every day, organizational struggle is the norm due to encounters of privilege at play inside organizations. When employee engagement is a privilege only a select few employee’s experience, we agreed with scholars such as David Guest – who suggested that employee engagement is nothing more than a manufactured, normative, and exploitative overextension of work (our words, not his).

On the other hand, when organizations develop deeply inclusive cultures that foster engagement – when they support the conditions for engagement to flourish and all employees enjoy a positive psychological state of work—this leads to higher levels of performance, greater productivity, and experiences of higher levels of well-being. Because we define employee engagement as a psychological state dependent on an employees’ encounters with that organizational culture, the outcomes of employee engagement (i.e., higher performance) can be defined as a privilege for the organization. When an organization nurtures those conditions of engagement, employees are more likely to engage at higher levels and consequently perform better. Undoubtedly, higher levels of performance becomes an earned organizational asset that helps an organization advance and benefit over and at the expense of their competitors. The willingness to nurture the conditions for engagement develops as an authentic experience for the employee. From this perspective, employee engagement is not exploitative or overextending at all. It is transformational and positive, and it is a shared experience.

There is still so much to unpack and work through with this topic, and we hope that our work can inspire future research that might take up this perspective empirically, to test our propositions and better refine this still emerging theory. We also hope that those who read our ideas on this topic will think about their own engagement and how, if at all, their experiences with their own work have been influenced by encounters with privileged organizational structures and individuals, as well as what role they choose to play in that process and experience.

The abstract for the article:

The purpose of our work was to explore the job demands–resources model of engagement through the critical lens(es) of privilege and power. This deconstruction of the privilege and power of employee engagement was focused toward exploring four principal questions: Who (a) controls the context of work? (b) determines the experience of engagement? (c) defines the value of engagement? and (d) benefits from high levels of engagement? We conclude that organizations and employees both benefit from the outcomes associated with the heightened experience of employee engagement. We maintain, however, that the organization is uniquely positioned to influence systems of power and privilege that ultimately enable the conditions for engagement to flourish. Organizations desiring high levels of engagement have an obligation to confront manifestations of privilege such as unequal states of power, access, status, credibility, and normality.

You can read Deconstructing the Privilege and Power of Employee Engagement: Issues of Inequality for Management and Human Resource Development from Human Resource Development Review free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research from Human Resource Development ReviewClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

Profiling Employee Time Bandits: Weasels, Mercenaries, Sandbaggers, and Parasites

8562416557_4eb71bbab7_zNothing is more counterproductive for organizations than when employees use work time to engage in non-task-related activities. That said, time banditry is widespread and sometimes difficult for organizations prevent. A recent article published in Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, entitled “Time Banditry and Impression Management Behavior: Prediction and Profiling of Time Bandit Types,” authors Meagan E. Brock Baskin, Victoria McKee, and M. Ronald Buckley investigate the characteristics of time bandits. Their paper outlines situational and dispositional variables that can help predict the four time bandit types–the weasel, the mercenary, the sandbagger, and the parasite. The abstract for the article:

Time banditry recently has been introduced as a distinct construct in the JLOcounterproductive work behavior literature. Employees are engaged in time banditry when they pursue non–task-related activities during work time. We posit that they capitalize on the ambiguity in most work environments to manage impressions that their time banditry behavior really is productive and not counterproductive work behavior. In this investigation, two studies were conducted to explore variables that can be used to classify time bandits into four different categories. Discriminant function analysis was used to determine individual-level and job-level factors that classify time bandits. Results revealed that both situational and dispositional variables can be used to predict time bandit type. Suggestions for future research and implications for managing, reducing, and changing time banditry behaviors are discussed.

Interested in reading more and finding out what kind of time bandit you are? You can read “Time Banditry and Impression Management Behavior: Prediction and Profiling Time Bandit Types” from Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

Want to stay up to date on all of the latest research from Journal of Leadership and Organizational StudiesClick here to sign up for e-alerts! 

*Post-it prank image attributed to Michael Arrighi (CC)

Do the Benefits of Work Engagement Extend Beyond the Office?

3925183530_4902bb6ae9_zStudies of work engagement and the associated positive outcomes tend to focus on the effects of engagement exclusively in the work realm, but do the benefits of work engagement extend beyond the office? In a recent Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies article entitled “The Work/Nonwork Spillover: The Enrichment Role of Work Engagement,” authors Liat Eldor, Itzhak Harpaz, and Mina Westman expand the scope of research on the effects of work engagement.

The abstract for the paper:

This study examines whether work engagement enriches employees beyond the JLOcontribution of the domain of work, focusing on satisfaction with life and community involvement. Moreover, the ambivalence of scholars about the added value of the work engagement concept compared with similar work-related attitudes prompted us to assess the benefits that work engagement offers with regard to improving one’s satisfaction with life and community involvement compared with the benefits of other, similar work-related attitudes such as job involvement and job satisfaction. Furthermore, given the studies indicating the impact of sector of employment (public vs. business) on understanding the work/nonwork nexus, the current study also investigates the effect of the sector of employment on this enrichment process. Utilizing multilevel modeling analysis techniques on data from 554 employees in public and business sector organizations, we obtained results consistent with our hypotheses. Work engagement and employees’ outcomes beyond work had positive and significant relationships. Moreover, the relationship between work engagement and community involvement was stronger in public sector employees than in business sector employees. The implications for organizational theory, research, and practice are discussed as possible leverage points for creating conditions that promote engagement at work and beyond.

You can read “The Work/Nonwork Spillover: The Enrichment Role of Work Engagement” from Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Picnic image attributed to Benson Kua (CC)

Technology Extends Learning and Engagement Outside of the Classroom

[We’re pleased to welcome Gavin Northey of University of Western Sydney. Professor Northey published an article entitled “Increasing Student Engagement Using Asynchronous Learning” with Tania Bucic, Mathew Chylinski, and Rahul Govind in the Journal of Marketing Education.]

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  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

There is a broad body of research that links student engagement to learning outcomes. Often, though, studies fail to provide usable frameworks that assist with the creation and maintenance of engagement in a learning setting. Recent research in marketing, such as work on service dominant logic (Vargo and Lusch, 2004), has suggested that truly engaged participants come about by being involved in production. In a learning environment, this means that education consumers (the students) should be included in the knowledge production process. Based on this, we looked to extend this concept so that students could involve themselves in the creation of knowledge through both synchronous and asynchronous channels. We also wanted to test whether the use of extrinsic, in-class rewards could be used to motivate participation in out-of-class activities.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

To some extent, the findings appear to be reasonably intuitive, in that students who participate in topic-related discussions both in class and outside of class achieve higher academic outcomes than students who only participate in-class. An interesting finding within the data was that the actual level of activity in the out-of-class asynchronous network was not the main driver of improvement in academic outcomes. Rather, membership of the out-of-class group was critical. It would appear that a substantial number of students would login to the out-of-class, online discussions and use the time to observe and reflect. While this wasn’t hypothesized or specifically tested, from the data it did appear the chance for observation and reflection increased topic knowledge, which the students then brought back into class.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

Around the world, education is currently undergoing a major transformation. Student cohorts are increasingly multicultural, requiring educators to accommodate very diverse learning styles. Along with this, digital technology is so prevalent in modern lifestyles that education consumers (students) are demanding a rethink of product and service delivery. A potential benefit of this is that the combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities enables students to self-select into the option that is most appropriate for their learning needs. By tailoring course delivery to their own requirements, the flow on is increased commitment and engagement and a deeper learning.

The abstract:

Student engagement is an ongoing concern for educators because of its positive association with deep learning and educational outcomes. This article tests the use of a social networking site (Facebook) as a tool to facilitate asynchronous learning opportunities that complement face-to-face interactions and thereby enable a stronger learning ecosystem. This student-centered learning approach offers a way to increase student engagement and can have a positive impact on academic outcomes. Using data from a longitudinal quasi-experiment, the authors show that students who participated in both face-to-face on-campus classes and asynchronous online learning opportunities were more engaged than students who only attended face-to-face classes. In addition, the findings show that participation in the asynchronous setting relates significantly and positively to students’ academic outcomes (final grades). The findings have notable implications for marketing education.

You can read “Increasing Student Engagement Using Asynchronous Learning” from Journal of Marketing Education by clicking here. Did you know that you can have all the latest research from Journal of Marketing Education sent directly to your inbox? Just click here to sign up for e-alerts!


Gavin NortheyGavin Northey is a PhD candidate at Western Sydney University and manager of the UNSW Australia Business School Experimental Research Laboratory. His marketing research focuses on sensory marketing and cross-modal effects between sensory modalities. His teaching philosophy reflects a student-centered learning approach, with a preference for outcomes based education, constructive alignment and sustainable assessment. As a result, his education research concerns the use of online tools and asynchronous leaning and their affect on student engagement.

Tania Bucic

Tania Bucic (PHD) is currently Senior Lecturer and School of Marketing L&T Coordinator at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). Tania is passionate about quality teaching practice and lifting the profile of L&T. She has distinguished herself by winning a string of teaching-related accolades at faculty, university, and national levels including: Bill Birkett Teaching Award; Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Teaching Excellence; ANZMAC -Pearson Marketing Educator Award; and most recently, a 2013 Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning. In addition, Tania has published in: Journal of Business Ethics, International Journal of Innovation Management, Journal of Workplace Learning, as well as conference such as ANZMAC (10 papers), PDMA and Frontiers in Service. She is an ad-hoc reviewer of several journals and conferences and has acted as chair for several ANZMAC conferences.

Mathew ChylinskiMathew Chylinksi is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). He has previously been published in International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Marketing Science, and European Journal of Marketing.

Rahul Govind

Rahul Govind is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). Dr. Govind’s research utilizes spatial dependence in empirical data to study two types of marketing problems. His first research stream focuses on studying the geographical similarity between consumers in devising solutions for services marketing. In addition to utilizing existing spatial modeling methods, his research has aimed to create tools for spatial marketing. His second research stream utilizes geographical similarity between consumers to analyze health problems focused on consumption. The aim of this stream is to devise spatially variant health marketing strategies for public policy officials to combat the problems that can arise out of negative consumption. He has previously been published in Health Marketing Quarterly, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Gerontologist, and Journal of Marketing.

Jennifer Chandler on Service Systems

[Editor’s Note: A special thanks to Jennifer Chandler, who took the time to give us some insight on the article “Service Systems: A Broadened Framework and Research Agenda on Value Propositions, Engagement, and Service Experience.” The article, recently published in Journal of Service Research, was co-authored with Robert F. Lusch.]

02JSR13_Covers.inddWe believe this study contributes to a deeper understanding of markets that is different than that which is guided by the standard neoclassical economics view of markets. Viewing service from a systems perspective as we do, this study outlines how, market actors – including firms, customers, suppliers – cannot sustain service experiences by themselves. This approach is important because, in many ways, all actors continually influence one another in today’s dynamic and complex market environment largely due to the ascendance of information technology and globalization.

I was inspired to research the topics of service systems, value propositions, and engagement because my work experience in service industries taught me that the exchanges between buyers and sellers in a market is very complex. Having worked in media and tourism, it was evident to me that decisions to exchange were not made based solely on economic factors. We collaborated, we traded, and we bartered. And, everyone involved in a deal knew that there was much more to be gained if we could move forward together, rather than if we set out to make one-time deals. All through my doctoral studies, I became increasingly intrigued with the idea of systems and their complex and adaptive nature. I decided I would devote considerable professional effort to a research program that would develop both conceptual models and frameworks and empirical research to better understand the complexities of exchange systems.

[You can read “Service Systems: A Broadened Framework and Research Agenda on Value Propositions, Engagement, and Service Experience” from Journal of Service Research by clicking here.]

8-17-11_newfaculty_mugs_kt  (Campus)  Portraits of the new faculty. PHOTO/ KAREN TAPIANew faculty member Jennifer ChandlerJennifer D. Chandler is an assistant professor of management at California State University, Fullerton, in the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics. She holds a BA from UCLA, an MBA from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a PhD from the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on strategic service operations by integrating resource-based view of the firm with social networks analysis. She studies service experiences as well as the collaborative and knowledge management processes that coincide with service. Using multimethod research, she combines predictive modeling and qualitative data analysis. Before entering academia, she had a successful media sales, tourism, and international event management career. After working with media giants Clear Channel Communications and Raycom Media, she began her own agency working across the entertainment, tourism, nonprofit, retailing, and manufacturing sectors.

luschRobert F. Lusch is a professor of marketing, James and Pamela Muzzy Chair in entrepreneurship and innovation, and executive director of the McGuire Center of Entrepreneurship in the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. He is a thought leader in retailing and service marketing and is a major contributor to the growing literature on service-dominant Logic. A past chairperson of the American Marketing Association and editor of the Journal of Marketing, he is a frequent industry speaker on service innovation and service ecosystems. He has received the AMA Distinguished Marketing educator award, the Outstanding Marketing Faculty award from the Academy of Marketing Science, and on two occasions received the AMA/Journal of Marketing Harold Maynard Award for contributions to marketing theory. He has published 18 books and the most recent Service-Dominant Logic: Premises, Perspectives and Possibilities by Cambridge University Press (2014) is coauthored with Stephen L. Vargo.

Make Your Meetings a Tool for Engagement

Editor’s note: We are pleased to welcome Dr. Joseph A. Allen of the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He and Dr. Steven G. Rogelberg of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte published the article, “Manager-Led Group Meetings: A Context for Promoting Employee Engagement,” forthcoming in Group & Organization Management and now available in the journal’s OnlineFirst section.

pullquoteMeetings stink!  Let’s face it.  Most people agree that meetings in their organization are less than effective.  There’s a growing body of research that corroborates these reports.  However, very little research scientifically investigates how to make meetings better.  We became interested in this particular topic because we hated our meetings and wanted to figure out how to make them better.  In fact, we wanted to know if there are things that managers can do to not only make meetings better, but actually engage employees.  In essence the question that drove this study was “how can a meeting leader (often the manager) make their meetings a tool to engage employees?”

GOM_72ppiRGB_150pixwThe study presented in this paper suggests three key things that a manager can do to make their meetings a tool for engaging employees: 1. Make the meetings relevant to attendees, 2. Allow for voice opportunities during the meeting, and 3. Run the meetings effectively from a time management perspective.  What really surprised us was just how powerful the third suggestion, meeting time management, appeared to be at developing the psychological conditions for employees to engage.  It related to all three psychological conditions!  In other words, if managers were to just pick one of the three suggestions to focus on, it appears as though starting meetings on time, ending them on time, and calling them at appropriate times is the way to go.

Our hope is that this study will influence both the research of meetings and managers behaviors in relation to meetings.  Ideally, academics will use this as a springboard to investigate meetings from a more positive perspective.  If we can dispel the frustration towards meetings by showing that they truly matter when run effectively, then perhaps the normative expression that meetings are bad will begin to change over time.  Further, managers can easily implement many of the suggestions provided in this paper.  Thus, there are actionable steps that can be taken, right now, that will improve meetings and our hope is that a few managers will see this paper or this blog post and make their meetings a tool for engagement.

Read the paper, “Manager-Led Group Meetings: A Context for Promoting Employee Engagement,” online in Group & Organization Management.

Joseph A. Allen, PhD, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. His publications include his work on workplace meetings, volunteer management, and emotional labor. Further research interests include cross-cultural differences in emotions and interaction processes as well as an interest in after-action review meetings in high reliability contexts.

Steven G. Rogelberg, PhD, is a professor of organizational science, a professor of psychology, and a professor of management at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In addition, he serves as director of the organizational science program, the founder/ director of the organizational science consulting and research unit, and the editor of the Journal of Business and Psychology. His publications include such topics as dirty work, workplace meetings, volunteer management, research methods, and group dynamics.