How Can Positive Practices in the Workplace Impact Teams?

men-1979261_960_720Dr. Perry Geue recently published an article in  The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, which is entitled “Positive Practices in the Workplace: Impact on Team Climate, Work Engagement, and Task Performance.” We are pleased to welcome Dr. Geue as a contributor and excited to announce that the findings will be free to access on our site for a limited time. Below Dr. Geue provides his insights regarding inspiration behind the research.

JABS_72ppiRGB_powerpointThe research study “Positive Practices in the Workplace: Impact on Team Climate, Work Engagement, and Task Performance” was inspired by an interest in positive work environments, both how they form and their effect in motivating employees toward exceptional performance. Many work environments, such as settings with intense service climates, like the rapidly-paced, routinized food preparation teams in this study, do not readily facilitate employee experiences of freedom, autonomy, and self-expression, which are key factors in employees finding meaning in their work and experiencing well-being in the workplace. A positive work environment, or PWE, is a social climate where employees are treated as positively as possible, one characterized by positive emotions, social inclusion, and quality connections between employees. How do such environments induce employee purpose and  performance in climates that are often hurried and highly structured?

A primary thrust of this study was to delineate how virtuous behaviors in the workplace, termed “positive practices” in the study, could potentially engender a PWE in a demanding service setting, and the effect of this climate on the engagement and performance of employees in work teams. Virtuous behaviors reflect employee actions that are inherently good, apart from instrumental purposes, and they represent the highest aspirations of the human condition. Do workplace behaviors that reflect employees doing good also lead to employees doing well? Can employee behaviors that are respectful, caring, compassionate, forgiving, inspiring, and meaningful in their intent toward others create a climate that is positive and elevating, as well as productive?

Intriguing significant relationships in the study suggest that employees feel more dedicated to and engaged in their work when they sense that work has purpose, significance, and meaning, and that a key to work meaningfulness is mutual interaction that promotes trust, respect, and confidence, where employees believe in each other, communicate the good they see in each other, and forgive each other’s mistakes. In an intensive team service climate, prosocial actions between employees that demonstrate appreciation, affirmation, and respect, could enhance work meaningfulness and lead to greater performance.

The present study impacts the way that managers perceive their role in the workplace. Rather than a posture of correction and control, managers should adopt affirming management practices that contribute to a more positive work environment. Such practices could include managers encouraging team members to exercise optimistic thinking and reinterpret challenges as opportunities, thus granting greater autonomy in creative problem solving, leading to meaningfulness in work. Managers could cultivate a culture of gratitude and appreciation in their work teams, leading team members in mutual respect and acknowledgment of their contributions, expressing thankfulness for accomplishments, and engendering virtuous cycles of honor. Managers could encourage and model forgiveness for miss-steps, engendering a safe psychological climate, viewing mistakes as opportunities for learning, and thus thwarting the blame game that is so demoralizing in the work context. Such positive practices could transform and energize the workplace as employees discover greater value in each other and their work. The potentiality of such a positive work environment is inestimable.

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Workplace Photo attributed to Free-Photos (CC)

The Cost of Being a Good Citizen

In practicing organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), employees go above and beyond the call of duty to better the organization. However, according to a new study in the Journal of Management, “what is good for the organization may not always be good for the employee.” Diane M. Bergeron of Case Western Reserve University, Abbie J. Shipp of Texas A&M University, Benson Rosen of the University of North Carolina, and Stacie A. Furst of the University of Cincinnati explore the issue in their article “Organizational Citizenship Behavior and Career Outcomes: The Cost of Being a Good Citizen,” published on October 26 in JOM. The abstract:

Existing research suggests that relationships among organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), task performance, and individual career outcomes are necessarily positive. The authors question this assumption and hypothesize that in organizations with outcome-based control systems, time spent on OCB comes at a cost to task performance. Building on this idea, the authors propose not only that time spent on task performance is more important than time spent on OCB in determining career outcomes (i.e., performance evaluation, salary increase, advancement speed, promotion) in an outcome-based control system but also that time spent on OCB may negatively impact career outcomes. Results based on archival data from 3,680 employees in a professional services firm lend some support for these ideas. Specifically, time spent on task performance was more important than OCB in determining all four career outcomes. Further, controlling for time spent on task performance, employees who spent more time on OCB had lower salary increases and advanced more slowly than employees who spent less time on OCB. These findings suggest that relationships between OCB and outcomes are more complex than originally thought and that boundary conditions may apply to conclusions drawn about the outcomes of OCB.

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