Action regulation theory is a meta-theory on the regulation of goal-directed behavior. The theory explains how workers regulate their behavior through cognitive processes, including goal development and selection, internal and external orientation, planning, monitoring of execution, and feedback processing. Moreover, action regulation theory focuses on the links between these cognitive processes, behavior, the objective environment, and objective outcomes. The action regulation process occurs on multiple levels of action regulation, including the sensorimotor or skill level, the level of flexible action patterns, the intellectual or conscious level, and the meta-cognitive heuristic level. These levels range from unconscious and automatized control of actions to conscious thought, and from muscular action to thought processes. Action regulation at lower levels in this hierarchy is more situation specific and requires less cognitive effort than action regulation at higher levels.
Workers further develop action-oriented mental models that include long-term cognitive representations of input conditions, goals, plans, and expected and prescribed results of action, as well as knowledge about the boundary conditions of action and the transformation procedures that turn goals into expected results. The accuracy and level of detail of such action-oriented mental models is closely associated with the efficiency and effectiveness of action regulation. One of three foci can be in the foreground of action regulation: task, social context, or self. A task focus is most strongly associated with high efficiency and effectiveness of action regulation, because it links task-related goals with relevant plans, behavior, and feedback. Action regulation theory has been applied to understand several phenomena in the field of industrial, work, and organizational psychology, including proactive work behavior, work-related learning and error management, entrepreneurship, occupational strain and well-being, reciprocal influences between personality and work, innovation, teamwork, career development, and successful aging at work.
David M. Cadiz, Amy C. Pytlovany, and Donald M. Truxillo
The population is aging in most industrialized nations around the world, and this trend is anticipated to continue well into the future. This demographic shift impacts the workforce in that the average age of workers is increasing, and the workplace is becoming more age diverse, meaning different generations of employees are working side by side now more than ever before. Increasing age diversity can be problematic if misguided age-related attitudes, biases, and behaviors lead to ageism—the stigmatization of, and discrimination against, people based on age. Evidence of the impact of ageism in the workplace is being observed in increasing age-related discrimination claims as well as increased time for older people to find employment.
Workplace ageism manifests from cognitive, affective, and behavioral components. Age stereotypes are associated with the cognitive component, age-related prejudice is related to the affective component, and age discrimination is aligned with the behavioral component. There is an abundance of research identifying age-related stereotypes and it is thought that these stereotypes influence how workplace decisions are made. Age-related prejudice research indicates that older workers are generally viewed more negatively than younger workers which can result in lower performance appraisals or older workers’ receiving harsher consequences for lower performance. Finally, age-discrimination research has identified that older workers struggle to find employment, to receive training and development opportunities, and to advance their careers. Although the majority of research on workplace ageism has focused on older individuals, younger workers also face challenges related to their age and this is a line of research that needs further exploration. Nevertheless, the accumulating evidence supports claims that workplace ageism has wide-ranging effects on individuals, groups/teams, organizations, and society.
Lale M. Yaldiz, Franco Fraccaroli, and Donald M. Truxillo
The proportion of older people in the industrialized workforce is increasing owing to the aging of the baby-boom generation, improved health in industrialized countries, changing retirement laws, need for additional income by older workers, and entry of fewer younger people into the workforce in some countries. This “graying” trend of the workforce raises a number of issues such as the needs, motivation, job attitudes, and behaviors of older workers; how to manage age diversity issues at work; late career issues; and preparing the worker and the organization for retirement. Specifically, older worker issues as a research topic includes work-relevant changes taking place within individuals as they age (e.g., physical, cognitive, and personality changes); how older workers are affected by their physical and social environments; the sources of age stereotyping and discrimination and how to combat them; and how these factors affect outcomes such as older workers’ well-being, health, attitudes, motivation, performance, and desire to continue working.
Robert G. Jones
Based on current earth science findings, survival of our species will rely on better management of our relationships with the environmental system in which we reside. Accomplishing this requires the enlistment of a scientific understanding and management of our internal natural systems. Specifically, human urges that are oriented toward individual and small group well-being must be successfully managed to ensure species-level adaptation and survival. An essential first step for accomplishing this is to define a set of psychological criteria presumed to mediate the relationship between these individual urges and behavior at broader levels of analysis, and particularly organizational and community behaviors. Once criteria have been elaborated by key stakeholders, assessment and feedback processes common to major areas of applied psychology provide many options for intervention. This approach is at the heart of the applied psychology of sustainability that will be elaborated in this article. After defining the core problem and laying some foundational assumptions, an overview of this approach will be presented as a means to addressing the problem of using our psychological systems to manage our psychological systems’ effects on the environment.
Patricia Elgoibar, Martin Euwema, and Lourdes Munduate
Conflicts are part of nature and certainly part of human relations, between individuals, as well as within and between groups. Conflicts occur in every domain of life: family, work, and society, local and global. Conflict management, therefore, is an essential competency for each person. People differ largely in their emotional and behavioral responses to conflict and need to learn how to behave effectively in different conflict situations. This requires a contingency approach, first assessing the conflict situation, and then choosing a strategy, matching the goals of the party. In most situations, fostering cooperative relations will be most beneficial; however, this is also most challenging. Therefore, constructive conflict management strategies, including trust building and methods of constructive controversy, are emphasized. Conflict management, however, is broader than the interaction of the conflicting parties. Third-party interventions are an essential element of constructive conflict management, particularly the assessment of which parties are intervening in what ways at what escalation stage.
Ante Glavas and Mislav Radic
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an important topic for both academics and practitioners because it potentially influences all aspects of an organization—from relationships with stakeholders to strategy to daily routines and practices. Thus, scholars have explored CSR for close to one hundred years. Prior research has been primarily conducted at the organizational and institutional levels, but has largely overlooked the individual-level of analysis, which is a major gap considering that CSR is enacted by and influences people. Recently, this gap has been addressed by an increased focus on the individual level of analysis—also known as “micro-CSR.” However, CSR is a multilevel construct, so even when focusing on the individual level, all levels need to be taken into consideration at the same time. Moreover, CSR is cross-disciplinary. Prior research has often focused on disciplines such as strategy, but fields such as psychology have much to offer—especially because CSR is conducted through and affects individuals. Moreover, due to the historical focus of CSR on the organizational level of analysis, most studies have aggregated CSR to the firm level. These studies have shown mixed results of the effects of CSR. One reason is that when CSR is aggregated, the variance at the individual level of analysis is lost. Employees might react both positively and negatively to CSR. For example, CSR is often extra-role (e.g., volunteering, being part of committees) and can have a negative effect of role strain and stress. For other employees, they might find tension with the way that CSR is carried out. Future research could dive more deeply into the psychology of CSR and how, when, and why employees might react to CSR differently.
Kristina Potočnik and Neil Anderson
Creativity at work has long been acknowledged as a source of distinct competitive advantage as organizations seek to harness the ideas and suggestions of their employees. As such, it is not surprising that a considerable amount of research has accrued over the last 30 to 40 years in this field. Most commonly defined as the production of novel and useful ideas, research on creativity at work has focused on identifying different individual as well as contextual factors that shape employee creativity.
This research has been driven by many different theoretical frameworks. Some of them focus on creativity as an outcome variable and suggest employee skills, expertise, and intrinsic motivation as the key drivers of employee creativity. The organizational context in terms of support and resources for creativity is also suggested as playing an important role in employee creative output according to these frameworks. Other models have considered creativity more from the process perspective, arguing that creativity involves a set of different stages that lead to creative output. These models focus on different creativity-related behaviors that employees engage in to generate novel and useful ideas, such as problem formulation, preparation or information gathering, idea generation, and idea evaluation. More recent developments in the field suggest that creativity could best be captured as both a process and an outcome of employee endeavors to improve their own work roles, team processes, and outcomes, and as a result, the overall organizational effectiveness. Drawing upon these different frameworks, a considerable amount of research has explored different individual and contextual antecedents of creativity at work.
However, although this is a vibrant research area with a potential to contribute significant implications for different stakeholders, including employees, work teams, businesses, and wider societies, much more research is needed to address the complex interplay of various factors at different levels of analyses that impact creativity at work. Also, many questions remain to be answered in terms of how different ways of working, in increasingly global and diverse organizations, influence creativity in the workplace.
Birgit Schyns, Susanne Braun, and Barbara Wisse
Dark Triad personality traits in the workplace comprise the traits narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. The Dark Triad, and its relationships with individual and organizational variables, has received increasing attention in organizational behavior research. These three traits share a lack of concern for others but also have idiosyncratic attributes. Narcissism is characterized by a sense of entitlement and self-absorption. Machiavellianism comprises a focus on instrumentality and willingness to engage in manipulation. Psychopathy, possibly the darkest of the three traits, renders individuals callous, impulsive, and displaying antisocial behavior. While Dark Triad traits may be adaptive in some regards (e.g., narcissism facilitates leadership emergence), the majority of empirical findings point to the damage that individuals high in those traits can do to other organizational members and effective organizational functioning.
Regine Bendl, Astrid Hainzl, and Heike Mensi-Klarbach
Diversity in the workplace, with a central focus on gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, (dis)ability, and religious belief, has become a major issue in organizations worldwide since the 1990s. How these different diversity dimensions are defined and constructed, as well as by whom and in what context, determines organizational practices. In turn, this determines the transformation of organizations from exclusive to inclusive ones.
The workplace is one context of social interaction, in which dimensions of diversity become highly relevant and visible. Depending on the organization’s perspective toward diversity in a managerial context, individual differences between employees can create value and foster innovation and creativity, or can lead to conflict. How diversity is constructed and reproduced within diversity management and inclusion determines how employees feel accepted and included and, thus, how they are able to realize their potential and to contribute to the organization’s vision and aims. However, legitimizing initiatives that foster diversity in the workplace only with potential profits it might generate – called the business case for diversity – and forgetting its roots in the moral case, has shortcomings and potential drawbacks on the aims of diversity management and inclusion.
Research on diversity in the workplace can be found in different forms. Generally, there are two main groups. Mainstream diversity literature works within the positivist research tradition and focuses mostly on the performance aspects of diverse workforces by conducting quantitative empirical studies. Critical diversity literature aims at promoting social justice by deeply understanding, criticizing and developing possible solutions. Both research streams have contributed to comprehend diversity in the workplace, realize its potentials and support marginalized groups.
Generative emergence is one of many theories for how new entities are created; how a new order comes into being. Emergence itself is one perspective on change and transformation. However, whereas change is an alteration of existing structures, emergence refers to the creation of a new (social) entity. Explaining the phenomenon of creation, at all levels, is the goal of an emergence science.
Generative emergence takes a step in that direction, which explains how emergence can be enacted in practice. Generative emergence derives from dissipative structures in thermodynamics, a theory of new order creation. In the experiment that produced the theory, heat energy is dissipated through a closed container (from a source to a sink), and the heat is continuously increased. At a threshold point, an entirely new level of order emerges across the molecular substrate, in the form of large whirlpools (visible to the naked eye). These macrostructures confer “orders of magnitude” more capacity to dissipate the incoming energy flux.
This unique order-creation process has led to a strong multidisciplinary literature, carefully analogizing this order creation process to social systems. Specifically, in empirical research across multiple levels of analysis (from leadership to teams to ventures to strategies to new markets), the same four phases of activity have been identified. These four phases have been integrated into the theory of generative emergence, which reveals the sequential conditions through which a new system emerges. The phases are (a) disequilibrium organizing and stress, (b) experiments and amplifications to a critical threshold, (c) emergence of a new entity, and (d) stabilizing the new system into a dynamic state.
Generative emergence also shows how each phase can be supported and enacted through the actions of leaders. Specifically, a close reading of empirical research on dissipative structures in social systems reveals a set of leadership interventions that have improved the likelihood that these phases would build in sequence, leading to the creation of an emergent—a new entity.
As one example, consider phase 1: disequilibrium organizing and stress. Entrepreneurial leaders initiate this through opportunity recognition for the creation of new value. As they pursue this aspiration, the dramatic increase in organizing—with its concomitant upsurge in work hours and uncertainty—leads to growing stress and conflict. Here, generative leadership shows how to “manage” this stress, for example by providing space for internal innovations and “experiments” by employees, which might spark the new level of the organization.
In like manner, each of the phases has leadership correlates, which together coalesce into the emergence of a new system—a new initiative, venture, organization, or macrolevel market. The power of the generative emergence theory is that the new order that results can dramatically increase the capacity of the system, and for all of its members. As such, the leadership actions which generate this outcome are worthy of careful exploration and enactment.
Gary P. Latham
Consciously setting a specific, difficult, challenging goal leads to high performance for four reasons. Specificity results in (1) the choice to focus on goal-relevant activities and to ignore those that are irrelevant. Challenge leads to an increase in (2) effort and (3) persistence to attain the goal. The combination of specificity and difficulty cue (4) the search for strategies to attain the goal. However, for this to occur, an individual or team must have the ability and the situational resources to attain the goal. In addition, the goal must be important; there must be commitment to goal attainment. Finally, feedback must be provided on goal progress so that adjustments can be made, if necessary, regarding effort or strategy for attaining the goal.
Group process refers to the behaviors of the members of small working groups (usually between three and twelve members) as they engage in decision-making and task performance. Group process includes the study of how group members’ characteristics interact with the behavior of group members to create effective or ineffective group performance. Relevant topics include the influences of group norms, group roles, group status, group identity, and group social interaction as they influence group task performance and decision-making, the development and change of groups over time, group task typologies, and decision-making schemes. Relevant group outcomes include group cohesion, process losses and process gains in performance, free riding, ineffective information sharing, difficulties in brainstorming, groupthink, and group polarization. Other variables that influence effective group process include group member diversity, task attractiveness, and task significance. A variety of techniques are used to improve group process.
Organizational psychology represents an important theoretical and practical field of contemporary psychological science that studies mental and behavioral phenomena that take place in individuals and groups belonging to social organizations.
From a historical point of view, the roots of this specialty can be traced to the psychological approaches to the world of industry and work that began to appear in the beginning of the 20th century. The discovery of the relevance of individual differences in both mental and behavioral processes paved the way to the creation of a scientific and technical knowledge that could maximize an adaptation of humans at work that would benefit industrial activities, would increase worker satisfaction, and bring progress and peace to all of society.
Such specialized knowledge has evolved during the past century through a series of stages that permitted a growing theoretical complexity and more efficient technological interventions. This evolution of basic topics includes the study of the human operator; humankind’s capacities and abilities; the influence of social factors upon people in the workplace; and the structures of all sorts of organizations created to obtain desired and needed goals. The relevance of social powers influencing the world of labor have made possible the creation of a rigorous and complex body of scientific knowledge that continuously provides information, advice, and help to modern society in its economic, social, and political structures.
David E. Guest
Human resources (HR) management addresses those policies, practices, and activities concerned with the management of people in organizations. Although it is typically considered at multiple levels of analysis, it provides an important context for the application of work and organizational psychology. Core research questions address the determinants of HR strategy and practices adopted by organizations and how these are linked to outcomes including in particular organizational performance and employee wellbeing. Much research explores this linkage process including how far HR practices are able to ensure employee abilities, motivation, and opportunities to contribute; the distinctive role of human capital; how employees react to these practices; and the steps management can take to ensure their effective implementation. Most research confirms an association between the adoption of a greater number of what are typically termed “high performance” or “high involvement” HR practices and higher organizational performance and employee wellbeing. However, doubts remain about the causal direction of the association. Continuing research challenges include how best to measure HR practices, understanding more about contextual influences, and incorporating more fully the role of employee attitudes and behavior including employee attributions about the motives of management in their use of HR practices.
Anja Van den Broeck and Sharon K. Parker
Job design or work design refers to the content, structure, and organization of tasks and activities. It is mostly studied in terms of job characteristics, such as autonomy, workload, role problems, and feedback. Throughout history, job design has moved away from a sole focus on efficiency and productivity to more motivational job designs, including the social approach toward work, Herzberg’s two-factor model, Hackman and Oldham’s job characteristics model, the job demand control model of Karasek, Warr’s vitamin model, and the job demands resources model of Bakker and Demerouti. The models make it clear that a variety of job characteristics make up the quality of job design that benefits employees and employers alike. Job design is crucial for a whole range of outcomes, including (a) employee health and well-being, (b) attitudes like job satisfaction and commitment, (c) employee cognitions and learning, and (d) behaviors like productivity, absenteeism, proactivity, and innovation. Employee personal characteristics play an important role in job design. They influence how employees themselves perceive and seek out particular job characteristics, help in understanding how job design exerts its influence, and have the potential to change the impact of job design.
Vincente Martínez-Tur and Carolina Moliner
Traditionally, justice in teams refers to a specific climate—called justice climate—describing shared perceptions about how the team as a whole is treated. Justice at the individual level has been a successful model from which to build the concept of justice in teams. Accordingly, there is a parallelism between the individual and team levels in the investigation of justice, where scholars’ concerns and responses have been very similar, despite studying different levels of construct. However, the specific particularities of teams are increasingly considered in research. There are three concepts (faultlines, subgrouping, and intergroup justice) that contribute to knowledge by focusing on particularities of teams that are not present at the individual level. The shift toward team-based structures provides an opportunity to observe the existence of dividing lines that may split a team into subgroups (faultlines) and the difficulty, in many cases, of conceiving of the team members as part of a single group. This perspective about teams also stimulates the study of the subgroup as a source of justice and the focus on intergroup justice within the team. In sum, the organizational context facilitates shared experiences and perceptions of justice beyond individual differences but also can result in potential conflicts and discrepancies among subgroups within the team in their interpretation of fairness.
W. James Weese and P. Chelladurai
The study of leadership has a long and distinguished history. Over the past 100 years, researchers have pursued distinct lines of inquiry summarized in the trait theories, the behavioral theories, the contingency theories, and the transactional/transformational theories of leadership. More recent cognitive approaches have dominated the leadership literature base with emphasis on the areas of emotional intelligence and servant leadership. Even as new leadership models emerge, it is important to note that portions of the older theories continue to inform our understandings. The voluminous research base confirms three things about leadership. Leadership is a social process, involving people and engaging their emotions, motivations, and moods. Secondly, leadership is about influence. True leaders influence the thoughts and behaviors of people and groups without the manipulation of rewards or punishments. Some writers suggest that leadership is synonymous with influence. Finally, leaders focus, inspire, and motivate people and groups toward the accomplishment of a predetermined goal or objective. They bring clarity to a desired end and they inspire colleagues to channel their talents and energies toward its attainment. The theoretical developments of leadership, and the latest developments in particular (i.e., emotional intelligence and servant leadership), hold great promise for application in the sports domain.
Matthew S. Fritz and Houston F. Lester
Mediator variables are variables that lie between the cause and effect in a causal chain. In other words, mediator variables are the mechanisms through which change in one variable causes change in a subsequent variable. The single-mediator model is deceptively simple because it has only three variables: an antecedent, a mediator, and a consequent. Determining that a variable functions as a mediator is a difficult process, however, because causation can be inferred only when many strict assumptions are met, including, but not limited to, perfectly reliable measures, correct temporal design, and no omitted confounders. Since many of these assumptions are difficult to assess and rarely met in practice, the significance of a statistical test of mediation alone usually provides only weak evidence of mediation.
New methodological approaches are constantly being developed to circumvent these limitations. Specifically, new methods are being created for the following purposes: (1) to assess the impact of violating assumptions (e.g., sensitivity analyses) and (2) to make fewer assumptions and provide more flexible analysis techniques (e.g., Bayesian analysis or bootstrapping) that may be more robust to assumption violations. Despite these advances, the importance of the design of a study cannot be overstated. A statistical analysis, no matter how sophisticated, cannot redeem a study that measured the wrong variables or used an incorrect temporal design.
Matthew S. Fritz and Ann M. Arthur
Moderation occurs when the magnitude and/or direction of the relation between two variables depend on the value of a third variable called a moderator variable. Moderator variables are distinct from mediator variables, which are intermediate variables in a causal chain between two other variables, and confounder variables, which can cause two otherwise unrelated variables to be related. Determining whether a variable is a moderator of the relation between two other variables requires statistically testing an interaction term. When the interaction term contains two categorical variables, analysis of variance (ANOVA) or multiple regression may be used, though ANOVA is usually preferred. When the interaction term contains one or more continuous variables, multiple regression is used. Multiple moderators may be operating simultaneously, in which case higher-order interaction terms can be added to the model, though these higher-order terms may be challenging to probe and interpret. In addition, interaction effects are often small in size, meaning most studies may have inadequate statistical power to detect these effects.
When multilevel models are used to account for the nesting of individuals within clusters, moderation can be examined at the individual level, the cluster level, or across levels in what is termed a cross-level interaction. Within the structural equation modeling (SEM) framework, multiple group analyses are often used to test for moderation. Moderation in the context of mediation can be examined using a conditional process model, while moderation of the measurement of a latent variable can be examined by testing for factorial invariance. Challenges faced when testing for moderation include the need to test for treatment by demographic or context interactions, the need to account for excessive multicollinearity, and the need for care when testing models with multiple higher-order interactions terms.
Vicente González-Romá and Ana Hernández
Human behavior takes place in different contexts (e.g., organizations, schools, families, sports teams, and communities) whose properties (e.g., climate, culture, cohesion, leadership, communication networks, and structure) influence human behavior. To estimate this influence, researchers need appropriate methods that avoid the problems associated with the application of standard Ordinary Least Square (OLS) regression.
Multilevel modeling methods offer researchers a way to estimate the aforementioned influence. These methods take into account that the variables involved reside at different levels. For instance, in the relationship between work unit climate and employee job satisfaction, the former variable resides at the work unit level (level 2) whereas the latter resides at the individual one (level 1). Moreover, multilevel modeling methods also take into account that the data analyzed to estimate this type of relationships have a nested structure in which individuals (e.g., employees) are nested into collectives (e.g., work units). Finally, these methods decompose variance into between-group and within-group components and allow researchers to model variability at the between and within levels.
Specifically, multilevel modeling methods allow researchers to test hypotheses that involve, among others: 1. A relationship between a higher-level predictor (e.g., work unit climate) and a lower-level outcome (e.g., employee job satisfaction); a so-called “direct cross-level effect”, and 2. An influence of a higher-level moderator (e.g., work unit climate) on an individual level relationship (e.g., the relationship between employee job stress and job satisfaction); a so-called “cross-level interaction”. Multilevel modeling methods can also be used to test more complex models involving mediation (e.g., 2-2-1, 2-1-1, or 1-1-1 models, depending on whether the antecedent and the mediator are level 1 or level 2 variables) and moderated mediation. We show how to test these models by presenting examples with real data and the corresponding SPSS syntax that readers can use to practice.