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Action Regulation Theory  

Hannes Zacher

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.


Ageism in the Workplace  

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.


Aging Workforce Issues from a Multilevel Approach  

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.


An Applied Approach to Psychology of Sustainability  

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.


A Selective Review of Developments in Positive Studies of Work and Organizations  

Arran Caza

At the end of the 20th century, psychologists reacted to what they perceived as a negative bias in their field by launching the positive psychology movement. This movement had influential effects on organization studies; much scholarly attention was devoted to studying positive organizational phenomena. The article provides a brief, selective introduction to some of the developments resulting from the early-21st century focus on positive work and organization (PWO) studies. Findings of PWO are described in six different domains: psychological capital, organizational virtue, positive relationships, leadership, positive states and outcomes, and positive practice. The article also describes some outstanding challenges and promising directions for future development, including the nature of positivity, construct clarity, and the risks of co-optation.


Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace  

Ståle Valvatne Einarsen and Kari Wik Ågotnes

Workplace bullying and harassment is prevalent in contemporary workplaces with detrimental negative outcomes for targets as well as for bystanders and the organization itself. At any one time, some 3%–20% of the working population is targeted, suffering reduced motivation and productivity, severe mental and physical health problems, and a risk of exclusion from the organization and even working life altogether. Bullying and harassment is about the systematic and ongoing mistreatment of an employee by other organization members, mostly of a psychological and social nature and often involving a gradually escalating process that may end in severe victimization of those targeted if not properly managed and handled in its early phases. In early phases, by some denoted incivility, the behaviors involved are often subtle, indirect, and discrete, while in later phases they become ever more prevalent and direct—even involving threats and open verbal abuse. Bullying may involve work-related behaviors creating a difficult and even dangerous working situation for the target, personally demeaning behavior, acts of social exclusion and non-inclusion, and physically intimidation behaviors. Hence, bullying comes in many shades and forms, as well as at many levels of intensity. Although risk factors and antecedents of this complex problem may be found on many levels, factors in the immediate working environment and the design and management of work are particularly important. Furthermore, bullying is particularly prevalent in working environments characterized by a hostile working climate and in organizations where such behaviors are permitted or even rewarded.


Burnout in Organizations  

Michael P. Leiter and Jo Wintle

A starting point in examining job burnout is determining its definition. The burnout syndrome of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy is at times distilled into a synonym for exhaustion, leading to some confusion in the research literature. Another critical issue is burnout as a clinical issue requiring treatment for individuals or burnout as a management problem requiring changes in the organization of work and workplaces. Considering burnout as a problem in the relationship of people with workplaces opens additional possibilities for action. Intervention research evaluating systems for alleviating or preventing burnout continue to be rare in the research literature. Furthermore, these studies are largely focused on building individual capacity to endure or thrive in workplaces rather than changing conditions that aggravate exhaustion, cynicism, or inefficacy.


Careers and Career Development  

Jos Akkermans, Daniel Spurk, and Nadya Fouad

The field of career studies primarily focuses on understanding people’s lifelong succession of work experiences, the structure of opportunity to work, and the relationship between careers and work and other aspects of life. Career research is conducted by scholars in a variety of disciplines, including psychology, management, and sociology. As such, it covers multiple levels of analysis and is informed by different theoretical frameworks, ranging from micro (i.e., individual) to macro (e.g., organizational, institutional, cultural). The most dominant theoretical perspectives that have been mobilized in career research are boundaryless and protean career theory, career construction theory, and social cognitive career theory. Other perspectives that have increasingly been adopted include sustainable careers, kaleidoscope careers, psychology of working theory, and theories from related disciplines, such as conservation of resources theory and social exchange theory. Key topics in the field of career studies include career self-management, career outcomes (e.g., career success, employability), career transitions and shocks, calling, and organizational career management. Research at the micro level with outcomes on the individual level has been dominant in the early 21st century, predominantly focusing on understanding individual career paths and outcomes. Thereby, however, contextual factors as either further important predictors or boundary conditions for career development are also considered as important research topics.


Communication in Organizations  

Ryan S. Bisel and Katherine Ann Rush

Communication serves a constitutive force in making organizations what they are. While communication can be viewed as merely occurring “within” the organization, communication itself is essential to the creation and maintenance of organizations. Modern research in organizational communication explores this constitutive force of communication as well as the ways downward, upward, and lateral communication patterns determine positive and negative outcomes for both organizations and their members. Supportive, adaptive, and ethical downward communication from organizational leadership enhances members’ productivity and satisfaction while reducing turnover. In addition, candid upward communication from members to management is crucial for detecting and correcting troubles while they remain small and resolvable. Lateral communication through which members make sense of organizational events is key to understanding members’ perceptions, decisions, and behaviors. Finally, new information communication technologies both enable distributed work but also create new and troubling issues for modern work life.


Conflict Management  

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.


Corporate Social Responsibility: An Overview From an Organizational and Psychological Perspective  

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.


Counterproductive Work Behaviors  

Rosalind H. Searle

Counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs) can be a significant activity within workplaces. Psychological study outlines different perspectives as to why these arise. Traditional views position CWB as an individual factor that enables their detection and nonselection. While deviance may emanate from one person, if left unchallenged it can rapidly spread throughout a workplace, altering the prevailing values, norms, and behaviors, and in the process becoming more enduring and toxic. Alternatively, the source of CWB can emerge outside the individual with a context that depletes the individual’s own regulatory resources. Those engaging in CWB can be unaware of their behaviors, with moral disengagement mechanisms used to reframe cognitions about their activities, which leads to more pervasive collective moral decline. Inhibiting CWB requires active processes of both individual self-reflection and self-regulation, which can be easily derailed in stress-inducing contexts, but are constrained through self-reflection and also social and legal sanctions. However, through the means of selecting and shaping their environments, fear of social sanction can be diminished, actively assisted by colluding networks of silence, that protect and even embolden instigators, further muting their targets, and driving those willing to report out of the organization. In these ways prevailing norms become distorted. Increasingly, a traditional binary notion of “good” and “bad” people is being challenged as oversimplistic, with research showing CWB as a complex process. Its antecedents can be individual, but they may also be situational, or the result of prior “good” deeds. The exploration of four distinct approaches offers very different insights into the antecedents, processes, and outcomes, and potential means to more effectively intervene, and inhibit their occurrence.


Creativity at Work  

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.


Cross-Cultural Issues in Industrial, Work, and Organizational Psychology  

Sharon Glazer and Catherine Kwantes

For the first half century of industrial, work, and organizational psychology’s (IWOP’s) existence, the role of culture has been ambiguous at best. Attention to culture in IWOP started to take form in the 1970s, and in the last 20 years culture has begun to be integrated into IWOP research more generally. This integration has led to explorations of culture in the workplace far beyond the initial focus on organizational management theories and practices to looking at cultures’ relationships with all aspects of organizational and employee experiences. Most cross-cultural studies in IWOP research clearly show the importance of understanding societal culture’s impact on organizations, institutions, work, and workers. Merely transferring existing theories and practices of IWOP to new contexts without a clear understanding of whether those theories and practices make sense across cultures is unlikely to be successful. Through globalization and the multiculturalization of workforces, employees are increasingly interacting with people of varying cultural backgrounds on a far more regular basis than in the past. This change has spurred attention to how culture has impacted theories, research, and practices in some key IWOP theoretical domains, including leadership; occupational safety, stress, and health; precarious and decent work; trust and trustworthiness; and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the multinational organization.


Dark Personalities 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.


Disabilities at Work  

Fred Zijlstra and Henny Mulders

People with disabilities have more problems in finding adequate employment than people without disabilities. In most countries, the law requires that people with disabilities have equal rights and opportunities to find a job. However, in the various stages of finding a job—selection and recruitment, hiring, and employment—there are hindrances that place people with disabilities in a disadvantaged position. There are various options in the application process (i.e. ‘open hiring’), or offering accommodations in the workplace that can help to overcome the barriers people with disabilities face. Making changes to the work processes and job design is a form of ‘workplace accommodations’ that can help to create a better fit between requirements of the job and the capabilities and competences of applicants with a disability. This generally works best if the focus is on human resources related problems and needs in organizations, and it is explored to what extent people with disabilities or chronic diseases can be part of the solution to these organizational human resources-related problems.


Diversity in the Workplace  

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.


Electronic Communication  

Anita Blanchard, Jordan Duran, and Jeremy Lewis

Electronic communication is the ability for people to interact through technology. Some researchers focus on the characteristics of the technology. Yet it is the humans who determine how electronic communication is used and how it affects individuals and groups. Therefore, the field of social psychology is particularly needed to contribute to the understanding of electronic communication. Electronic communication currently ranges from email to social media to artificial intelligence. It affects individuals, their relationships with others, their personal identity and group identification, and even community functioning. New communication technologies will continue to emerge. Therefore, attention from social psychologistsis essential to understand the positive and negative effects of electronic communication on people.


Emotions at Work  

Neal M. Ashkanasy and Agata Bialkowski

Beginning in the 1980s, interest in studying emotions in organizational psychology has been on the rise. Prior to 2003, however, researchers in organizational psychology and organizational behavior tended to focus on only one or two levels of analysis. Ashkanasy argued that emotions are more appropriately conceived of as spanning all levels of organizational analysis, and introduced a theory of emotions in organizations that spans five levels of analysis. Level 1 of the model refers to within-person temporal variations in mood and emotion, which employees experience in their everyday working lives. Level 2 refers to individual differences in emotional intelligence and trait affectivity (i.e., between-person emotional variables). Level 3 relates to the perception of emotions in dyadic interactions. Level 4 relates to the emotional states and process that take place between leaders and group members. Level 5 involves organization-wide variables. The article concludes with a discussion of how, via the concept of emotional intelligence, emotions at each level of the model form an integrated picture of emotions in organizational settings.


Employee Work Experiences, Feelings, and Morality  

Remus Ilies and Sherry Aw

Since the late 1990s, organizational psychology has gone through an “affective revolution,” producing a large body of work demonstrating how emotions and feelings are part and parcel of organizational life that have far-reaching effects on employees’ attitudes, cognitions, and behaviors. This stream of research has been particularly important in providing new insights into the origins of (im)moral behavior in the workplace—while (im)moral behavior was traditionally thought to be a result of personality, i.e., individuals with certain traits would be predisposed to engage in deviant behaviors, organizational psychologists now know that employees’ daily emotions too may facilitate (or inhibit) moral behavior. It is therefore important to have a comprehensive understanding of not only how and why emotions may influence moral behavior, but also the antecedents and predictors of these affective states, such as employees’ experiences of workplace events. Further, emotions may be studied not only as broad, diffuse states of positive and negative affect but also as discrete emotions (e.g., anger, happiness, anxiety, and guilt). Particularly relevant to the discussion of moral behaviors are the moral emotions of empathy and compassion, guilt, shame, and gratitude. Examining these discrete emotions (as opposed to broad positive and negative affective states) would allow for a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of how the individual discrete emotions may influence (or be influenced by) employees’ moral cognitions—moral disengagement and moral licensing, and subsequently their moral behaviors (counterproductive work behaviors and organizational citizenship behaviors). For instance, while gratitude is often thought of as a self-transcendent, moral emotion that encourages prosocial and ethical behaviors, it is possible that under specific situations, feelings of gratitude may instead facilitate moral disengagement or moral licensing strategies, and free employees to perform unethical behaviors instead. Similarly, guilt, shame, and compassion too may have complex relationships with the moral cognitions and behaviors. Finally, while much of emotions research involves within-individual, fluctuating emotional and psychological states, it would be remiss to neglect these relationships within the context of individual differences (e.g., propensity to feel guilt and shame, empathy).