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Work and Family  

MacKenna L. Perry and Leslie B. Hammer

Study of the intersection of work with nonwork components of individuals’ lives has most often focused on roles within nuclear and extended families but is increasingly focused on nonwork domains beyond family, such as roles within friendships, communities, leisure activities, and the self. In line with the focus of most existing literature on the family-specific domain within nonwork lives, the nonwork domain will generally be referred to here as “family.” One popular conceptualization of linking mechanisms between work and family differentiates between work-family conflict or stress, which occurs when a work role and a nonwork role are not fully compatible and results in some type of physical or psychological strain. Alternatively, work-family enrichment occurs when participation in one role benefits life in the other role. Concepts similar to work-family enrichment include work-family positive spillover and work-family facilitation; all emphasize the ways in which one role can positively impact another role. Additionally, the popular concept of work-family balance highlights either a state of low conflict and high enrichment or the presence of effectiveness and satisfaction in both roles. Broadly speaking, the links between work and family are bi-directional, such that the work domain can influence the family domain, the family domain can influence the work domain, and both can occur simultaneously. Work-family conflict and enrichment have been tied to important employee outcomes, including work (e.g., absenteeism), family (e.g., family satisfaction), and domain-unspecific outcomes (e.g., physical and psychological health), as well as to organizational outcomes (e.g., market performance). Working conditions contributing to work-family conflict and enrichment are frequently characteristic of lower wage jobs, such as low levels of control over work, high work demands, low levels of supervisor support, shift work, and temporary work that can lead to unpredictable schedules, high degrees of job insecurity, and increased health and safety hazards. Researchers are presented with unique challenges as the workplace continues to change, with more dual-earner couples, an increasingly aging workforce, and surges of technology that facilitates flexible work arrangements (e.g., telecommuting). Nonetheless, researchers and organizations work to explore relationships between work and family roles, develop policies related to work and family (i.e., national, state or local, and organizational), and build evidence-based interventions to improve organizations’ abilities to meet employees’ needs.


Work and Organizational Issues Affecting Young Workers  

Belgin Okay-Somerville, Eva Selenko, and Rosalind H. Searle

Young people (between ages 15 and 24 years) experience unique difficulties in access to work, compared to the rest of the working population. Young people are in the process of developing career competencies and therefore lack the necessary know-how, know-why and know-whom relevant for securing jobs and developing sustainable careers. Social disadvantage creates a major obstacle in the way of young people’s career competency development. Lifespan career development theories, with a focus on career competency development, explain young people’s struggle for access to work. When we are younger, we tend to have high growth needs relevant for achieving educational and occupational aspirations and becoming independent adults. These motives may be explained by lifespan theories of aging. Yet, there is a tendency to attribute young people’s work-related motives and behavior to generational differences. Generational perspectives are conceptually and operationally muddled and may serve to heighten age-related stereotypes at work. Psychological science can make further impactful contributions to improving youth employment, especially by taking the socioeconomic context into account.


Work Motivation  

James M. Diefendorff, Megan E. Kenworthy, Faith C. Lee, and Linh K. Nguyen

The topic of work motivation permeates industrial/organizational psychology literature due to its established connections with attitudes, affect, well-being, behavior, and performance. Work motivation refers to the direction, intensity, and persistence of job-related behaviors. The concept of goals is essential to understanding motivation because goals represent desired end states toward which motivated effort and persistence are directed. Goal-based processes can be conceptualized in two main phases: goal setting and goal striving. Goal setting involves the selection of a goal after consideration of the feasibility (i.e., expectancy) and desirability (i.e., valence) of potential goals, and goal striving involves planning for and engaging in goal pursuit through the expenditure of effort and other resources. Goals are hierarchically arranged with more specific, shorter term goals toward the bottom of the hierarchy and more abstract, longer term goals toward the top of the hierarchy. Lower level goals represent the means by which higher level goals are attained. Multiple goals naturally exist in most real-world situations, so there is the need to prioritize and balance goal pursuit, with research outlining a number of factors that can aid in this prioritization, including goal expectancies, affect, and distance from goal attainment. Goals differ in a number of ways that have implications for performance and well-being. Two key ways are especially relevant for the workplace: (a) goals focused on approaching desirable outcomes versus goals focused on avoiding undesirable outcomes and (b) goals emanating from the self versus coming from the environment. The implication is that not all goal pursuit is equally beneficial for individuals and organizations.


Work Performance Management and Assessment  

Rose Mueller-Hanson

Performance management is a collection of activities designed to help individuals and organizations improve performance. It includes setting expectations, monitoring progress, providing feedback, evaluating results, and using performance information to make talent decisions. Despite decades of research, little evidence supports the assertion that performance management leads to improvements in either individual or organizational performance, leading to a fierce debate about its usefulness. Critics charge that performance management is often too time-consuming and cumbersome, providing little value for all the effort required. Proponents argue that performance management is essential for aligning individual work to organizational goals, ensuring fairness in rewards, and protecting organizations against legal challenges. Controversies aside, the vast majority of organizations have a performance management system that includes formal performance reviews, the results of which are tied to compensation or other talent decisions. Organizations are increasingly seeking ways to streamline the process, simplify practices, and find more value. Achieving these goals entails defining the purpose that performance management should serve and implementing the specific components of performance management that are most likely to foster effective performance.


Work, Stress, Coping, and Stress Management  

Sharon Glazer and Cong Liu

Work stress refers to the process of job stressors, or stimuli in the workplace, leading to strains, or negative responses or reactions. Organizational development refers to a process in which problems or opportunities in the work environment are identified, plans are made to remediate or capitalize on the stimuli, action is taken, and subsequently the results of the plans and actions are evaluated. When organizational development strategies are used to assess work stress in the workplace, the actions employed are various stress management interventions. Two key factors tying work stress and organizational development are the role of the person and the role of the environment. In order to cope with work-related stressors and manage strains, organizations must be able to identify and differentiate between factors in the environment that are potential sources of stressors and how individuals perceive those factors. Primary stress management interventions focus on preventing stressors from even presenting, such as by clearly articulating workers’ roles and providing necessary resources for employees to perform their job. Secondary stress management interventions focus on a person’s appraisal of job stressors as a threat or challenge, and the person’s ability to cope with the stressors (presuming sufficient internal resources, such as a sense of meaningfulness in life, or external resources, such as social support from a supervisor). When coping is not successful, strains may develop. Tertiary stress management interventions attempt to remediate strains, by addressing the consequence itself (e.g., diabetes management) and/or the source of the strain (e.g., reducing workload). The person and/or the organization may be the targets of the intervention. The ultimate goal of stress management interventions is to minimize problems in the work environment, intensify aspects of the work environment that create a sense of a quality work context, enable people to cope with stressors that might arise, and provide tools for employees and organizations to manage strains that might develop despite all best efforts to create a healthy workplace.