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.
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.
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.
Occupational health psychology is concerned with improving the quality of work life and protecting and promoting the safety, health, and well-being of workers. Research and theoretical development in this area of psychology has focused on a number of core areas, particularly the study of workplace stress, health and safety at work, workplace aggression and bullying, work–life balance, and impact of the organization of work on health and well-being, including flexible work and new technology. Researchers have devoted attention to understanding the causes and mechanisms linking work design and organizational factors to health, safety, and well-being in the workplace, as well as developing interventions to improve work conditions and promote well-being. While much of this work has focused on alleviating negative effects (e.g., preventing disease and injury and reducing stress symptoms), positive psychology has influenced researchers to examine motivating effects that create the conditions for personal growth and learning (e.g., job crafting, thriving at work, and work engagement).
Neal M. Ashkanasy and Alana D. Dorris
Organizational behavior (OB) is a discipline that includes principles from psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Its focus is on understanding how people behave in organizational work environments. Broadly speaking, OB covers three main levels of analysis: micro (individuals), meso (groups), and macro (the organization). Topics at the micro level include managing the diverse workforce; effects of individual differences in attitudes; job satisfaction and engagement, including their implications for performance and management; personality, including the effects of different cultures; perception and its effects on decision-making; employee values; emotions, including emotional intelligence, emotional labor, and the effects of positive and negative affect on decision-making and creativity (including common biases and errors in decision-making); and motivation, including the effects of rewards and goal-setting and implications for management. Topics at the meso level of analysis include group decision-making; managing work teams for optimum performance (including maximizing team performance and communication); managing team conflict (including the effects of task and relationship conflict on team effectiveness); team climate and group emotional tone; power, organizational politics, and ethical decision-making; and leadership, including leadership development and leadership effectiveness. At the organizational level, topics include organizational design and its effect on organizational performance; affective events theory and the physical environment; organizational culture and climate; and organizational change.
Mark G. Ehrhart and Benjamin Schneider
Research on the internal psychosocial environment of work organizations has largely been captured through the study of two constructs: organizational climate and organizational culture. Despite the inherent similarities between the two constructs, they have largely been studied in separate literatures, by different sets of researchers, and more often than not with different methodologies. For instance, research in organizational climate tends to have a relatively narrow focus on the shared perceptions of employees, and contemporary climate research in particular tends to have a focus on specific strategic goals (such as climates for service or safety) or internal processes (such as climates for fairness or ethics). Organizational culture is broader than organizational climate, starting with deep-level assumptions and values and becoming manifest in almost all aspects of organizational life. A review of both literatures and the suggested integration of them leads to a rich understanding of how employees experience their work organizations and the consequences of organizational behavior for what happens in organizations for people and organizational effectiveness.
Ravi S. Kudesia
Since the 1980s, the management and organizations literature has grown substantially, turning over the years toward cognitive, discursive, and phenomenological perspectives. At the heart of this continued growth and its many turns is the matter of sensemaking. Construed narrowly, sensemaking describes the process whereby people notice and interpret equivocal events and coordinate a response to clarify what such events mean. More broadly, sensemaking offers a unique perspective on organizations. This perspective calls attention to how members of organizations reach understandings of their environment through verbal and embodied behaviors, how these understandings both enable and constrain their subsequent behavior, and how this subsequent behavior changes the environment in ways that necessitate new understandings.
Whereas organizational psychology constructs typically fit most comfortably into a linear “boxes and arrows” paradigm, sensemaking highlights a recursive and ongoing process. Sense is never made in a lasting way: It is always subject to disruption and therefore must be continually re-accomplished. As a result, sensemaking is especially evident when equivocal events cause breakdowns in meaning. Such breakdowns render organizations incapable of answering two key questions: “What’s going on here?” and “What should we do about it?” Not coincidentally, such events—including crisis situations, strategic change episodes, firm formations and dissolutions, and new member socialization—are among the most pivotal events that occur in organizations. Sensemaking is therefore strongly implicated in organizational change, learning, and identity.
Sensemaking can appear impenetrable to newcomers for precisely the same reason that it enables remarkably incisive analyses: the sensemaking perspective helps disrupt limiting rationality assumptions that are so often embedded in organizational theories. As such, sensemaking sensitizes scholars to counterintuitive aspects of organizational life. These aspects include how action in organizations often precedes understanding rather than following from it, how organizations are beset by a surplus of possible meanings rather than a scarcity of information, how retrospective thought processes often trump future-oriented ones, and how organizations help create the environments to which they must react. Nonetheless, despite these advances and insights, much remains to be learned about sensemaking as it relates to emotion and embodiment; as it occurs across individual, group, organizational, and institutional levels of analysis; and as it both shapes and is shaped by new technologies.
Berrin Erdogan, Talya N. Bauer, and Aysegul Karaeminogullari
Overqualification is a unique form of underemployment, which represents a state where the employee’s education, abilities, knowledge, skills, and/or experience exceed job requirements and are not utilized on the job. Potentially conflicting upsides and downsides of the phenomenon created a fruitful area of research. Thus, overqualification has received considerable attention both in the academic literature and popular press.
Studies of overqualification have emerged and received considerable attention in diverse fields including education, labor economics, sociology, management, and psychology. Antecedents of overqualification include individual differences (such as education, personality, age, sex, job search attitudes, previous work experience, past employment history, vocational training and type of degree, migrant status) and environmental dynamics (such as the characteristics of the position held and size of the job market). Commonly studied outcomes of overqualification include job attitudes, performance, proactive behaviors and creativity, counterproductive behaviors, absenteeism and turnover, health and well-being, feelings of job security, wages, upward mobility, and interpersonal relationships. While the effects are typically negative, there are some contemporary findings revealing the potential benefits of overqualified employees for their work groups and organizations. In recent years, boundary conditions shaping the effects of overqualification have also been identified, including factors such as empowerment and autonomy, overqualification of referent others, personality traits, and values.
Despite the accumulating research on this topic, many unanswered questions remain. Conflicting findings on some of the outcomes and limited empirical investigations of theory-based mediators promise a lively and still developing field of research.