Tag: organizational behavior



Ten years ago, Hillary A. Elfenbein published a major review of research that examined emotion in the workplace in the Academy of Management Annals. Since then, her paper has been cited more than 500 times. At the recent Academy of Management (AOM) annual meeting, Elfenbein’s work was honored as the Annals’ paper that has made the greatest impact over the past decade. Elfenbein is the John K. Wallace, Jr. and Ellen A. Wallace Distinguished Professor at Olin and she teaches organizational behavior.

AOM Decade Award recipient

Hillary A. Elfenbein

“Emotions in Organizations:

A Review and Theoretical Integration”

Vol. 1, Issue 1, 1 December 2007

 

“The paper was an integration of all of the research that had ever been done on emotion in the workplace,” Elfenbein explained. “Interestingly enough when I started out, emotion was considered a fringe topic. I actually got very sage advice from my mentors that I should give this up and find a serious topic to work on.”

Elfenbein became interested in emotion in the workplace a few years after Daniel Goldman’s popular book Emotional Intelligence was published in 1995. Despite the discouragement from mentors and a general lack of respect for the topic among academics in business schools, Elfenbein was determined. “I’m a bit stubborn and I persisted with the topic even though it was really something that I had to fight for in graduate school to be able to work on.”

By 2006, there was an explosion of research on emotion in the workplace, but Elfenbein found that it was disconnected and disjointed. “With this paper I was trying to draw together all of this new research into one theoretical, unified model,” she explained. Her work has clearly become a touchstone and great resource for researchers delving into the now accepted academic field of emotion in the workplace.

Elfenbein adds that she felt very fortunate and honored to receive the award from the AOM. “The best part is that it came with an umbrella. I got a little plaque and a big umbrella!”

About the Academy of Management 
The mission of the Academy of Management Annals is to provide up-to-date, in-depth examinations of the latest advances in various management fields. Each yearly volume features critical and potentially provocative research reviews written by leading scholars exploring an assortment of research topics. Annals reviews summarize and/or challenge established assumptions and concepts, pinpoint problems and factual errors, inspire discussions, and illuminate possible avenues for further study. Research reviews published in the Annals are geared toward academic scholars in management and professionals in allied fields, such as sociology of organizations and organizational psychology.



“Millennials in the workplace” is a big topic among non-millennials—both in the media and at work. So we tapped Andrew Knight, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, to shed some light on his research regarding this intriguing generation. He presented his findings in a recent webinar, identifying three trends that organizations are facing:

  1. Millennials are difficult to retain.

  2. Millennials prize their personal lives over their work lives.

  3. Millennials want opportunities to grow and develop.

I don’t think that anyone would argue that #2 and #3 aren’t positive or even natural from generation to generation. So let’s focus on the “difficult to retain” trend. Why? First off, millennials identify less and less with institutions, religion, and even voting. So they certainly aren’t going to drink the company Kool-Aid easily! They are always open to new endeavors and don’t readily choose to stay with a current employer for long. They want opportunities and they want to “work to live” (not necessarily the other way around). And when millennials work, they want to work in a less rigid environment, with plenty of mentoring and coaching along the way.

Millennials are often accused of being “entitled”  and “narcissistic.” However, as Professor Knight pointed out, every American generation has been called the “most narcissistic” to date. And many of the measures which ladder up to the label of narcissistic—”self-esteem,” “drive,” and “persistence”—also build up to being a leader, which isn’t a bad thing.

So how do we best embrace and nurture the Millennial generation? Professor Knight shared some key thoughts to this point:

  1. Avoid stereotyping millennials as “entitled.”

  2. Recognize that this generation is the most diverse generation in history.

  3. Offer career opportunities within an organization, even if a promotion is not available or appropriate. Consider a geographic, functional, or divisional change.

  4. Redefine rigid roles and rules to address the fact that millennials value their personal lives more than their work lives. Consider flexible time, flexible roles, or a flexible location policy.

  5. Give the “annual” review more often than once a year. Millennials are hungry to grow and develop; they want coaching, ongoing feedback and opportunities.

Millennials are here to stay, and managers need to think about how to better structure positions and policies to better attract, develop, and keep this pool of talent.

Be sure to check out the “Managing the Millennial Wave” seminar scheduled for February 2018, as well as our other management and leadership offerings

How millennial are you? Check out the Pew Center’s 14-question quiz.


Everyday in the workplace, colleagues actively compete for a limited amount of perks, including raises, promotions, bonuses and recognition. But new research from Washington University in St. Louis shows that, more than often than not, people fall short in determining which co-workers might be trying to edge them out on the job.

“We looked at whether people understood what other people in the workplace thought of them,” said Hillary Anger Elfenbein, professor of organizational behavior. “You tend to know who likes you. But, for negative feelings, including competitiveness, people had no clue.”

Elfenbein and her co-authors, Noah Eisenkraft from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Shirli Kopelman from the University of Michigan, ran two different studies during the course of their research, recently published in the journal Psychological Science. In the first, they surveyed salespeople at a Midwestern car dealership where competition was both normal and encouraged. The second study included surveys from more than 200 undergraduate students in 56 separate project groups. All were asked similar questions about their co-workers, and what they assumed those people thought of them. When the responses about competition were analyzed, the results were striking: While there were outliers, they completely canceled out.

In other words, co-workers have no clue about their competitive cohorts.

Hillary Anger Elfenbein

Hillary Anger Elfenbein

“Some people show their competitiveness, some people you can tell have it out for you, but others have it out for you and act like they’re your close friend,” Elfenbein said. “Those two effects wash out, and people on average have zero idea about who feels competitively toward them.”

The researchers offer two main reasons for the disconnect: First, people tend to mask outward feelings of competitiveness toward others in an effort to be polite. Also, the concept of reciprocity played a role.

“For liking, reciprocation is a good thing,” Elfenbein said. “You keep dates, you give gifts, you have shared, positive experiences. But to get the benefits of competition, such as promotions or perks, you don’t need it to be reciprocated. And when you don’t get that feeling back, it’s hard to gauge who’s truly competing against you.”

For a manager in the workplace who wants a strong and cohesive team, transparency and uncrossable lines appear to be the key in maintaining the balance, the researchers said.

“You want to promote a climate where there is friendly competition,” Elfenbein said. “At the car dealership, everybody knows they are competing against each other. Entire salaries can be based on performance. But if you create a climate where there are boundaries you don’t cross, you can make space for mutual healthy competition to be rewarded.”

As for the individual in the workplace who fears being blindsided by co-workers?

“You need to pay more attention to what people do rather than what they say,” Elfenbein said.  “When people are too polite to say something to your face, you need a good, strong network that will let you know what other people really think.”

Guest Blogger: Erika Ebsworth-Goold




Hillary Anger Elfenbein, professor of organizational behavior in Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, has been installed as the John K. and Ellen A. Wallace Distinguished Professor. A ceremony and reception to mark the installation was held June 7 at the Charles F. Knight Executive Education & Conference Center.

Elfenbein, whose research focus includes emotion in the workplace, leadership and negotiation, joined the Olin faculty in 2008. She works with Olin’s MBA, Professional MBA and Executive MBA programs.

Her professorship was made possible by John K. and Ellen A. Wallace, who made a generous commitment in 1997 to establish the position. The Wallaces are pictured above with Prof. Elfenbein, center.

“The Wallaces have long been great friends of Olin Business School,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “Their Washington University roots run deep; John earned his MBA from Olin, his siblings graduated from our university, and John’s grandfather, Henry Brookings Wallace, served as acting chancellor. We are thankful to the Wallaces for their remarkable generosity and philanthropic spirit.”

Dan Elfenbein, Associate Professor of Strategy and Hillary's husband, is flanked by their sons at the Installation Ceremony.

Dan Elfenbein, Associate Professor of Strategy and Hillary’s husband, is flanked by their sons at the Installation Ceremony.

“Hillary Anger Elfenbein has made a deep and lasting impact on Olin Business School and its students,” said Provost Holden Thorp. “Her vast knowledge of key business and societal issues has made her a tremendous asset to Washington University. She is a widely admired teacher and her scholarship has had enormous influence. We’re also extremely thankful for John and Ellen’s support of Olin and the university as a whole.”

Elfenbein earned her undergraduate degrees in physics and Sanskrit language; a master’s degree in statistics; and her doctorate in organizational behavior, all from Harvard University.

Her work has appeared in leading academic journals, such as the Academy of Management Annals; Academy of Management Journal; Current Directions in Psychological Science; Journal of Applied Psychology; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Psychological Bulletin; Organizational Psychology Review; Organization Science; and Psychological Science, as well as the Harvard Business Review. She also has served as an associate editor at Management Science.

The U.S. House of Representatives has discussed Elfenbein’s research due to its implications for the armed services, and she has testified before Congress as an expert witness on federal funding in the social sciences.

About John K. and Ellen A. Wallace

After graduating from Yale, John K. Wallace served in the military and then attended Olin Business School. He joined Cupples Company, a diversified manufacturer, and rose quickly to become president of the charcoal-products subsidiary. In 1981, he purchased the subsidiary, renaming it Imperial Products. When he sold it in 1989, it was the largest industrial charcoal operation in the United States. That same year, Wallace founded the Regency Group, a holding company.

In 1992, Wallace received Olin’s Distinguished Alumni Award, and, in 1999, he was awarded Olin’s Dean’s Medal. His efforts on behalf of the school and university are unwavering. He led Olin’s alumni organization and chaired its campaign committee during the Campaign for Washington University. He is a long-serving member of Olin’s National Council and the university’s Board of Trustees, where he is currently an emeritus trustee. Wallace has also served as chair of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society, and, in 1998, received the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Ellen Wallace also enjoyed great success in business. In 1990, she became a founding partner of Farmhouse Collection Inc., a manufacturer offering high-end, handcrafted furniture to the designer trade. She and her partners built the business into a nationally recognized company. She also has been active in the community, volunteering extensively across St. Louis with organizations dedicated to helping disadvantaged and at-risk youth. Her community leadership also extends to the Center for Contemporary Art (COCA), where she has served as a board member.

Over the years, the Wallaces have made many significant contributions to Olin Business School. In addition to establishing the John K. and Ellen A. Wallace Distinguished Professorship, the couple has provided substantial support for business scholarships and for ongoing needs at the school. In recognition of their generosity and service to the university, the couple was honored in 2007 with the Robert S. Brookings Award.




In a myriad of workplace settings, standard processes are key to a successful operation, ensuring efficiency and safety. For these processes to work, employees must comply. But what’s the best way to go about enforcing that compliance, and sustain it?

New research from Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis shows that motivating compliance with standard processes via electronic monitoring can be a highly effective approach, despite concerns about employee backlash. However, the research also highlights that managers cannot simply “monitor and forget,” and that a long-term plan for supporting the retention of monitoring is critical. The findings were published online May 5 in Management Science.

Hengchen Dai, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Olin, along with co-authors Bradley A. Staats and David Hofmann from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Katherine L. Milkman from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, studied compliance with hand-hygiene guidelines among more than 5,200 caregivers at 42 hospitals for more than three years.

They collaborated with Proventix, a company that uses a radio frequency-based system to track whether health-care workers wash their hands. More than 20 million hand-hygiene opportunities — incidences when hand hygiene is expected — were captured; each with the potential to prevent, or spread, a hospital-borne illness or infection.

“Maintaining high compliance with standard processes is a challenge for many industries,” Dai said. “We examined hand-hygiene compliance in hospitals because this is a setting where consistent compliance is extremely important in an effort to eliminate hospital-acquired infections. This is an area where improvements can, and should, be made.”

Dai and her co-authors found that on average, electronic monitoring resulted in a large increase in hand-hygiene compliance during their study period. Interestingly, compliance initially increased, and then gradually declined, after approximately two years. When electronic monitoring was stopped, hand-washing rates dropped, suggesting that hand-hygiene habits weren’t formed.

In fact, researchers discovered that compliance rates for hand-washing dropped to below the levels seen before the monitoring began, a finding that is surprising to both the researchers and health-care practitioners.

“While we thought decreased compliance after the monitoring could perhaps be a possible outcome, we were still somewhat surprised to see the result,” Dai said. “We based our prediction on past research about ‘crowding out,’ whereby caregivers’ internal motivation for compliance may have been replaced by external forces associated with monitoring, such as the fear of penalties or punishments for not washing their hands.

“When the external stimulus of monitoring was removed, their compliance behavior declined below the initial level as both the external forces and internal motivations were gone,” she said. “We do not have the data to get into the underlying psychology, but it is certainly worth examining in future research.”

While the findings focused on the health-care profession, Dai said all managers should take note, no matter their field. While electronic monitoring is an important motivation and compliance tool, it’s a single piece of a larger strategy.

“Individual electronic monitoring is one tool managers can use to dramatically improve standardized process compliance, but that it is not a panacea,” Dai said. “Managers looking to build process compliance must think about how electronic monitoring fits within a broader system encompassing not only technology, but also norms, culture and leadership.

“Managers should not ‘monitor and forget,’ ” Dai said.

 

 


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