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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Training is the systematic processes initiated by the organization that facilitate relatively permanent changes in the knowledge, skills, or affect/attitudes of organizational members. Cumulative meta-analytic evidence indicates that training is effective, producing, on average, moderate effect sizes. Training is most effective when designed so that trainees are active and encouraged to self-regulate during training, and when it is well-structured and requires effort on the part of trainees. Additional characteristics of effective training are: The purpose, objectives, and intended outcomes of training are clearly communicated to trainees; the training content is meaningful, and training assignments, examples, and exercises are relevant to the job; trainees are provided with instructional aids that can help them organize, learn, and recall training content; opportunities for practice in a safe environment are provided; feedback is provided by trainers, observers, peers, or the task itself; and training enables learners to observe and interact with others. In addition, effective training requires a prior needs assessment to ensure the relevance of training content and provides conditions to optimize trainees’ motivation to learn. After training, care should be taken to provide opportunities for trainees to implement trained skills, and organizational and social support should be in place to optimize transfer. Finally, it is important that all training be evaluated to ensure learning outcomes are met and that training results in increased job performance and/or 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.
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.
Mo Wang and Valeria Alterman
Retirement, defined as an individual’s exit from the workforce, is usually accompanied by a behavioral withdrawal from work. While retirement was seen as a crisis in the past, it now stands as an opportunity for individuals to engage in different types of work (e.g., bridge employment), and to dedicate more time in their community with friends and family. Cross-national studies have been conducted to clarify the impact of preparedness on the temporal process of retirement: decisions, transition, and adjustment to retirement. Nevertheless, societies are constantly changing and future research, with the frameworks discussed in this chapter in mind, can continue investigating the concepts of retirement to help individuals prepare better.