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Sharon Parker and Stephen Wood at the Centre for Economic Performance

IWP professors, Sharon Parker and Stephen Wood, gave papers at an ESRC-funded seminar on Well-being at the Workplace, at the Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics, 19th March 2009, organised by the Getinet Haile of the Policy Studies Institute.

Sharon Parker presented a paper with Peter Warr on the relationship between job-related affect and job performance. She emphasised that a single notion of “well-being” is too gross, and described how different forms of affect have different associations with the same behaviour.

Data from two internet surveys and a company employee survey showed that desirable work behaviours (such as proficiency, adaptivity, proactivity and organizational citizenship), and undesirable behaviours (e.g., minor theft and withdrawal) were associated with different types of feeling. For instance, high-activation positive affect was the only significant predictor of proactive behaviour, and anxiety and depression had quite distinct patterns of links with behaviours of several kinds.

Overall, the findings illustrate that a more nuanced approach to both affect and performance is required. In practical terms, organisations for which particular types of performance are important should identify and work on the corresponding affect-driver, for instance building well-being that is challenged for innovative work but looking at a wider range of positive feelings for routine task performance.

Stephen Wood presented a paper with Lilian de Menezes, Cass Business School, on the effects of high involvement management on employee well-being. He outlined several theoretical reasons why one might expect positive effects: for example, that the enhanced role breadth increases personal control, teamwork increases contact between employees, information sharing increases environmental predictability and clarity as well as the individual’s sense of coherency and hence coping mechanisms.

Wood then reported research designed to test this using Britain’s 2004 Workplace Employee Relations Survey. Contrary to expectations, high involvement management was negatively related to anxiety–contentment and not related to employees’ job satisfaction. High involvement management was not associated with increased workloads on employees, so he speculated that the results suggest that it entails pressures to improve employees’ performance which raises concerns in employees’ minds about their competencies and job security and it also decreases role clarity and increases role conflict. Work enrichment, which is at the role level in contrast to high involvement management which is at organisational level, is however positively related to both job satisfaction and anxiety-contentment.

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