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Posts Tagged ‘Crellin’

Could you become a destructive leader?

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Destructive leadership in the workplace – many workers could identify a time where they think they’ve experienced this.

As part of his Antecedent Project, Peter Crellin, a doctoral researcher in the Institute of Work Psychology at Sheffield University Management School, sought to answer the question, ‘what causes destructive leadership?’.

With the certainty that the behaviour of followers, or fellow workers, could have something to do with the emergence of destructive leadership, Peter has set up a virtual workplace simulation to test users’ behaviour against his ideas.

Peter said: “After a couple of fruitless tests, the question became ‘how can we easily immerse people in an experience that will allow them to behave genuinely’. The answer was a Computer Simulation of an Actual Workplace (CSAW) – the product of several months of tailored graphics creation and programming.”

The CSAW is designed to create specific work scenarios that players react to. Peter created scenarios that were designed to see if he could elicit potentially destructive behaviours – the user assumes the role of ‘leader’ in a team of four followers, and is randomly allocated to a situation to do with popularity, workload or staff productivity. These scenarios were variable, so for example sometimes they were popular, other times there was low productivity amongst followers. The programme allowed users to communicate with their staff through emails.

Peter continued: “Users connected emotionally with the programme, through systems such as the emails. For example, if they were unpopular in the office they received three emails, two of which explicitly excluded them from social situations and one which directly outlined how much the player was disliked by their team.

“On top of that, each player had to make a number of choices regarding rewards – promises of promotion, training opportunities, bonus increases, positive appraisals, drinks rounds, and chocolates – and punishments – redundancy threats, reduced training, bonus decreases, lunch hour reductions, and negative appraisals – whilst monitoring operational and logistical matters, and incoming emails. Players were also free to write to their staff viaemail if they wanted to, and had to choose to make one member of staff redundant at the end of the working day.”

The programme collects a great deal of data which Peter is still analysing, but it has become very clear that engagement from users has been much higher than with previous test attempts. Users quickly attributed personalities to their followers as well as reasons for their behaviour, both of which were created by the computer so therefore should ignite no reason or discernable traits.

Peter concluded: “We are delighted with results from the CSAW – it has opened up a new avenue for research in this area. Users’ behaviour moved quickly and they were very much immersed in the virtual world – they agreed that they were drawn in and that they had experienced genuine emotional reactions to the simulations.”

For more information on Peter Crellin’s projects, visit:

See the programme in action:

Teaching and knowledge exchange at the heart of IWP

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Research from the Institute of Work Psychology is headline grabbing, but there’s more to the IWP than this.

Students on the MSc Occupational Psychology and doctoral researchers are at the heart of the IWP’s activities and, along with the established team of academics, spend time sharing their knowledge with the public and industry. Here we review some of the IWP’s recent engagement activities:


IWP-Tata2013Hats off to students’ steely determination

MSc Occupational Psychology students can say ‘ta-ta’ to lecturers and tutorials now and again…

On 20 November, our group of postgraduate students visited Tata Steel in Stockbridge, Sheffield. Tata Steel is one of the world most geographically diversified steel producers and students learnt a great deal from the visit.


North of the Boarder

Dr Carolyn Axtell, senior lecturer at Sheffield University Management School, was invited to speak at Holyrood Magazine’s Mobile and Flexible Working Conference.

Held in Edinburgh on 28 October, Dr Axtell spoke about the effect of mobile and remote work on the workforce. This is a subject in which she is well versed, as in recent years she has worked with a range of organisations within both the public and private sector. Research projects have broadly related to either evaluating the impact of new technologies and new ways of working or helping develop new work practices. Carolyn has been invited to contribute to chapters/papers and speak at conferences on the topic of virtual working.

Holyrood Magazine is Scotland’s political and current affairs publication read by key legislators, Scottish parliamentarians, civil servants, political parties, health boards and trusts. This conference was held by their technical magazine. Read more:


Staying in touch: Alumni Success

Following on from Kate Bonsall-Clarke’s accolade last year, IWP alumna Kate Firth won the prestigious Practitioner of the Year award from the British Psychological Society.

Kate’s prize-winning submission contained redesigning the selection process for a large development programme at Tesco. Her work improved the effectiveness of identifying the best candidates for the programme and improved applicants’ experience.

The school’s MSc Occupational Psychology is accredited by the British Psychological Society. Read more:


ESRC Festival of Social Science: Is anybody out there?

It seems there are a lot of people out there to want to learn about IWP’s PhD students’ research.

A packed meeting room attended to hear Peter Crellin and Sarah Brooks give a talk as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science. Titled ‘Is Anybody Out There? Why bosses Don’t Always Listen’, the event took place on 4 November at the Interdisciplinary Centre of Social Sciences (ICOSS), Portobello Road.

The pair discussed ways that senior management prevent their employees from talking openly to them. This can have subsequent effects on the employees and the wider organisation; Sarah and Peter drew on and combined their experience within the Institute of Work Psychology and wider research interests such as destructive leadership and workplace silence.