March 31, 2013

What work engagement is

In this post I mentioned some questions about work engagement. Now, here are some answers about what work engagement is, what causes it, and what benefits is has.

1. What is work engagement?
Work engagement is a fulfilling state of mind of people at work which is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption (ref). Vigor refers to the energy, effort, persistence, and resilience; dedication refers to involvement, sense of significance ,  enthusiasm, inspiration, pride, and challenge; absorption refers to concentration, happy engrossment in one's work, feeling that time passes quickly and finding it hard to detach oneself from work.
2. What are work engagement's benefits?
Work engagement is associated with workers’ creativity, their inclination to help colleagues, their organizational citizenship behaviors (ref; ref) and their mental health (ref). Also, clients of engaged workers tend to be more satisfied (ref).
3. How stable is work engagement?
Rather than being only simply an enduring state of mind of workers, work engagement tends to fluctuate on a weekly or even daily basis (ref; ref; ref).
4. Which factors affect work engagement?
Work engagement is affected by both contextual factors, such as the social support, performance feedback, job control, task variety and learning opportunities (ref), daily fluctuations in autonomy, supervisory coaching, and team atmosphere (ref) and personal factors such as self-efficacy, organizational based self-esteem, resilience (ref), how well rested workers go to work (ref; ref) and how well they are able to recover from stress during the day by taking breaks (ref) and by experiencing positive off-job social, creative, or sportive leasure activities (ref).
To summarize:
Work engagement is a worker’s state of mind which is affected by contextual and personal factors and which has many benefits for individuals and the organization as a whole.
Question: what small step could you take to improve your own work engagement and that of the people you work with?

March 22, 2013

Beliefs are tied to actions and their consequences

Our beliefs can evolve and improve. Our beliefs are tied to our actions and their consequences. How we continue to develop them is quite important.

We often focus a lot on what we want to be able to do and on what results we want to achieve. And we have good reason to do so. A clear picture of what we want to be able to do and what we want to achieve can be very motivating. A clear idea about our desired situation gives us something to focus our energy on.

March 14, 2013

Questions and ideas about work engagement

Since I started to study the concept of work engagement and have started to discuss it with friends and colleagues I have come across some interesting questions about and views on work engagement (thanks Caroline Heijmans, Xander Cladder and Gyuri Vergouw). I find it interesting to learn about these questions and views because I plan to learn more about the concept in the coming period. Here are some questions and views that were mentioned:
  1. Who is responsible for work engagement? 
  2. If there is a responsibility for organizations, is it really possible to improve workers' work engagement? 
  3. Isn't work improving engagement just a matter of good boss who takes time for you, challenges you and supports you when things are tough? If that is true, what is new about that? Haven't we known that for ages?
  4. Work engagement is about work circumstances. How can you convince organizations to invest in better work environments (and high quality of work) so that work engagement will increase? 
  5. to what extent is work engagement related to new ways of working? 
  6. How does diversity at work influence work engagement?
  7. How does long distance cooperation in multinational organizations (through teleconferencing, group ware etc.) influence work engagement?  
  8. Work engagement has some negative aspects. Engaged workers can be focused too much on themselves and their own career. 
  9. The concept of work engagement is less unambiguous than a concept like commitment.  
Question: What do you think about work engagement? Do you have specific questions of views?

March 9, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Happy Worker

I am currently reading A Day in the Life of a Happy Worker.
Here is a description of the book: This edited collection brings together some of the leading researchers in the study of the daily experience of work and daily well-being. The book covers both theoretical and methodological issues involved in studying workers’ well-being as it evolves on a daily basis. Interest in the topic of daily fluctuations in worker well-being has grown rapidly over the past ten years. This is partly because of advances in research and statistical methods, but also because researchers have found that the psychological processes that influence well-being play out from moment to moment, and from day to day. Topics covered in this book include:
  • The theoretical basis of studying work as a series of daily episodes 
  • Assessment of different components of daily well-being 
  • Factors involved in the regulation of well-being at work 
  • Qualitative and quantitative diary experience sampling and event reconstruction methods 
  • Latent growth curve modelling of diary data 
The final chapter of the book includes a preview of how daily methods may evolve in the future. Intended as a guide for researchers with good knowledge of field research methods, the book will be particularly useful to researchers of work-related phenomena who seek to expand their knowledge of dynamic methods in field contexts, and those who want to start using these methods. It will also be of interest to students of work psychology and organisational behaviour, and related disciplines.

March 7, 2013

4 Pillars of progress-focused management

The progress-focused approach to management, as we define it, is is based on four pillars:

The solution-focused approach: progress-focused managers apply solution-focused principles and techniques both in helping employees and in directing and correcting employees when needed. They treat employees and colleagues constructively, also in challenging situations, and handle objections and resistance effectively. They take the perspective of the other person seriously and remain focused on achieving desired behaviors and results.

March 2, 2013

Does person-focused criticism work?

In response to my post When children have low self esteem should you then give them person praise?, David Winter asked: "Do you know of any research on the effects of person vs process criticism instead of praise? My assumption would be that person-focused criticism is more damaging than process-focused but it would be nice to have some evidence.".

There is indeed such research. Here it is:
Person versus process praise and criticism: Implications for contingent self-worth and coping (Kamins & Dweck, 1999). 
Abstract: Conventional wisdom suggests that praising a child as a whole or praising his or her traits is beneficial. Two studies tested the hypothesis that both criticism and praise that conveyed person or trait judgments could send a message of contingent worth and undermine subsequent coping. In Study 1, 67 children (ages 5–6 years) role-played tasks involving a setback and received 1 of 3 forms of criticism after each task: person, outcome, or process criticism. In Study 2, 64 children role-played successful tasks and received either person, outcome, or process praise. In both studies, self-assessments, affect, and persistence were measured on a subsequent task involving a setback. Results indicated that children displayed significantly more "helpless" responses (including self-blame) on all dependent measures after person criticism or praise than after process criticism or praise. Thus person feedback, even when positive, can create vulnerability and a sense of contingent self-worth. 
Read full article

March 1, 2013

When children have low self esteem should you then give them person praise?

In this post: PROCESS PRAISE more effective than TRAIT PRAISE from 2008, I explained the difference between person praise (or trait praise) and process praise. In that post you can read that giving person praise (about personal traits or qualities) may be well-intended but has some negative consequences. A particular disadvantage of person praise is that it induces a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset is the belief that you have certain traits and talents which you can not really change. Process compliments, which are about what people have done, work better. They induce a growth mindset, which is the belief that people can change their traits and qualities by putting in effort.

Much research has shown that having a fixed mindset has many disadvantages compare to a growth mindset. For more details about this, read: Growth mindset associated with various positive outcomes (competence, relatedness, learning, vitality, adjustment).

After reading my posts, a solution-focused therapist sent me an e-mail saying: "My own reactions to the paper were initially a wholehearted interest in process rather than trait praise. But then I got to think about young people with very low self esteem, and thinking a bit of me still sees a potential value in commenting on traits they may not know they have." My response was that I thought it was a sensible hypothesis but that I'd predict that, even here, process feedback would work better. Back then, I had no evidence to support my prediction. But now I do.

Eddie Brummelman et al. (2013) studied the effects of person praise and process praise on children with low self esteem. Their conclusion is that person praise has negative impact on these children. For more details about this research read this post: Person Praise Backfires in Children With Low Self-Esteem.

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