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Workplace Research in the #VUHRD Lab: What we've done and where we're headed!

January 4, 2017

Happy New Year, Villanova HRD family! 2017 is already off to a busy start for the faculty and staff in the VUHRD program. Because we have a lot of exciting new initiatives underway, I thought this might be a good time to update you all on some of the research projects that we are working on in our HRD Research Lab, which I lead, along with Dr. Christian Thoroughgood.

 

First, the lab is buzzing – we currently have 16 lab members, both HRD graduate students and psychology undergraduate students. Nick Kruger, VUHRD Graduate Assistant, is currently running the lab, with Megan Peiffer, VU HRD Graduate Assistant, training to become the lab coordinator next year. We really enjoy working with students on research, so we are excited to have so many enthusiastic and capable folks in the lab.

 

Second, we have many ongoing projects on really interesting and relevant topics to human resource professionals.  For example, we just finalized data collection on the impact of mindfulness on interpersonal relationships at work. We followed 100 employees over a six week period of time, while they attended mindfulness training at least once a week. We surveyed employees about their workplace attitudes and interpersonal behaviors, and we also asked coworkers to weigh in on how they were interacting with them at work. We are finding really interesting trends already – it seems that mindfulness is helping employees to become more friendly and supportive toward their coworkers! We are hoping that these findings help HR professionals to understand whether or not they should invest in mindfulness training for employees.

 

"We are finding that...mindfulness is helping employees to become more friendly and supportive toward their coworkers."

 

We are also completing an ongoing project on envy in the workplace. We had employees fill out surveys at three separate time points, over a month period of time, to try to understand how employees respond to envious feelings toward their coworkers. We are finding that people either work harder to get what they want or try to undermine the person they are envious of (or both) – but it depends on how likely they believe it is that their workplace will fairly reward hard work. If they believe that their workplace is fair, then they work harder in response to envy. If they don’t, they try to discredit the person that they envy. We are hoping to submit this work to a journal by the end of the year.

 

"We are finding that people either work harder to get what they want or try to undermine the person they are envious of (or both) - but it depends on how likely they believe it is that their workplace will fairly reward hard work."

 

Finally, we recently had some papers accepted for publication. We recently published a paper, along with colleagues from Portland State University and University of North Carolina, Charlotte, in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The paper is titled The Importance of Being ‘Me’: The Relation Between Authentic Identity Expression and Transgender Employees’ Work-Related Attitudes and Experiences". We surveyed transgender employees about their ability to be authentic at work. We found that coworker perceptions really matter in determining whether or not transgender folks are happy in the workplace when they express their authentic gender identity. In other words, when coworkers really seemed to accept transgender individuals for their authentic selves, transgender employees were more likely to see themselves as “fitting” within the organization and less likely to view their workplace as being discriminatory or hostile.  We hope that this work will help HR professionals to better understand how to create inclusive workplaces for transgender employees, particularly by encouraging education for coworkers on gender identity.

 

"When coworkers really seemed to accept transgender individuals for their authentic selves, transgender employees were more likely to see themselves as “fitting” within the organization and less likely to view their workplace as being discriminatory or hostile."

 

We also published a paper in the Journal of Business and Psychology, titled “Who Wants to Follow the Leader? Using Personality and Work Values Profiles to Predict Preferences for Charismatic, Ideological, and Pragmatic Styles of Leading”. We found that, while it has been previously assumed that certain leader characteristics are viewed positively by most people (for example, charisma), we found that personality has a lot to do with what leader individuals prefer. While charismatic, pragmatic, and ideological leadership styles all have some positive characteristics associated with them, the personality predicts which type of style will be seen as most and least preferable. This research helps HR professionals to understand what leadership style might be preferred by employees in specific organizations, based on the personality profile of the workforce.

 

"While it has been previously assumed that certain leader characteristics are viewed positively by most people (for example, charisma), we found that personality has a lot to do with what leader individuals prefer."

Overall, 2016 was a great year for thought leadership in Villanova’s HRD program! If you ever want to get involved with research at Villanova, reach out to let us know! We are always looking for organizations to collaborate with on research projects. So, if you want to give back to the VUHRD program and learn something new about your organization in the process, you might benefit from learning more about our research partnership opportunities. Stay tuned for more updates on the research that is being conducted in the VUHRD Research Lab!

 

_____________________
Katina Sawyer, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate HRD program at Villanova University. Learn more about her here!

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