Hostile work environment

Kevin Lewis

March 05, 2019

How Effective Are Expert TV Hosts at Saving Failing Businesses?
Russell Sobel et al.
Contemporary Economic Policy, January 2019, Pages 9-24


The profit and loss system is an integral part of a dynamic market economy. Losses eliminate businesses that are inefficiently managed or whose products no longer provide sufficient value. Almost a dozen popular television shows feature entertaining expert hosts claiming to "save" failing businesses with injections of physical and human capital. We undertake the first comprehensive analysis of these shows, calculating the failure rates of the businesses and analyzing the incentive structure facing the shows, networks, hosts, and participants. In general, we find that these shows are largely unsuccessful in saving failing businesses.

Does Increased Exposure to Peers with Adverse Characteristics Reduce Workplace Performance? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in the US Army
Francis Murphy
Journal of Labor Economics, forthcoming


While much research has investigated peer effects in education, less is known about peer influence at work, particularly how bad peers affect other workers. I study soldiers during a time when the US Army granted large numbers of morality waivers to recruits with felony or misdemeanor convictions that normally preclude enlistment. I find that soldiers randomly assigned to larger shares of peers with criminal backgrounds are more likely to commit major misconduct. Additionally, that misconduct often occurs in the same month a waivered peer commits misconduct, suggesting that influence occurs through both exposure to adverse peers and their contemporaneous behavior.

Who's the Boss? The effect of strong leadership on employee turnover
Susan Payne Carter et al.
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming


Despite the importance placed on supervision in the workplace, little is known about the effects of a boss' leadership quality on labor market outcomes such as employee job retention. Using plausibly exogenous assignment of junior officers to bosses in the U.S. Army, we find positive retention effects for those assigned to immediate and senior bosses who are strong leaders. These effects are strongest for officers with high SAT scores. Junior officers who share the same undergraduate institution as their bosses also retain at higher rates.

It Doesn't Hurt to Ask (for More Time): Employees Overestimate the Interpersonal Costs of Extension Requests
Jaewon Yoon, Grant Donnelly & Ashley Whillans
Harvard Working Paper, January 2019


Employees today experience high levels of time stress at work, undermining their health, happiness, and productivity. In this paper, we propose a novel cause and possible solution to the stressful feeling of not having enough time to complete one's tasks at work: employees' willingness to ask for deadline extensions. Results from one archival data and ten experiments (N = 7,241) suggest that employees avoid asking for more time and submit suboptimal work, even when supervisors often readily grant their employees more time. We document a mechanism for these results: Employees fail to ask for extensions due to the belief that asking for more time will cause them to look incompetent in the eyes of their supervisors. Yet, supervisors do not necessarily perceive extension requests as a sign of incompetence. These findings highlight a previously unexplored impression management strategy in the workplace - avoiding extension requests - as a contributor to unnecessary time stress at work.

The Money or the Morals? When Moral Language Is More Effective for Selling Social Issues
David Mayer et al.
Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming


We examine the effectiveness of economic and moral language used by employees when selling social issues to management. In contrast to prior work finding that employees believe it is best to use economic language to influence management to address social issues, we draw on the issue selling, persuasion, and behavioral ethics literatures to demonstrate that moral language is actually most influential - especially when the language is framed to align with the organization's values and/or mission. The results from a combination of 3 field survey studies and 1 experimental vignette study provide support for this hypothesis. In addition, we find support for obligation (i.e., manager's anticipated guilt), rather than inspiration (i.e., manager's prosocial motivation), as a mediator of this interactive effect. We discuss implications for literatures on issue selling, persuasion, and behavioral ethics.

Large teams develop and small teams disrupt science and technology
Lingfei Wu, Dashun Wang & James Evans
Nature, February 2019, Pages 378-382


One of the most universal trends in science and technology today is the growth of large teams in all areas, as solitary researchers and small teams diminish in prevalence. Increases in team size have been attributed to the specialization of scientific activities, improvements in communication technology, or the complexity of modern problems that require interdisciplinary solutions. This shift in team size raises the question of whether and how the character of the science and technology produced by large teams differs from that of small teams. Here we analyse more than 65 million papers, patents and software products that span the period 1954-2014, and demonstrate that across this period smaller teams have tended to disrupt science and technology with new ideas and opportunities, whereas larger teams have tended to develop existing ones. Work from larger teams builds on more-recent and popular developments, and attention to their work comes immediately. By contrast, contributions by smaller teams search more deeply into the past, are viewed as disruptive to science and technology and succeed further into the future - if at all. Observed differences between small and large teams are magnified for higher-impact work, with small teams known for disruptive work and large teams for developing work. Differences in topic and research design account for a small part of the relationship between team size and disruption; most of the effect occurs at the level of the individual, as people move between smaller and larger teams. These results demonstrate that both small and large teams are essential to a flourishing ecology of science and technology, and suggest that, to achieve this, science policies should aim to support a diversity of team sizes.

Corporate Purpose and Financial Performance
Claudine Gartenberg, Andrea Prat & George Serafeim
Organization Science, forthcoming


We construct a measure of corporate purpose within a sample of U.S. companies based on approximately 500,000 survey responses of worker perceptions about their employers. We find that this measure of purpose is not related to financial performance. However, high-purpose firms come in two forms: firms characterized by high camaraderie between workers and firms characterized by high clarity from management. We document that firms exhibiting both high purpose and clarity have systematically higher future accounting and stock market performance, even after controlling for current performance, and that this relation is driven by the perceptions of middle management and professional staff rather than senior executives or hourly or commissioned workers. Taken together, these results suggest that firms with midlevel employees with strong beliefs in the purpose of their organization and the clarity in the path toward that purpose experience better performance.

Head above the parapet: How minority subordinates influence group outcomes and the consequences they face for doing so
Burak Oc, Michael Bashshur & Celia Moore
Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming


Research on power often treats the recipients of powerholders' decisions (i.e., subordinates) as an undifferentiated group, overlooking how their responses to powerholders' decisions might vary and how those responses might affect powerholders' later decisions. In this article, we examine the role of lone dissenting subordinates (individuals whose feedback differs from that expressed by other group members) in shaping powerholders' allocation decisions, and explore the consequences those subordinates face for their dissent. In 3 experimental studies, we show that even as a lone voice, the feedback of a dissenting subordinate influences powerholders' decisions. Powerholders make more self-interested allocations when a lone subordinate provides consistently positive feedback, even when others provide mostly negative feedback. However, powerholders regulate their allocations when a lone subordinate provides candid feedback that points out the self-interested nature of their allocations, even when others provide consistently positive feedback. We further show that lone dissenting subordinates' influence is stronger when they share a salient group membership with the powerholder (e.g., their school or political affiliation). Finally, we find that powerholders reward lone subordinates who provide them with positive feedback, but only punish lone candid subordinates if they do not share a salient group membership with them. Overall, our results suggest that subordinates who risk putting their head above the parapet can improve outcomes for their group members, and can avoid being punished for doing so, as long as they share a salient group membership with the powerholder.

Can Reputation Discipline the Gig Economy?: Experimental Evidence From an Online Labor Market
Alan Benson, Aaron Sojourner & Akhmed Umyarov
Management Science, forthcoming


Just as employers face uncertainty when hiring workers, workers also face uncertainty when accepting employment, and bad employers may opportunistically depart from expectations, norms, and laws. However, prior research in economics and information sciences has focused sharply on the employer's problem of identifying good workers rather than vice versa. This issue is especially pronounced in markets for gig work, including online labor markets, where platforms are developing strategies to help workers identify good employers. We build a theoretical model for the value of such reputation systems and test its predictions in on Amazon Mechanical Turk, where employers may decline to pay workers while keeping their work product and workers protect themselves using third-party reputation systems, such as Turkopticon. We find that: (1) in an experiment on worker arrival, a good reputation allows employers to operate more quickly and on a larger scale without loss to quality; (2) in an experimental audit of employers, working for good-reputation employers pays 40 percent higher effective wages due to faster completion times and lower likelihoods of rejection; and (3) exploiting reputation system crashes, the reputation system is particularly important to small, good-reputation employers, which rely on the reputation system to compete for workers against more established employers. This is the first clean field evidence of the effects of employer reputation in any labor market and is suggestive of the special role that reputation-diffusing technologies can play in promoting gig work, where conventional labor and contract laws are weak.

Can Socially Responsible Firms Survive Competition? An Analysis of Corporate Employee Matching Grant Schemes
Ning Gong & Bruce Grundy
Review of Finance, February 2019, Pages 199-243


Employee matching grant schemes are coordination mechanisms that reduce free-riding by socially conscious employee-donors. Matching schemes coupled with lower take-home pay than offered by non-matching firms will survive capital and labor market competition if employee type is not observable and socially conscious employees are more productive or value working together. Matching can enhance employee welfare and raise more for charity without reducing profits. We document that matching firms have higher labor productivity and are more likely to be ranked as one of the "100 Best" employers. The result is robust to managerial entrenchment concerns and is not confined to the high-tech sector.

Team Video Gaming for Team Building: Effects on Team Performance
Mark Keith et al.
AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction, December 2018, Pages 205-231


Teams rapidly form and dissolve in organizations to solve specific problems that require diverse skills and experience. For example, in the information systems context, cross-functional and project-based teams that comprise a mix of personnel who temporarily work away from their usual functional groups (best perform agile software development (Barlow et al., 2011; Keith, Demirkan, & Goul, 2013). These newly formed work teams need to become productive as quickly as possible. Team video gaming (TVG) has emerged as a potential team-building activity. When new teammates play a collaborative video game, they engage in cooperative and challenging goals while they enjoy the games. Although research has shown that video games can promote learning and recreation, it has not investigated the effects of commercial video games on subsequent work-team performance. Better understanding this issue will provide insights into how to rapidly develop cohesion among newly formed work teams and, thus, lead to greater team performance. We examined this issue through a laboratory experiment. We found that teams in the TVG treatment demonstrated a 20 percent productivity improvement in subsequent tasks (in our case, a team-based geocaching scavenger hunt) over teams that participated in traditional team-building activities.

To link or not to link? Multiple team membership and unit performance
Eean Crawford et al.
Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming


Multiple team membership is common in today's team-based organizations, but little is known about its relationship with collective effectiveness across teams. We adopted a microfoundations framework utilizing existing individual- and team-level research to develop a higher-level perspective on multiple team membership's relationship with performance of entire units of teams. We tested our predictions with data collected from 849 primary care units of the Veterans Health Administration serving over 4.2 million patients. In this context, we found multiple team membership is negatively associated with unit performance, and this negative relationship is exacerbated by task complexity.

Interdependence, Perception, and Investment Choices: An Experimental Approach to Decision Making in Innovation Ecosystems
Ron Adner & Daniel Feiler
Organization Science, forthcoming


We explore how decision makers perceive and assess the level of risk in interdependent settings. In a series of five experiments, we examine how individuals set expectations for their own project investments when their success is contingent on the success of multiple, independent partners. We find that individuals are subjectively more confident and optimistic in an interdependent venture when its chances of success are presented as separate probabilities for each component and that this optimism is exacerbated by a greater number of critical partners, leading to (1) the inflation of project valuations, (2) the addition of excessive partners to a project, and (3) overinvestment of effort in the development of one's own component within an interdependent venture. We examine these dynamics in settings of risky choice (with exogenously given probabilities) and in an economic coordination game (with the ambiguity of agency and strategic risk). We conduct our study with a wide range of participant samples ranging from undergraduates to senior executives. Collectively, our findings hold important implications for the ways in which individuals, organizations, and policymakers should approach and assess their innovation choices in ecosystem settings.

How leaders perceive employee deviance: Blaming victims while excusing favorites
Donald Kluemper et al.
Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming


Drawing from theories of attribution and perception, we posit that employees who are victims of rudeness are themselves (inappropriately) evaluated by leaders as being interpersonally deviant. We further theorize that employees who are themselves rude to others at work are evaluated negatively, but not when they have high-quality relationships with leaders or are seen as high performers. We tested our predictions across 4 studies. Our first study included 372 leader-follower pairs. Our second study extended to dyadic interactions among employees by using an employee roster method, resulting in paired data from 149 employees (2,184 dyads) across 5 restaurant locations. Our third and fourth studies utilized a policy-capturing design in which individuals provided performance evaluations for fictitious employees. We find that victims of rudeness are viewed by leaders as deviant, and that leaders are less likely to perceive rude employees as deviant when these perpetrators are seen as having high levels of leader-member exchange (LMX) or performance.

Engineering Value: The Returns to Technological Talent and Investments in Artificial Intelligence
Daniel Rock
MIT Working Paper, November 2018


Engineers, as implementers of technology, are highly complementary to the intangible knowledge assets that firms accumulate. This paper seeks to address whether technical talent is a source of rents for corporate employers, both in general and in the specific case of the surprising open-source launch of TensorFlow, a deep learning software package, by Google. First, I present a simple model of how employers can use job design as a tool to exercise monopsony power by partially allocating employee time to firm-specific tasks. Then, using over 180 million position records and over 52 million skill records from LinkedIn, I build a panel of firm-level investment in technological human capital (information technology, research, and engineering talent quantities) to measure the market value of technological talent. I find that on average, an additional engineer at a firm is correlated with approximately $854,000 more market value. Firm fixed effects and instrumental variables analyses using land-grant colleges and state-level changes in covenant-to-not-compete enforceability eliminate the statistical significance of this positive association, suggesting that engineering talent is correlated with the presence of complementary firm-specific intangible assets. Consistent with that hypothesis, AI-intensive companies rapidly gained market value following the launch of TensorFlow, while companies with opportunities to automate relatively larger quantities of labor with machine learning did not. Using a difference-in-differences approach, I show that the launch of TensorFlow is associated with an approximate increase of $2.7 million in firm market value per unit of Artificial Intelligence skills captured by LinkedIn.

Social Exchange and the Effects of Employee Stock Options
Peter Cappelli, Martin Conyon & David Almeda
ILR Review, forthcoming


The authors assert that broad-based stock options create a social exchange relationship between the employer and employees, leading to higher individual job performance in the next period. They compare this social exchange hypothesis to the more typical incentive-based explanation for stock options, which is that holding options generates financial incentives for better individual job performance in the current period. Findings show that significant and meaningful relationships are associated with social exchange effects and that these are both independent of incentive effects and arguably greater than those for the incentive effects. The authors use non-parametric and parametric fixed effects models, other controls for sample heterogeneity, and alternative specifications to address possible concerns about identification and endogeneity. These results extend empirical studies of social exchange relationships to common workplace practices. They also raise the possibility that some of the performance effects attributed to incentives in other studies may actually be attributable to social exchange effects.


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