Psychological Science at Work

The indispensable research blog on the science of the modern workplace, covering everything from leadership and management to the behavioral, social, and cognitive dynamics behind performance and achievement.

One Thing Everyone Agrees On: CEOs Make Too Much Money

PAFF_112014_CEOpay_newsfeatureIn 2013, the average American worker’s salary was estimated at $35,293. American CEOs, on the other hand, earned a staggering individual average salary of $11.7 million — 331 times that of the average employee. Major discrepancies in pay between CEOs and workers has been a contentious subject not just in the United States, but also across the world.

Just last year in Switzerland, voters considered (and ended up rejecting) a national cap on CEO pay at a ratio of 12-to-1 compared to salaries of the lowest-paid workers.

Although wage disparity has been a hotly debated topic in several countries, little is known about people’s preferences for wage distribution and whether those preferences are universally held by people from different countries and backgrounds.

In order to find out what people really think constitutes fair pay, psychological scientists Sorapop Kiatpongsan of Chulalongkorn University in…


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More Bad News About Sitting: It May Harm Workers’ Mental Health

PAFF_111814_SittingandMentalHealth_newsfeatureFor many people, sitting at a desk for hours at a time is just part of the job, even as research continues to reveal links between prolonged sitting and a number of serious health issues ranging from a heightened risk of Type 2 diabetes to increased rates of obesity and heart disease, and even premature death.

But a recent study on the psychological impacts of sitting all day at work may get managers to stand up and take notice. New research demonstrates that sitting for longer than 6 hours a day at work not only carries a physical toll, but may also increase risks of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

The research team, led by psychological scientist Michelle Kilpatrick of the University of Tasmania, found that employees who sat for long stretches at work also experienced increased rates of…


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A Leader’s Stress at Home Can Become Contagious in the Office

PAFF_111314_supervisorshomelifeMFB_newsfeatureIt makes sense that a family argument at the breakfast table could sour someone’s mood in the office, impacting their performance at work. But new research suggests that, for supervisors, experiences at home don’t just spill over to their lives at work, they can actually become “contagious” throughout the rest of the office.

The study, from psychological scientists Lieke L. ten Brummelhuis, Jarrod M. Haar, and Maree Roche, found that leaders’ emotions about home life – whether positive or negative – can trickle down to their subordinates in the office.

“Our results underscore that leaders’ family life matters at work, influencing not only their own well-being but also how they motivate and support their followers,” says ten Brummelhuis and colleagues.

Both our home lives and our work require us to use our limited resources of time and mental energy, so that someone…


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Finding the Right Fit May Help Veterans Transition to Civilian Jobs

For many veterans, the leap from military service to corporate cubicle can be a difficult career transition. Since 2001, nearly 3 million members of the U.S. military have completed their service and returned to civilian life. However, the unemployment rate for veterans remains high – particularly among younger veterans who have served since 2001.PAFF_111114_VeteransDay_newsfeature

New research from Stacie Furst-Holloway, an associate professor in the department of psychology at the University of Cincinnati, identifies strategies that organizations can use to help keep veterans on the job once they’re hired.

“We can focus on hiring, but if we don’t tie that to the bigger picture in terms of retention as well, then we’re missing half the picture,” says Furst-Holloway.

The research, completed with the Veterans Health Administration’s National Center for Organization Development (NCOD), was presented in May at the Society for Industrial and Organizational…


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Workers Worried About Job Loss Forego Support Programs

PAFF_110614_JobLossPrograms_newsfeatureIt’s been five years since the end of the recession was declared, but economists report that levels of unemployment in many states still haven’t fully recovered to their pre-recession levels. The sluggish economic recovery has kept many workers worried about the potential for layoffs and the risk of long-term unemployment.

Although organizations offer programs meant to help employees cope with workplace stress, a recent study finds that employees who are stressed and anxious about their job prospects are hesitant to make use of these programs.

Psychological scientists Wendy R. Boswell, Julie B. Olson-Buchanan, and T. Brad Harris found that, paradoxically, the very employees these programs are meant to help are the least likely to actually use them.

The study, published in the journal Personnel Psychology, concluded that employees who are worried for their jobs also worry that they’ll be perceived as expendable…


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