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.


Companies That Provide Job Training May Earn Greater Employee Loyalty

PAFF_092314_TrainingandCommitmentMFB_newsfeatureThere’s one thing that the United States Congress can agree on: the potential of job training. This summer, in a rare act of bipartisanship, Congress approved new legislation focused on increased funding for job training for US workers. The hope is that providing workers with more job training opportunities will help kickstart the US economy by getting more unemployed Americans back in the workforce.

Congress isn’t alone in seeing job training as a beneficial tool. A new study from a team of European researchers found that job training may also be a good strategy for companies looking to hire and retain top talent. When workers felt like they had received better job training options, they were also more likely to report a greater sense of commitment to their employer.

For the study, psychological scientists Rita Fontinha, Maria José Chambel, and Nele De…

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Facial Piercings Can Still Hurt Your Chances of Getting Hired

Although piercings and tattoos are more common than ever in America, research suggests that they may still hurt your prospects of getting a job.

PAFF_091614_FacialPiercingsMFB_newsfeature with attributionDespite the mainstream popularity of body art, many people still see facial piercings as unprofessional and unwelcome in the workplace. In a recent study, behavioral scientists James C. McElroy, James K. Summers, and Kelly Moore of Iowa State University found that even among college students, facial piercings still carry stigma that can affect whether or not someone gets hired.

In hiring, managers may see people with facial piercings as a poor fit for a job because facial piercings may be associated with negative personality traits.

“Specifically, there is still a stigma associated with tattoos and piercings in the workplace, even though numerous managers admit to having these modifications themselves,” the researchers write in the journal Organizational…

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Better Self-Control May Pay Off for Older Workers

A recent study finds that older workers may have an advantage over their more youthful colleagues when it comes to one key skill—self-control.

Psychological scientists Markus M. Thielgen and Guido Hertel of University of Münster and Stefan Krumm of the Free University Berlin found that older workers were better than younger workers at exercising self-control in the workplace, which gave them an edge in coping with challenging work environments.

Some of us are motivated by a passion for our careers, while others show up to work in the hopes of a bigger paycheck or a corner office. In order to feel satisfied at work most people require a combination of these motivations, known as implicit and explicit motives. Implicit motives refer to the enjoyment of a task itself, while explicit motives refer to our conscious goals and objectives–like getting a promotion or…

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Can Electronic Monitoring Improve Employee Performance?

“Your call may be recorded for quality assurance and training purposes.” We’ve all probably heard this message after dialing a call center before, but have you ever really thought about whether anyone was actually listening in?

In an effort to enhance employee performance, organizations like call centers are increasingly using technology to electronically monitor their workers on the job. With electronic performance monitoring, or EPM, supervisors can continually track and analyze an employee’s workflow in real time.

When call centers use EPM technology, supervisors are able to review recordings of calls, as well as listening into calls as they happen. Electronic monitoring systems are also used to continually collect information on performance metrics, such as average call handle time, total number of calls handled, and time on breaks.

But does this electronic “invisible eye” actually lead to improved performance on the job?

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The Upside of Rivalry: Higher Motivation, Better Performance

PAFF_090414_RivalryMotivationMFB_newsfeatureNearly 30 years of intense competition between tech giants Bill Gates and Steve Jobs helped produce the software and gadgets that we now find indispensable, and fierce matchups between “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird resulted in some of the highest TV ratings ever in the history of basketball. From the boardroom to the basketball court, rivalry has a long history of driving success and innovation.

A recent study from psychological scientist Gavin J. Kilduff of New York University found that not only do people report higher performance when competing against their rivals, but that rivalry actually improved race times for long-distance runners.

Unlike other competitions, rivalry occurs between people who already know each other and who take their history of past interactions into account in competition. For rivals, the psychological stakes are more important than any prizes or titles.

“Take the rivalry…

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