Category Archives: Organizational Behavior

The Impact of Unionization on University Performance

Source: Mark Cassell, Odeh Halaseh, Journal of Collective Bargaining in the Academy: Vol. 6, Article 3, December 2014

From the abstract:
This study examines faculty unions’ impact on the organizational efficiency and effectiveness of public four-year institutions of higher learning. The article theorizes the causal connections between faculty unions to higher education performance. The study also presents results of a cross-sectional time series analysis and a cross-sectional analysis of higher education performance using data from the Department of Education’s Integrated Post Secondary Data System (IPEDS) spanning more than two decades and over 430 public universities and colleges. We find support for the view that unionization improves organizational efficiency and effectiveness. At the same time the research raises important methodological and substantive questions about how faculty unions influence the behavior of such complex public organizations as a university or college.

Spreading Protest Tactics

Source: Corinna Wu, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Vol. 11 no. 1, Winter 2013
(subscription required)

From the introduction:
Protesting can take many forms—from waving signs, lighting candles, and making speeches to holding sit-ins, writing letters, and filing lawsuits. Some unusual tactics—such as paying for a purchase in pennies to slow down business—aren’t used often, but once successful, they can spread like wildfire.

Sarah Soule, a professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, wanted to see just how such protest tactics have spread among social-movement organizations….

GovCloud: The future of government work

Source: Charlie Tierney, Steve Cottle, Katie Jorgensen, Deloitte, 2012

From the summary:
The way we work is changing. While government work is becoming increasingly complex, the public sector workforce structure, designed for the clerks of the 1950s, remains relatively unchanged. Moreover, when changes are made, they tend to be reactive, creating new, permanent structures that look a lot like the old ones. Given the well-documented budgetary pressures and burgeoning debt in countries around the globe, the status quo of simply adding layers of government agencies is unsustainable.

How, then, can governments change to meet future work trends? Creating an adaptable government workforce would require providing an unprecedented degree of flexibility. To accomplish this, we could draw from a game-changing concept in the technology world: cloud computing. Major organizations and small startups alike increase their flexibility by sharing storage space, information, and resources in a “cloud”. Why not move beyond computing and apply the cloud model to the workforce? A cloud-based government workforce, or GovCloud, could comprise employees who undertake creative, problem-focused work. Rather than existing in any single agency, these workers could reside in the cloud, making them truly government-wide employees. Cloud teams could be directed by thinner agencies than those that exist today. Agencies and cloud teams could be supported by government-wide shared services that prevent the establishment of new, permanent structures by assisting with ongoing, routine work.

This report details trends in work and technology that offer significant opportunities for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the government workforce. It outlines the GovCloud model and includes a tool to determine cloud eligibility as well as some future scenarios illustrating the cloud in action. Learn how GovCloud can change the face of public sector work, allowing governments to move beyond the workforce structure of yesterday in order to confront the challenges of tomorrow.

Unions As Organizations: Strategy Versus Environment

Source: Angela T. Hall, Jack Fiorito, Marko Horn and Christopher R. Langford, WorkingUSA, Volume 14, Issue 4, December 2011
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Empirical studies typically examine unions in aggregate, that is, whether union presence or absence affects important outcomes. Only recently have researchers analyzed unions as distinct organizations. In order to address this void in the literature, key union officials were surveyed regarding their unions’ ability to manage and shape their environment, as well as selected critical strategic issues. The results suggest that unions can and do take measures to manage their environments and control their destinies, but consistent with some prior work, union strategy is best seen as “emergent” from cumulative choices rather than a “grand design.”

Building a Collaborative Enterprise

Source: Paul Adler, Charles Heckscher, and Laurence Prusak, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 89 nos. 7 & 8, July-August 2011
(subscription required)

…Collaborative communities encourage people to continually apply their unique talents to group projects–and to become motivated by a collective mission, not just personal gain or the intrinsic pleasures of autonomous creativity. By marrying a sense of common purpose to a supportive structure, these organizations are mobilizing knowledge workers’ talents and expertise in flexible, highly manageable group-work efforts. The approach fosters not only innovation and agility but also efficiency and scalability.

A growing number of organizations–including IBM, Citibank, NASA, and Kaiser Permanente–are reaping the rewards of collaborative communities in the form of higher margins on knowledge-intensive work. (The CSC divisions that applied the CMM most rigorously reduced error rates by 75% over six years and achieved a 10% annual increase in productivity, while making products more innovative and technologically sophisticated.)

Human Resources Issues in Local government: Yesterday’s Headlines Remain Today’s “Hot Topics”

Source: Amy M. McDowell and William M. Leavitt, Public Personnel Management, Vol. 40 no. 3, Fall 2011
(subscription required)

The authors of this article suggest that one of the most informative methods to identify the human resources issues that occupy an organization’s time and efforts is to ask the experts directly. In many local governments, there are at least three groups or organizational units that share responsibility for human resources functions and that must work together as a team to solve human resources issues: managers and supervisors, human resources professionals, and attorneys. This article specifically addresses some of the legal concerns and issues, i.e. the “hot topics,” that constitute the primary workload of attorneys practicing local government employment law, explores these issues, and identify these ongoing concerns.

Why Leaders Don’t Learn from Success

Source: Francesca Gino and Gary P. Pisano, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 89 no. 4, April 2011

Failures get a postmortem. Why not triumphs?

From the brief:
The annals of business history are full of tales of companies that once dominated their industries but fell into decline. The usual reasons offered–staying too close to existing customers, a myopic focus on short-term financial performance, and an inability to adapt business models to disruptive innovation–don’t fully explain how the leaders who had steered these firms to greatness lost their touch.

In this article we argue that success can breed failure by hindering learning at both the individual and the organizational level. We all know that learning from failure is one of the most important capacities for people and companies to develop. Yet surprisingly, learning from success can present even greater challenges. To illuminate those challenges–and identify approaches for overcoming them–we will draw from our research and from the work of other scholars in the field of behavioral decision making, and focus on three interrelated impediments to learning.

The first is the inclination to make what psychologists call fundamental attribution errors. When we succeed, we’re likely to conclude that our talents and our current model or strategy are the reasons. We also give short shrift to the part that environmental factors and random events may have played.

The second impediment is overconfidence bias: Success increases our self-assurance. Faith in ourselves is a good thing, of course, but too much of it can make us believe we don’t need to change anything.

The third impediment is the failure-to-ask-why syndrome–the tendency not to investigate the causes of good performance systematically. When executives and their teams suffer from this syndrome, they don’t ask the tough questions that would help them expand their knowledge or alter their assumptions about how the world works.

“The Worse You Behave, The More You Seem, to be Rewarded”: Bullying in Nursing as Organizational Corruption

Source: Marie Hutchinson, Margaret H. Vickers, Lesley Wilkes, and Debra Jackson, Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, Published online: 18 February 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This paper reports findings from the first, qualitative stage of a national sequential, mixed method study of bullying in the Australian nursing workplace. Twenty-six nurses who had experience of workplace bullying were recruited from two Australian public sector health care organizations. Examining the narrative data from the viewpoint of bullying being a corrupt activity we present an alternative perspective on group acts of bullying. By exploring bullying as corrupt behaviour, this paper challenges the assumption that bullying can be principally considered a series of isolated events stemming from interpersonal conflict, organizational pressures, or poor work design. Corruption in organizations has not previously been linked with or compared to bullying. In revealing the manner in which actors can engage in corrupt conduct that includes bullying, the findings from our study offer important implications for the management of workplace bullying as a serious and corrupt activity.