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More academic wisdom on the workplace

November 28, 2008 |  9:00 am

On Tuesday we wrote about a study that found that employees who worked for bad bosses were more likely to suffer from angina and heart attacks than those who worked for good bosses. Not good news!

Some other workplace psychology tidbits:

From the University of Alberta, as per a university news release: "Secret to workplace happiness? Remember what you love about the job." The study, published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing, tested a "Spirit at Work" program aimed at fostering morale and sense of purpose in a healthcare setting. "Urging employees to simply rethink their jobs was enough to drop absenteeism by 60% and turnover by 75%," the news release states.

"Employees will feel -- and act -- engaged when their employer creates conditions that permit them to do so," states another release, this one from the journal Industrial and Organizational Psychology. No kidding! It's a thumb-sucker enough of a subject to warrant, in addition to the paper, "a set of 13 commentaries taking differing positions on the issue."

One more workplace finding -- from the Psychology of Women Quarterly -- reports (again from a release) that "employees who are sexually harassed experience less job satisfaction and lower job performance." Who would have imagined that?

All of these items may have a -- may we say obvious? -- flavor to them -- until you stop to consider how many organizations appear to ignore the obvious. In any case, they're more thoughtful than that: The harassment paper quantifies the effect of harassment, for example -- that's what you have to do sometimes to get people to act -- and the "Spirit" one actually tests a program. (Just because something looks good on paper doesn't mean it will work.)

And the creating-engagement-at-work paper discusses the precise factors that contribute to a feeling of engagement. Engagement is not the same as satisfaction, the researchers note. Certainly that makes sense to me. There have been days when I would be quite satisfied to sit around making pigs out of pushpins and pink erasers and checking L.A. Observed every hour or so.

But -- uh -- they were rare, of course. Aberrations, really. And very long ago.

-- Rosie Mestel