Industrial – Organizational / Occupational Health

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Aging in the Workplace

Retirement and the Return to Work. In the next 40 years, the number of people 65 or older will double. How will this change the nature and length of work life? How can HR professionals meet the challenge of an aging labor force? We study the unique aspects of retiree work behavior and the incentives that draw them back into the workforce. Mary Anne Taylor

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Diversity

Stigma of seeking help for psychological problems in different environments. Individuals with psychological problems will often avoid seeking treatment because of the stigma associated with admitting such problems.  Our team has investigated the stigma associated with admitting psychological problems among individuals with less severe psychological difficulties among combat veterans and college students.  We have also examined the stigma of seeking treatment for psychological problems in the work environment, and have found support for the hypothesis that individuals who report having problems but do not seek help report greater stigma than those who get help from various sources.  We recently received a grant from the Department of Defense to study multiple reasons why military veterans do not receive needed treatment for psychological problems. Thomas W. Britt

Cyber Bullying. Whereas the traditional bully was most frequently encountered at school during school hours, a new bully is now on the scene. This bully is often anonymous and can bully his or her victim 24/7. Cyber bullying, also known as electronic bullying or online social cruelty, refers to bullying that occurs through electronic means, such as email, chat rooms, instant messages, web pages, and text messages sent to cell phones. As one victim of cyber bullying phrased it, the inability to escape cyber bullying without completely disconnecting from social communications means that one is forever tethered to one’s tormenter. Our research on cyber bullying examines the frequency with which it occurs, who is involved, as victims and/or perpetrators, and what the consequences are. Robin M. Kowalski

Complaining. Everyone complains, although clearly some people complain more than others. Even though complaining has negative connotations associated with it, there must be some benefit to complaining or people would not do it so often. Very little research within psychology has examined complaining. Thus, our research focuses on why people complain, the intrapersonal and interpersonal consequences of complaining, and who is most likely to complain. Robin M. Kowalski

The Positive Psychology of Courage. Courage is needed in many difficult situations, including saving others in physical peril, standing up for what is right, and stepping outside one’s comfort zone to try something new. Although courage has been praised throughout history, it turns out we know remarkably little about the psychology of this important virtue. My research examines courage as a multi-faceted construct, and I am currently working on developing and testing a model of courageous action. In other words, in a given situation, what will help someone behave more courageously? What factors determine (after the fact) if we label an action as courageous? These questions have application in a variety of applied settings, including schools, the work place, therapy and coaching settings, and society at large. Cindy Pury

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Motivation and Stamina

Determinants and Consequences of Self-Engagement. What determines whether individuals become personally engaged in activities such as work, voting, and relationships? Our program of research examines the predictors and consequences of engagement in different areas. We have published articles addressing engagement at work, engagement in voting, engagement in academic tests, and engagement among soldiers in military operations. Thomas W. Britt

Psychological Energy. We have recently begun a program of research on psychological energy, which we have defined as the perception that one has resources available to accomplish physical, mental, social, and emotional tasks.  We have developed measures of “trait” and “state” energy for these different types of tasks, and have shown that our measures correlate with existing measures of energy but are also independent of prior measures.  We are currently investigating the predictive validity of our measures and developing experiments that will examine factors that replenish different types of energy.  Thomas W. Britt

Psychological Stamina. Although research has been devoted to understanding the construct of physical stamina, virtually no work has been conducted on psychological stamina, which we define as the ability to perform mental, emotional, and social tasks over time without experiencing a drop in performance. We have developed a measure of different forms of psychological stamina and are examining the ability of this scale to predict performance over time. Thomas W. Britt

Judgment and motivation. “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots but there are no old, bold pilots”. In other words, lots of real-time activities like flying, driving, and working depend in large part on good judgment (and fail due to bad judgment). I’m interested in how people make judgments including predictions of their future performance, predictions of their future experiences and assessments of risk. I’m also researching how those judgments affect their motivation, decisions, and actions. Fred Switzer

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Organization and Team Behavior

Organizational Stress, Motivation, Performance and Resiliency. Employees encounter stress in virtually all occupations, but certain occupations can be characterized as “high stress.”  Soldiers deployed on combat operations and foreign language analysts working for the U.S. government to uncover intelligence vital to national security represent two groups of individuals who experience high levels of stress at work.  Our research in this area addresses factors that enhance the resiliency of personnel in high stress environments.  These factors include high quality leadership, performing meaningful work, and a sense of optimism and hope that a mission is succeeding.   Our ultimate goal is to design organizational stress interventions that will reduce the levels of stress facing employees and allow them to thrive under stress that cannot be avoided. Thomas W. Britt

Employment interview content and processes. What personal characteristics do interviewers try to assess in an employment interview, and how well do they measure these things? What do interviewees do to try to manage the impression they make on interviewers, and are these attempts successful? Although the interview remains the most popular personnel selection technique, relatively little known about the quality of the information obtained in interviews. Pat Raymark

Employee health and retention. My research addresses occupational health concerns faced by workers in three occupational contexts: military personnel, retail workers, and health care professionals (e.g., nurses). In the military context, I study personal (e.g., personality) and organizational (e.g., leadership) factors that contribute to Soldiers’ stress resilience, mental health, and job attitudes. My research on retail workers focuses on common threats to their occupational well-being, including low wages, shift work (e.g., night and weekend work), and balancing multiple roles (e.g., work and family demands). Finally, with regard to nurses, I am interested how both positive work experiences, such as saving lives or being thanked by a family member, as well as negative work experiences, such as interpersonal conflict, staffing shortages, and resource constraints, affect nurses’ burnout, engagement, and desires to leave the nursing profession. Robert Sinclair

Teams and team training. Teams and teamwork are an increasingly important aspect of industrial, governmental, military, and academic organizations. I participate in research that looks at how to train and develop effective teams, how to measure team performance, and how to understand the internal processes that contribute to team success and failure. Fred Switzer

Quantitative research methods. How can you tell statistically if a company is discriminating against minorities? Does an employment test that’s valid in the steel industry also work in the restaurant business? How do you know? One of my research interests is quantitative methods in organizational research and how companies and researchers can use mathematical methods to understand and solve problems. Fred Switzer

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Personnel Selection

Comparison of assessment methodologies. What are the advantages and disadvantages of various assessment methodologies (e.g., paper-and-pencil tests, interviews, biodata, simulations), and do these advantages and disadvantages vary depending on what is being assessed (e.g., cognitive ability, job knowledge, emotional intelligence, personality, leadership)? Current research frequently confounds methods with content, such that we don’t know the most efficient and accurate way to assess personal characteristics within selection settings. Pat Raymark

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Work-Related Stress

Organizational Stress and Resiliency. Employees and organizations face numerous demands as they attempt to excel. Our research program examines demands associated with high stress jobs (e.g. foreign language analysts, military personnel), as well as factors that sustain health and performance under difficult operational conditions. We are also involved in projects investigating how positive psychological states and stressors combine to predict health and performance among employees. Thomas W. Britt

Psychophysiology, Occupational Health Psychology. My research program is designed to examine the effects of stress and fatigue on normal human functioning at the physiological, behavioral and cognitive levels. Basic laboratory studies assess autonomic and neuroendocrine control of blood pressure, affect regulation and pain sensitivity in persons at enhanced risk for hypertension, coronary heart disease, and pain disorders. Applied studies assess the effects of occupational stress and fatigue on professional and executive performance. The overarching goal of applied studies is to design stress prevention and mitigation strategies to optimize human health and performance in difficult work environments. James McCubbin

Human Stress and Motion Science. Broadly defined, my research interests cover the mind-body interaction during stress. Specifically I am interested in the effects of stress in high workload environments (e.g. combat) and the role of stress in gastrointestinal (GI) disease. I use non-invasive psychophysiological techniques to study the responses of the GI and autonomic nervous systems to stress. I use a paradigm of physiological and psychological stress tasks, e.g., motion sickness; building clearing during military operations in urban terrain; to study physiological reactivity in healthy individuals in the laboratory and real-world. The goal of using this paradigm is to reveal the role that stress has on physiological reactivity. Eric Muth

Stress and Fatigue.Almost any topic related to stress and fatigue in humans can capture my interest. My students and I are currently investigating a wide range of topics in relation to stress and fatigue including sleep habits, sleep deprivation, thermal stress, attentional processes, motivation, engagement, cognitive & emotional functioning, decision making, logical & moral reasoning, social functioning, social support, health and well-being. These topics are applicable in educational settings, work settings, shift work, and daily life. As applied-oriented researchers, our over-all purpose is to provide preventative measures that can be used in many work, education, and social settings to improve performance, health, and well-being.June J. Pilcher

The Positive Psychology of Courage. Courage is needed in many difficult situations, including saving others in physical peril, standing up for what is right, and stepping outside one’s comfort zone to try something new. Although courage has been praised throughout history, it turns out we know remarkably little about the psychology of this important virtue. My research examines courage as a multi-faceted construct, and I am currently working on developing and testing a model of courageous action. In other words, in a given situation, what will help someone behave more courageously? What factors determine (after the fact) if we label an action as courageous? These questions have application in a variety of applied settings, including schools, the work place, therapy and coaching settings, and society at large. Cindy Pury

Employee health and retention. My research addresses occupational health concerns faced by workers in three occupational contexts: military personnel, retail workers, and health care professionals (e.g., nurses). In the military context, I study personal (e.g., personality) and organizational (e.g., leadership) factors that contribute to Soldiers’ stress resilience, mental health, and job attitudes. My research on retail workers focuses on common threats to their occupational well-being, including low wages, shift work (e.g., night and weekend work), and balancing multiple roles (e.g., work and family demands). Finally, with regard to nurses, I am interested how both positive work experiences, such as saving lives or being thanked by a family member, as well as negative work experiences, such as interpersonal conflict, staffing shortages, and resource constraints, affect nurses’ burnout, engagement, and desires to leave the nursing profession. Robert Sinclair

Exercise in the Workplace

Movement while Working. Modern society often creates a dichotomy for exercise and working. With the exception of professional athletes, usually one does not think of movement or exercise while working. My research project is trying to change that. We are using FitDesks (stationary desks with a desk top) on campus and in K-12 schools to encourage students to be active but at a low level (i.e., no sweating allowed) while studying. We are also placing the FitDesks in work settings to encourage employees to be active while working. We use a wide range of measures to investigate how movement while working affects cognitive performance, attention, motivation, engagement, stress levels, emotional stability, health, and well-being. As applied-oriented researchers, our over-all purpose is to change educational and work settings to improve performance, health and well-being in students and workers. June J. Pilcher

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