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In this essay, I argue that work and organizational psychology needs to move beyond measuring performance and well-being as the only outcomes relevant to our research. I outline the main difficulties with a narrow focus on performance and well-being, and argue that we need to broaden our scope of outcomes to stay relevant in a rapidly changing society. One example includes a dignity-paradigm, which postulates that there may be other outcomes in work and organizational psychology research which are relevant for both researchers, practitioners and society.
Why We Should Stop Measuring Performance
P. Matthijs Bal
University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
In work and organizational psychology research, there are
usually two relevant outcomes: performance and well-
being (Kozlowski, Chen, & Salas, 2017). This is notable
not only in theoretical models, and in the choice of
variables when collecting data, but also more implicitly in
thinking, in personal and professional ideologies. On the
one hand, it has been argued widely that the sole purpose
of individuals in the workplace is to enhance the perform-
ance of organizations (see, e. g., Dalal, 2005). If organ-
izations are not profitable, they go bankrupt and people
lose their jobs. Hence, it is important to focus on perform-
ance, because it is the glue that holds everything together,
and ultimately our capitalist system depends on it.
On the other hand, it is widely acknowledged that the
focus on organizational performance is insufficient and
that it is also worthwhile to promote employee well-being
(see, e. g., van de Voorde et al., 2012). Well-being is a
convenient concept, because nobody can be against it and
it is universally applicable; almost everyone will be in
agreement that well-being is important. Positive psychol-
ogy goes even one step further and claims that we should
be focusing on happiness (Cabanas & Illouz, 2019). People
should follow their dreams and passions so that they can
be happy, and this can be found at work. There are also
pragmatists, who believe that organizations can achieve
both high performance and well-being, and scholars
should strive toward this. This entails a utopia where
organizations function well and where people are highly
performing and feeling healthy, happy, and vigorous.
So what is the problem? The most fundamental prob-
lem is the lack of critical thinking toward these concepts,
as they are merely taken for granted in research. How-
ever, we as work and organizational psychologists (WOPs)
hardly ever discuss what the effects are of our narrow
focus on performance and well-being. In this essay I argue
that there are fundamental problems not only with
performance, but also with well-being. One could even
argue that inclusion of well-being legitimizes a perform-
ance paradigm, as it allows one to counteract any critique
on performance by postulating that there is a lot of
research on employee well-being (see, e. g., Bal & Dóci,
2018, Dóci & Bal, 2018). Hence, a critique of performance
in our field cannot be conducted without taking well-
being into account.
This following piece will provocatively explain why we
should stop measuring performance and well-being. I
speak as a WOP myself, being part of the community and
speaking to other WOP scholars. I will also present some
alternatives, because we need to know what to do if we no
longer have to worry about measuring performance and
well-being in our research. Yet, I wish to emphasize that I
am not against performance or well-being as such.
Performance and well-being are important, but we are
currently obsessed with it and have therefore developed a
tunnel vision (i. e., performance and well-being are the
only outcomes that matter at work; see, e. g., Kozlowski et
al., 2017), and we have stopped being critical of our own
The Myopic Focus of WOP on
WOP research has incorporated performance as the
ultimate outcome of our research; any concept in the
field, such as an HR system, mindfulness, job crafting,
bullying, or psychological contract, aims to explain var-
iance in performance. Individual performance is impor-
tant, as the assumption is that it will lead to organizational
performance, and by extension, that individual and team
performance equal organizational performance. However,
it is overlooked that this obsession with performance has
been complicit in a wide range of societal problems. While
performance for a (private) organization equals profit-
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ability and shareholder value, it ultimately instrumental-
izes anything for the pursuit of these goals. This is
inherent to capitalism, as capitalism can only exist by
eternal economic growth, which makes anything in the
world instrumental to it (Žižek, 2014). Consequently, our
planet, animals, and people are sacrificed for the pursuit
of profit and thus organizational performance. Our global
neo-colonial system is maintained, where in the Global
South millions of people live in poverty and where
children have to work in the most horrific circumstances
because profit needs to be generated (Stiglitz, 2012). Why
is performance then so problematic that it leads to global
exploitation of our planet, people, and animals?
Some Problems With Performance
The main problem is that performance in itself does not
have an intrinsic meaning. Performance is purely utili-
tarian: It is instrumental and can be used in any context to
denote behavior as a performancewithout any judg-
ment of its content. Performance is usually measured as
doing what is in someones task description, regardless of
whether this is actually the right thing to do. Meaning is
not self-evident; it has to be theorized and explicitly
included in how performance is measured. Without this,
performance is merely instrumental to profitability and
thereby its abuse is legitimized for the sake of exploita-
tion. This is also due to the hegemonic functionalist
positivist tradition of WOP, which causes us to believe
that performance is merely descriptive and not normative.
However, we simply cannot measure the in-role perform-
ance of bankers and perceive it as something inherently
good, when at the same time their performance may
include offshoring profits to tax havens. This has no
intrinsic human value.
By extension, it has often been overlooked that a
myopic focus on performance has a range of perverse
effects. It does not only contribute and legitimize exploi-
tation around the world, but it also may lead to abuse and
competition in the workplace. When performance is all
that matters, anything is permitted, as the question
pertains not to how (i. e., at what costs) performance is
achieved (for an organization, management, or society),
but merely how high the performance is. In achieving high
performance, little is asked about the externalities of this
focus on performance. When managers prioritize per-
formance above anything, they may abuse subordinates
or bully others. Employees have to outperform other
individuals. Our way of conceptualizing performance does
not promote collaboration but is always aimed at compet-
ing with each other and at being the best.
Looking at how performance is measured does not
directly show an intrinsic meaning of performance. First,
the analysis of performance at work tends to be cross-
sectional and thus comparative. The performance of a
number of individuals at work (or teams or organizations)
is measured and compared with other individuals and
then related to a predictor. In this way, performance is by
definition comparative: It is determined why and how
high-performers are betterthan others. By extension, it
also supports authoritarian views of workplaces. For
instance, the most well-known (individual) performance
measure of Williams and Anderson (1991; more than
6,500 citations in Google Scholar), includes items such
as: adequately completes assigned dutiesand per-
forms tasks that are expected of him/her.Such items
measure compliance but do not measure whether work
behavior leads to greater dignity of people, organizations,
and the planet. It does not ask people to reflect on the
intrinsic meaning of their work. It merely asks whether
they do what their organization tells them to do.
One might argue that there are many new forms of
performance, such as creativity, proactive behavior, Or-
ganizational Citizenship Behaviors, and job crafting.
These performance indicators explicitly move beyond
the dictated, topdown nature of performance. Yet, it does
not make them less harmful in their ideological nature.
On the one hand, they represent a creative way to
broaden the terminology of instrumental performance-
related concepts. On the other hand, it is precisely
because employees are today expected to be creative and
proactive that the boundaries of what is legally and
ethically possible are tested (e. g., bankers who were
pushed to be creativeand designed the financial
innovations that contributed to the economic crisis of
2008; Stiglitz, 2012).
A standard response to the aforementioned criticism
would be that this focus on performance is in itself not too
bad, as long as it is not detrimental for employee well-
being. However, this trade-off between performance and
well-being is part of the very problem, as it does not
address the inherent problem of performance (e. g., lack
of intrinsic meaning), and it positions and thereby legiti-
mizes well-being as the ultimate priority of WOP. How-
ever, a myopic focus on well-being is not without prob-
lems either.
Some Problems With Well-Being
Well-being at work can be measured in multiple ways,
including direct measures (e. g., health and subjective
well-being) and indirect measures (e. g., organizational
commitment or work engagement). Usually, well-being is
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investigated in WOP research because it is a precursor of
performance. This is quite prominent in indirect meas-
ures, such as organizational commitment. These are
primarily of interest due to their instrumental nature,
while it is much less clear why organizational commit-
ment would be beneficial for human beings. Direct well-
being measures are less problematic in this regard. With
fields of research on this topic, and entire journals filled
with research on this (e. g., Work &Stress, Journal of
Occupational Health Psychology), it seems that the field as
such has legitimized its own existence.
Well-being research is important in many different
ways (e. g., well-being for a child working in a tin mine has
a fundamentally different meaning than for a Western
white-collar worker). Well-being is also an important
outcome of power struggles and structural exploitation.
However, this reveals the problem of WOP: The more
problematic and contested aspects in the workplace, such
as power and exploitation, are usually neglected. By
contrast, well-being has been integrated in the capitalist
neoliberal performance paradigm as discussed earlier in
this essay and elsewhere (Bal, 2017; Bal & Dóci, 2018).
This perspective on well-being co-aligns with our current
dominant perspective on society, where well-being is
praised as inherently good in itself, the ultimate goal of
life, and at the same time as this never-realizable fantasy
that motivates us perpetually to do more and more.
What we observe here is the first limitation of well-
being: We do not think about the state of high well-being
and its (philosophical) implications. Psychology has tradi-
tionally favored the negative aspects of well-being, as its
dynamics are clear: People feel miserable and something
needs to happen. But what happens when we have
reached a state of high well-being? What does it bring us?
Does high well-being mean more quality of life? The
absence of readily available answers in our work denotes
that we do not really think about these issues, as they
might indicate that well-being in itself is a flawed
objective, despite current wisdom in WOP.
And there are also more general problems with priori-
tizing well-being in WOP research. As long as employee
well-being is optimal, WOP-scholars have succeeded.
Hence, it is no problem to prioritize people over the
planet, and that is the explanation for why there are no
fundamental problems in researching oil company em-
ployees: They show us how important it is to treat
employees well, and to protect their well-being. That they
at the same time destroy our natural resources and the
planet is not of concern, because the wealth they have
accumulated by exploiting our natural resources enables
them to build up well-functioning HR systems that are
exemplary for work and teaching in WOP.
But even when well-being could be achieved without
externalities, it still has its inherent flaws. Most funda-
mentally, it neglects human life as it is. Life on earth
involves suffering, and suffering is a central aspect of
human life. Every day since humans have existed on the
planet, wars have been fought, disease has wiped out
whole populations, and injury, rape, sickness, death, and
emotional suffering have been a part of our everyday
experiences. It is a fallacy to assume that by focusing on
enhancing well-being (at work), suffering can actually be
taken away. A narrow focus on well-being is too limited to
understand what it is to be a human at work.
It is also ascertained that a lack of well-being indicates
aproblem: When people do not experience optimal
well-being, there is something that needs to be fixed.
Notwithstanding the potential impossibility of fixing this,
high well-being in itself does not necessarily indicate a
solution. Well-being is also affected by cognitive disso-
nance, as people could tell themselves that they should be
feeling well. This creates the perpetual paradox of
contemporary society where people search for well-being
and happiness, but because they never find real well-
being and happiness, continue to long and search for it
(Cabanas & Illouz, 2019).
Moreover, the importance of lack of well-being is also
overlooked. Well-being may be beyond an individuals
control (which is the case with many illnesses). To
indicate lack of well-being as a problem that needs to be
fixedoverestimates the possibility to enhance well-
being, especially among those whose well-being is beyond
their control. More fundamentally, a lack of well-being is
enormously important in the wider social context. De-
pression is a necessary state of affairs in contemporary
society, just as burnout is in the contemporary workplace.
Hence, the question is not how to solvedepression and
burnout, and how to fix people who experience burnout,
but the right question should be: What does the burnout
epidemic tell us about the contemporary workplace? Lack of
well-being is important, not just to understand that well-
being is not an individual experience but as a necessary
step toward societal change. In other words, depression is
informative, not merely to indicate that people have to
protect their well-being, but to understand the severity of
our predicament. In the context of climate change, ever-
increasing income inequality, populism, neoliberalism,
and individualism (Bal, 2017), it could even be argued
that we have a duty to have depression, to understand the
severity of our societal predicament.
Depression and burnout are therefore also symptoms of
disavowal:We know that our ways of life give us
material richness but they also bring with them destruc-
tion of the planet and exploitation of people worldwide,
yet we nonetheless continue doing what we do (Žižek,
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1989). Our ways of living and working are unsustainable
and destroying the planet, but we persist in them because
we do not see how we can get out of this situation. Hence,
feelings of depression serve an important purpose, as they
direct individuals toward the feelings of guilt inherent to
contemporary working. While depression obviously may
have various deleterious effects, it cannot be underesti-
mated and treated as a merely individualized phenomen-
on that should be individually managed (with medicine or
Some Alternatives
Organizations cannot exist without performance and well-
being. People need to be able to perform for an organ-
ization to exist, and people need well-being to do their
jobs. However, organizations cannot not exist in the long
run when the planet is depleted of its resources. Organ-
izations have no right to exist if they exploit natural
resources, the environment, people, and animals. Yet,
they do, and WOP scholars ignore these tensions in their
focus on performance and employee well-being. This is
also due to WOP scholars having a rather limited implicit
theory of the firm as an economic entity that merely exists
for profit (Melé, 2012). Is there a way out?
What is needed is the introduction of new ways of
thinking about the outcomes of WOP research. It is
important to state that outcomes is a positivistic term.
However, we need to debate the focus of our research, or
what we want to contribute to in relation to our stake-
holders, including society. First, work has a much broader
meaning to people than merely to produce and serve
corporate interests. However, we have to move beyond
trite and hegemonic conceptualizations of meaningful
work, toward a re-evaluation of work as an intrinsic
activity, and valued as such by WOP scholars (Lefkowitz,
However, work is not just about the individual perform-
ing it and meaningfulness, since meaning (in life) does not
have to be derived from having a job. More importantly,
as WOP scholars we need to ask ourselves what is
currently needed in our societies and workplaces, and
subsequently we should focus on these issues. First, we
know that business in neoliberal capitalism is largely
responsible for the continuous high carbon emissions and
destruction of the planet. We need to investigate how
work behavior contributes to protection and restoration of
the planet, thereby radically going beyond limited con-
cepts such as pro-environmental behavior, and to inves-
tigate how individuals and collectives may contribute to
protection and restoration of the planet. The same argu-
ment could be made for social injustice, racism, inequal-
ity, neoliberalism, individualism, and others: Many more
radical questions are needed.
Thus, alternative outcomes are desperately needed,
such as how individuals can contribute to greater social
cohesion (in the workplace and beyond), protection of
people in- and outside organizations, social belonging,
vibrant and inclusive communities, and so on. To do so,
we have to stop letting organizations dictate research
agendas. Well-meaning scholars often talk about the
researchpractice gap. However, bridging this gap does
not mean simply implementing organizational agendas in
research and focusing on narrow organizational goals
such as performance and employee well-being. Editors
and reviewers should reject papers that are merely study-
ing these trite outcomes linking them to whatever pre-
Frameworks that could be informative are Melés
(2012) work on firms as communities of personsand
my work on workplace dignity (Bal, 2017; Bal & De Jong,
2017, 2018). For instance, the concept of workplace
dignity describes how everything that is part of the
workplace has its intrinsic, inviolable worth and meaning,
including people, animals, the environment, natural re-
sources, buildings, tools, and finance. If it is acknowl-
edged that everything has an intrinsic worth, new ques-
tions can be raised. For instance, research could inves-
tigate how cultures within organizations can be created
where questions about the protection of dignity are
normalized, and where people can work toward organiza-
tions that actively protect and promote the intrinsic worth
of people and the planet. In sum, WOP scholars are
invited to think much more creatively about the outcomes
of research, and about what truly matters for individuals
and society.
Bal, M. (2017). Dignity in the workplace: New theoretical perspec-
tives. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.
Bal, P. M., & De Jong, S. B. (2017). From human resource
management to human dignity development: A dignity perspec-
tive on HRM and the role of workplace democracy. In M. Kostera
& M. Pirson (Eds.), Dignity and organizations (pp. 173 195).
Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave McMillan.
Bal, P. M., & De Jong, S. B. (2018). Create more value for all: A
human dignity oriented approach to consulting. In G. Manville,
O. Matthias, & J. Campbell (Eds.), Management consultancy
insights and real consultancy projects (pp. 39 50). Abingdon,
UK: Routledge.
Bal, P. M., & Dóci, E. (2018). Neoliberal ideology in work and
organizational psychology. European Journal of Work and
Organizational Psychology, 27, 536548.
Dialog 199
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Cabanas, E., & Illouz, E. (2019). Manufacturing happy citizens: How
the science and industry of happiness control our lives. Cam-
bridge, UK: Polity Press.
Dalal, R. S. (2005). A meta-analysis of the relationship between
organizational citizenship behavior and counterproductive work
behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology,90(6), 12411255.
Dóci, E., & Bal, P. M. (2018). Ideology in work and organizational
psychology: The responsibility of the researcher. European
Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology,27(5), 558 560.
Kozlowski, S. W., Chen, G., & Salas, E. (2017). One hundred years of
the Journal of Applied Psychology: Background, evolution, and
scientific trends. Journal of Applied Psychology,102(3), 237
Lefkowitz, J. (2008). To prosper, organizational psychology
shouldexpand the values of organizational psychology to
match the quality of its ethics. Journal of Organizational
Behavior,29(4), 439453.
Melé, D. (2012). The firm as a community of persons: A pillar of
humanistic business ethos. Journal of Business Ethics,106(1),
Stiglitz, J. E. (2012). The price of inequality: How todays divided
society endangers our future. New York, USA: WW Norton &
Voorde, K. van de, Paauwe, J., & Van Veldhoven, M. (2012).
Employee wellbeing and the HRMorganizational performance
relationship: A review of quantitative studies. International
Journal of Management Reviews,14(4), 391407.
Williams, L. J., & Anderson, S.E. (1991). Job satisfaction and
organizational commitment as predictors of organizational
citizenship and in-role behaviors. Journal of Management,
17(3), 601617
Žižek, S. (1989). The sublime object of ideology. London, UK: Verso.
Žižek, S. (2014). Trouble in paradise: From the end of history to the
end of capitalism. London, UK: Melville House.
P. Matthijs Bal
Dr. P. Matthijs Bal, PhD
Lincoln International Business School
University of Lincoln
Lincoln LN6 7TS
United Kingdom
Recognizing People at Work in Their Full
Humanity A Commentary on Bal (2020)
Ulrich Leicht-Deobald
Institute for Business Ethics, University of St.Gallen, Switzerland
To my delight, I read the essay, Why we should stop
measuring performance and well-beingby Matthijs Bal
(2020). This work cautions us to consider carefully the
outcomes we study in work and organizational psychology
(WOP). It offers a stunning critique of the one-sidedand
sometimes mindlessapplication of performance and/or
well-being measures in our research. In short, Bal (2020)
argues that we should refrain from using a narrow
conceptualization of performance and well-being and
instead widen our perspectives to include broader notions
of what is important as organizational outcomes both in
our lives and in society as a whole. For Bal (2020), such an
alternative viewpoint is exemplified in the concept of
dignity that he offers as an alternative guiding principle
(Bal, 2017). This essay provides a timely and fresh
message for professionals in this field.
Bal (2020) states that empirical studies in WOP hardly
ever question the normative assumptions underlying the
concepts of performance and well-being. As such, the
author suggests that performance per se does not have
intrinsic value. Accordingly, performance is normally
measured in WOP as an external sense of what elements
are instrumental to achieve a task. For example, Bal
(2020) discusses a bank employee investing his clients
money in tax havens. Upon executing this task, the
employee might receive favorable performance evalua-
tions, even though this action might be damaging to
society as a whole. Similarly, the author suggests that
studies of well-being tend to neglect structural aspects of
power and exploitation.
Bals (2020) article inspired me to ponder about
whether our struggle to include normative aspects within
our theorizing is partly due to this functional/positivist
epistemology in WOP. This functional/positivist para-
digm has been the dominant logic in WOP regarding what
constitutes legitimate knowledge. An important charac-
teristic of this functional/positivist paradigm is that theory
can be formulated in mathematical terms; explanations
take the form of causal statements or models incorporat-
ing variables (Poole, Van de Ven, Dooley, and Holmes,
200 Dialog
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... These absurdities may be structured and analyzed as part of the earlier described 'grand' absurdity of the destruction of the planet for economic profit. In this sense, they form a structure in which human behavior is increasingly detached from some form of 'common sense' and can therefore be understood accordingly as a deviation from ratio (Loacker & Peters, 2015) or devoid of a commonsensical, humanitarian purpose while, at the same time, harming people and the planet (Bal, 2017). Consequently, a double process 5 can be observed: first, our primary task is to recognize absurdity, to unmask and expose absurdity for what it really is. ...
... First, absurdity is tragic, as it violates and impedes the dignity of one or more individuals and, in extension, could also violate the dignity of our planet (Bal, 2017). Hence, a defining feature of the absurdities we analyze in this book is that they cause harm and thus are tragic; the impossible paradox of different logics which are operating simultaneously, each of its own with its rationality and purpose, becomes impossible as it presents itself as an impossible choice between two evils: if it would have been easy to choose one over the other in lieu of its preference for the protection of the dignity of those involved (not just people, but in extension considering the very planet of our existence), it would have been a mere case of harmfulness towards individuals. ...
... It has been argued that hypernormalization was not just a feature of the Soviet Union but is also manifested in contemporary society (Bal, 2017;Nicholls, 2017). Recently, the term has been popularized through the documentary HyperNormalisation by Adam Curtis (2016;Bal, 2017;Nicholls, 2017), in which the argument is put forth that in the postpolitical present, public opinion is manipulated to believe that politics today is normal and that there is no alternative, through which 'the public' is able to accept absurdities of the contemporary world (Nicholls, 2017). ...
... These absurdities may be structured and analyzed as part of the earlier described 'grand' absurdity of the destruction of the planet for economic profit. In this sense, they form a structure in which human behavior is increasingly detached from some form of 'common sense' and can therefore be understood accordingly as a deviation from ratio (Loacker & Peters, 2015) or devoid of a commonsensical, humanitarian purpose while, at the same time, harming people and the planet (Bal, 2017). Consequently, a double process 5 can be observed: first, our primary task is to recognize absurdity, to unmask and expose absurdity for what it really is. ...
... First, absurdity is tragic, as it violates and impedes the dignity of one or more individuals and, in extension, could also violate the dignity of our planet (Bal, 2017). Hence, a defining feature of the absurdities we analyze in this book is that they cause harm and thus are tragic; the impossible paradox of different logics which are operating simultaneously, each of its own with its rationality and purpose, becomes impossible as it presents itself as an impossible choice between two evils: if it would have been easy to choose one over the other in lieu of its preference for the protection of the dignity of those involved (not just people, but in extension considering the very planet of our existence), it would have been a mere case of harmfulness towards individuals. ...
... It has been argued that hypernormalization was not just a feature of the Soviet Union but is also manifested in contemporary society (Bal, 2017;Nicholls, 2017). Recently, the term has been popularized through the documentary HyperNormalisation by Adam Curtis (2016;Bal, 2017;Nicholls, 2017), in which the argument is put forth that in the postpolitical present, public opinion is manipulated to believe that politics today is normal and that there is no alternative, through which 'the public' is able to accept absurdities of the contemporary world (Nicholls, 2017). ...
... Yet, the HRM literature has largely refrained from discussing the paradoxes arising from organizational practices. Instead, contemporary HRM literature and practices continue to portray organizational financial purpose beyond human and planetary concerns see also [12]. ...
... However, despite these encouraging analyses by earlier scholars, there are two fundamental problems that scholars and organizations still face, and which we will address in the current essay. First, while there is an emerging understanding among HR scholars of the need for global societal change and the adaptation of HR models to address these concerns, the literature on sustainable HRM for the Common Good [13] remains within the margins, and represents a rather small fraction of the total body of literature on HRM, most of which remains firmly based on the instrumental model of human-as-resource to be used for organizational profit [12,[18][19][20]. The same holds for organizations, which continue to operate within a globalized capitalist system, in which profit-seeking remains the ultimate organizing principle from which few organizations can actually sustainably escape [21]. ...
... While the recent calls for more sustainable HRM models and theorizing, which move away from the exploitative model of the worker e.g., [12,13], are not new and have been uttered for many years, there is still little progress made in the field. Attempts to make the HRM model ethical [29,30], democratic [16], and dignified [9,13] have been worthy but at the same time not yet integrated into mainstream HRM theorizing and practice. ...
Full-text available
Sustainability has become an increasingly popular concept in relation to contemporary organizational life. The current paper reviews the concept of sustainability in relation to Human Resource Management [HRM] and poses the question whether HRM can become truly sustainable. Analyzing the notion of sustainability as an empty concept, this paper searches for new and radical meanings for sustainable HRM. Anchored in a radical understanding of sustainability as the protection and promotion of the dignity of people and the planet, this paper reviews the state of the art of contemporary HR systems and practices. It also positions sustainable HRM in the context of planetary survival and the role organizations may play in the transformation to sustainable economies. To conceptualize sustainable HRM, it is necessary to integrate new meanings through postulating appealing narratives around non-capitalist sustainable living.
... It turns out that different reviews already present poor results of the relationship between well-being and performance (García-Buades et al., 2020;Peiró et al., 2021;Pérez-Nebra et al., 2021a,b) negatively impacting the prioritization of practices focused on the care of workers' health and well-being. However, considering that well-being is a result of human, social, and ethical interests, besides being a bridge to performance, it is necessary to seek work that offers dignity to the human being (Bal, 2020), pursuing practices oriented to health, care, and quality of life, among others, including within universities, where precarious working conditions and their harmful consequences on the mental health of workers around the world have already been identified (Carlotto and Câmara, 2017;Levecque et al., 2017;Tian and Lu, 2017;Cladellas-Pros et al., 2018). Boon et al. (2019) reviewed several scales of measures on HRMP and found that most were performance-oriented practices and that scales oriented to incorporate protective practices or foster mental health or social capital in organizations are rare. ...
... Given that HRMP contribute to the promotion of people's wellbeing (He et al., 2019;Bal, 2020) and that the results found on HRMP in non-WEIRD countries also make up this demand, actions related to working conditions, which are linked to the well-being and health of workers, require greater investment. This need can be extended to Frontiers in Psychology 05 ...
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Organizations thrive when there is a healthy relationship between people, i.e., where there is high social capital. Human resource management practices (HRMP) contribute to promoting social capital and mental health in organizations. However, there remains a gap in the literature on practices to promote mental health, as well as on the difference in perception of the function of the practices between those who promote them and those who receive them. Thus, this study aimed to identify what HRMP oriented toward mental health promotions are, how they are perceived, and whether there is variation among these perceptions. Twenty managers and 11 subordinates were interviewed. To achieve the first two objectives, a content analysis was performed, and for the last, a lexical analysis. In the content analysis, the following categories emerged for both groups: work organization and idiosyncratic deals and affective social support. Only in the managers did the categories of informational support, communication, and maintaining good interpersonal relationships emerge. The lexical analysis suggested that managers perceive task-related practices as promoting mental health, while teams attribute importance to affective social support practices. HRMP psychological principles were described. Social support practices should be adopted as human resource protective strategies for mental health. KEYWORDS
... What we know about how job characteristics provide employees meaning in their work (most centrally, autonomy) seems to suggest that such measurement approaches are wrong. Some have even recommended a total cessation in the measurement of job performance altogether (Bal, 2020). While this stance might be too extreme even for the more radical in our field, it is no doubt possible to make measurement more supportive. ...
Anti-work philosophy holds that work, in and of itself, tends to be harmful for most people. Some anti-work theorists even advocate for the abolition of paid employment altogether. We argue that, while endorsement of the radical ideology of anti-work is in no way necessary for I/O psychologists, considering the thinking behind these ideas can be beneficial. In fact, reviewing the tenets of anti-work may prompt some to a broad reconsideration of the nature and purpose of the I/O field and its role, nested as it is in potentially problematic power dynamics both within organizations and in broader society. In this article, after describing anti-work’s core tenets, we outline a number of research directions and practical applications inspired by this perspective. While in some cases these may involve the creation of new theory, constructs, and interventions, they often simply entail the repurposing or refocusing of existing ones that are more attuned to the problematic nature of work. Possibilities for research include, but are not limited to, the examination of the prevalence and nature of “managerialism,” how we might better understand the psychological character of organized labor and its outcomes, and how to encourage healthier manifestations of employee engagement. In terms of practice, we bring to the reader’s attention how anti-work might inspire extensions or adjustments in how we recruit and onboard, train managers, improve job characteristics, measure performance and work with unions and other political advocates. Ultimately, consideration of anti-work’s assertion of the inevitable authoritarian character of employment, combined with I/O psychology’s emphases on objectivity and the translation of science into practice, can spark inquiry and innovation.
... Third, the different results of the two mediation models suggest that a more consistent and shared understanding of what job performance means and what job performance indicators measure might foster sustainable employment throughout the life course [50][51][52][53]. This leads to a problematisation at organisational level of what job performance indicators measure. ...
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Background: Supporting and retaining older workers has become a strategic management goal for companies, considering the ageing of the workforce and the prolongation of working lives. The relationship between health and work is especially crucial for older workers with manual tasks, considering the impact of long-standing health impairments in older age. Although different studies investigated the relationship between work ability and job performance, few studies have analysed the impact of workers' capability to balance between health and work demands, including managerial and organisational support (work-health balance). Considering health as a dynamic balance between work and health demands influenced by both individual and environmental factors, we assess the mediator role of work-health balance in the relation between work ability and job performance, both self-reported and assessed by the supervisor. Methods: The study utilises data from a case study of 156 manual workers, who were 50 years old or older and employed in a steel company in Italy. Data were collected inside the company as an organiational initiative to support age diversity. Results: The findings show that work-health balance partially mediates the relationship between work ability and self-rated job performance, while it does not mediate the relationship with job performance as rated by the supervisor. Supervisor-rated job performance is positively associated with work ability, while it decreases with the increasing perceived incompatibility between work and health. Conclusion: A perceived balance between health and work is a strategic factor in increasing manual older workers' job performance. For older workers, not only the perceived capability to work is important but also the organisational health climate and supervisor's support. More studies are needed to verify if managers overlook the importance of health climate and support, as strategic elements that can foster performance for older employees.
... This pandemic has demonstrated the quintessential need for improving employees' physiological and psychological well-being regardless of under which contexts and conditions remote workers operate. As eloquently noted by Bal (2020), well-being is beyond individuals' control, but organizations have no right to deplete their employees' well-being. Organizations cannot function without human factors and without securing the very basic needs, the proper functioning of organizations is highly unfeasible. ...
In response to the increasing prevalence of remote work during and after the pandemic, industrial–organizational psychologists postulated a diverse set of recommendations on key actions based on what we already know about remote work complexities that are well captured in the literature. However, as most recent recommendations were made under light of past studies, which elaborated remote work as a voluntary perk rather than a reactive response under the crisis situation, most of the actual challenges that people experienced while working from home remained untouched. Therefore, with this piece, our aim is to present counterarguments to already published recommendations entailing the core difficulties linked to the forced nature of remote work during the pandemic. We believe that the unique pandemic conditions pose particular complexities that go beyond previously identified ones. Thus, there is a need to underline these unidentified obstacles to better equip leaders and employees working remotely during and after the pandemic conditions. We conclude our article by recommending leaders to evaluate the contextual differences in their organizational settings and take appropriate actions by taking a critical lens in evaluating the latest research.
... As the competition rises, compliance with the system brings the greatest returns. Academic publishing's highly formulaic nature leaves no autonomy in choices of communication styles, topics, methodologies, and consequently samples outside the expected standards (Bal, 2020). The abundance of particular research types and overrepresentation of certain samples enforce ontological and epistemological isomorphism in top journals and establish publication norms, while discouraging risk-taking in research and destroying intrinsic incentives for asking interesting questions whose answers are unknown (Bergman & Jean, 2016;Muthukrishna et al., 2020;Orhan, 2020). ...
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In this chapter, the ideological underpinnings of absurdity and its normalization are explored. First, the chapter discusses a psychology of absurdity in order to understand the functioning of absurdity within the individual psyche. Furthermore, the chapter discusses how the fantasmatic investment in and internalization of absurdity enable individuals to manage the absurdities arising from the perpetual gap between authoritative discourse (e.g., companies’ commitment to climate action) and actual day-to-day practices (e.g., companies’ continued investment in fossil fuels). The chapter explicitly links absurdity and hypernormalization to its ideological functioning and is based on Žižek’s theory of ideology as fantasy construction. In this theory, absurdity and its normalization can be understood to function ideologically and are maintained through the emergence and development of a fantasy of normality. This serves a strong psychological function, in providing a feeling of security and sense of self (i.e., ontological security). The chapter finishes with a discussion of the threat that the exposure of absurdity poses to the ontological security of the individual.
This work suggests that researchers in work and organizational psychology (WOP) and WOP as a discipline would benefit from a critical perspective on their own research and practice. We highlight the value of critical reflection and critical reflexivity on contexts of research and practice in order to increase the practical impact of WOP for everyone. First, we outline how WOP currently fails to address pressing global issues, such as precarious employment, by focusing on work‐related phenomena in affluent societies and neglecting issues relevant to the majority of the world’s working population. Second, we present a heuristic framework of four fundamental contextual components that are important to consider when engaging in a continuous process of critical reflection and critical reflexivity: history; economy and politics; society and culture; and personal background. Third, we illustrate why these contexts are important for WOP with the example of precarious employment. Considering context more explicitly is important for future WOP research because context not only co‐determines the experiences of the working people under investigation but also the subjectivity of researchers themselves. We hope to encourage WOP researchers to engage in critical reflection and critical reflexivity to promote a more critical WOP.
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The imperative of happiness dictates the conduct and direction of our lives. There is no escape from the tyranny of positivity. But is happiness the supreme good that all of us should pursue? So says a new breed of so-called happiness experts, with positive psychologists, happiness economists and self-development gurus at the forefront. With the support of influential institutions and multinational corporations, these self-proclaimed experts now tell us what governmental policies to apply, what educational interventions to make and what changes we must undertake in order to lead more successful, more meaningful and healthier lives.With a healthy scepticism, this book documents the powerful social impact of the science and industry of happiness, arguing that the neoliberal alliance between psychologists, economists and self-development gurus has given rise to a new and oppressive form of government and control in which happiness has been woven into the very fabric of power.
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This is a rejoinder to the commentaries on our paper on neoliberalism in work and organizational psychology. In this rejoinder, we provide a summarized response to the commentaries, thereby highlighting three main points: (1) when, where and how does neoliberalism manifest in society and our work as Work and Organizational Psychologists, (2) what is our duty as work and organizational psychologists towards society and our own work, and (3) what do we recommend on the basis of the exchange with the commentators on our paper?
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This paper explores the role of neoliberal ideology in workplace practices and in work and organizational psychology (WOP) research. It analyses how neoliberal ideology manifests in these two domains by using a prominent framework from the field of political theory to understand ideology through three different logics: political, social and fantasmatic logics. We explore the main neoliberal assumptions underlying existing practices in the workplace as well as in WOP research, how individuals are gripped by such practices, and how the status quo is maintained. The paper analyses how individuals in the contemporary workplace are henceforth influenced by neoliberalism, and how this is reflected in the practices and dominant paradigms within WOP. In particular, we focus on three ways neoliberalism affects workplaces and individual experiences of the workplace: through instrumentality, individualism and competition. The paper finishes with practical recommendations for researchers and practitioners alike on how to devote more attention to the, often implicit, role of neoliberal ideology in their work and research. The discussion elaborates on how alternative paradigms in the workplace can be developed which address the downsides of neoliberalism.
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Why the need for a new theory on workplace dignity? Currently, there is not a theory of workplace dignity, which could help to understand the issues and challenges of the contemporary workplace. Hence, the need for a new theory must be resulting from an observation that current models, paradigms and theories are insufficient to explain the current economic situation. More importantly, there are hardly any new theoretical developments taking place regarding how the future workplace should and could be structured, organized and developed. This book is not by far not the first which claims that our current economic-political paradigms are insufficient to help us through the 21st century, and that contemporary society is in desperate need of new ideas to shape the workplace of the future (Bauman et al. 2015).
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To launch this Special Issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology celebrating the 1st century of the journal we conducted a review encompassing the background of the founding of the journal; a quantitative assessment of its evolution across the century; and an examination of trends examining article type, article length, authorship patterns, supplemental materials, and research support. The journal was founded in March of 1917 with hopeful optimism about the potential of psychology being applied to practical problems could enhance human happiness, well-being, and effectiveness. Our quantitative content assessment using both keyword frequencies and latent semantic analyses of raw content, in both bottom-up (corpus driven) and top-down modes (analyst driven), converged to document an evolution ranging from a broad and exploratory applied psychology to a more focused industrial psychology to an industrial and organizational psychology to an organizational psychology. With respect to other trends, during the first 4 decades 20 to 30% of journal items were book reviews, which then abruptly ceased in the mid-1950s. Articles have grown increasingly longer over time. Author teams are increasingly larger, and sole authored articles are vanishingly small in frequency. The use of supplemental materials and articles reporting research support have surged dramatically in the most recent period. Across the various foci we examined, our review portrays the evolution of the journal as reflecting the development of a mature, focused, and cumulative scientific discipline addressing psychological science applied to work and organizations.
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The values of organizational psychology are criticized as (a) having supplanted psychology's humanist tradition and societal responsibilities with corporate economic objectives; (b) being “scientistic” in perpetuating the notion of value-free science while ignoring that it is business values that largely drive our research and practice; (c) failing to include normative perspectives of what organizations ought to be like in moral terms; (d) having a pro-management bias; and (e) having allowed ourselves to be defined largely by technocratic competence, almost to the exclusion of considering desirable societal goods. Illustrations of some adverse consequences of these values are presented. It is suggested we expand our self-image to encompass a scientist–practitioner–humanist (S-P-H) model that includes consideration of different values, advocacy of employee rights and a normative characterization of how organizations ought to be—reflecting the broader societal responsibilities of a true profession. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Previous organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) research (a) has not demonstrated that extra-role behaviors can be distinguished empirically from in-role activities, and (b) has not examined the relative contributions of components ofjob satisfaction a nd organizational commitment to the performance of OCBs. Factor analysis of survey data from 127 employees' supervisors supported the distinction between in-role behaviors and two forms of OCBs. Hierarchical regression analysis found two job cognitions variables (intrinsic and extrinsic) to be differentially related to the two types OCBs, but affective variables and organizational commitment were not significant predictors. The link between the present findings and previous research is discussed, as are directions forfuture research.
There is a lack of consensus on the role of employee well-being in the human resource management–organizational performance relationship. This review examines which of the competing perspectives –‘mutual gains’ or ‘conflicting outcomes’– is more appropriate for describing this role of employee well-being. In addition, this review examines whether study attributes such as the measurement of key variables, the level of analysis and the study design affect a study's outcomes. The review covers 36 quantitative studies published from 1995 to May 2010. Employee well-being is described here using three dimensions: happiness, health and relationship. The main findings are that employee well-being in terms of happiness and relationship is congruent with organizational performance (mutual gains perspective), but that health-related well-being appears to function as a conflicting outcome. Directions for future research and theoretical development are suggested.
The article starts by arguing that seeing the firm as a mere nexus of contracts or as an abstract entity where different stakeholder interests concur is insufficient for a “humanistic business ethos”, which entails a complete view of the human being. It seems more appropriate to understand the firm as a human community, a concept which can be found in several sources, including managerial literature, business ethics scholars, and Catholic Social Teaching. In addition, there are also philosophical grounds that support the idea of business as a human community. Extending this concept, and drawing from some Phenomenological-Personalist philosophers, we propose that the firm should be seen as a particular “community of persons” oriented to providing goods and services efficiently and profitably. Being a “community of persons” emphasizes both individuals and the whole, and makes explicit the uniqueness, conscience, free will, dignity, and openness to human flourishing. This requires appropriate communication about and participation in matters which affect people’s life, and makes it essential to cooperate for the common good of the business firm and the society. KeywordsAristotle–Business as a community–Business enterprise–Business ethos–Catholic Social Teaching–Corporation–Firm–Personalism