Supervisors Helping Veterans Transition to Civilian Jobs

By: Keaton Fletcher

Transitioning from active military duty to civilian jobs can be particularly challenging, but relatively little empirical work has been done to explore this period. A recent paper published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Hammer, Wan, Brockwood, Bodner & Mohr, 2019) examines how supportive behaviors from a supervisor can help in this transition, particularly with regard to the work-life challenges that arise. Specifically, the authors explored emotional support (i.e., helping the individual manage their emotions), instrumental support (i.e., providing tangible resources to help with issues), role modeling (i.e., demonstrating that the leader values a work-non-work balance in their own life), and various aspects of performance support at work (e.g., feedback, resource provision, health protection). The authors provided online training about veteran-supportive supervision to 928 supervisors across 16 organizations, 65 of whom supervised at least one veteran. The supervisors also had to track their behavior in the workplace to help transfer the training to the job.

Surprisingly, however, the supervisor training did not result in a general improved veteran health and work outcomes. The training did, however, result in better outcomes for veterans whose supervisors were already supportive, suggesting that leaders who were open to veteran-supportive behaviors actually learned from the training and applied the knowledge and skills gained. Further, in environments where coworker support for veterans is low, the training had limited impact, but if coworker support was already high, then the supervisor training helped improve veteran outcomes.

This study tackles a major issue in the modern workforce, transitioning veterans into civilian jobs. By examining a supervisor training, the authors were able to move beyond simply describing this challenge, and test ways of how to improve it. Although the training was not effective across the board, it did show promise in environments that were already open to veteran support. This highlights that for many issues, training, alone, cannot solve the problem. Training should be coupled with policy, practice, and procedural changes along with shifts in culture and climate in order to magnify the training’s effects.

WSC Network Research Highlight: Encouraging Whistleblowing

By: Elizabeth Moraff

Work Science Center Network Member, Darell Burell, and a team of researchers recently published a paper investigating factors impacting whistleblowing in police departments. The research team identified a series of allegations of police misconduct and the nationwide increase in such complaints. The article notes that police face particular stressors in their role, and that indications of misconduct erode public trust, impeding police ability to perform their function. Therefore, researchers postulated that whistleblowing and other behaviors to reinforce ethical climate are tantamount to police effectiveness and safety (Burell, Bhargava, Kemp, & Vermuganti, 2019).

The researchers highlight promotion of an ethical climate (i.e., workers all feel as though employees and the employer value ethical behavior) as a crucial factor that encourages whistleblowing. On an individual level, they identified emotional acumen (i.e., the ability to navigate complex emotional situatuations) as playing a major role. Results from a series of focus groups consisting of a combination of current and former African-American police officers focused on ethical experiences on the force and provide nine main propositions for encouraging ethical climates in police departments. The suggestions included organization-level changes as well as leadership interventions. For instance, focus groups stressed the need for each department to have a clear, defined, and communicated set of ethical expectations. They noted that such expectations should include what would be considered proper and improper behavior, and that ethical behavior should be required for raises and promotions. Qualitative data revealed a desire for leaders to publicly acknowledge ethical behavior and to weave conversations about ethics into everyday operations, as well as leading by example.

Some of the suggested interventions (e.g., a biannual polygraph test for all employees of the police department), however, could raise their own ethical issues. As public visibility of organizational behavior increases, it is becoming more important for all organizations, not just police departments, to create ethical climates. This study provides a potential starting point for the conversation of how best to go about shifting organizational culture to promote ethical behavior, and creating an environment in which whistle blowing or reporting of unethical behavior is acceptable and encouraged.

Fighting for Your Team

By: Yendi Neil

Teams in organizations often provide more advantages than individuals working independently when overcoming a new challenge, but their success relies on the coordination and interpersonal relations of the team. A universal negative influence on teamwork is relationship conflict (i.e., interpersonal tensions based not on disagreements about the task, but personal animosity). Thiel and colleagues (2017) conducted two to examine how the timing of relationship conflict in teams affects team dynamics. In study 1, entrepreneurial student teams ran a business during the semester. There were 35 undergraduate student project teams at two large U.S. universities. In study 2, 128 students at a western U.S. university were placed in 36 teams to work on a computerized decision-making simulation in a laboratory setting. For relationship conflict manipulation, researchers allowed participants to provide feedback about their team members but in return were given scripted, fake feedback to make it seem as if their team was high in relationship conflict or not.

Overall, Thiel and colleagues (2017) determined that teams with high levels of initial relationship conflict have worse interpersonal processes and team coordination. This can be overcome, however, through cognitive reappraisal (i.e., thinking about conflict differently). Thiel and colleagues (2017) suggested that through a temporal lens, teams can overcome relationship conflict via cognitive reappraisal and have the potential to surpass teams that do not initially have relationship conflict. Likewise, the studies suggest that adversity and challenges early in the teamwork process can be beneficial long-term as these teams address problems and practice the use of reappraisal techniques. With relationship conflict, the why is important to identify because it allows teams to overcome perceptions of threat and reengage in critical team processes. Overcoming relationship conflicts and threats within a team is a long-term process as it falls on the individuals’ efforts to understand others’ perspectives.

Race Matters in Pay Negotiations

By: Keaton Fletcher

Within the United States, there exists a racial pay gap, such that a college-educated Black man can expect to earn about 80% of what a college-educated White man will earn, on average (Pew Research Center, 2016). A recent paper published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Hernandez, Avery, Volpone, & Kaiser, 2019) explored potential psychological explanations for why this might be the case. In the first of three studies, the authors presented participants with one of two identical resumes, along with an image of the supposed applicant (either a Black or White man). Participants were somewhat less likely to expect the Black man to negotiate for a higher salary if they reported higher levels of bias against Black individuals. In a second experiment, the authors had participants role play as job seekers or recruiters, negotiating the salary, vacation time, job location, and other aspects of the job. Black participants we seen as negotiating slightly more than White participants if their partner reported high levels of racial bias. Black, but not White, participants who were seen as negotiating more were penalized and received lower salaries. In their final study, participants engaged in an online negotiation with a computer that was represented by either a Black or White male avatar. In general, if a participant felt like their partner negotiated more, they were less likely to acquiesce to the request and provided lower salaries to the computer. This was not the case if the computer was represented by a White avatar, but was if the avatar was Black. More research is definitely needed on the nature of this phenomenon (i.e., is it more prevalent in certain fields) and ways to combat it (i.e., certain tactics Black individuals can use to negotiate without being penalized, steps companies can take to ensure fair and non-biased negotiation practices). Regardless, this is certainly an issue worth further discussing.

WSC Network Research Highlight: The Social Price of Smartphones

By: Keaton Fletcher

Smartphones have become pervasive. Work Science Center Network Member, Kostadin Kushlev, recently published a review on the social costs of smartphone usage. Smartphones are designed to capture our attention, and increased use has been shown to increase perceived distraction and negative mood while decreasing feelings of social connectedness, meaning, and enjoyment. Beyond the negative effects of being distracted by a smartphone during social situations, smartphones have begun to eliminate the need for many common social interactions, altogether. The authors offer the Starbucks Mobile app as an example of how smartphones have eliminated trivial, but beneficial, social interactions. Individuals can place their coffee orders using their smartphones, and pick them up at Starbucks, all without having to speak to another human. Many of these effects, though significant and meaningful, are small, however, suggesting that the benefits of smartphones may outweigh the minimal costs. On the other hand, the authors argue that the frequency with which we use our phones magnifies the impact of these minimal effects, potentially resulting in cumulative negative effects over longer periods of time.

With regard to the workplace, the increased prevalence and use of smartphones comes with a range of potential benefits and risks. Workers can have quick, and pretty consistent access to the internet and all of the information that comes with it. Organizations can develop and deploy smartphone applications to facilitate their workers’ tasks (e.g., Square App to allow quick payment acceptance). On the other hand, smartphones may increase social loafing, known in this case as cyberloafing, in which workers spend their worktime engaging with their phones for leisure rather than for work. Phones may also increase the experience of telepressure—feelings of having to work or “be on” when the employee is home or away from

work and during non-work hours. Smartphones are unlikely to go away, so the question is how do we move forward, navigating how to maximize their benefits while minimizing their costs, particularly to our psychological wellbeing?

Motivated to Procrastinate

By: Yendi Neil

From time to time, everyone engages in procrastination, or delaying completing necessary tasks. In the short-term, procrastination can have benefits in protecting one’s self-esteem but can negatively impact one’s performance in the long run. In general, people who have higher fears of failure are more likely to procrastinate, but sometimes this fear of failure is linked to stereotyped beliefs about one’s group (i.e., race, gender). This stereotype threat has been shown to impede performance on standardized tests and limits the achievement goals that individuals set for themselves.

Deemer and colleagues (2013) surveyed 223 undergraduate students (54.5% female; 45.5% male) who were enrolled in what the authors defined as STEM (biology, chemistry, and physics) and non-STEM (psychology) courses at a midsized university in the southeastern United States. Overall, women in STEM reported feeling greater stereotype threat concerns in STEM courses compared to men. Looking into academic procrastination, women and men reported similar levels, but stereotype threat was only related to procrastination for women, not men. Both women and men who were high in mastery orientation (e.g., motivated by success and learning) were less likely to engage in procrastination. Contrary to previous findings, however, Deemer and colleagues found that for women (but not men) in STEM classes, high levels of stereotype threat only increased procrastination if the woman was low in avoidance orientation (e.g., not motivated by fear of failure). The authors suggested that women may adopt avoidance goals to prevent the stereotyped belief from coming true.

In the larger picture, however, avoidance goals have been associated with a range of negative outcomes. Although they may serve a protective function regarding procrastination, one would be hard pressed to recommend adopting avoidance goals (i.e., I don’t want to fail) over mastery goals (i.e., I want to learn and perform well). For students, and particularly women in STEM courses, this means maintaining a focus on the experience of learning or the benefits of high performance, rather than the potential costs of failure, is recommended. Outside of the classroom, the same pattern should hold up, that a mastery orientation may be beneficial overall (lower procrastination), even in the face of stereotype threat.

Deemer, E. D., Smith, J. L., Carroll, A. N., & Carpenter, J. P. (2013). Academic procrastination in STEM: Interactive effects of stereotype threat and achievement goals, The Career Development Quarterly, 62, 143-155.

WSC Network Research Highlight: Heavy Drinking with Clients

By: Keaton Fletcher

Heavy drinking (consumption of 5 or more standard alcoholic beverages in one sitting) with clients is a common occurrence, but can be problematic, both for employees as well as their employer. A study recently published in Human Relations by a team of researchers including Work Science Center Network Member, Mo Wang, and led by Songqi Liu, examined what leads to new employees engaging in heavy drinking with clients (HDC) and what the potential work-related outcomes might be. In a sample of 57 supervisors and 330 employees of the client-facing departments of two Chinese manufacturers, the authors found that newcomers were more likely to increase their HDC if their veteran peers reported engaging in higher levels of HDC. Veteran peer HDC influenced the newcomer’s drinking habits less, however, when veteran peers reported that they tried to help newcomers understand their new workplace. Similarly, veteran peer HDC mattered less if the newcomer had previous experience in the field. Interestingly, as employees increased their HDC with clients over the period of three months, their supervisors reported higher levels of job performance after 6 months, but the newcomer reported more work-family conflict and were more likely to leave the organization after nine months.

This study suggests that without formal guidance from peers, newcomers, particularly those with limited experience in the field, are susceptible to adopting or increasing HDC behaviors which can damage their own health and their organization’s goals in the long run. It’s worth noting that, at least in this sample, supervisor guidance was not a significant buffer to the effects of peer HDC on newcomer HDC. The authors suggest this may be because in the short-term, HDC is actually beneficial for newcomer performance, so supervisors may face a double-bind: promote healthy behavior that benefits long-run performance or promote HDC that can improve performance in the short-term. Therefore, organizations should take steps to implement formal peer guidance programs if HDC is a potential risk for employees, to help newcomers learn how to protect their own health and well-being while still achieving organizational goals in the short term.

WSC Network Research Highlight: Job Insecurity and Satisfaction

By: Keaton Fletcher

In the modern workforce, many workers worry about the security of their employment, and this may have negative outcomes for them and their organizations. A team of researchers led by Work Science Center Network Member, Mindy Shoss, published the results of three studies on this topic in a recent issue of the Journal of Business and Psychology. Results of the first study, using data from the International Social Survey Program’s Work Orientations 2005 dataset, suggest that job insecurity is associated with higher intentions to quit and higher levels of exhaustion. Job satisfaction, on the other hand, is associated with lower levels to quit and lower levels of exhaustion, and may help to reduce the negative impacts of job insecurity on these two variables. In the second study, the authors surveyed 300 workers in the United States and found that job insecurity was linked to higher levels of stress and intentions to quit, and lower levels of affective commitment (i.e., feeling an emotional connection to one’s job/organization). Again, work satisfaction showed an opposite pattern of relationships, and although it mitigates the effects of job insecurity, the negative effects of job insecurity are stronger for those who are more satisfied with their jobs. In a final study, the authors surveyed 335 U.S. workers at two different time points. People who were more satisfied with their job at Time 1 were less likely to engage in a job search at Time 2 and more emotionally exhausted. Job insecurity at Time 1 only led to job search at Time 2 for those who had higher levels of job satisfaction. Overall, this paper suggests that even for, and perhaps especially for, people who like their jobs, the threat of losing one’s job has negative consequences ranging from an intention to quit to increased stress

Conversation Content and Women in STEM

By: Jacqueline Jung

It is no secret that women are underrepresented in academia, especially in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. When scanning the names of a faculty roster for STEM departments, it is not uncommon to find just one or two female faculty members. For women, this imbalance negatively impacts their day-to-day work experience. Previous literature has established that women in STEM tend to feel dissatisfied with their jobs (Robertson & Bean, 1998; Settles, Cortina, Malley, & Stewart, 2006; Settles, Cortina, Stewart, & Malley, 2007; Singh, Mishra, & Kim, 1998). A study by Holleran et al. (2011) sought to supplement STEM women’s self-reported feelings of disengagement with behavioral data, by recording workplace conversations amongst STEM faculty. Conversations between forty-five male and female colleagues at a major research university in the U.S. were recorded for three consecutive work days, and the audio files were later coded for either research or socializing conversations. Those discussions were then related to measures of job disengagement.

Research productivity is considered by many to be the most important factor in faculty performance for academia. To thrive in one’s role as a researcher, faculty members need a supportive network. Therefore, research conversations with colleagues (e.g. “How is that grant coming?”) can provide that support through validation and encouragement. Social conversations, while not directly work-related, also play an important role in the workplace. Social conversations have been linked to greater job satisfaction (Winstead, Derlega, Montgomery, & Pilkington, 1995) and form the basis of networking.

The researchers found that both men and women were less likely to discuss research in conversations with women colleagues. Although men reported higher levels of work engagement as they had more research conversations, women reported being less engaged the more their conversations were about research. The authors suggest this may be because STEM-associated interactions with male colleagues cue social identity threat. As for social conversations, women report more engagement as they socialized with male colleagues. Interestingly, men exhibited no relationship between social conversations engagement.

These findings point to the unique challenges women face in STEM disciplines, where even their daily interactions relate to feelings of work engagement. To create inclusive workplace environments in STEM, faculty should encourage conversations amongst colleagues that value and support women’s contributions to the organization and field.


Holleran, S. E., Whitehead, J., Schmader, T., & Mehl, Matthias R. (2011). Talking shop and shooting the breeze: A study of workplace conversation and job disengagement among STEM faculty. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(1), 65-71.

Lyness, K. S., & Thompson, D. E. (2000). Climbing the corporate ladder: Do female and male executives follow the same route? Journal of Applied Psychology, 85, 86-101.

Robertson, L. J., & Bean, J. P. (1998). Women faculty in family and consumer sciences: Influences on job satisfaction. Family and Consumer Science Research Journal, 27, 167-193.

Settles, I. H., Cortina, L. M., Malley, J., & Stewart, A. J. (2006). The climate for women in academic science: The good, the bad, and the changeable. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 47-58.

Singh, S. N., Mishra, S., & Kim, D. (1998). Research-related burnout among faculty in higher-education. Psychological Reports, 83, 463-473.

WSC Network Research Highlight: Disclosing Disability Status

By: Keaton Fletcher

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity such as hearing, seeing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, learning, or working. Most employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for their employees with disabilities, meaning that changes to the job or environment (that don’t cause undue hardship to the organization) should be made to allow the employee to complete the job tasks (e.g., provide/modify equipment, modify the job design or schedule, alter training documents/procedures/exams/resources). To get access to these resources, though, it is necessary for an employee to disclose their disability status, and many disabilities are not readily visible, placing the burden of disclosure on the individual with the disability. WSC Network Member Lisa Finkelstein, and WSC Advisory Council Member, Deborah Rupp, along with a team of researchers led by Alecia Santuzzi, published a study that examined why people with concealable disabilities choose to disclose their disability status.

Disabilities that are concealable can be particularly strenuous when deciding whether to disclose given the concern that others may question the truthfulness of the disclosure. Typically, if people can conceal their identities, they often do. Results of 28 in-depth interviews with individuals with disabilities suggest four factors that may lead to whether individuals disclosed their disability status. First, the salience of their disability (i.e., how aware the individual is of their disability) was often reported as related to disclosure. People who thought frequently about their disability, or were in moments/environments where the disability is particularly salient, were more likely to disclose their disability. Second, the strain associated with the disability (i.e., negative experiences of the disability itself) was often reported as a reason to disclose. Third, individuals who expected ineffective social support (i.e., people wanting to help, but not actually helping) reported being less likely to disclose their disability. Fourth, people who were concerned about a potential stigma (e.g., invalidation, pity, negative judgment) associated with their disability were also less likely to disclose their disability.

The results of the interview also highlighted the role of humility and discretion in the choice to disclose one’s disability. Many individuals felt others may have it worse than them, or that they did not really need to disclose. Some chose to adapt their environments, avoid relevant situations, or control their symptoms themselves rather than disclose to their organizations. Those that disclosed, primarily disclosed to coworkers and supervisors, rather than Human Resources. When people did disclose, they tended to choose language that was either ambiguous or formal/medical, and used it as a way to explain their own behavior or encourage reciprocal disclosure (i.e., disclosing so the other individual feels safe to disclose as well). Some reported feeling socially responsible to disclose, potentially viewing themselves as representation for other individuals with similar disabilities, as a way to break stigma.

Overall, the authors argue that choosing to disclose one’s concealable disorder can be a particularly stressful event, with many indicators pushing people to choose not to disclose, particularly not to HR. The authors suggest that research and policies should be designed to better understand/encourage how to make disclosing easier, to ensure people receive the accommodations they need.