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.

Gender Differences in University Administrators’ Perspectives on Policies for Women in STEM

By: Yendi Neil

University administrators manage the policies and activities of the university, guiding the organization in strategic directions. For example, administrators can influence the population of the university faculty by allocating resources and power to affect representation.

Williams and colleagues (2017) surveyed 1,529 administrators across 96 public and private universities in the United States. Participants rated 44 strategies (i.e. policies and recommendations) designed to facilitate women engagement and success in faculty STEM positions on their feasibility and potential to improve women’s representation in STEM fields. Strategies focused on six main areas: addressing gender biases during hiring, addressing gender biases after hiring, attaining tenure and maintaining productivity, balancing work and family, providing leadership and training opportunities, and supporting greater flexibility for federal grants and funding. The strategies rated as most effective by both genders were: “providing on-campus childcare centers” and “offering equal opportunities for women and men to lead committees and research groups.” The first strategy shows the struggles that both women and men face having young children not yet in school. The second strategy shows the push for developing programs to mentor and help female faculty by reducing isolation between the genders (Williams et al., 2017).

Overall, female administrators rated the strategies as more effective for attracting and retaining women than did their male counterparts. Looking at the specific strategies, six of the 44 strategies showed gender differences in how male and female administrators viewed their effectiveness. Three of these strategies related to the flexibility of grants (e.g., grant supplementing family leave hires, grants supporting dependent care travel, grant-based supplements to offset productivity loss during family-related absences), two focused on the tenure process (rewarding service and teaching more heavily, supporting a shared tenure line for partners), and the last focused on increasing institutionally supported research on gender. For all of these strategies, female administrators rated them as more effective than their male counterparts. Regarding the feasibility of strategies, the story is less clear. There were no overall gender differences in ratings of feasibility, and only three strategies showed gender differences in their ratings. Women were more likely to rate stopping fathers’ tenure clocks and supporting partner-shared tenure lines as more feasible, whereas men were more likely to rate having women chair search committees as more feasible.

These results may suggest that having women representation at the administration level may bring a unique perspective on how to attract and retain women to STEM faculty positions.

Where Are All the Women Scientists?

By: Jacqueline Jung

For decades, historians have delved into historical records to dismantle the stereotype that only men have made significant contributions and advancements to science, technology, engineering and technology. Margaret Rossiter’s Women Scientists in America, published in 1982, was a landmark biography that focused on women who contributed to the growth of American science. While these facts have been published, they have not made their way into the classroom or mainstream culture. There have been numerous female astronomers, chemists, biologists, psychologists and researchers who were indispensable in their contributions toward STEM, but are their names known?

To study the perceptions of women’s contributions to STEM, Reeder et al. (2016) conducted an undergraduate study in three western United States universities. Both STEM and non-STEM students were asked to “Please write down as many famous or historically important scientists, inventors or engineers that you can think of, in one minute.” Afterwards, they were given the same question but with one that specified important women scientists, inventors or engineers. For the first question, 95% of the figures listed were male. Even when students were specifically asked to name women with the second question, the 1,147 students named on average less than one woman (M=.86). And while STEM majors were able to name significantly more male figures than non-STEM majors, there was no difference in major when it came to naming female figures. Women historical figures in science were also often described rather than named. For example, instead of writing “Rosalind Franklin,” students wrote “the X-ray lady” or “the girl who helped Watson and Crick.” This description process also occurred for Goodall, Curie, and Earhart, but rarely did this occurrence happen for male figures.

These results show that, regardless of major, educated students are missing knowledge of women’s contributions and advancements in the history of STEM. This isn’t just an undergraduate problem; other studies have shown that the lack of knowledge about women in STEM permeates all levels of education (Rahm & Charbonneau, 1997; Hoh, 2007). Historical women in STEM have been left out of the standard narratives in science, mathematics, engineering, medicine and the social sciences, both in deed and in name.

So how can we change the stereotype that STEM is for white males only? The first step is for educators to educate themselves on women’s contributions to the sciences and discuss with their class. Discussing the contributions and advancements women made to STEM will not only expose students to a more complete depiction of history, but also may help with STEM retention. The lack of role models has been, and continues to be, a barrier for women and minorities as they enter STEM fields, but knowledge and awareness of other female scientists’ lives and processes of discovery can increase empowerment and engagement.

We owe historical women figures in STEM so much, yet the public is ignorant to their names, much less their contributions. There are more than male stories that are ready for telling.


Hoh, Y. K. (2007). Outstanding women in mechanical engineering. International Journal of Mechanical Engineering Education, 35(3), 198–206.

Rahm, J. & Charbonneau, P. (1997). Probing stereotypes through students’ drawings of scientists. American Journal of Physics, 65(8), 774–778.

Reeder, H., Pyke, P. A., Lubamersky, L., Chyung, S. Y., & Schrader, C. B. (2012, 6, 10). Perceptions about women in science and engineering history. Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning Faculty Publications and Presentations. Paper presented at American Society for Engineering Education: Proceedings of ASEE Annual Conference, San Antonio, Texas.

Network Research Highlight: Respect Leads to Voice

By: Elizabeth Moraff

Ever been encouraged to speak up? Work Science Center Network Member Sharon K. Parker recently published a study with Thomas Ng and Dennis Hsu in the Journal of Management that investigates some factors that influence why an employee may speak up or not. Parker and her collaborators looked at two factors that could influence voice, or change-oriented communication intended to advance an organization’s interests. In particular, they studied the impact of received respect as a social factor that could encourage employees to heighten their voice at work.

The researchers proposed that employees who received more respect at work would be more likely to use their voice. They noted that respect indicates social status and competence, and would likely encourage employees to speak up more by increasing their positive affect and belief that they could influence and implement change. To test this idea, they manipulated participants’ sense of how much their coworkers respected them and measured their subsequent voice behaviors. Confirming their supposition, employees were much more likely to engage in voice when they perceived their peers respected them. Upon further analysis, Parker and her colleagues discovered that positive affect, feeling good and competent, did mediate the relationship. Contrary to expectations, though, they did not find any evidence that an employees control beliefs, their idea that they could create change and influence the organization, exerted any effect on voice.

After establishing the connection between respect and voice, the researchers scrutinized a potential predictor of respect — perspective taking. Colloquially, perspective-taking could be called empathy, as it refers to the ability to take on and imagine the perspective of others. It constitutes a significant relational skill. The researchers suggested that people who engaged in more perspective-taking would be more likely to receive respect from their employees, which could in turn augment their voice. They ran a second experiment in which they manipulated perspective-taking, and indeed found that people who employed more perspective-taking received more respect than those who used the tactic less. Parker’s work ends with some tangible suggestions for managers looking to increase voice in their companies. First, the paper suggests that companies should cultivate an atmosphere of respect to lay the groundwork for voice. Create an environment in which employees feel that others respect them, and they will be more likely to speak up. Secondly, the researchers advise coaxing more perspective-taking behaviors at work. These perspective-taking skills will boost coworkers’ mutual respect, which can in turn activate positive affect, voice, and all of the innovation that voice can provide.