Management Prof Dejun Tony Kong Says Customization is Key to Happier, More Productive Workforce
A faculty member from the C. T. Bauer College of Business is examining how businesses can profit from taking a more customized approach to employee relations in new research.
Dejun Tony Kong, an assistant professor in Bauer’s Department of Management, recently published a paper in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes that focuses on the organizational benefits of personalizing work arrangements and compensation to make employees feel valued and competent and thus, go the extra mile on the job.
“Employers are competing for talented employees, and those who increasingly provide non-standard, customized employment arrangements stand to attract, retain and develop valued employees,” Kong said.
Kong and his colleague from the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business label these customized arrangements “i-deals” in their study. These “i-deals” can manifest in various forms, Kong said, including task and financial customizations where employers evaluate individual employees and align work assignments and compensation arrangements to fit their individual needs.
Businesses like Google are leading the charge, providing flexibility to employees that allow them to customize their work schedules outside standard 9-5 hours. This modern approach, Kong said, reflects a workforce that is anything but “one size fits all.”
“Oftentimes, non-individualized practice elicits employee resistance,” he added. “I-deals recognize the diversity among employees and make them feel like they are being treated as humans with feelings and needs.”
And, although this kind of tailoring can be both time- and resource-consuming for organizations, it benefits employers in the long run, making employees feel more satisfied and energized to perform well, help others and take initiative, Kong said.
“One important thing I mention repeatedly in my courses is that humans are different from one another, not only because of our traits and preferences but also the various demands we are trying to meet,” he said. “Being a good manager requires awareness and appreciation of such human diversity.”
In another forthcoming study, Kong and colleagues from the University of New Hampshire, American University and Washington University, examine the potential positive implications of turning another “old” business practice on its head.
The paper, soon to be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, focuses on the negative long-term impact of employers using anger in negotiations with employees.
“Many psychological studies have shown that expressions of anger project power and status, so employers may consider faking anger to project their power and status over employees, hoping they will comply with their demands, ‘correct’ behaviors or exert effort at work,” he said.
But, in this paper, Kong and his colleagues found that faked anger expressions did not bring considerable benefits to employers in the short run when compared to faked happy or neutral expressions, and in the long run, faked anger expressions damage employees’ trust and make employees less motivated to exert effort on behalf of their employers.
“Ironically, we found that faking anger brings costs to employers themselves in the long run when they have repeated interactions with their employees,” he added. “Once trust is damaged, employers have to provide more incentives to repair that trust and motivate their employees.”
Kong concluded, “Simply put, faked anger expressions are financially costly to employers.”
Both recent studies underscore the need for businesses to build a positive and considerate work environment and adjust practices that were once the norm in order to suit a modern workforce and bring value to the organization, he added.
By Jessica Navarro & Amanda Sebesta