22 SES 03 D, Policy and Governance in HE
Creating a positive working environment is key to the future success of higher education across Europe. Self-direction and autonomy are positive influences in the work context (Adelmann, 1987). Those who feel supported at work will enjoy their experience, like their jobs and have high levels of job satisfaction (Taylor, 2008). The capacity to form supportive relationships at work is one of the main features of productive work environments (Gummer, 2001). The period of continued austerity in the wider world can undermine work identity in negative ways (Armansin & Thompson, 2013). Higher education across Europe has undergone wide-ranging reforms and has been identified as a central element of economic and social policy. In order to comprehend the various aspects of the working environment, it is important to explore the ways in which individuals view themselves in their work context. This includes the variety of activities, tasks, roles, groups and memberships that individuals employ to compose a work-related self (Dutton et al., 2010).
Positive organisational scholarship marks a shift from describing the negative aspects of organisational conditions to exploring the contexts that enable workers to develop positive identities (Armansin & Thompson, 2013). Studies exploring job satisfaction in the workplace have tended to focus on the negative aspects of the work context. Less attention has been paid to the positive identities that work has for people (Armansin & Thompson, 2013). This approach to organisational theory examines the organisational aspects that contribute to individual potential and positive approaches to human and organizational welfare (Armansin & Thompson, 2013). It is generally agreed in the literature that employees in organisations want to possess positive identities. A positive work identity is key to adjusting to organisations where such identity is valued both privately and publicly (Pratt, 2000). It is also an important factor in organisational change (Rao, Monin & Durand, 2003). When people possess positive work identities this results in favourable outcomes for organisations (Caza & Bagozzi, 2009). A key element to building positive work identity in the work place is having access to social resources. This is understood as the number, variety and quality of relationships that an individual experiences at work (Dutton et al., 2010). The creation of social resources is essential for greater job involvement (Chiaburu & Harrison, 2008); and improved performance in inter-dependent work contexts (Gittell, 2003). Having a variety of social resources impacts on individuals’ networks for career progression (Burt, 1992). In contexts where employees are generous, they earn more trust and respect from their colleagues (Flynn, 2003). Trust and respect are significant characteristics of positive relationships at work (Dutton et al., 2010). It has been found that those who engage in self-affirming practices are more open to seeing viewpoints that are different to their own, resulting in a willingness to compromise. The affirmation of an employee’s identity by others results in higher levels of connectedness on the part of the employee to the organisation (Swann et al., 2000). These aspects are central to understanding the development of academic identity in higher education institutions.
This European study conducted across nine countries adopted a comparative research approach, which sought the views of academics who were members of trade unions about their working environments. They identified a number of key issues that impacted upon their working environment. These included the impact of decreased funding; the difficulties experienced in forming supportive relationships; negative experiences of academic life in the initial years; a deterioration in working conditions; the challenges posed by the Bologna Process; the changing demands of the teaching and research roles; their lack of influence and their non-involvement in decision-making processes within their institutions.
Adelmann, P. K. (1987). Occupational complexity, control and personal income: their relation to psychological well-being in men and women. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72, 529-37. Armansin, M. & Thompson, Robert M. (2013). Towards positive organization austerity: combining austerity measures with Positive Organisational Scholarship (POS). In 17th International Research Society for Public Management (IRSPM XVII) : Public Sector Responds to Global Crisis, 10 – 12 April 2013, Prague, Czech Republic. Burt, R. S. (1992). Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition. Harvard University Press. Caza, B. B. & Bagozzi, R. (2009). Testing a professional identity based theory of resilience at work. Working paper, University of Illinois, Champaign. Chiaburu, D. S. & Harrison, D. A. (2008). Do peers make the place? Conceptual synthesis and meta-analysis of coworker effects on perceptions, attitudes, OCBs, and performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93, 1082–1104. Dutton, L., Roberts, L.M. & Bednar, J. (2010). Pathways for positive identity construction at work: four types of positive identity and the building of social resources. Academy of Management Review, 35, (2), 265–293. Flynn, F. (2003). How much should I give and how often? The effects of generosity and frequency of favor exchange on social status and productivity. Academy of Management Journal, 46, 539–553. Gittell, J. H. (2003). The Southwest Airlines way: Using the power of relationships to achieve high performance. New York: McGraw-Hill. Gummer, B. (2001). Peer relationships in organizations: Mutual assistance, employees with disabilities, and distributive justice. Administration in Social Work, 25, 85–103. Pratt, M. G. (2000). The good, the bad, and the ambivalent: Managing identification among Amway distributors. Administrative Science Quarterly, 45, 456–493. Rao, H., Monin, P. & Durand, R. (2003). Institutional change in Toque Ville: Nouvelle cuisine as an identity movement in French gastronomy. American Journal of Sociology, 108, 795–843. Swann, W. B., Milton, L. P. & Polzer, J. T. (2000). Should we create a niche or fall in line? Identity negotiation and small group effectiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 238–250. Taylor, S. (2008). Fostering a supportive environment at work. The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 11, 265–283.
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