Notes from virtual roundtable with Kim Elsbach, 6/27/12

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June Langhoff
June Langhoff's picture
Joined: Feb 03, 2006

On Wednesday, June 27, NewWOW members and guests attended a virtual roundtable featuring Kim Elsbach, Professor in the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis. She spoke about “Passive” Face Time and Territorial Imperatives.”

Much of her research focuses on workplace behavior, and two of her recent studies may have implications for organizations implementing distributed work.

One study focuses on what Elsbach calls “passive” face time, by which she means time spent observing others in the workplace without any face-to-face interaction. The research shows that people form strong opinions about people they observe, without even being aware they are forming them. Many of these opinions are positive: “He’s a hard worker,” “she’s a real team player,” etc. Because distributed members are the team are not seen as often, co-workers may draw unconscious negative conclusions about them based on their not being around much. This can particularly have negative consequences if managers use trait-based evaluation systems. Even 360-degree evaluations may be skewed by these unconscious observations.

Another study has implications for companies implementing “non-territorial” officing (i.e. “hotelling,” hot-offices, etc.). She notes that some employees are very upset by the loss of an office they can call their own. In some cases this is seen as a loss of status, but Elsbach says much of this behavior stems from a need to use physical symbols as a way of proclaiming a distinct workplace identify. The removal of a fixed space is a threat to this workplace identify, so people fight back by trying to stake out a physical space, even when it violates office policy.

If you missed the roundtable, you can watch it via our WebEx recording. Here’s the link

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