School of Business • Faculty Research
Research synopsis: Sustaining Organizational Operations During an Outbreak: Problems, Needs, and Opportunities for Information Systems
The COVID-19 pandemic has extensively affected social systems and business interactions and thereby also substantially impacted the economy. Regulatory measures introduced during the pandemic keep many organizations from operating as usual, requiring new practices and policies. As society and businesses have become exceedingly dependent on information systems (IS), it is critical to understand how an outbreak like the COVID-19 pandemic impacts the effective and efficient functioning of IS in sustaining organizational operations.
In a recent paper, Professor Roztocki and his co-authors, Wojciech Strzelczyk (Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland) and H. Roland Weistroffer (Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA), based on a review of the published literature, identify and discuss issues associated with sustaining reliable IS services during or after an outbreak, as well as new or changing needs for IS due to the newly created conditions, and also new opportunities for IS that may arise after the outbreak. This article provides a synopsis of their paper entitled “Sustaining Organizational Operations During an Outbreak: Problems, Needs, and Opportunities for Information Systems”, published as free access in Information Systems Management (https://doi.org/10.1080/10580530.2020.1821133).
To better understand the context of their research, the authors look at the definitions of outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic. Surprisingly, there seems to be some confusion as to the precise definition of a pandemic, how to assess its severity, and how to determine when it starts and when it ends. This ambiguity about when exactly an outbreak of a transmittable disease constitutes a pandemic and the lack of set policies about when authorities may impose special rules and restrictions makes the business environment unpredictable.
The authors discuss various issues related to keeping the existing IS running, as well as meeting shifting demands for specific services and information technologies (IT) caused by new rules and restrictions. Such issues include many people having to work from home, placing new emphasis on online tools and social media, and also increased absenteeism of essential employees, causing difficulties in providing some critical services. The importance of an appropriate IT infrastructure, including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, to allow for quick access to collected data and facilitate knowledge sharing, is emphasized. Enhanced communication and rapid training in new technologies may become particularly important issues during an outbreak.
The authors also point to new opportunities for improving or extending IS in the aftermath of a catastrophic outbreak, as customary business operations are adapted to new circumstances. This may include changes in working environments, increased remote learning and education, new consumer buying patterns, and enhanced e-government services. Also, new IS may be important for better preparing for future catastrophic events. Besides strengthening the information and communication infrastructure, this may include new decision support systems for predicting and managing such events.
Narcyz Roztocki, School of Business, State University of New York, New Paltz, NY, USA, Wojciech Strzelczyk, Department of Accounting, Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland H. Roland Weistroffer, School of Business, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA
School of Business • Faculty Research
Research synopsis: Implications of Emotional Labor on Work Outcomes of Service Workers…
Human service organizations provide essential care to vulnerable populations, helping these individuals to achieve independence, success and life satisfaction. Employees of human service organizations are required to engage emotionally as they care for the people they serve. In fact, the success of the human service organization depends in large measure on the intangible, affective abilities of the employees. In a recent study, Dr. Helena Costakis and her co-authors explored “emotional labor” as an occupational requirement and its connection to job satisfaction, burnout and intentions to quit. This article describes the findings of their study, “Implications of Emotional Labor on Work Outcomes of Service Workers in Not-for-Profit Human Service Organizations” published in Human Service Organizations, Management, Leadership and Governance (https://doi.org/10.1080/23303131.2020.1818157)
Emotional labor describes the work we do when we are required to display emotions consistent with employers’ expectations. Employees might do this by “surface acting”, putting on a smile or a look of concern, without actually feeling that way inside. Or, employees might instead make the effort to genuinely change their feelings to align with their emotional display, through a technique called “deep acting”.
Previous studies have shown that surface acting, faking your emotions, results in worse outcomes for employees, as they experience a sense of dissonance between their real feelings and their actions.
Costakis and her colleagues examined the implications of emotional labor, both surface and deep acting, on job satisfaction, burnout and intentions to quit using a sample of human service agencies’ employees working in direct care, psychosocial service and supervisory roles.
Results show that emotional labor was experienced differently across roles. Supervisors experienced the highest level of emotional labor. These middle managers play a critical role in motivating direct care workers, translating policies and dealing with frequent funding and staffing shortages. It stands to reason that they would need to regulate their emotions as they manage their staff.
Further, they find that deep acting is related to higher levels of job satisfaction and lower levels of burnout than surface acting. Surface acting is also related to higher prevalence of intentions to quit. Costakis and co-authors suggest that the effort to actually realign feelings with outward expressions can pay benefits to workers and may be an important area of employee training and development to support this strategy.
Although it is not typically acknowledged as an occupational requirement, Costakis and collegues’ work shows that emotional labor is connected to important organizational outcomes. Training to bring awareness to emotional labor and healthy emotional regulation strategies can be the beginning of a more rewarding work life for employees, and more positive organizational outcomes.
Learn more about emotional labor by reading this article, or The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, by Arlie Hochschild.
Helena Costakis, DBA, Assistant Professor of Management, School of Business, SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, NY email@example.com; Holly Gruhlke, DBA, Dean of the College of Education, Business, and Applied Sciences, Dickinson State University; Yuhua Su, Ph.D.
School of Business • Faculty Research
Research synopsis: The Family Business Label: A Marketplace Advantage?
Family-owned businesses are a significant part of our economy accounting for as much as 64% of the US gross domestic product and employing roughly 100 million workers. Almost half of entrepreneurs come from a family business background. Family business success is critical to local economies, so it is important to share empirical research that examines the impact of family business strategies.
With this in mind, this article reviews the findings of a 2020 study by Professor Anyuan Shen and Professor Surinder Tikoo entitled, “Family Business Identity, Consumer Product Evaluations, and Firm Size,” published in the Journal of Product & Brand Management (https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/ doi/10.1108/JPBM-10-2018-2057/full/html).
At the heart of this study is the question, “should a family promote its family business identity to differentiate itself from nonfamily competitors”? Answers to this question have been mixed, with studies finding that family businesses are seen as trustworthy, having brand authenticity, being socially responsible, and focusing on quality. But other studies have found that family businesses are seen by some as being less efficient, less professional or even irrational. Consumers may see “family business” as a category and evaluate businesses within that category according to particular pre-conceived ideas. We see many examples of companies featuring their family business status in their branding, relying on positive associations, for example “SC Johnson, a family company” for example. Smaller, regional businesses use a similar strategy, like Adams Fairacre Farms, a family owned and operated business in the Hudson Valley.
Shen and Tikoo first surveyed some consumers to understand consumer perceptions of family business, and to determine whether and how family business identity and the size of the firm affect product evaluations. The survey revealed that consumers tend to perceive family firms as small in size, but the “family business” categorization could sway their perceptions of quality positively or negatively. They then conducted an experiment and found that evaluations of a family business are affected by the size of the business. Negative perceptions of family business are accentuated when consumers know the business is small in size, but those negative perceptions are reduced when they know the business is large. So, for perceptions of family business, bigger is better.
So, what can we learn from Shen and Tikoo’s work? First, family businesses need to understand that accentuating their family business status could have both positive and negative impacts. And second, since most family businesses are small, they may want to be careful when communicating information about their company size. Overall, the label “family business” may not be a strong differentiator in the marketplace.
As always, we have to be judicious in our application of research findings to business practice. We hope you use these findings as a jumping off point to explore your family business strategy, and to learn more about how you can steer your family business toward sustainable success.
Anyuan Shen, Ph.D., Professor of Marketing, School of Business, SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, New York firstname.lastname@example.org
Surinder Tikoo, Ph.D., Professor of Marketing, School of Business, SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, New York email@example.com