Rethinking the Workplace
Prof Deirdre O’Shea
Prof Deirdre O’Shea is Associate Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology at the University of Limerick, a Fellow of the Psychological Society of Ireland and Chartered Work and Organizational Psychologist (I/O Psychologist). Her research focuses on work motivation and occupational health psychology.
Her expertise is in the design and evaluation of psychological resource-based interventions, but her work also covers self-regulation, emotions and emotion regulation, and proactive behaviour, amongst others.
She has published her research in top academic journals and is a regular contributor to national and international media outlets. In 2018, she was featured in the RTE documentary ‘Stressed’.
Find the show on your favourite player
02:23 The role and work of an Organisational Psychologist
- It’s applying principles of psychology to the workplace
- In Europe it’s referred to as Organisational, in the UK it’s Occupational and the US it’s Industrial
- It’s about trying to make the workplace a better place for employees
04:16 Deidre’s focus on the individual level
- Deidre still takes into account the wider context that the individual is working in
05:27 The different types of motivation in the workplace
- It’s about the direction, intensity and the persistence of behaviour
- It is more accurate to focus on the type of motivation that we experience, as opposed to to if someone is motivated or not
- Self-determination theory suggests that people are motivated to grow and change by three innate and universal psychological needs: competence, connection and autonomy
08:24 Are some people more intrinsically motivated than others?
- It’s about the person interacting with their environment
- We can experience different types of motivation when doing the same task, e.g. feeling pressured or enjoying something intrinsicly
10:42 The problems with personality tests
- There is no doubt that we all have different personality traits
- We tend to overuse our traits in the workplace environment
- Personality tests can only predict general behaviour in the workplace
15:15 Identifying motivational triggers
- Self-awareness is important to know what you enjoy doing
- We can learn different ways to motivate ourselves
- It’s important to identify the barrier to our motivation for a task
18:07 Where does the drive for achievement come from?
- Goal-setting theory is an employee-engagement tactic that involves setting specific and measurable goals to improve productivity
- We have direction if we have a specific goal
20:41 The role of incentives in goal achievement
- Incentives aren’t particularly effective for work that demands proactivity
- People work for different reasons, and that can be for money, making a difference or having a ‘calling’ for a profession, etc.
24:50 How long can motivation last?
- Identify first what the person is striving to achieve
- Have a self-regulation strategy that identifies what are you going to do in order to achieve that goal
- Set realistic goals so you don’t fall into the trap of doing too much too soon and end up quitting
- Have strategies for managing potential obstacles
- Once you start to enjoy doing your habitual tasks, you are more likely to sustain it for the long term
29:10 Is the self-determination theory more prevalent in the post-covid workplace?
- Covid has lead to an awareness that people can work remotely
- Working from home makes it harder for people to separate their work from their home lives
32:36 The relationship between goals and performance
- Action Regulation Theory (ART) is a psychological theory that looks at how individuals achieve their goals through processes of action and regulation
- From considering your external environment, what are you able to realistically achieve?
- Once we make a decision with what we want to achieve, we pass the point of no return
- Negative emotions towards feeling like you are not on track with your goals is a powerful signal that can actually help you re-focus or focus on a different goal that you need to achieve instead
37:46 How to ensure that your emotions are not sabotaging your motivation
- Within positive and negative emotions, there are both active (e.g. excitement or anger) and passive (e.g. contentment or lethargy)
- Active emotions are what drive us to take action
- Motivation is, at its core, an individual concept, but leaders can design the right environments for individuals to work in
43:02 Is autonomy at work more important than ever?
- The Fordist philosophy of production lines took away the opportunity for autonomy
- There has always been a need for humans to be autonomous, but in the 21st century we have been able to see even more the opportunities that come with being more autonomous
- People have realised that there are other ways of having autonomy, e.g. people don’t have “job for life” anymore
46:00 The role of positive reinforcement
- Reinforcement theory has merit, but it only motivates the behaviour that is being rewarded
47:04 How leaders can improve their transformational leadership skills
- It’s very important to build your relationships and trusts individually and collectively
49:29 Hiring for cultural fit
- There is a fit for the job (i.e. skills and competence) as well as the overall company culture
- In the job interview, ask situational questions to see if the interviewee is aligned with the company’s values
54:17 How our lives outside of work impacts our wellbeing at work
- An Organisational Psychologist can help teach someone how to cope with a stressful situation at work
- Mindfulness is powerful, but if a job is demanding long hours or extra work, then it’s not sustainable
58:56 What are the common signs of burnout?
- It is something that happens over time through chronic stress
- The main characteristics are emotional exhaustion, a cynical attitude and not feeling effective with your job
- During Covid, a lot of people had to learn new ways of doing things in their home environment
01:02:50 How being in nature helps people on a psychological level
- Nature helps us to feel calmer without taking much energy
01:08:00 Being proactive versus reactive
- Proactive behaviour is self-directed
- If the task at hand brings a lot of pressure and demands proactive behaviour, it causes a lot of strain on the employee
- For organizations, it’s important to apply proactive behaviour for more autonomous tasks
01:12:22 Finding purpose in the work that you do
- Identify the values that are important to you versus what you spend your time doing
- Regardless of what career or job you have, acknowledge that there will always be parts that you enjoy and don’t enjoy