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Symbolic Immortality at Work: Understanding the Antecedents of Generative Job Performance. B. Lindsay Brown & Lillian Eby. Research Question: How does mortality awareness translate into meaningfulness in the workplace?. Age development & nurturing younger generations (Erikson, 1950 )

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Symbolic Immortality at Work: Understanding the Antecedents of Generative Job Performance


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symbolic immortality at work understanding the antecedents of generative job performance

Symbolic Immortality at Work: Understanding the Antecedents of Generative Job Performance

B. Lindsay Brown & Lillian Eby

research question how does mortality awareness translate into meaningfulness in the workplace
Research Question: How does mortality awareness translate into meaningfulness in the workplace?
what is generativity

Age development & nurturing younger generations (Erikson, 1950)

  • Motivation, behaviors, & attitudes directed towards helping or positively impacting others, organizations, community, or society (McAdams, St. Aubin, & Kim, 1992)
  • Associated w/ meaningfulness in life
What is generativity?
symbolic immortality meaningfulness

Existential dilemma

  • Transcend death by impacting the world and making contribution to the future that will benefit others (Kotre, 1984; Wade-Benzoni, 2006; Wade-Benzoni, et al., 2009)
  • Generativity connects the individual with something greater than the self and is associated with mortality awareness (Becker, 1973; Kotre, 1984)
  • Generativity allows one to “outlive the self” (Kotre, 1984)
Symbolic Immortality & Meaningfulness
current literature on workplace mortality awareness

Contradictory findings

    • Beneficial & detrimental
  • Job tension (Chisolm, Kasl, & Eskenazi,1983)
  • Pro-social behaviors (Elder & Clipp, 1988)
  • Task significance & variety
    • Emotional exhaustion, organizational commitment & pay satisfaction (Jermier, Gaines, & McIntosh, 1989)
Current Literature on Workplace Mortality Awareness
importance of understanding mortality awareness at work

Multiple work contexts

    • Overt - Combat military, hospice workers
    • Covert - Substance abuse counselors, ER clerical staff, 911 operators
  • Personal & vicarious effects of

death at work

  • Aging population
  • Trainability
Importance of Understanding Mortality Awareness at Work
current study

Formally assess mortality awareness and relationships to supervisor-rated performance outcomes

  • Address when and for whom mortality awareness increases workplace generativity
  • Grant & Wade-Benzoni’s (2009) contingency model of death awareness at work
Current Study
contingency model of death awareness at work grant wade benzoni 2009

Work orientation

Job design

Death reflection

Generative work behaviors

Contingency Model of Death Awareness at Work (Grant & Wade-Benzoni, 2009)
research hypotheses

Calling work orientation

Mentoring received

H3

H2

Generative

work behaviors:

Task performance

OCB-I

Death reflection

H1

Research Hypotheses
method

Sample

  • 348 substance abuse counselors and their clinical supervisors
    • 17 organizations across U.S.

Procedure

  • Paper-and-pencil surveys part of larger N.I.D.A. study
    • $50/$75 compensation

Measures

  • Previously validated (α= .88 - .97)
  • Supervisor-rated job performance
Method
discussion

All three factors must be present to positively impact generative task performance

  • Null findings
  • Practical implications
    • Self-selection
    • Job previews
  • Theoretical implications
    • Specifying behaviors and relationships
  • Future research
    • Mediating factors
    • Other forms of generative work outcomes
Discussion
slide16
“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.”-Albert Pike