2013 Funded Research

The Hidden Costs of Highly Interesting Work

PhD student Jihae Shin, supervised by Adam Grant, examined how high intrinsic motivation can have unintended negative consequences on performance in a multiple-task environment. High intrinsic motivation, while enhancing performance in the high intrinsic motivation task itself, can actually reduce performance in one’s other less enjoyable tasks by lowering the intrinsic appeal of those tasks and disabling focused attention in those tasks. In a series of lab experiments, a two-task design was utilized to test the proposed negative cross-task effects of high intrinsic motivation. The results show that high intrinsic motivation experience in a task indeed leads to lower performance in a subsequent less enjoyable task. This research sheds light on the hidden costs of intrinsic motivation and provides valuable insights on the effectiveness of different ways leaders can assign tasks to employees. For example, it would be a good idea to bundle tasks that have similar levels of intrinsic motivation when assigning multiple tasks to an employee, rather than bundle tasks that have largely varying levels of intrinsic motivation (especially when the main motivational source for the tasks is intrinsic). Understanding the dark side of intrinsic motivation can help leaders maintain and increase the work performance of their employees.

Mandatory Fun: Leadership, Gamification and the Impact of Games at Work

Gamification, or the use of games by leaders to increase employee performance and affect, is a rapidly-growing, but understudied phenomenon. Our recent working paper (Mollick and Rothbard, 2013) is one of the first to study the role of games at work. In this paper we identified that leaders need to gain the consent of their employees in order to get positive affective results from gamification. Here we follow up that work by better understanding the ways in which leaders can increase or decrease consent to games at work. In our prior work, we found that consent was a critical determinant of the success of these gamification efforts by employers, but in that field study, the only predictors of consent that we had were whether people played games outside of work. In this study, we hope to identify the processes that leaders can use to influence consent. In particular, one powerful lever that leaders may have to increase consent is to give employees some agency and choice over what game they are playing. Thus, in this study, we examine whether this choice will affect the people’s degree of consent. This will help leaders understand how to gain the consent of their employees, and shed further light on the role of games at work.

A Physiological Approach to Groups: The Role of Energy Synchrony in Entrepreneurial Teams

In this research, Andrew Knight and Sigal Barsade examine the dynamics of energy synchrony in entrepreneurial teams. Using survey measures and novel technology to unobtrusively assess emotional energy with physiological indicators, we examined the origins of emotional energy in teams during a performance event, the extent to which emotional energy is contagious among team members, as well as towards outsiders, and the link between this energy contagion and perceptions of group effectiveness.

Third Metric Research Council

Recently, the Huffington Post launched a Third Metric initiative to broaden our definitions of success beyond money and power. The focus is on enhancing well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving in organizations. To date, the conversations have been spearheaded by leaders in the world of practice, without much input from research. To bring evidence into the conversation, Arianna Huffington and Adam Grant are organizing a Third Metric Research Council conference. The goal is to create a forum in which academics can share the latest evidence with leaders, and academics in turn benefit from new ideas about questions to explore from leaders.