Explaining the Surprisingly Weak Relationship Between Organizational Constraints and Performance
Organizational constraints are contextual factors that interfere with task performance. Study 1 was a meta-analysis of constraints-performance studies that found a smaller than expected relationship. Studies 2 and 3 were designed to understand why constraints fail to relate as expected to performance. Study 2 found support for the rater-bias hypothesis that raters take constraints into consideration when rating performance. Study 3 showed that constraints were both a challenge and a hindrance, and the two components tend to cancel one another. Study 4 showed an indirect effect that constraints have on performance via decreased motivation and increased workload, and tested it using qualitative and quantitative data from 660 engineers. The qualitative results showed that the most commonly experienced constraints were from coworkers and organizational rules and procedures. Constraints identified as having a greater detrimental effect on motivation are from the supervisor, and organizational rules and procedures. Three important conclusions that arise are (1) the constraints–performance relationship observed in field studies using raters is an underestimate of the true relationship, (2) constraints are not simply a hindrance, but can have a challenging effect that enhances motivation, as well, and (3) the relationship between constraints and performance is indirect via motivation and workload.
Shani Pindek is an assistant professor in the Department of Human Services at the University of Haifa. She conducts research on workplace stress and methodology within the field of occupational health psychology.