People, Organisations and Work

People Organisations and Work (POW) brings together academics who undertake critical interdisciplinary research that contributes to the promotion of positive and sustainable organisational environments and fulfilling and rewarding work. 

While POW initially emerged from the HR and Leadership group in the Plymouth Graduate School of Management, it extends to colleagues working in a range of disciplines within the Faculty of Business. We are therefore keen to attract members, and form collaborations with interested academics, from different disciplines as well as those based in other institutions. Please contact Richard Saundry if you are interested in working with POW. 

People, Organisations and Work Research Group Lead – Professor Richard Saundry

POW is led by Richard Saundry, Professor of Human Resources Management and Employment Relations at Plymouth. Richard's main research interests revolve around the management of workplace conflict and he has conducted a number of research projects in this area funded by Acas and the Government. He was recently the principal organiser of an ESRC Seminar Series – Reframing Resolution – Managing Conflict and Resolving Individual Employment Disputes in the Contemporary Workplace. He has also conducted research into trade union revitalisation and union learning receiving funding from the ESRC, TUC and UNISON.

Contact Richard and find out more about POW.

Good Work Is… Academics Take the Workplace into the Classroom

The growth in the use of zero-hours contracts, the rise of the ‘gig economy’ and the rapid develop of automation has raised questions over the future of work at the centre of the policy agenda. The government’s recent review into ‘Modern Employment’ chaired by Matthew Taylor made a series of recommendations designed to underpin ‘good work’ in the face of these challenges. But what does the next generation of workers want to get out of work and employment when they enter the labour market? This is one of the questions that researchers from the People Organisations and Work (POW) research group (part of iSPER) will be seeking to answer when they visit schools across the South West to discuss the hopes and fears of students.

Read the full article here 

Resolving Conflict in the NHS – Plymouth Researchers Working with NHS Employer

Plymouth academics Professors Richard Saundry and Duncan Lewis addressed senior NHS managers on the need to combat bullying harassment and develop more strategic approaches to managing workplace conflict, in an event in Birmingham on September 12th. The workshop, ‘Fight, flight or resolution? Managing conflict in the NHS’, organised jointly by NHS Employers and Plymouth’s Institute for Social, Policy and Enterprise Research (iSPER), attracted over 80 delegates from around the UK.

Read the article here

Professor Duncan Lewis

Plymouth Professor Addresses Scandinavian Audience about Bullying and Harassment at Work

Plymouth’s Professor Duncan Lewis was recently invited to speak at an event in Copenhagen, Denmark run by NIVA and the Universities of Copenhagen and Aalborg. Niva is a specialist education provider of occupational health funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers. 

Duncan spoke to a range of researchers from Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Belgium and Luxembourg on the challenges of researching and understanding bullying and harassment in relation to discrimination at work. He said “This was a terrific opportunity to engage with researchers who have a common interest in occupational health across a range of European countries. I was delighted to be invited to speak by colleagues from the University of Copenhagen and Aalborg University”. For more information about NIVA:

Featured news - Fathers face negative bias over quest for work-life balance study suggests

Fathers face ‘forfeits’ when applying for part-time employment and in the workplace, with questions over their commitment and suspicion regarding their quest for a work-life balance, a new study suggests. The research, which was led by Jasmine Kelland, Lecturer in Human Resource Management and a member of iSPER's POW research group, found that whereas mothers face 'penalties' in the workplace and fathers reap 'benefits' in relation to full-time employment, the reverse also exists when it comes to part-time work. 

Read the full news story.

Featured article - Will the Taylor Review deliver 'Good Work'?

While extolling the need for improved conditions and greater voice, Professor Richard Saundry argues it fails to deliver the radical change needed.

Read the full article

POW seminars – New Perspectives on Work and Employment

For further information about any of these seminars please email Richard Saundry

23 February - Jasmine Kelland - “Where is the mother?” An exploration of ‘Fatherhood Forfeits’ and ‘Motherhood Penalties’ -Cookworthy Building 401

9 March - Dr Andreas Walmsley -  A Reappraisal of the Employment Relationship in Hospitality: Reactions to the Introduction of a National Living Wage - Cookworthy Building 404

30 March - Dr Mike Sheaff  - Contract failure and secrecy: a case study from the NHS - Portland Square Building C1 

27 April - Margaret Prior - Which way now? The direction(s) of research in HRM and ER? - Cookworthy Building 410

11 May - Professor Donna Ladkin - Averting Disaster: The ‘How?’ and ‘What?’ of Leading High Risk Organisations - Portland Square Building C2 

8 June - Alison Miles - Hidden in Plain Sight- Leadership characteristics of the Chairman CEO and CFO as an influencing factor in banking failure and scandal - Cookworthy Building 235

POW on Twitter

POW is working to develop research in the following key areas:

  • Equity, inclusivity and fairness
  • Leadership, ethics and sustainability
  • Resolution, representation and voice
  • Critical practice and people management.

Through its inter-disciplinary approach POW will seek to:

  • Generate high quality, critical and applied research in the fields of HRM, leadership, employment relations, employment law, organisational theory and work psychology.
  • Disseminate its work to a wide audience through the publication of research findings, workshops and seminars and through this seek to influence policy and practice.
  • Co-ordinate the development and submission of bids for external funding.
  • Build and develop links with practitioners and policy makers.
  • Provide a supportive and inclusive environment for the development of research careers.

Group research projects

Below is a selection of some of the projects currently being undertaken, or recently completed, by members of the POW research group:

The Role of Embodied Practices in the Realisation of Agency in Social Movement Organising

Plymouth University Principal Investigator: Professor Donna Ladkin 

This study introduces a cartographic approach to tracking embodied relations which impact on the creation of radical agency within social movement organising. In response to the need for greater attention to the micro-political processes through which agency is realised, this study highlights the heretofore ignored role of bodies and embodied interactions in realising social change. Using the social movement Black Lives Matter as a case study, the study seeks to create both theoretical insight and a new analytic method for attending to the often fleeting dynamics core to social change activism.

Irish Workplace Behaviour Survey

Plymouth University Principal Investigator: Professor Duncan Lewis

This study aims to establish the prevalence of negative acts in the workplace in a nationally representative sample of Irish employees, replicating the British Workplace Behaviour Survey (BWBS) conducted in 2008 where Professor Lewis was a co-investigator. In addition to the survey, three case studies of large employers will also be developed and four practitioner workshops will be held. Aside from Professor Lewis, the research team also involves academics from NUI Galway and the University of Limerick. The study is funded by the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

Find out more information about the project

Organisational Silence: A 10 Nations Comparison Study on Employee Silence and Potential Antecedents and Consequences

Plymouth University Principal Investigator: Dr Lucas Monzani

In a cross-cultural study, the research team examined employees’ tendency to remain silent along with selected potential antecedents and consequences (e.g., health). With respect to the antecedents, they were particularly interested in the relationship between differentially motivated silence (i.e., silence based on fear, resignation, prosocial and opportunistic motives) and the cultural dimensions defined in the Globe study (House et al., 1999).

The available scales and findings regarding the relevance of specific cultural dimensions will be of use for internationally engaged companies who want to know about the prevalence of the silence motives either in their diverse workforce or in the countries they do business in. The research team validated measures for differentially motivated types of employee silence in ten samples. This is the first study to examine which distal and proximal cultural dimensions relate to which forms of silence.

Managing Conflict in the Contemporary British Workplace

Plymouth University Principal Investigator: Professor Richard Saundry

Professor Saundry led a consortia of academics from the Universities of Warwick, Leeds and Central Lancashire on a project funded by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). Based on focus groups and interviews involving over 150 managers, HR practitioners, union representatives and employment lawyers, the research argues that tensions over the management of performance have become the main focus of workplace conflict. In addition, while conflict can have damaging effects on employee well-being and productivity, the research questioned whether front-line managers have the skills and confidence to resolve difficult HR issues effectively and at an early stage. The research pointed to the need to adopt more strategic and systematic approaches to the management of workplace conflict.

Download a copy of the final research report.

The Role of Leadership Networks in Keeping High Risk Organisations Safe

Plymouth University Principal Investigator: Professor Donna Ladkin

This study examines the ‘in between’ leadership practices which are vital in keeping high risk organisations safe. Based on research at the Easington and Zeebrugge based Gas Receiving Terminals of a Norwegian gas distribution company, the study uses social network analysis to explore the interplay of formal and informal leadership practices and the organizational structures that support them in promoting organisation-wide safe operations. Initial findings indicate the key role played by leadership which is distributed throughout the organisation.

Workplace Bullying and Mistreatment Partnership for Prevention

Plymouth University Research Team: Professor Duncan Lewis and Dr Lucas Monzani

This research project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC - 2015-2018), examines workplace bullying and mistreatment using international and integrative perspectives for prevention. The team brings together interdisciplinary researchers across Canada, the UK, Germany and Denmark, as well as Canadian decision-makers and policy analysts, to generate large datasets. 

Find out more information about the project.

Identity leadership Going Global: Results from an International Validation Study of the Identity Leadership Inventory

Plymouth University Principal Investigator: Dr Lucas Monzani

The social identity approach to leadership has had increasing impact in recent years. Many studies have highlighted the effectiveness of prototypical leaders — for example, they are typically trusted more, secure more follower support and have greater leeway to make decisions. More recently, To identity prototypicality (or “being one of us“), three further dimensions of identity leadership have been identified (Haslam, Reicher & Platow, 2011): identity advancement (“doing it for us“), identity entrepreneurship (“crafting a sense of us“) and identity impressarioship (“making us matter“). All four dimensions have recently been operationalised with the Identity Leadership Inventory (ILI; Steffens et al., 2014). 

This ongoing international project applies and validates the ILI scales by gathering data from all six continents and more than 20 countries with over 3800 participants. The ILI has been translated (using back-translation methods) and used in online surveys along with other measures of leadership (LMX, transformational and authentic leadership) and employee attitudes and (self-reported) behaviors (e.g., satisfaction, identification, citizenship behaviors) in 15 different languages. 

Preliminary findings of ILI-Global confirm the validity of the ILI across cultures. The four dimensions of the ILI are distinguishable and that they contribute to the prediction of work-related attitudes and behaviors above and beyond other influential leadership constructs. 

Leader Character and Well-being: Virtuous Leadership as a Route to Employee (and Leader) Eudaemonic Well-being

Plymouth University Principal Investigator: Dr Lucas Monzani

Character, competence, and commitment are the pillars that support virtuous leadership. Although much is known about the nature of competence and commitment, and how they relate to positive outcomes for leaders, followers, and their organizations, less is known about the nature and consequences of leaders’ character and virtues. Thus, exploring leader character opens new research directions for those interested in a leadership that goes “beyond expectations”. Building on the foundational work of Peterson and Seligman, theory on leader character has steadily accumulated to the point that several integrative frameworks now exist. Hence, the time is right to explore how leader character relates to positive outcomes such as subjective well-being. To do so, we combined confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) with a ground-breaking analytical technique based on network theory. 

Preliminary findings of 197 leader-follower dyads (a) provide further evidence of the construct validity Leader character model proposed by Seijts, Crossan, Reno and Gandz (2015), and (b) present initial evidence on how leader character relates to positive outcomes, such as eudaemonic well-being

HR Structures and the Management of Workplace Conflict

Plymouth University Research Team: Professor Richard Saundry and Drs Virginia Fisher and Sue Kinsey

This project has been commissioned by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) to explore the impact of different structures of HRM on the ways in which conflict is managed and resolved. In particular it seeks to identify whether certain approaches to HRM either facilitate or hinder early and informal approaches of conflict resolution. The results of the project will inform the development of Acas guidance and advice over these matters as well as providing key insights to participating organisations and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD).