University of Maine News
Maine EPSCoR, an Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research funded by the National Science Foundation, has published its most recent newsletter. The Maine EPSCoR spring 2014 newsletter is available online.
Have you ever emailed a carefully crafted message over the weekend to your boss touting your accomplishments on a project?
Niclas Erhardt, assistant professor of human resources in the Maine Business School at the University of Maine, researched this employee self-promotion tactic, as well as ensuing responses from managers.
Whereas office impressions used to be predominantly determined by face-to-face interaction, Erhardt says they’re increasingly shaped by communication technologies — including email. He studied the interplay of impression management, communication technologies and opposing tensions between managers and their subordinates.
Bosses and subordinates can have competing goals, he says, which results in office friction in knowledge-based work, such as that done in consumer health, insurance and engineering firms. This results in managers and employees engaging in an interactive tug of war to manage impressions.
Erhardt says the push-and-pull tactics can help maintain balance in workplaces and allow for opposing goals to be met, which supports the idea that tension can be productive for a business. Managers, he says, should recognize that competing and legitimate goals exist and find creative ways for themselves and subordinates to achieve their differing goals, as well as the common ones.
Erhardt found three related sets of communication tactics and countertactics that signify fundamental tensions in manager-subordinate relationships: dodging response versus exerting social pressure; multicommunicating versus singular communicating; and promoting oneself versus giving credit to all.
In the promoting oneself versus giving credit to all dialectic, Erhardt found that subordinates used email to enhance their personal reputation and visibility. They might send emails late on a weeknight, on a weekend or when on vacation to demonstrate their dedication and commitment and gain “face time” with the boss.
Bosses also used email as a countertactic. Some responded to an employee’s self-promoting email by forwarding the original email from the employee after they had added their kudos for the contributions of other project members (giving credit to all).
Erhardt says managers use a tactic — a dodging response — to save time and face. Bosses inundated with multiple employee emails asking questions and requesting input may not immediately respond to the emails or selectively choose certain questions to answer. This tactic allows them to avoid being accountable or pinned down on a particular stance or topic while still maintaining a solid working relationship with subordinates.
As a countertactic, Erhardt says subordinates apply added pressure to get a timely response. They might go directly to the manager’s office to get an answer face-to-face, or send follow-up emails, texts and phone calls to push for a reply. They also might recruit co-workers to exert similar pressure on the boss.
Another tension in organizations arises when managers want employees’ undivided attention at meetings but employees wish to multitask. Erhardt refers to the ensuing impression management tactic as “multicommunicating versus singular communicating.”
Due to pressures on subordinates’ time, Erhardt says some attend meetings by teleconference and simultaneously use smartphones and laptops to complete other work-related tasks and personal chores. All the while they still strive to create the impression of being an involved team player to stay in good standing with the manager.
Managers who prefer to have employees’ undivided attention during meetings may respond by encouraging subordinates to attend meetings in person and by noting their frustration when communication devices interfere with and interrupt the productivity of the meeting.
Jennifer Gibbs, associate professor in the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University, joined Erhardt for the study.
Erhardt and Gibbs conducted the study with six consumer health, insurance and engineering firms in the United States and Sweden. The authors of the study encouraged additional research be done to better understand how impression management tactics operate with a broader array of media, including Facebook and LinkedIn.
The study, “The Dialectical Nature of Impression Management in Knowledge Work: Unpacking Tensions in Media Use Between Managers and Subordinates” is in the May 2014 issue of Management Communication Quarterly.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
WVII (Channel 7) reported members of the Senior Skull Honor Society at the University of Maine are hosting a 1K race — the Groove Mile — during Maine Day. More than 500 participants are expected to run, jog or dance the 0.6 mile course to support the Ronald McDonald House. “The Ronald McDonald has been a sponsor of ours for a while,” said UMaine student and Senior Skull member Dylan Bousquet-Smith. “We’ve worked philanthropically with them but we’ve never had an event, so we really wanted to branch out this year and grow and allow the Ronald McDonald House to get the benefits of the University of Maine.”
University of Maine’s Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Robert Dana was interviewed by the Portland Press Herald for the article, “Sex assaults at Maine colleges come out of hiding.” UMaine, with more than 10,000 students, reported five sexual assaults in 2012, down from nine in 2010, according to the article. Dana said UMaine’s numbers will go up as a result of increased education and reporting efforts that began in March 2013 when President Paul Ferguson ordered a full review of sexual assault policies and named Elizabeth Lavoie as the Title IX and sexual assault and violence prevention coordinator. “We launched a full-scale comprehensive program. We feel like we’re in the right place,” Dana said.
AltEnergyMag and North American Windpower previewed the sixth annual Maine Wind Blade Challenge to be held May 2 at the University of Maine. Developed by Maine Composites Alliance, in partnership with the Maine Ocean & Wind Industry Initiative, the contest matches high school teams with Maine-based advanced composites manufacturers to research, design and manufacture model wind blades. In addition to giving presentations, 38 high school teams from all around Maine will compete to generate the most energy over two minutes. The Maine Wind Blade Challenge was designed to inspire student exploration of alternative energy and advanced materials by participating in a hands-on STEM application.
WABI (Channel 5) spoke with Susan Lizzotte, head swim coach at the University of Maine, about former UMaine student and swimmer Erin Woolley in advance of the second annual Erin’s Run 5K Road Race held in her honor. “Erin was certainly one of a kind; always dancing and always happy,” said Lizzotte of Woolley, who passed away from cancer in 2010. Proceeds from the May 3 race in Bangor will support the UMaine swimming and diving team and Spruce Run, an organization dedicated to serving those affected by domestic abuse.
Fred Knight, former director and dean of the University of Maine School of Forest Resources, passed away Feb. 25, 2014 at 88 years old. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, May 2, at All Souls Congregational Church, 10 Broadway in Bangor. The memorial service announcement and Knight’s obituary are online.