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IWP Conference 2016 – submission deadline extended to 7 December 2015

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Attendees now have more time to submit their work to be considered for the Institute of Work Psychology’s International Conference 2016.

The deadline for submission has been extended to Monday 7 December 2015 – and it’s easier than ever to upload your work.

Dr Eva Selenko, Academic Chair of the conference, said: “We’re delighted to keep paper submissions open for the conference in June, which will look at how work and occupational psychology can make a difference, with a particular focus on work, wellbeing and performance. The conference always attracts a lively and varied selection of papers and presentations and we look forward to reviewing them in the new year.”

You can find guidelines, as well as the submission form, here.

The conference has attracted a number of high profile keynote speakers, including Prof Gillian Symon, Prof Rolf Van Dick and Prof Michael Leiter. Find out more here.

Research toolkit will improve working lives on a global scale

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015


A toolkit developed by experts at the Management School will help ensure that organisations operating in informal economies worldwide are upholding labour standards and respecting employee rights.

Created following research by Professor Jason Heyes (pictured above) and Dr Thomas Hastings, both from the WOERRC research centre, the document entitled Extending Labour Inspection to the Informal Economy, was commissioned by the International Labour Organization (ILO) – a specialised UN agency with 186 member countries.

Professor Heyes, who has worked with the ILO since 1998, commented on the project: “The ILO creates, promotes and upholds labour standards in all of its member states. I work with the Governance and Tripartism Department, which is responsible for providing member countries and social partners with advice and support on matters connected to labour administration and labour inspection. Labour inspectorates are government bodies that, through proactive and reactive inspection work, play a vital role in improving employer compliance with employment rights.

“This toolkit is intended to help labour inspectorates to address employment rights issues in the informal economy, thereby increasing the protection provided to vulnerable workers. Most ILO member countries have a labour inspectorate of some kind – they check workplaces and ensure employers are respecting employment rights, including issues such as minimum wage requirements, health and safety concerns, holiday entitlements, freedom to join trade unions and equal opportunities in the workplace.”

The innovative, easy-to-use toolkit has been designed to connect new academic theories with practice, via actions taken by the inspectorates. It will develop the ILO’s capacity to provide support to countries tackling issues related to the informal economy, and will increase the effectiveness and knowledge of inspectors in improving protection for employees.

The toolkit is accompanied by an online message-board, where users can discuss how the toolkit has impacted on their role and feed-back information to the research team at Sheffield. Dr Hastings discussed further testing of the toolkit: “In December, we will present the toolkit and project findings to senior ILO officials in Prague. Then we hope that it will be trialled in South Africa in the New Year, and are exploring further international testing options throughout 2016. It has a global reach, as we have considered cultural differences throughout and the toolkit can easily be adapted to benefit countries all over the world.”

The practical implications of the toolkit are huge, and align with WOERRC’s mission to promote decent work and decent workplaces and the Management School’s commitment to supporting socially responsible work practices across the world.

This research was funded the ILO and an ESRC Impact Accelerator Award.
Click here to download the toolkit.

Linking social science and innovation

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Prof Tim Vorley from the Management School is leading the Innovation Caucus – a new initiative developed and funded by Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council to facilitate closer collaboration between these governmental and academic communities.

Working with Dr Chay Brooks at Sheffield, and a range of academics from other national universities, Prof Vorley will drive the Caucus to promote knowledge exchange between social science researchers and Innovate UK with the aim to support the innovation ecosystem.

Recent activity from the team has provided briefings to the government which should shape decisions made in the up-coming spending review, looking at different ways of funding enterprise and innovation in the UK.

The primary goal of the Innovation Caucus is to demonstrate and promote the value of social science research to Innovation UK. It will enhance its impact and build connections. To find out more, watch their introduction video:

You can connect with the Innovation Caucus on their website or via Twitter.

Comment: Are age and unhappiness related? By Peter Warr

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Hard Evidence: are age and unhappiness related?

Originally published on The Conversation

If it’s no fun getting old, then why do surveys of national well-being show that older people are happier than younger people?

Recent research into happiness, questioning people about their lives as a whole, their jobs, family, social activities and other aspects, has started to reveal some intriguing patterns. New data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that older people tend to be happier rather than more miserable than younger people. But looking at ONS data in more depth reveals an even more interesting pattern

Between the ages of around 20 and the decade between ages 40 to 50, people score progressively lower in measures of happiness on average. But after the middle years of their life, that trend is reversed so that average happiness becomes steadily greater, until it levels off when people are about 70.

This age pattern in the UK parallels that found in other high-income countries, although in other regions the curve is not present in the same way. In high-income countries it is visible in broad assessments of life satisfaction and (with increases in the middle years) through reports about recent worry or stress. It also exists within particular domains of life: job satisfaction and job strain are respectively lowest and highest in the middle years of our lives. And the U-shape is broadly similar for men and women, although the diagram below illustrates that women tend to worry more than men.

Proportion of respondents who reported that they experienced a lot of worry yesterday, based on data in Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index Poll
Steptoe, Deaton and Stone, The Lancet

Surveys of this kind generate averages from different people, and we cannot assume that all people will travel along the average route. Longitudinal research into happiness over a life-span has not yet been possible, and research has not directly indicated that one variable – age – is causally determining the other – happiness.

It does seem likely that age contributes in some way to positive or negative feelings, but the number of years since birth cannot directly cause anything. So we need to look for other, possibly causative, factors which may change with age.

Happiness and the environment

Happiness is of course hugely influenced by external factors, and many investigations have identified several which may contribute to the relationship between happiness and age.

As adults move towards middle age they often take on additional job and family responsibilities and can be increasingly troubled by job insecurity and future career uncertainty, as well as by childcare and commitments to elderly relatives. Conflicts between roles can become unusually great in these years, and income can increasingly fail to meet people’s needs.

Studies have found that people need to have some influence on what happens to them and what they do to avoid distress. They are unhappy being merely a pawn manipulated by other people and events, and they want to be able to take steps to reduce strain and enhance their enjoyment of life.

But the opportunity to influence your surroundings can be substantially impaired in your middle years because of conflicting demands made by other people and the roles you have taken on. You can feel particularly hemmed in by your situation.

This, alongside other aspects of a person’s environment, can depress happiness in middle age. But why does it improve, on average, after then? In part, it is because people move on to different stages of life, when demands on their time and money, experienced uncertainty and other negative features tend to decline. As children grow up, job and other activities become established and care-dependent relatives pass away, people’s happiness on average increases.

Personal influences on happiness

But feelings are not entirely determined by what happens to you – they also depend on how you interpret your world. People respond differently to many aspects of the environment, in part through mental filters such as those illustrated below.

Looking at number three in the table, “upward” comparisons (against alternatives which are seen as better than your own situation) encourage unhappiness. Yet sometimes thinking about ways in which life could have turned out worse (making “downward” comparisons) can lead to more positive feelings.

Often mental comparisons involve other people, such as number one in the table. In our 20s “upward” comparisons with other people are common – keeping up with the Jones’s, or checking body shape against celebrities. But in later years reduced levels of striving can be accompanied by more “downward” comparisons. As people move beyond middle age they increasingly review their life so far, often finding “downward” alternatives which can improve their happiness.

Particularly important for understanding why happiness may increase in the later years are processes of mental adaptation. Biological and psychological studies have shown how responses to a stimulus become diminished after repeated presentation. This means that unpleasant conditions can become viewed less negatively after a period of time.

For stimuli that are new, cognition (what you think) and affect (how you feel) tend to be closely intertwined. But after a period of adaptation they may become uncoupled: you may be just as aware of what’s going on, but your feelings become more neutral. As features and events in your life become increasingly familiar they tend to generate less intense emotions, perhaps contributing to a gradual increase in happiness with increasing years.

Together, the combination of these two sets of factors – changes in what life doles out and shifts in the interpretation of those events – can provide some explanation of the U-shape pattern in happiness across ages.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Comment: The Uber model and associated controversies, by Thomas Hastings

Monday, November 2nd, 2015


The US firm’s successful expansion into many different countries, including the UK, raises important questions about the regulation of technology-dependent businesses. Originally published on SPERI Comment. By Thomas Hastings, Research Associate in the School of Management and SPERI, University of Sheffield.

The controversies surrounding US technology firm Uber continue and have done so for several years now, with the firm’s notoriety coming hot on the heels of near-constant technological and territorial expansions.

The concept at the heart of Uber’s model is simple yet highly effective: a smartphone app which pairs users with a cab at the stroke of a few soft key buttons. The success of this model – and the spread of smartphones more generally across the globe – is testified by the firm’s expansion into nearly 60 countries and more than 300 cities worldwide. Further validation of the Uber model is provided by the growing list of like-minded companies offering similar services (witness the ‘Uberification’ of Messrs Lyft, Haxi and Curb).

Investors are also keen: in July earlier this summer Uber achieved a record valuation for a venture-backed firm of around US$51 billion. Given all this undoubted business success – and the seeming rise of customer demand – why, then, does controversy follow Uber?

Despite the convenience offered by the app-based approach to finding and taking a taxi, there remains a long list of negatives associated with Uber’s business model and its associated consequences. Perhaps most obviously, Uber has drawn criticism as another tax-avoiding US firm, part-owned by Goldman Sachs, skimming money from host economies. Of course, it is easy to agree that not paying tax is wrong, but it’s notoriously harder to challenge, especially as a hard-pressed consumer (Amazon and Starbucks, to name but two apparently tax-avoiding firms, continue to do a roaring trade).

Additionally, there are the equally obvious (through more direct) casualties in the form of cab drivers not operating on behalf of Uber. In the UK this has been epitomised by the problems experienced by London black-cab drivers whose trade is arguably now under threat. Related economic concerns have also centred on the wages Uber drivers themselves earn, which are reported sometimes to infringe current minimum wage rates depending on the business earned.

There are also further concerns over Uber’s pricing system, which may impact negatively on customers in the event that Uber one day earns monopoly status in the taxi business. Uber typically charges a reasonable average rate, but its prices are based on algorithms that frequently ramp costs up at times of high demand. This was seen clearly in the UK during the London Underground tube strikes that took place this summer when fees rose by as much as 300% in the gridlocked capital. Depending on its future success, will Uber retain its focus on cheap transport or seek to maximise profits for its venture-capitalist owners?

These various concerns and a spate of anti-Uber protests, both in the UK (one of the latest took place outside City Hall in London, disrupting Mayor’s Question Time) and across the globe, have raised broader questions as to how technology-dependent businesses such as Uber should be regulated now and in the future.

One of the more pertinent questions to have emerged concerns a basic point of clarification: are Uber’s drivers employees or independent contractors? If they are employees, would Uber agree to pay the different social security contributions and benefits required by employment law in different nation-states? This issue has so far been dodged by the current London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has defended the Uber model as part of a broader ‘light regulation’ approach to big business and a general desire to promote a knowledge- and technology-friendly economy in the nation’s capital (after all, Britain is not France). Whether this stance in the UK remains the same in future depends, in part, on Johnson’s replacement as Mayor after elections on 5 May 2016. Whether the new office-holder prefers a light or hard approach to regulating firms operating in the capital, this question about employment status is likely to remain key.

The case is well evidenced in the United States, where, despite proactive strategies of labour market regulation driven by Professor David Weil at the US Department of Labor (USDOL), Uber has remained a hugely problematic case. The strategy adopted by Weil and USDOL has been to target powerful operators at the top of corporate supply chains, those which typically operate complex franchising and supply chain models (which Weil terms a form of ‘fissuring’).   Yet, despite taking such a proactive stance to labour-market regulation, USDOL has so far failed to conjure up a unified approach to regulating Uber and related firms that seek to utilise ‘surplus labour and idle assets’ (as noted in The Economist). The grey areas created by these spot markets mean that USDOL, and its equivalents in other countries throughout the world, have often struggled to charge Uber on legal grounds, at least with any confidence.

In the United States, the result of this lacuna has been that taxi drivers themselves have sought legal action against the company. This has included the uptake of the website ‘’, which is currently pursuing clarifications on several of the issues raised above. While such action taken at an individual level indicates at least the partial failure of state labour-market regulation, it also suggests that further protest stages and more advanced strategies may eventually emerge as well in the UK.

It is probably too late for Boris Johnson to change his approach. But the next Mayor of London unquestionably faces tough decisions over whether and how the Uber business model can be integrated into the UK political economy in ways which benefit workers as well as venture capitalists.

Note: Thanks to Lindsey King for helpful discussions on this subject at the 12th Conference of the European Sociological Association held in Prague in August 2015.

Interdisciplinary research project will secure the future of water

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

A £3.9million research project, involving six universities and 26 companies from across the UK water sector, will ensure the UK maintains a clean, sustainable water supply for the future – with contributions from two Management School academics.

The project – led by the University of Sheffield – will help the UK water sector tackle key challenges, including population growth, ageing infrastructure and climate change. The project is part of the £21million ‘Engineering Grand Challenges’ funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Named TWENTY 65 (Tailored Water to Ensure sustainability beyond 2065), the project will ensure flexible and adaptive water systems by developing multiple solutions and technologies that can be ‘tailored’ to suit specific circumstances. Dr Kamal Birdi and Dr Tina McGuiness from the Management School are involved in two of the project’s eight key themes – Collaboration for Innovation, and Mobilisation respectively.

Professor Joby Boxall, from the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering and Director of Sheffield Water Centre, who will head the TWENTY 65 project, said: “Water supply is the foundation of society, but a service we are privileged to be able to take for granted in the UK. There is no single solution to the sustainable supply of safe clean water for the future. Our vision is that by 2065, collaborative innovation has generated a water sector that is delivering sustainable tailored water solutions that positively impact on public health, the environment, the economy and society. New approaches and models for collaborative working across the water sector are an essential part of the project. We have support pledged from over 50 partners and will be looking to get more organisations on board. This is a truly unique and exciting opportunity to take a long-term view of how we can develop and implement technology to deliver transformative change.”

The project was developed in response to an EPSRC call in early 2015 which set out four Engineering Grand Challenges, developed through a two day event involving academics from many disciplines, representatives from industry and government.

Startify7 mentors digital start-ups in Brussels

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

L-R: Arindam Ghosh, Thomas van den Boezem and Theodor Beutel from the Breathar team

Following a successful summer of digital academies around Europe, the Startify7 project gathered teams with potentially successful ideas in Brussels at the start of October.

The nine winning teams of young digital entrepreneurs from all three Startify7 academies – held in Sheffield, Trento and Munich/Nuremberg – participated in a three-day acceleration boot camp by fine-tuning their business models, setting up their start-up profiles and finally pitching to high profile investors at the event.

Supported by experts and mentors, the 45 selected participants followed an intensive programme enabling them to improve their business models and sharpen their business plans in order to become venture capitalist (VC) ready. They received advice from a former VC on funding, discussing everything from how to find the right investor to establishing a good term sheet. They also had targeted and professional mentoring to enhance their pitch decks and pitching abilities.

Each Startify7 academy focused on a different entrepreneurial subject. The Sheffield Digital Health Academy identified entrepreneurial solutions to healthcare challenges and supported participants in pursuing their own ideas. The three winning Sheffield teams came up with digital business ideas; one to support healthcare in rural Africa, a second which is an asthma detection aid, and finally a digital microscopic aid that one of the judges commented ‘could revolutionize healthcare’.

Dr Robert Wapshott, one of Startify7’s co-investigators who supported teams at the Brussels event, commented: “Sheffield teams were awarded first, second and fourth positions in Brussels – a fantastic result which reflects very well on the successes of the digital health academy. Breathar, the asthma detection aid, took top spot so the team has been awarded a presentation slot at the European Venture Summit in December.”

Startify7 is a Horizon 2020 project from the European Commission aimed at training young future ICT entrepreneurs in Europe. It organises seven thematically focused summer academies in seven different European cities that follow a lean-training structure and emphasise strong team-building as well as learning-by-doing processes. You can follow the progress of the teams at and @startify7.

‘Financial heroism’ and The Economist

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

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The Economist has been published since 1843. It is one of the international financial journals currently the subject of “Economics in the Public Sphere” (ECONPUBLIC) a research project funded by the EU studying the creation and dissemination of economic knowledge in the USA, UK, France, Brazil and Argentina.

On 24-25 September, University College London, the UK partner in the project, held a workshop looking forward to 175 Years of The Economist, attended by international delegates including four of the journal’s five editors from 1974 to today.

Sheffield University Management School’s Prof Josephine Maltby (pictured above, with wartime adverts relating to the research), with Janette Rutterford from the Open University, presented their paper looking at the role of The Economist 1914-1918. Its 1914 editor, Hirst, who called the war ‘the triumph of… force over reason, of brutality over humanity’ was dismissed in 1916 for being ‘distressingly pacifist’. Hartley Withers, who replaced him, advocated ‘financial heroism’ in the form of patriotic self-denial and support for the war effort in the form of War Loan and War savings. But Withers became less and less enthusiastic about government policy – he began to point out that whilst the workers were funding the war effort, the wealthy (and the companies profiting from armaments and military supplies) were having an easier time, ‘gently handled’ by British taxation policies. His criticisms can be contrasted with the tone taken in Germany, where the wartime press was consistently positive about the success of the national financial effort.

Feedback at the workshop was positive – Prof Maltby and her collaborator are currently building it into a revised paper which will look in more detail at the parallels and differences between British and German finance in wartime.

Click here to read the paper.

From Sheffield to Kobe – Dr Komori kick-starts potential partnership

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

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Dr Naoko Komori, lecturer in accounting at the Management School, has recently returned from Kobe University’s Graduate School of Business Administration where she was invited to deliver a lecture to young Japanese academics.

She presented a talk, titled ‘From Kobe to Sheffield: Developing Academic Careers in the Age of Globalisation’, to a diverse audience including doctoral students, academics from different Japanese universities, and senior professors engaging in an international entrepreneurial project.

On her trip to Kobe University, Dr Komori said: “It was an honour to talk to such a welcoming audience at one of the top three business schools in Japan.”

Her talk included the significance of develop academic career in an international context, drawing on her own working experiences both in Japan and the UK.

She also had a meeting with Professor Katsuhiko Kokubu, Dean of Kobe University’s Graduate School of Business Administration, and Professor Hirofumi Matsuo, the Director of the Strategic Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Alliance Management Initiative (SESAMI) to discuss about the possibility for building up partnership with Sheffield University Management School.

Dr Komori also received glowing feedback following her visit: “People who attended the talk were very complimentary, and it’s inspiring to learn that my work and career are considered pioneering amongst Japanese academics.”

A female associate professor who attended the talk commented: “We respect and are very impressed that Dr Komori started her academic career in the UK when publication in international academic journals was not common.”

Professor Katsuhiko Kokubu said: “We are thankful to Dr Komori for her enthusiasm in bridging the two schools, and for her talk that inspired our students to follow her path.”

For the latest publication on which her talk was based, click here.

We are 40 – our MSc Occupational Psychology celebrates four decades of success

Friday, September 25th, 2015


The Institute of Work Psychology (IWP), part of the Management School, has plenty of reason to celebrate this academic year.

Ahead of the biennial conference from 21-23 June 2016, the MSc Occupational Psychology programme has celebrated its 40th anniversary. Long-standing staff, and the programme’s new cohort, joined programme founder Professor Peter Warr for a short talk about the history of the MSC Occupational Psychology and IWP in general, followed by celebratory cake.

Prof Warr’s talk covered the history and development of the field of occupational psychology in the UK, and expressed to attendees how fundamental the University of Sheffield’s Social and Applied Psychology Unit (later to become IWP) was in establishing national recognition and generations of researchers – many of whom are still at Sheffield.

In June 2016, the fifth IWP International Conference will take place, focusing on cutting-edge research and theoretical contributions from all areas of work and organisational psychology, with particular focus on the areas of work, wellbeing and performance.

Held primarily at the Management School, the team hopes to see similar success to the 2014 event where we welcomed over 200 delegates from across 36 countries.

Read more about the conference here.