Striving Like A Pro: Evidence of Differences in Effort to Improve by Professionalism After Industry Accidents



Research on reactions to large-scale industry accidents has found that such costly events can inspire fellow industry participants to expend new efforts to improve performance, but also that these organizations soon abandon those efforts, regressing back to old patterns. This research, at the organizational level, obscures the fact that individuals inside of organizations might approach these opportunities to improve differently. We argue that an important difference between individual workers that can affect efforts to improve performance after an industry accident is their level of professionalism, or the extent to which one is trained and/or identifies with one’s profession. This distinction allows us to explain why those more threatened by an accident caused by negligence (those with less professionalism) react more strongly to the accident, driving the observed organizational patterns. What is more, we argue that while the patterns look like effort at improvement, they are not sustained because these less-professional workers tend to engage in more superficial behaviors induced by institutional pressures. When institutional pressures wane, the positive change in behavior drops, explaining the forgetting patterns found at the organizational level. Through analyses of behavior in the context of a large-scale accident in the maritime industry, we find support for this argument. By extending theory to the individual level we can explain the microfoundations of organizational level patterns in more detail and highlight how level of professionalism shapes each individual’s types of efforts to improve their own performance in reaction to organizational failure, ultimately shaping organizational performance.

This seminar will take place in T10-67. Alternatively, please follow the information below to join the seminar online.

Meeting ID: 995 6102 4783

Passcode: 640601