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Doctoral Dissertation Research Summaries

Employee Perceptions of Organizational Quality and Learned Helplessness Attributes in Higher Education.
Information Technology Impacts on Organizational Effectiveness in Human Service Organizations.
The Role of Followers in the Continuity of Change in Public Sector Organizations.


Employee Perceptions of Organizational Quality
and Learned Helplessness Attributes in Higher Education.

By: Noel G. Landuyt

Dissertation Committee

Dr. William Lasher
Committee Co-Chair
Vice Provost and Associate Professor, Educational Administration

Dr. Michael Lauderdale
Committee Co-Chair
School of Social Work

Dr. Marilyn Kameen
Associate Professor & Associate Dean, Educational Administration

Dr. Michael Thomas
Associate Dean / Director of Continuing Education
Educational Administration

Dr. Ronald Brown
Professor, Educational Administration

The University of Texas at Austin

    A growing public skepticism of state colleges and universities has brought about demands from critics for heightened quality and effectiveness standards in post-secondary education. To address critics, university administrators must be able to define quality, measure effectiveness, and demonstrate efforts of continuous improvement which are meaningful to constituents. Enhancing organizational quality requires both establishing improvement initiatives, and identifying employee learned helplessness attributes. Learned helplessness attributes are employee attitudes or behaviors which deter a worker from effectively performing job responsibilities. But how can improvements in quality and employee attitudes be measured and, is there a relationship between perceptions of organizational quality and learned helplessness attributes?
    Researchers in organizational development suggest that the internal assessment of employee attitudes provides an excellent vehicle for identifying detrimental employee learned helplessness attributes and for measuring an organization’s progress towards achieving quality (Cameron & Whetton, 1983; Uehling, 1987; and Kraut, 1996). The literature demonstrates that learned helplessness attributes in the work environment deter quality initiatives and decrease worker productivity (Kankus, 1995; McGrath, 1994; Marsick & Watkins, 1993; and Martinko & Gardner, 1982). Through the use of employee surveys, university administrators are able to identify the presence of employee learned helplessness attributes, ascertain the relationship between learned helplessness and quality, design appropriate interventions to lessen or eliminate negative attributes, and potentially enhance the overall quality of the organization.

Research Questions:
Q1: Do perceptions of organizational quality and learned helplessness attributes vary among employees with different demographic and job characteristics?
Q2: Are employee perceptions of learned helplessness attributes related to their perceptions of organizational quality?

   A total of 2055 employees from a large public-research university will be surveyed. The survey participants will be selected from four different units representing various aspects of higher education: a tradition academic unit, an organized research unit, an academic support unit, and a human resource administrative unit. The survey instrument to be used will be the Survey of Organizational Excellence (SOE). The SOE is an employee attitudinal (pencil and paper) survey which measures twenty work-related environmental constructs categorized in five dimensional areas.
    The initial step in the analysis of the SOE data will be to determine composite quality scores for each participant. Through converting composite scores to Z-scores, survey participants will be grouped into three categories (high, average, or low) denoting their perception of organizational quality. Those with positive Z-scores will be grouped as high perceivers of organizational quality. Average perceivers of organizational quality will have scores near zero, and low perceivers of organizational quality will have negative Z-scores. To test whether perceptions of quality vary among employees possessing different demographic or job characteristics, chi-square and cross tabulations will be utilized. To determine the relationship between perceptions of organizational quality and learned helplessness attributes, multivariate analysis of variance and multivariate and univariate F-ratios will be used.

Significance of Study:
   The study will be significant in four ways. First, the study will provide a framework and an understanding of the relationship between employee perceptions of organizational quality and learned helplessness attributes. This understanding is an essential component when designing appropriate interventions to confront learned helplessness behaviors. Second, the study will expand the literature in the areas of learned helplessness and quality in higher education. Third, the study will establish a set of comparative benchmarks to gauge the progress of quality initiatives in higher education. Fourth, the study will chronicle the process of implementing an employee attitudinal survey at a major research institution.

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Information Technology Impacts on
Organizational Effectiveness in Human Service Organizations

By: Chih-Chung D. Huang

Dissertation Committee

Dr. James Schwab
Committee Chair
School of Social Work

Dr. David Gibson
Research Fellow

Dr. David Austin
School of Social Work

Dr. Michael Lauderdale
School of Social Work

Dr. Calvin Streeter
Associate Professor
School of Social Work

The University of Texas at Austin

   Information technology is revolutionizing the workplace environment. Information systems are introduced into organizations presumably as a means to improve performance, whether this is measured in terms of effectiveness or efficiency. One of the great promises attached to computer technology has been its capacity to produce improvements in efficiency and effectiveness for individuals and organizations.

   Today the federal government, all 50 states, and virtually all city and county governments utilize computers. This extensive use of computers is the result of the promised payoffs from the information technology. Because the operations of the public organizations have a significant impact on the well-being of the general public, this study examined the relationship between information technology (IT) and organizational effectiveness based on public sector employees' perceptions of their organizations. This study extends research focus of IT in organizations from the use of IT to organizational effectiveness.

   This study proposes an integrated model incorporating the Sociotechnical systems (STS) approach and the Internal Process perspective based on Competing Values theory, and then tests hypotheses derived from the Internal Process perspective, the STS approach, and the integrated model to facilitate the understanding of the dynamics of IT impacts on organizations. The purpose of this proposal is to examine the interrelationships of how IT impact and interact with organizational effectiveness. Of particular interests are the definition of the organizational effectiveness constructs, the difference on the organization before and after IT implementation, and the different impacts on human service organization in State Government compared to other departments.

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The Role of Followers in the Continuity of
Change in Public Sector Organizations.

By: Jeannie Weaver

The University of Texas at Austin

Statement of the Problem
   There have been numerous studies describing the changes expected to occur in the workplace of the 21st century (Wooldridge & Wester, 1991). In addition to changes affecting all organizations, there are some trends specifically impacting the public sector, including the decentralization of federal government and an anticipated growth in state and local services (Naisbitt, 1990) and a demand for higher accountability and better service at lower costs (von Dran, Prybutok & Kappelman, 1996). Despite the commonly-held opinion that bureaucracies are stable or even rigid, there is evidence that change in public organizations occurs with considerable frequency (Conant, 1989). And even though the role of the leader is widely-recognized as imperative to implementing change, there is beginning to be a recognition of the importance of other environmental factors in the change process (Conant, 1989). The tenure of public sector CEOs, typically 2 to 4 years, is shorter than that of private sector CEOs. This limited tenure impacts a leader's ability to change an organization in any permanent way. With leadership changing frequently, it is important to discover other avenues of achieving and maintaining change efforts being called for in public sector organizations. The purpose of this study is to identify the role that followers play in the continuity of change in public sector organizations.

Research Question
1. What is the role of followers (staff) in institutionalizing change efforts in public sector organizations?

   Both qualitative and quantitative data will be gathered and studied for this research. For quantitative purposes, to show that agency change has occurred and in what areas, data will be collected using the UT School of Social Work’s Survey of Organizational Excellence. This survey is an employee opinion survey organized into 20 core constructs including quality, change orientation, organizational consistency, strategic orientation and goals. The survey has been administered to state employees since 1979 and can show, according to employees’ perceptions, how an agency has changed over time. For qualitative purposes, to understand what role staff has played in the continuity of change efforts, focus groups will be formed using a stratified, random sampling strategy. The purpose of the focus groups is to verify the Survey of Organizational Excellence findings and identify specific staff activities and competencies that support the continuity of change.

Significance of the Study
   This study will increase knowledge concerning the process of implementing and institutionalizing organizational change in public sector organizations. The identification of the role of followers, or staff, as primary change agents shifts the focus from the more volatile role of the leader to the more stable role of the career public employee. This topic is directly related to current interest in the viability and accountability of public sector organizations. This study will identify competencies needed for change implementation and management and subsequently, inform the training and development activities that can promote and support such efforts.

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