Department of Psychology
The University of Houston
126 Heyne Building
Houston, TX 77204-5502
Robert Eisenberger, Ph.D.
Director of Perceived Organizational Support
Industrial Organizational Psychology
Ph.D., University of California, Riverside
My goal is to teach students to develop a broad understanding of the subject matter and to develop their ability to think critically and creatively about the field of study.
Social Psychologists have found that a majority of students go through their undergraduate courses in psychology retaining many of the basic misconceptions that they started out with. This may be due in part to the fact that so much knowledge has been accumulated in psychology that it is easy to wind up memorizing a multitude of facts in classes to prepare for tests while failing to understand important principles that organize those facts. Therefore, students need to understand the basic principles that that make sense of the diversity of information.
Knowledge in psychology as all science is cumulative with many diversions from simple progress. Understanding the controversies in psychology helps students to better understand how science develops. This Understanding is also promoted by learning to think critically and creatively about the topic. The best way for students to do this is to become actively engaged in their course, thinking about what makes sense and what does not, what they agree with and what they do not, and how they might develop alternative interpretations for the phenomena being discussed.
I very much enjoy research with undergraduate and graduate students as part of the educational process. Students are my partners in research and with them I have co-authored many of my conference papers and publications. Whenever discussing research readings, I generally ask all of us to focus on three issues for discussion: What do I not understand? What do I disagree with? What ideas do the readings suggest for testing prior theories or for new theoretical development? I especially enjoy working with students who are just learning a field. They have enough knowledge to begin to ask interesting questions but not so much knowledge that they begin to unconsciously accept the presumptions in the area without question. Some of my best collaborative research has come from working with students who were learning about a new field and came up with very interesting suggestions.
My students, colleagues, and I study perceived organizational support, motivation for creativity, and enjoyment of nature. Most of my research concerns the first topic, as described below.
Employers are typically concerned with increasing employee commitment and performance. My organizational support theory reverses this stance by first considering employees’ beliefs concerning their valuation by the organization. Organizational support theory holds that (a) employees form general beliefs concerning how much the organization values their contributions and cares about their well-being (perceived organizational support, or POS), (b) POS is strongly influenced by the favorableness of treatment that employees view as discretionary as opposed to treatment that the organization appears pressured or forced to provide, (c) based on the norm of reciprocity, employees return supportive treatment by helping the organization meet its objectives, and (d) POS fulfils socioemotional needs, resulting in an emotional attachment to the organization.
We know from over 350 scientific studies that perceived organizational support has positive consequences for both employees and their organizations. In the first place, perceived organizational support increases employees’ psychological well-being. Employees with high POS are in a more positive mood at work, are more satisfied with their jobs, believe they make a more important contribution at work, experience less stress, and report less conflict between home and work. Second, POS produces a more favorable orientation by employees toward their organization and work. Employees with high POS have a stronger positive emotional bond to the organization and trust the organization more. They have an increased confidence in their ability to do good work, identify more with their jobs, and are more engaged in their work. Third, POS influences important workplace behaviors. Employees with high POS show superior performance of standard job activities and voluntary actions that help the organization meet its objectives. Such employees treat customers better. They are more creative, violate organizational norms less often, and are less likely to quit the organization. For more information visit the POS website.
The following current and planned research projects with undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral students and colleagues give the flavor of my ongoing research:
- We are carrying out longitudinal studies about the influence of favorable organizational socialization practices on new employees’ satisfaction, motivation, and adjustment.
- We are engaged in studies examining emotional and instrumental support in social networks in work organizations. The study of social networks in work organizations is beginning to become recognized as important for understanding employee well being and innovation.
- We have been studying how various kinds of leadership in organizations, such as transformational leader behavior, contributes to employee self-assurance versus dependency, and the outcomes of such leadership for both for employees and the organization.
- We are studying how supervisors can be trained to be effective in creating greater POS among subordinates.
Eisenberger, R., & Stinglhamber, F. (In preparation). The supportive organization. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Books.
Eisenberger, R., Sucharski, I. L., Yalowitz, S., Kent, R. J., Loomis, R. J., Jones, J. R., Paylor, S., Aselage, J., Mueller, M. S., & McLaughlin, J. P. (in press). The motive for sensory pleasure: Enjoyment of nature and its representation in painting, music, and literature. Journal of Personality.
Eisenberger, R., & Aselage, J. (2009). Incremental effects of reward on experienced performance pressure: Positive outcomes for intrinsic interest and creativity. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30, 95-117.
Eder, P., & Eisenberger, R. (2008). Perceived organizational support: Reducing the negative influence of coworker withdrawal behavior. Journal of Management, 34, 55-68
Shanock, S. & Eisenberger, R. (2006). When supervisors feel supported: Relationships with subordinates’ perceived supervisor support, perceived organizational support and performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 689-695
Eisenberger, R., Jones, J. R., Stinglhamber, F., Shanock, L., & Randall, A. T. (2005). Optimal flow experiences at work: For high need achievers alone? Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26, 755-775.
Eisenberger, R., Lynch, P., Aselage, J. & Rohdieck, S. (2004). Who takes the most revenge? Individual differences in negative reciprocity norm endorsement. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 787-799.
Aselage, J., & Eisenberger, R. (2003). Perceived organizational support and psychological contracts: A theoretical integration. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 24, 491-509.
Rhoades, L, & Eisenberger, R. (2002). Perceived organizational support: A review of the literature. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 698-714.
Eisenberger, R., Stinglhamber, F., Vandenberghe, C., Sucharski, I., & Rhoades, L. (2002). Perceived supervisor support: Contributions to perceived organizational support and employee retention. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 565-573.
Eisenberger, R., & Rhoades, L. (2001). Incremental effects of reward on creativity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 728-741.
Rhoades, L., & Eisenberger, R., & Armeli, S. (2001). Affective commitment to the organization: The contribution of perceived organizational support. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 825-836.
Eisenberger, R., Armeli, S., Rexwinkel, B., Lynch, P. D., & Rhoades, L. (2001). Reciprocation of perceived organizational support. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 42-51.