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In “the zone”: The role of evolving skill and transitional workload on motivation and realized performance in operational tasks

Elliot Bendoly (Information Systems and Operations Management, Goizueta Business School, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
Mike Prietula (Information Systems and Operations Management, Goizueta Business School, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 7 November 2008

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine how training specific to a given operational task, and subsequent experiential learning, can heighten skill and hence shift the level of workload at which individuals are most productively motivated.

Design/methodology/approach

To analyze these effects, a laboratory experiment was used involving a vehicle routing application and 156 managers exposed to a 2 × 3 complete treatment design. Both multi‐period objective in‐task data and subjective self reports are collected to tap into skill levels, actions and behavioral variables of interest.

Findings

In the absence of additional workload challenges, the paper finds that increases in skill may in fact significantly limit and in some cases actually degrade overall motivation, as well as objective performance.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations potentially stem from specific operationalizations of the factors studied as well as selectivity of the subject pool and the context (vehicle routing task).

Practical implications

The implications of the skill‐challenge‐motivation dynamics observed have direct repercussions for existing management models in which training and experience are viewed as having strictly monotonic benefits to performance. The implications also go far to promote more informed models of worker behavior in operations modeling that otherwise view performance as static or monotonically increasing based on experience.

Originality/value

This is believed to be the first study that has explicitly studied the inverted‐U dynamics stemming from the interplay of both skill and workload on motivation and performance, over a multi‐period framework of analysis.

Keywords

Citation

Bendoly, E. and Prietula, M. (2008), "In “the zone”: The role of evolving skill and transitional workload on motivation and realized performance in operational tasks", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 28 No. 12, pp. 1130-1152. https://doi.org/10.1108/01443570810919341

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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