In my research, I study the effects of the distances people consider in organizational contexts and the effects on their work. Specifically, I investigate:
- Spatial distance: remote work, mobile work, virtual teams.
- Temporal distance: short-term vs. long-term thinking, goal setting.
- Social distance: expertise, power, social networks.
- Hypotheticality: risk taking, change.
I typically investigate these topics with a combination of studies based on archival data and laboratory experiments.
Big picture is better: The social implications of construal level for advice taking
Advice taking is of growing interest to organizational scholars because it is a critical pathway for knowledge transfer and learning. Based on construal level theory, we hypothesize that high construal advisors are viewed as experts and, in turn, others are more likely to take their advice. In a field study of an online community of programmers and a laboratory experiment measuring psychological mechanisms, we find that signaling higher construal by communicating more abstractly is positively associated with expert reputation, which in turn explains others’ advice-taking behavior. Implications for research on the social consequences of construal level and novel antecedents of perceived expertise and advice taking are discussed.
Reyt, J. N., Wiesenfeld, B. M., & Trope, Y. (2016). Big picture is better: The social implications of construal level for advice taking. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 135, 22-31.
Seeing the forest for the trees: Exploratory learning, mobile technology, and knowledge workers’ role integration behaviors
Role integration is the new workplace reality for many employees. The prevalence of mobile technologies (e.g., laptops, smartphones, tablets) that are increasingly wearable and nearly always “on” makes it difficult to keep role boundaries separate and distinct. We draw upon boundary theory and construal level theory to hypothesize that role integration behaviors shift people from thinking concretely to thinking more abstractly about their work. The results of an archival study of Enron executives’ emails, two experiments, and a multi-wave field study of knowledge workers provide evidence of positive associations between role integration behaviors, higher construal level, and more exploratory learning activities.
Reyt, J. N., & Wiesenfeld, B. M. (2015). Seeing the forest for the trees: Exploratory learning, mobile technology, and knowledge workers’ role integration behaviors. Academy of Management Journal, 58(3), 739-762.
Construal level theory in organizational research
Construal level theory (CLT) offers a rich and rigorous conceptual model of how the context shapes mental representations and subsequent outcomes. The theory has generated new understanding of cognitions and behaviors such as prediction, evaluation, and decision making in the fields of psychology and consumer behavior. Recently, management and organizational scholars have begun to leverage CLT to derive novel insights regarding organizational phenomena. This article describes CLT and its theoretical underpinnings, provides a focused and integrated review of organizational research incorporating CLT, and offers an agenda for future work in which CLT opens the door to new avenues of inquiry in organizational research and reinvigorates scholarly interest in cognition in organizations.
Wiesenfeld, B. M., Reyt, J. N., Brockner, J., & Trope, Y. (2017). Construal level theory in organizational research. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 4, 367-400.
I founded the research network “Distances in Organizations” (DIO) in 2017. We aim to be a platform where DIO scholars can easily find references, discuss new research opportunities, and understand where the field is going as a whole. We held our first annual workshop at McGill University in 2018 and our second one New York University in 2019. Our third annual workshop will he held in May 2020 over Zoom to comply with recent travel bans.