Publications

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Tosti-Kharas, J., Dobrow, S. R., & Kappes, H. 2024. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life? Testing fundamental assumptions about calling, effort, and enjoyment.” Journal of Management Scientific Reports. 2(1), 100-130.

We test the fundamental assumptions that people experiencing a stronger sense of calling invest more effort in their work tasks, and find those tasks more enjoyable, than people with a weaker sense of calling. Both assumptions have been expressed theoretically, yet received limited empirical support. Among 2,839 workers in a crowdsourced marketplace, we found that people with a stronger calling toward their work completed more of a relatively unengaging work task and enjoyed the task more than those with a weaker calling. The calling-effort relationship was particularly strong when there was no financial incentive for effort (i.e., paid a fixed amount), highlighting the risk of exploitation for strong-calling employees. People with stronger callings nonetheless responded to financial incentives—they completed more work when offered additional pay to do so. The relationship between calling and enjoyment of the task was particularly strong when there was a financial incentive for effort (i.e., paid piece-rate), indicating that extrinsic rewards did not “crowd out” intrinsic rewards. Our findings are thus consistent with research about the presence of multiple motives for behavior. Our empirical support for these assumptions using more appropriate, rigorous methods paves the way to further develop novel calling theory.

Dobrow, S. R., Weisman, H., Heller, D, & Tosti-Kharas, J. 2023. “Calling and the good life: A meta-analysis and theoretical extension.” Administrative Science Quarterly. 68(2), 508-550.

While a positive view of calling has been ubiquitous since its introduction into the literature over two decades ago, research remains unsettled about the extent to which it contributes to various aspects of the good life: an optimal way of living well via worthwhile endeavors. Further, scholars have identified two conceptual types of calling, marked by internal versus external foci; yet their differential impact on outcomes indicative of the good life, such as eudaimonic and hedonic well-being (characterized by the experience of purpose and meaning versus pleasure and happiness, respectively), is unknown. Through a meta-analysis of 201 studies, we provide the first systematic review focused on these two fundamental theoretical issues in the calling literature: how strongly related callings are to outcomes in the domains of work and life and which type of calling (internally or externally focused) more strongly predicts these outcomes, if either. We find that callings more strongly relate to outcomes indicative of the good life than recently argued. We further find that callings are more strongly linked to work than to life outcomes and to eudaimonic than to hedonic outcomes. The two types of calling converge in being associated with many similar outcomes, but they show some divergence: internally focused callings are more positively related to hedonic outcomes and less positively related to eudaimonic outcomes, relative to externally focused callings. This finding supports a view of callings as hierarchically structured, with a higher-order calling factor composed of two correlated yet distinct lower-order calling types. Integrating our meta-analytic findings with relevant literatures, we propose a theoretical model that addresses psychological and social need fulfillment through which different types of callings contribute to the good life.
January 11, 2022

Higgins, M. C., Dobrow, S. R., Weiner, J., & Liu, H. 2022. “When is psychological safety helpful? A longitudinal study.” Academy of Management Discoveries, 8(1), 77-102.

Prior research has documented many benefits associated with team-level psychological safety. However, we know little about the boundary conditions of these findings, particularly how psychological safety operates at the organization level and if and when it is helpful over time. Here, we explore how organization-level psychological safety and another aspect of workplace climate, felt accountability, impacts organizational performance over time. Our study is situated in the New York City public school system, a context rife with uncertainty and calls for change, including immense pressure on teachers to improve student outcomes. Drawing on over 170,000 survey responses from teachers in 545 schools across three years, our multilevel analyses unexpectedly show that psychological safety is not, on its own, “helpful” with regards to organizational performance over time. Indeed, the best combination occurred when psychological safety was relatively low and felt accountability was relatively high. Thus, these two dimensions of workplace climate appear to be interrelated in critical ways over time, albeit unexpectedly. We conclude with implications of our discoveries for future theory-building and research on psychological safety and felt accountability, and we propose new lines of research on the roles of interdependence and attention for studying psychological safety at the organization level.

Dobrow, S. R. & Higgins, M. C. 2019. “The dynamics of developmental networks.” Academy of Management Discoveries, 5(3), 221-250.

This study explores the dynamics of developmental networks – the set of relationships a protégé names as taking an active interest in and action to advance his/her career. Although prior research has demonstrated the benefits of developmental networks, we know relatively little about how these networks change over time or the antecedents of developmental network dynamics. As research on career and adult development theory has suggested, professional development occurs within a dynamic, relational context; therefore, exploring network dynamics may enable future research to gain greater insight into how career trajectories unfold. In a 10-year, four-wave prospective longitudinal survey study of 136 U.S. business school students and their over 1600 relationships, we explore the dynamics of developmental networks, including the starting points (intercepts) and the rates of change (slopes) of the content of help provided (average career and psychosocial support) and the networks’ structure (network density, tie closeness, and communication frequency). Our multilevel longitudinal analyses show how these network characteristics change over time and how the content and structure of the support provided covary. Further, we explore individual-level and organizational/industry-level antecedents of network change trajectories. We conclude with implications of our discoveries for future theory-building and research on developmental networks, mentoring, and careers, and offer suggestions for consideration for practice.

Dobrow, S. R., Ganzach, Y, & Liu, Y. 2018. “Time and job satisfaction: A longitudinal study of the differential roles of age and tenure.” Journal of Management, 44(7), 2558-2579.

The relationship between job satisfaction and time is a fundamental question in organizational behavior. Yet, given inconsistent results in the literature, the nature of this relationship has remained unresolved. Scholars’ understanding of this relationship has been limited because studies have generally not simultaneously considered the two primary time metrics in job satisfaction research – age and tenure – and have instead relied on cross-sectional research designs. In this study, we develop and test an empirical model to provide a more definitive answer to the question of how age and tenure relate to job satisfaction. Our analyses draw on longitudinal data from 21,670 participants spanning a total of 34 waves of data collection across 40 years in two nationally representative samples. Multilevel analyses indicate that people became less satisfied as their tenure within a given organization increased, yet as people aged – and transitioned from organization to organization – their satisfaction increased. We also found that job rewards, as exemplified by pay, mediated these relationships. We discuss empirical, theoretical and practical implications of our findings.

Dobrow, S. R. & Heller, D. 2015. “Follow your heart or your head? A longitudinal study of the facilitating role of calling and ability in the pursuit of a challenging career.” Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(3), 695-712.

While making early career decisions in which pursuing what one loves and earning a secure living are at odds with one another, when and why will the intrinsic considerations prevail over the extrinsic considerations? We posit that a key factor in resolving this dilemma in favor of the intrinsic side of the career is the sense of calling, a consuming, meaningful passion people experience toward the domain. We test the connection between early callings (in adolescence) and later career pursuit (in adulthood) and the mediating role of perceived and actual abilities (in young adulthood) in a career context in which the intrinsic and extrinsic sides of a career can clash: the path to become a professional musician. In an 11-year 5-wave longitudinal study of 450 amateur high school musicians progressing from adolescence to adulthood, we found that regardless of their actual musical ability, people with stronger early callings were likely to perceive their abilities more favorably, which led them to pursue music professionally. Our findings thus indicate an intriguing pattern in which the experience of stronger early callings led to greater perceived ability that was not reflected in greater actual ability. Perceived ability, rather than objective ability as assessed by awards won in music competitions, led to subsequent career pursuit. We discuss implications for theory and research on the nature and consequences of calling, as well as for career decision making, both in general and in challenging career contexts in particular.

Dobrow, S. R. & Tosti-Kharas, J. 2012. “Listen to your heart? Calling and receptivity to career advice.” Journal of Career Assessment, 20(3): 264-280. Special Issue: Research on Work as a Calling.

This study explores calling in the context of career decision making. Specifically, the authors examine receptivity to advice that discourages individuals from pursuing a professional path in their calling’s domain. The authors hypothesize that people with a strong calling will be more likely to ignore negative career advice. In Study 1, a four-wave, 7-year longitudinal study following 450 amateur musicians across career stages, the regression analyses showed that those with a stronger calling toward music reported being more willing to ignore the discouraging career-related advice of a trusted mentor. These results held over time, such that an early calling predicted the degree to which young people were willing to ignore career advice equally strongly 6 weeks, 3½ years, and 7 years later. In Study 2, the authors replicated these findings in a cross-sectional study of 131 business students. The authors discuss the implications for research on calling, as well as for counseling strong-calling individuals.

Dobrow, S. R., Chandler, D. E., Murphy, W. M., & Kram, K. E. 2012. “A review of developmental networks: Incorporating a mutuality perspective.” Journal of Management, 38(1): 210-242.

During the past decade, mentoring research has broadened from its traditional dyadic perspective to examine the support provided by a “developmental network.” This article reviews the literature on developmental networks—groups of people who take an active interest in and action toward advancing a protégé’s career. Building on positive organizational scholarship (POS) research on high-quality connections and relationships, the authors propose that a “mutuality perspective,” or taking the viewpoints of all members of the developmental network into account, is a notable gap in developmental network research. They apply this perspective to developmental networks research and discuss implications and avenues for future inquiry. As part of their review, the authors clarify the boundaries of the developmental network construct. They also identify and discuss four research streams that encompass extant studies of developmental networks. This article extends previous reviews of the broad field of dyadic mentoring by providing the first systematic review of developmental network research.

Dobrow, S. R. & Tosti-Kharas, J. 2011. “Calling: The development of a scale measure.” Personnel Psychology, 64(4): 1001-1049.

This study clarifies the definition of calling—a consuming, meaningful passion people experience toward a domain—and develops a 12-item scale measure of calling. Drawing on multiwave longitudinal, 2-wave longitudinal, and cross-sectional data from 1,500 participants (2,278 observations) in 4 separate domains, music, art, business, and management, we demonstrate the scale’s reliability and unidimensional structure across contexts and over time. We establish the scale’s convergent validity and discriminant validity. We determine criterion-related validity through the scale’s relationship to satisfaction with the calling domain, career-related self-efficacy, clarity of professional identity, career insight, attending a calling-oriented college program, professional pursuit of the calling domain, and differences across the 4 domains. We discuss implications of this reliable, valid measure for theory and research on calling, meaning of work, and careers.

Dobrow, S. R., Smith, W. K., & Posner, M. A. 2011. “Managing the grading paradox: Leveraging the power of choice in the classroom.” Academy of Management Learning and Education, 10(2): 261-276.

How can management educators cultivate students’ interest in the MBA classroom? Inspiring interest, an important antecedent of learning, can be an uphill battle due to the ubiquitous presence of grades. Grades are meant to encourage interest, yet they often do just the opposite. The result is a grading paradox. We hypothesize that leveraging choice in the classroom can manage this grading paradox by increasing interest. In a field experiment in real-world MBA classrooms (N = 91 students), we found that a choice intervention, the opportunity for students to allocate the weight of several course components toward their final course grade, was associated with higher levels of two types of interest, triggered situational interest and maintained situational interest. This study corroborates and extends previous laboratory-based research documenting the positive relationship between choice and interest, and offers a practical tool that management educators can use to encourage student interest.

Higgins, M. C., Dobrow, S. R., & Roloff, K. S. 2010. “Optimism and the boundarlyess career: The role of developmental relationships.” Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31: 749-769.

Drawing on the mentoring, education, and social psychology literatures, this longitudinal study examines how the persistence of developmental relationships from an elite graduate school influences subjective career outcomes during early career. Participants (n = 136) were surveyed about their developmental networks—a group of individuals who take an active interest in and action to advance a focal individual’s career—and subjective career outcomes over the 10 years (1996–2006) post graduation. Results show that although receiving mentoring from one’s entire developmental network was positively related to career-related self-efficacy and perceptions of career success, this was not the case for ties retained from graduate school. Continuing to receive mentoring support from developers from graduate school and further, from peers from graduate school, was negatively related to perceptions of career success. These findings offer insight into the dynamics and potentially negative consequences of developmental networks and highlight the significance of social comparison during early career.

Higgins, M. C., Dobrow, S. R., & Chandler, D. E. 2008. “Never quite good enough: The paradox of sticky developmental relationships for elite university graduates.” Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72(2): 207-224.

Drawing on the mentoring, education, and social psychology literatures, this longitudinal study examines how the persistence of developmental relationships from an elite graduate school influences subjective career outcomes during early career. Participants (n = 136) were surveyed about their developmental networks—a group of individuals who take an active interest in and action to advance a focal individual’s career—and subjective career outcomes over the 10 years (1996–2006) post graduation. Results show that although receiving mentoring from one’s entire developmental network was positively related to career-related self-efficacy and perceptions of career success, this was not the case for ties retained from graduate school. Continuing to receive mentoring support from developers from graduate school and further, from peers from graduate school, was negatively related to perceptions of career success. These findings offer insight into the dynamics and potentially negative consequences of developmental networks and highlight the significance of social comparison during early career.

Dobrow, S. R. & Higgins, M. C. 2005. “Developmental networks and professional identity: A longitudinal study.” Career Development International, 10(6/7): 567-583.

Purpose – This paper seeks to examine the relationship between individuals’ developmental mentoring networks and a subjective career outcome, clarity of professional identity. How developmental network characteristics are related to professional identity over time is explored. Design/methodology/approach – This is a three‐wave, longitudinal survey study, covering a five‐year span (1996‐2001). The participants (n=136), full‐time MBA students at the inception of the study, provided complete developmental network data on each survey. The relationships between clarity of professional identity and three different measures of developmental network density were explored: early‐career density; general density; and density dynamics (e.g. the change in density over time). Findings – Developmental network density, which reflects the professional identity exploration process, is negatively related to clarity of professional identity. Research limitations/implications – The study is limited by the use of graduating MBA students from a single, top‐20 business school as participants. Practical implications – The findings suggest that people might be able to improve their careers through changing their developmental networks, particularly during their early‐career years. Originality/value – This paper provides novel insights to the mentoring, identity, and careers literatures. Given the previously uncharted territory of understanding the dynamics of developmental networks and its relationship to career outcomes, this study opens avenues for future research, while also answering questions about developmental networks and the ways they function over time.

Dobrow, S. R. & Weisman, H., “Only time will tell: Conducting longitudinal research of careers.” 2021. In Jennifer Tosti-Kharas and Wendy Murphy (Eds.), Handbook for Research Methods in Careers. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Longitudinal research is key to the advancement of our understanding of careers, yet it is also a particularly challenging endeavor for scholars. In this chapter, we draw on our experiences as longitudinal researchers to discuss the challenges, and merits, of conducting longitudinal research on careers. We begin by defining what longitudinal research is, and is not. We then describe the contributions that longitudinal research can make to the careers literature, above and beyond other research designs like cross-sectional studies. We conclude by offering a “Top 10″ list of practical tips for conducting and publishing longitudinal research on careers. Throughout this chapter, we provide examples of reviewers’ comments on our own longitudinal research and discuss the strategies that we used to address these comments, so that other scholars may benefit from our acquired knowledge. As an end goal, we hope that this chapter stimulates longitudinal research on careers, and helps scholars weather its challenges to truly reap its upsides.

Dobrow, S. R. & Tosti-Kharas, J. 2017. “Work as a calling.” In Steven Rogelberg (Ed.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

In this encyclopedia entry, we provide a brief introduction to the notion of work as a calling, defined as a consuming, meaningful passion people experience toward a domain. We discuss the origins of calling research, the assessment of calling, its antecedents and consequences, and conclude with suggestions for future research.
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