Amy Henley

Amy Henley - headshot.jpg

Business professor unravels perceptions of workplace dynamics Workplaces are teeming with a motley…

Georgia (Oct 1, 2014)Business professor unravels perceptions of workplace dynamics

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Workplaces are teeming with a motley mix of personalities. It’s those collective dynamics that intrigue associate professor of management Amy Henley, who researches organizational behavior and fairness in the workplace. 

“Research has shown that, in the workplace, people aren’t as motivated to resolve conflict as they are in their own personal lives,” said Henley, an organizational behavior expert.  “In some environments, employees perpetuate conflict because they say it makes the workplace more interesting.”

Much of the conflict in the workplace emanates from employees’ perceptions of fairness. Henley studies those unique workplace dynamics, exploring how perceptions of fairness can impact an employee’s desire to achieve and whether an employee feels he or she is being treated fairly when it comes to workload and pay. 

According to Henley, those perceptions are especially interesting when employees start comparing how they are treated to how they feel their coworkers are treated within the same organization.

When a worker feels that things are unfair (such as not having a voice in the organization), he or she stops caring about what happens to that company and how it performs, she said.  Employees become detached from the company that has treated them unfairly, she added.

Henley has conducted research on how individuals are treated by their peers, their departments and their organizations, which has appeared in the Journal of Organizational Behavior and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.  She has also received honors from the Academy of Management for her research on conflict in teams, specifically interpersonal conflict among co-workers.  

Her vast knowledge of workplace issues is beneficial to students in her graduate-level organizational behavior class in the Michael J. Coles College of Business.  Every week, Henley gets an insider’s view into the staff meetings, boardroom decisions and cubicle conversations based on examples from her students, who work for large and small companies. 

Students may bring timely examples to class, but it is Henley’s job to help students understand the unique behaviors that happen at work. Henley is big on practicality, teaching about conflict, personality, perception and motivation in the workplace.

“Whether they are working at a fast-food restaurant or are a CFO at a major company, the same workplace behaviors happen, but it just might be a bigger game,” Henley said. Her focus on the personality dimension and fairness in the workplace is where the field of business intersects with the field of psychology.

Without realizing it, Henley’s life passion may have started in her childhood, long before she knew the meaning of the words organizational behavior.

“My dad was an executive at AT&T, and he would have these great sayings, “ she said.  “My favorite was, ‘Most people aren’t thoughtless, they just aren’t thoughtful.’”

She admits that how her parents raised her probably had as much to do with her career as her own personal motivation.

At age 25, Henley worked for a freight transportation firm as a financial analyst. She found executives were making decisions without considering their impact on people. To Henley, those decisions just didn’t “feel right.”

“There’s a sense of equity sensitivity, a personality dimension that guides someone when they feel things are unfair,” said Henley, who left the corporate world to pursue a Ph.D. in management at the University of Texas at Arlington.

She arrived at Kennesaw State in 2006, and in addition to teaching and research, she was recently named assistant chair of the department of Management and Entrepreneurship and oversees Doctor of Business Administration students who are working on their dissertations. 

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 38,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.

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