No one knows better than George Mason University researcher Kevin Rockmann just how complex relationships—personal and professional—can be. With so many dynamics at play, the question of how relationships are built, develop, evolve, and dissolve over time becomes an important issue.
With a background in organizational behavior, Rockmann, associate professor in George Mason's School of Management, has devoted his research to answering this multifaceted question. Specifically, his research revolves around the psychological attachments that individuals maintain with organizations, teams, and each other.
He is particularly interested in how these attachments play out in the workplace and how they can influence one's overall impression of an organization.
"Attachments can be based on a variety of things—reciprocity with a manager, a sense of identification with the organization's mission, or even meaningful work in a team—and understanding these attachments is critical to the success of an organization," says Rockmann. "These attachments give us a lens through which we can see how individuals make decisions with regard to their organizations and their jobs, which can ultimately affect organizational success."
One of Rockmann's most recent studies examines this idea of attachment among employees at a Fortune 500 high-tech company. This study focuses on the unintentional effects of disconnectedness that result when individuals work every day in an office while their colleagues are offsite. The study shows that the individuals at the office end up having lower job satisfaction, a weaker sense of identification with the organization, and fewer strong network friendship ties.
Rockmann and his colleague, Michael Pratt from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, note that while there has been extensive research on understanding the experiences of employees working offsite, researchers have largely neglected those left behind in the office. They found that working alone onsite does to some degree isolate individuals.
The main reason for this, Rockmann says, is that individuals are not able to form bonds or strong personal network ties with members of their team.
"Working offsite has become a very popular choice for many employees for various reasons. Therefore, organizations have implemented programs to provide flexibility to these individuals," says Rockmann. "But for those who are left working onsite, there is a significant threat of dissatisfaction and weakened attachment toward the organization and toward colleagues, largely because of weakened network ties."