Drawn from a series of studies conducted in organisations as diverse as military institutions, amateur and professional baseball clubs, universities, banks and groceries stores in the US, Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing (WOW) guest, Professor Cheri Ostroff (University of South Australia) highlighted the important role of context in designing and understanding workplace research in a 21 May seminar.

“Although context is often discussed among researchers, it is under appreciated, its impact insufficiently recognised, and limited framework[s] exist to facilitate these discussions”, says Cheri.

By combining context with considerations of the Person-Environment (P-E) Fit – the fit between the worker and the work environment – and the levels at which it is analysed, Professor Ostroff’s research in response, attempts to create such a model.

Attendees at Professor Cheri Ostroff's seminar on the importance of context in research, 21 May 2015

Attendees at Professor Cheri Ostroff’s seminar on the importance of context in research, 21 May 2015

Determining context through measures such as the structures or practices of an organisation; the presence of shared collective interests, i.e. the organisational climate/ way it makes decisions about an issue; the attitudes of colleagues; the personal characteristics of individual workers and their colleagues; and the impact of influential persons, i.e. leaders, Cheri also highlights how the level at which you consider these measures — from an Aggregate (industry/ business/ organisational or National culture level), or Individual level (the background and demographic characteristics of, and selection of an organisation by, a worker) — also play a part.

In concluding, and in response to audience questions around the stage at which text becomes context (and vice versa), Professor Ostroff offered sage advice:

“[Because] context is anything that is external to [an] individual [worker] that can happen to them, we [as researchers should look] at how we can view…context differently and…be the context [ourselves] in studies.”

Contact the Centre for a copy of the PowerPoint presentation of this seminar: [email protected].