Work Disability in Small Firms Literature Review Chapter

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[. . .] The DOL-WHD will recognize productivity norms set "through an accepted method of industrial work measurement," including but not limited to "stopwatch time studies, predetermined time systems, or standard data or other recognized [but unspecified] measurement methods" (U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, 2008, n.p.). These standards must include every aspect of work performed, but may not include "[b]ehavioral factors" including "personal appearance and hygiene, promptness, social skills, willingness to follow orders, etc." (U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, 2008, n.p., emphasis in original). If, given all these constraints, a worker with disability produces less than an experienced non-disabled worker, the employer can legally pay less, even if that ends up below federal minimum wage. What this demonstrates is recognition of productivity at law based on definitions that include "etc." Or "an" acceptable method which can include "other recognized" methods not stated here, which are defined by the employer and then defended before the DOL-WHD (2008). The federal legal definition of 'productivity' is open-ended and subjective but powerful enough to override minimum wage law.

Definition of 'productivity' remains diverse despite claims to standardization.

This also demonstrates that corporate definitions of productivity will be inherently diverse depending on specific output or procedures; thus popular or 'one-size fits all' definitions in the business literature may not only indicate inadequate peer review, but would only apply to particular industries or products as defined by DOL-WHD (2008). Therefore this review will reference no definitions of productivity from the corporate sector. Academic experts show no more agreement but at least those precedents are juried and several canonical precedents underlie the selection of measurement methods attempted in the present investigation. Neoclassical, macroeconomic definition of productivity has become somewhat standardized, but consensus is not unanimous. Brynjollfson and Hitt (2003) demonstrate a typical Cobb-Douglas production function-based factor growth accounting model they attribute to Berndt (1991) and consider "the standard" framework for defining productivity (p. 6). The problem with this is that such reductions lump workers with disabilities into an opaque factor "labor" as if all labor was identical. This is in fact one source of the problem this research aims to explore: Considering labor as an averaged factor overlooks foregone potential productivity from the least-performing units within the averaged, aggregate factor Cobb-Douglas-type production functions simply sum into "labor," which supposedly explain productivity alongside capital and various factors authors include to explain wage or population growth, or innovation for example.

Felipe and McCombie (2001) describe specific criticisms of the prevailing explanation that defining productivity is as simple as the aggregate production functions many authors describe as authoritative (e.g. Brynjollfson and Hitt, 2003). The "Cambridge Capital Theory" and "Phelps Brown Critique" argued the Cobb-Douglas production function relies on a tautology -- basically an accounting identity defining the final value of output as the sum of the value of the inputs, including labor; those criticisms have so far survived complete rebuttal (H. A. Simon, qtd. In Felipe and McCombie, 2001, p. 28). Bernard (2000) set out a common argument all such explanations in the social sciences may rely on similar circular definitions (p. 52). The widespread acceptance that this "neoclassical model" perfectly explains productivity as the value of labor plus capital services adjusted for the 'Solow residual' (innovation), embodied into Cobb-Douglas or similar production functions, may be too parsimonious if required assumptions remain unjustified; other explanations deliver consistent accuracy without employing such production functions at all, Felipe and McCombie (2001) pointed out (p. 27). This research attempts to identify potential productivity improvements for a specific segment within that aggregate, averaged factor. Therefore even if the widely-accepted Cobb-Douglas / aggregate production function definition of "productivity" was not undermined by Phelps Brown or Cambridge critiques, such an aggregate definition would not describe the specific increments this inquiry seeks to investigate. This canonical definition of macroeconomic "productivity" would not work for this purpose even if perfectly accurate, which proponents have apparently failed to prove (Felipe and McCombie, 2001), and which is not used to define legal U.S. pay rates (U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, 2008).

Factors within such aggregate definitions seem important to some experts.

Other authors explore factors such abstract, production function-type models internalize into the definition of productivity without attempting to explain. Koopman, Pelletier, Murray, Sharda, Berger, Turpin et al. (2002) consider absenteeism and a variant of absenteeism, "decreased presenteeism," which they define as "decreased productivity and below-normal work quality" when the worker is on the job. The "standard" framework (Brynjollfson & Hitt, 2003, p. 6) just internalizes factors like workplace environment and training or worker health and well-being into a coefficient defining labor productivity (Koopman, et al. p. 14). Mount, Ilies and Johnson (2006) for another example found that discretionary "counterproductive work behaviors" (p. 591) correlated with particular personality traits using confirmatory factor analysis (p. 605). Shibutani's classic 1978 study reported potential counterproductive effects of demoralization that ultimately resulted in violent insubordination and suicide in the World War II-era U.S. Army that demonstrate potential extremes of the opposites of productivity and job satisfaction, and similar demoralization appears today in the population of interest (below).

What these contrasting examples begin to demonstrate is first that reviewing every juried definition of productivity here is impossible, but also that although some experts present certain models as authoritative (e.g. Brynjollfson & Hitt, 2003, p. 6), despite that stance, other equally qualified experts define productivity much differently, with defensible method and results. The tactic is to prove disagreement, instead of attempting to defend one favorite model as if it were the dominant paradigm as some attempt. "To understand what happens in a demoralized unit would require getting at its component primary groups to ascertain just how the participants view the situations in which they are involved," Shibutani explained (1978, p. 14), and so while there is a widely accepted neoclassical definition of aggregate productivity, that is inadequate for explaining productivity at the level of individual workers, which this study aims to investigate, of which the aggregate explanations are summations. Examples such as Mount, Ilies & Johnson (2006) or Koopman, et al. (2002) demonstrate that different experts measure productivity in multifaceted and varying ways. The current study hopes to contribute to, rather than solve, the problem of measuring the complex construct 'productivity.' Demonstrating recent experts contradict each other helps justify minor innovations to existing precedent where so many examples comprise a vast, complementary and expanding literature.

Job Satisfaction Contributes To Productivity, But Definition Is Inherently Subjective

A major factor Mount, Ilies & Johnson (2006) find contributes to lower productivity through deliberate counterproductive behavior in the workplace is the absence of "job satisfaction," definition of which they adopt from Locke (1976) as "a pleasureable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one's job or job experiences" (qtd. In Mount, Ilies & Johnson, 2006, p. 598). Mount, Ilies & Johnson (2006) hypothesized lower job satisfaction should result in more deliberate counterproductive acts at work (p. 598), which their results supported (p. 610). Conversely, Jones, Jones, Latreille and Sloan (2008) find the same result from the opposite direction, that increased job satisfaction reduced turnover, absenteeism and overall "performance," which they found had "no single definition" as of 2008 (p. 1). Jones, Jones, Latreille & Sloan (2008) found that training correlation with productivity was complex and in some cases weak, but reported a significant positive correlation between satisfaction, financial performance and productivity. Workers with disability displayed lower job satisfaction than non-disabled peers, although there were sophisticated interactions between training, pay, satisfaction and productivity that undermined categorical attribution of effect strength and direction for training (Jones, Jones, Latreille & Sloan, 2008, p. 18).

More importantly, Jones, Jones, Latreille & Sloan (2008) demonstrated complex interaction and feedback between productivity and job satisfaction given various and heterogeneous definition of these terms throughout the literature, with which other experts concur and which the current research may likely discover. Fischer and Souza-Poza (2007) found that job satisfaction affected workers' self-reported health status, which may likely depend on personal characteristics (p. 22). This suggests that if job satisfaction affects health and health affects productivity through absenteeism and perhaps "presenteeism" (Koopman, Pelletier, Murray, Sharda, Berger, Turpin et al., 2002) among other factors, then productivity and satisfaction should correlate in the present study as it has in many others from around the world (e.g. Bhatti and Qureshi, 2007, p. 63). If reduced search cost results in higher productivity for producers, duration of employment may also suggest higher productivity as for example Kukla and Bond (2012) found These examples of wider research threads demonstrating the likelihood of correlation between job satisfaction and productivity predict this study should discover similar results, but none of these studies disaggregate workers with disabilities by firm size above and below thresholds where ADA does and does not apply, i.e. fifteen employees. In fact, at a macroeconomic level, some experts claim the opposite, that ADA itself may have complex feedback effects on worker… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Work Disability in Small Firms."  Essaytown.com.  July 22, 2012.  Accessed January 21, 2020.
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