June 22, 2014

Relevance of the Knowles Theory in Distance Education

adult on-line learning

by Derrick C. Darden
Tiffin University, Tiffin, Ohio, USA
Email: dardendc@tiffin.edu; derrick.c.darden@gmail.com
Published Online June 2014 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/ce

Received 27 March 2014; revised 22 April 2014; accepted 10 May 2014
Copyright © 2014 by author and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).

1. Abstract

For adult learners, online courses are becoming the preferred way students pursue higher education. In the online academic world, the teacher and the student alike have duties that need to be fulfilled in order for the learning process to be successful. The teacher needs to function as process designers and managers. The learner must have the motivation and discipline to fulfill the course requirements and must be highly motivated.

This article explores whether the Knowles andragogy theory is relevant to distance education or not and suggests the preferred relevant instructional style for today’s adult distance learner.
The andragogy model is based on four assumptions related to the concepts that adult distance learners must have the ability, need, the desire to control, and be responsible for their learning. The adult learner self-prospective moves from dependency to independency or self-directedness.

Furthermore, the teacher must have a more practical, relevant, and self-directive and self-motivated instructional style.

The conclusion found that the andragogy theory is relative and is not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to adults following the assumptions outlined by andragogy model. Additionally, Knowles’ theory promotes self-directing and independence in the adult learner, but not all adult learners embraces these ideals especially if the learner lacks self-confidence.


Knowles Theory, Distance Education, Adult Learner, Self-Motivated, Self-self-Directedness, Instructional Style, Higher Education, Self-Confidence

1. Introduction

In the current era of learning, new teaching styles and methods are necessary to assist the adult learner in mastering new skills and accessing online information. As colleges adopt classroom and online technologies, teachers need to embrace the use of all types of classroom technology for future preparedness in the rapidly rising of enrollment in distance learning programs (Kim & Bonk, 2006). For the adult learner, online instruction (distance learning) has become the preferred way to continue their education sequentially to advance in their careers or train for new ones. Adults are enrolling in courses in record numbers. Many colleges are catering to them by providing distance learning, which allows flexibility and accessibility for the working adult. More than 12.2 million Americans take some form of online course in two or four year institution (Parsad and Lewis, 2008; Kim & Bonk, 2006).

Since adult learners are choosing to take college courses online; consequently, distance learning teaching styles must be re-tailored and teachers must establish a link to the adult learner. According to Grasha (1996), the linkage is a teacher-student transaction. The models must suit the learning style of the adult learner for there to be a connection between them. Adults and children learn differently and with different motivations. Among adult learning approaches, the model of andragogy comes to the forefront.

The first focus for this article is to look at the relevance of the andragogy model, secondly, to suggest the preferred relevant instructional style for today’s adult distance learner.

2. The Andragogy Model

In the mid 1880s, Alexander Kapp coined the term “andragogy” as a description of Plato’s educational theory. The name most associated with andragogy today is that of Malcolm Knowles,’ who re-introduced the term in “The Modern Practice of Adult Education” when explaining his theory of adult learning. Knowles (1980) defines andragogy as the “art of science of helping adults learning” (p.43).

Knowles’ theory acknowledges that the adult learner is independent and self-directed. Adults have intrinsic motivation that relates to real life. Further, they are goal oriented; courses must be purposeful and practical (Bye, Pushkar & Conway, 2007)(as cited by Knowles,1980). Andragogy focuses on adult learning and is identified solely with why the adult takes a course or undergoes training in the first place. Children, in contrast, do not have a wealth of knowledge and experience; hence the term pedagogy, therefore, they need structured training and teacher-directed learning—they depend on the teacher to direct their learning. Therefore, in andragogy the teacher must actively involve the adult learners in the process, and the topic must be from their perspective and of interest; they need to be aware of the importance of the content they’re teaching. The teacher is a facilitator rather than the subject matter expert (Bye et al, 2007) (as cited by Knowles, 1980).

Knowles’ andragogy model is based on four assumptions related to the concept that adult learners have the ability, need, and desire to control and be responsible for their learning: Their self-concepts move from dependency to independency or self-directedness. They accumulate a reservoir of experiences from which to draw new knowledge and skills. Their readiness to learn increases with the developmental tasks of social roles. Their time and curricular perspectives change from postponed to immediate application and from subject-centeredness to performance-centeredness.

3. Distance Learning

Increasingly, adults’ preferred method of higher education is distance (online) learning because of the flexibility. Online teaching is a reality and enrollment in traditional classrooms is dwindling. An adult learner is busy and learning must be accessible and available on demand, however, without sacrificing a relationship with an instructor. Distance or online learning takes place when the teacher and learner are interacting in an instructional setting, usually not in the same location as an on-campus classroom.

Distance learning is here to stay and can be as effective as traditional learning (Hanson, Maushak, Schlosser, Anderson, Sorenson, & Simonson, 1997). Trends indicate that learners will continue to move from the classroom to the computer (Ginder & Sykes, A, 2013). Teachers must adapt teaching to the diversity of the classroom and online populations in order to connect with their students’ learning goals and aspirations: adult learning requires positive correlations (Gee, 1990).

According to Forrest and Peterson (2006), adults take courses out of necessity, immediately seeking information. For example, they may need to improve their writing or communication skills for job growth, so they take an English or communication/ speech class. In contrast, children are presumably learning in preparation for the future; therefore, applying lessons is not immediate. Andragogy incorporates real-life situations into adult education lesson plans.

4. Relevance to Today’s Learning Environment

When examining the relevance of distance learning and the model of andragogy, we find similar characteristics necessary for adult learners’ successful learning experiences. To understand the value from distance learning, the learner must have the motivation and discipline to fulfill the course requirements: the learner must be highly motivated to achieve success in his or her coursework (Chen, & Lou, 2002).

Knowles (1980) notes that adult learners are autonomous and self-directing, self-motivating, and goal-oriented: they must see the course of study as useful and in their best interest.

Some researchers agree that andragogy when applied to distance education courses will help to promote self-direction and independence in the adult learner (Fales & Burges, 1984; Taylor & Kaye, 1986).

In contrast, a few studies inconclusively determined that our idea of adult learners may not be appropriate. Burge (1988), in a study of Canadian students, concluded that not all adult learners prefer the andragogy methods: some adults are not self-directed because of lack of self-confidence. Another, study pointed to university students in the same region who agreed with the andragogical approach and manifested intrinsic motivation toward learning, but found no interest in self-directed learning (Robinson, 1992). These studies indicate that the assumptions outlined by the andragogy approach may differ from other methods; moreover, these studies make certain assumptions about adult characteristics that imply particular teaching and learning styles. Pratt (1988) argues that the determination of teaching styles should be situational, based on the connection between the teacher and learner. Furthermore, the Knowles assumptions such as self-directedness or autonomy may not be relevant or necessary.

If the andragogical approach is used in a distance-learning design, teachers must be sure that the Knowles assumptions are relevant and valid within the context of learning; else the intended benefit may become a detriment.

5. The teacher’s style must effectively incorporate the relevance of skill.

Knowles, Holohn III & Swanson (2005) found that teachers must have full learner participation in a topic or project selection. Rather than being the classroom teacher, he suggests that teachers become facilitators of learning and need to involve all students in the learning experience. Adult learners need to connect with other learners to achieve fulfillment and to share information. Teachers need to help the learners realize the value of their experience and/or expertise.

Knowles et al. (2005) explain that the teacher must refrain from performing the function of content planner and transmitter, which requires presentation skills. Knowles continues: rather, teachers need to function as process designers and managers who require “relationship building needs assessment, involvement of student in planning, linking students to learning resource, and encouraging student initiative” (p. 254).

So, is the andragogy theory relevant to and effective in online distance adult learning in the twenty-first century? The answer is yes. Knowles’ theory allows teachers to move from rudimentary methods of teaching to more practical, relevant, self-directed, and self-motivated strategies. Knowles’ (1980) theory parallels adult learners’ abilities, needs, and desires to control and be responsible for their learning.

Knowles’ model of andragogy is well suited to the factors that affect adult learners in an online environment. Andragogy can help new teachers to design lesson plans and classwork by providing consistency, coherence, and direction to the adult learner—especially in the online classroom.

6. Conclusion

The classroom setting has moved beyond the teacher pontificating on textbook information in order to engage, the non-motivated student. The online environment attracts the adult learner who recognizes that their career rides on furthering their education. Online courses allow them to take charge of their education, which means that the learner has already recognized that independence and self-discipline is required to have academic success. Within the distance learning context, Knowles’ andragogy model optimizes the learning process to ensure the adult learner acquires the information they will need in an ever-changing workforce. Because adult learners will have the advantage of an instructor who is their guide and facilitator, student-to-student relationships and access to shared information, they will fair better than brick-and-mortar students who may be younger and who are not yet able to take responsibility for their learning. Many adult distance learners are busy, mature people who have families. A significant majority has already entered the workforce and will regard their instructor not as a teacher, but as a field guide. “The future” for these adult learners may be nearer than those learners who only rely on the instructor to show them how to get there.


Burge, L. (1988). Beyond andragogy: some explorations for distance learning design. Journal of Distance Education, 3(1), 5-23.

Bye, D., Pushkar, D., & Conway, M. (2007). Motivation, interest, and positive affect in traditional and nontraditional undergraduate students. Adult Education Quarterly, 57(2), 141-158.

Chen, Y., & Lou, H. (2002). Toward an Understanding of the Behavioral Intention to Use a Groupware Application. Journal of Organizational and End User Computing (JOEUC), 14(4), 1-16.

Fales, A.W. & Burge E.J. (1984). Self-direction by design: self-directed learning in distance course design. Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education, 1 0(1 ), 68-78.

Forrest, P.S III and Peterson, T.O. Academy of Management Learning & Education
Vol. 5, No. 1 (Mar., 2006), pp. 113-122.

Gee, D. G. (1990). The impact of students’ preferred learning style variables in a
Distance education course: A case study. Portales: Eastern New Mexico

Ginder, S & Sykes, A (2013), Web tables: characteristics of exclusively distance education institutions, by state: 2011-12, NCES 2013-172, National Center for Education Statistics, Retrieved on 07 December 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013172.pdf.

Grasha, A. (1996). Teaching with style. Pittsburg, PA: Alliance Publishers

Hanson, D., Maushak, N.J., Schlosser, C.A., Anderson, M.L., Sorenson, C. & Simonson, M.(1997). Distance Education: Review of the Literature, 2nd Edition. Washington, DC: Association for Educational Communications and Technology.

Kim, K., & Bonk, C. J. (2006). The future of online teaching and learning in higher education: The survey says. Education quarterly, 29(4), 22.

Knowles, M. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: from andragogy to pedagogy. Chicago: Associated.

Knowles, M. S., Holton, E. F., Swanson, R. A. (2005). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Boston: Taylor & Francis Ltd.

Parsad, B., and Lewis, L. (2008). Distance Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions: 2006–07 (NCES2009–044). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.

Pratt, D. (1988). Andragogy as a relational construct. Adult Education Quarterly, 38(3), 160-181.

Robinson, R. (1992). Andragogy applied to the Open College learner. Research in Distance Education, January, 10-13.

Taylor, E. & Kaye, T. (1986). Andragogy by design? control and self-direction in the design of an Open University course. Programmed Learning and Educational Technology, 23(1), 62-69.

October 4, 2017

New Book “Cooperating in the Workplace”

Dear Reader,
As our working environment becomes more diverse and global, our knowledge and organizational skills and behavior must develop along with those changes. Cooperating within the workplace is key and goes further than becoming competitive. In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.”
As a gulf War Veteran Army officer that worked in the fields of logistics and Federal Acquisition in the federal government and later as an entrepreneur, I have seen how organizational form and structure with the federal government and in my own business experience given me foundational keys and principles that had guided me to success in both the public and private sectors. Working together with co-workers, supervisors and management within organizations is the catalyst for success. This book is the start of knowing situational understanding in navigating on teams successfully or communicating to higher management. My experience in both perspective and practical will help the reader gain insight and those golden nuggets that can help get out of chaotic situations. If you are on a team or in leadership, developing the skills of Cooperation within the Workplace can prove successful for you and your organization.

Derrick Darden, PhD

New Book now available on Amazon: Cooperating in the Workplace

March 9, 2016

Tick Tock Tick Tock,

A look at the impact of time pressure on work quality

Craig Dowden Ph.D

Our struggle to manage time has troubling ethical implications. However, research shows that lacking free time or feeling consistent time pressure can significantly impact how we interact with other people — and how we perform at work. When we are too busy, we pay less attention to the world around us and are less likely to fully engage in our tasks at the office.

A classic study by John Darley and Daniel Batson in 1973 highlights the impact of time pressure on our willingness to help. Researchers invited participants at a theological college to deliver a three-to five minute impromptu talk to an audience. In preparation for the talk, participants received the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan — which emphasizes helping those in need — to potentially include in their lecture. Some participants were told they had lots of time to get to the lecture hall while others were informed they were already five minutes late and should rush over immediately.

The research team strategically placed an accomplice in the path of the presenter. This actor was instructed to act in obvious distress and to intensify this behaviour as the presenter approached. The researchers were keenly interested to see how often the study participants would help this “person in need.”

The results were fascinating — the pressure of time was the only factor that affected the helping responses of the participants. Only 10% of those who were told they were late for their talk stopped to help, while 63% of participants who were given more time actually stopped to help. In fact, some of the “late” participants literally stepped over the “victim” to continue on their way to deliver their talk on the Good Samaritan.

The researchers concluded that “ethics become a luxury” as the pace of our lives speeds up. Simply, we believe we can sacrifice doing the right thing because we do not have the time to think of others. Although this study is almost 40 years old, it remains relevant as we continue to race through our days at ever-increasing speeds.

Similarly, a 2013 study in the British Medical Journal demonstrates the impact of time pressure on our work quality. In this case, researchers presented a group of General Practitioners (GPs) with two different clinical scenarios. In the first instance, there was no time pressure while in the second, a sense of urgency was introduced.

Shockingly, with the time-pressured group there were significant differences in the quality of care provided to the patients.
Specifically, they:
•tended to ask significantly fewer questions about the presenting symptoms
•did not thoroughly examine the patient
•provided less advice about lifestyle
•were significantly less likely to adhere to the guidelines for patient care/analysis

Managing Time Pressures within a Team

Time pressure is not going away any time soon — so what can you do to effectively manage this shortage?

1.Create an open dialogue

Leaders may do well to consult with their teams about how much time is reasonably required to complete their various projects. Facilitating an open dialogue brings clarity and a sense of calmness.


Clarify project timelines and ensure employees are able to meet them. These discussions can allow team members to focus on the work at hand, instead of being distracted and haunted by unreasonable looming deadlines.

3.Hold impromptu meetings

Invariably, projects will emerge with urgent and immovable timelines. In these cases, sit with your team and talk about how to optimize the time available. Discuss strategies to be more efficient. Think about ways to share the load. This can help reduce the anxiety associated with the elevated pressure.

4.After ramping up, provide respite

If additional work is required to complete a time-sensitive project, ensure people know the situation is temporary. Employees may feel overwhelmed if they believe that high-pressure situations will continue for long periods of time or become a standard practice within the organization. This type of pace is not sustainable and leaders need to reassure their people that this too shall pass.

5.Ensure you control time and it does not control you

Operating within a time-pressured environment has become the norm. We need to identify ways that we control our time, rather than letting our time control us. Our engagement and performance will benefit from time management practices, particularly initiating conversations to reframe the time constraints and openly discussing ways to manage exceptional circumstances.

Make time your friend, rather than your enemy. Getting caught up in the race around you can interfere with the core values and passions that drive you. Your professional behaviour should reflect your personal principles and time pressure should not change that. Maintaining your values and principles in the face of imminent deadlines can be a challenge, but it is worth it — every time.

Craig Dowden Ph.D., focuses on bridging the gap between what science knows and what business does. His firm specializes in the custom design and delivery of evidence-based leadership development programs and services. His main areas of practice include executive and career coaching, workshop facilitation/keynote speaking, employee engagement, and psychometric/personality assessment including 360-feedback.

Originally published in volume 18 issue 2 of Your Workplace magazine

February 22, 2016

How to Empower Employees within the Workplace?

Derrick C. Darden, PhD

What makes an individual employee feel satisfied on the job? What makes an employee increase in productivity and creativity? It’s called Empowerment. The employee becomes satisfied in the workplace when they are empowered and given the opportunity to have ownership over their projects and careers. When you empower an individual employee, you, the manager, relinquish control over the situation. Empowerment allows the individual control over their own fate. Empowerment gives an individual control over not only their work assignments, projects or assigned tasking, but it gives control over their destiny.

When employers delegate authority and responsibility over to their employees, this not only increases job enrichment, along with job satisfaction and the decreased turnover within the organization, but it develops the individual employee for future jobs within the organization. This assures that the organization maintains its competitive edge amongst their industry (Lepak & Gowan, 2016).

When reflecting on my own experience as a team leader, I emphasize to each member to have a sense of ownership when it comes to their assigned work- in other words, become responsible for the task you were given.  This ownership gives the team member a sense of empowerment, making their part in whatever project or task essential and it puts them on notice to achieve beyond expectations.

As a leader,  I follow five principles that empower my team members;

  1. Trust in individuals- Each member of the team has talents and abilities. When joined with Empowering Employeesother talented individuals, you have collective abilities and knowledge that can accomplish results in their own ways. Give them the autonomy to take charge of the situation or task. Have faith in your people.
  2. Equip individuals with the necessary tools of success- give them the latitude to connect with others within the company and outside the company such as vendors, customer and potential future customers.
  1. Acknowledge achievements- My organization has monthly gatherings for hail and farewells, but also to recognize the professional achievements of teams and individuals.
  1. Decentralize Decision Making –As a team leader, my supervisor gives me the latitude in charting the course for my team. I also encourage my members to collaborate not only with each other, but with other teams within the organization. This assures individual growth, encourages creativity, and increases productivity and job satisfaction within the individual and the collective team.
  1. Encourages Collaboration – The workplace should be viewed as a collective and cooperative effort and not an environment of hard labor at the hands of the task master. As mentioned, my team work with other teams within the organization, being isolated and forbidden to speak with others inhibits growth and creativity for individuals and the organization. Remember, one does not succeed alone.

To conclude, empowerment of individuals assures individual success and organizational success. This translates into the organization as a whole having a competitive advantage amongst its industry. This also enhances the workplace culture within the organization. Remember whatever leadership role you play in the organization, if you allow people the opportunity to be creative and become responsible for themselves, they will grow and make your job easy.  As Leaders, think of yourself as a servant and not the task Master.


Lepak. D & Gowan, M. (2016). Human Resource Management: Managing Employees for Competitive Advantage (2nd ed). Chicago Business Press

September 8, 2015

Time Wasting Activities within the Workplace: Don’t be apart of them

Open Journal of Business and Management, 2015, 3, 345-348

Published Online October 2015 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/ojbm http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojbm.2015.34033

How to cite this paper: Darden, D.C. (2015) Time Wasting Activities within the Workplace: Don’t Be Apart of Them. Open Journal of Business and Management, 3, 345-348. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojbm.2015.34033


If you work in an office for a small or large organization, you will notice managers, supervisors, and even your co-workers engaging in time-wasting activities during the day.

Typical examples of such activities are talking around the water cooler spreading office gossip or sitting in non-productive meetings. These non-productive, time-wasting activities are common in the workplace.

The objective of this article is to help you to identify time-wasting behaviors and what to do about them based on information gathered through observations in the workplace and recent research articles on the topic. In particular, the article identifies three areas of non-productivity such as preoccupation, attending useless meetings, and time-consuming communication unrelated to office business. For both the manager, supervisor and individual worker identification and elimination of the time-wasting activity can foster an organization that promotes efficiency and increases productivity with increase profitability.


If you work in an office as I do, then you will notice managers, supervisors, and even your co-workers engaging in time-wasting activities during the course of the day. Time-wasting activities can include spreading office gossip, looking at baby or graduation pictures of your co-workers’ kids, or sitting in a non-productive meeting. I want to see whether these time wasters exist in my workplace, and they do. During my unofficial eight-hour observational survey in my office, I notice co-workers walking from cubicle to cubicle engaging in frivolous conversation with other co-workers. The topics of discussion range from their favorite sports events (NBA finals) to headline news. I notice that managers and supervisors delay in assigning hot projects promptly because of man  distractions, from looking at emails to dealing with unexpected walk-ins and incoming phone calls. Another time waster is boring non-productive meetings, which agreements for everyone are a complete waste of time.

While conducting the survey, I notice the peak times, and most of these activities occur are in the morning when everybody arrives before lunch, and before everyone leaves to go home at the end of the day. We all are involved, some more than others, in non-productive time-wasting activities. This article will point out those activities that can result in less productivity in organizations and what to do about it.

  1. Three Time Wasting Activities

The first time-wasting activity that affects productivity is preoccupation with the wrong things instead of the task at hand. Most of us can be preoccupied, wrapped up in our thoughts and feelings and sensations, and not aware or instrumental in the task at hand. When someone is preoccupied, nothing else matters. The good side of preoccupation is the focus that accompanies it, and I’m sure everyone has experienced this phenomenon. For example, when we are in love with someone, nothing else in this world matters at that time. The people around us, even our mother and father, do not matter at the moment. When we are in love, we focus solely on the person we love. We’ve all had experiences like this; we’ve all been there. However, when it comes to our workers or our groups, we need to focus our attention on the individual or group when we pass out assignments and talk about the projects at hand. We must not be so preoccupied with emails, talking on the telephone, or entertaining others that we interrupt our meeting with our workers or team. Now, some may argue that they can multitask three or more things at once. Well, the statistics bear witness against that myth [1]. Rosen [1] finds that multitasking’s required shifting our attention, especially for the younger generation, can be detrimental to the individual and the culture. As cited by Rosen [1], psychologist William James in 1890, compares the constant shifting of our attention to an immature mind prone to distractions. Many studies point to the cognitive failure of multitasking and compare the mind of a child, which is easily distracted. This is why many states are passing laws that penalize drivers for texting and driving. Focusing on two or more tasks at hand impairs our judgment about what is worthy of our attention [1] [2].

With this in mind, the worker might leave the manager’s, or supervisor’s office confused about admission or task that has a next-day deadline. This creates uncertainty, anxiety, and an environment that produces low-quality non-productive work [3]. The worker will try to get the full story from other co-workers instead of clarifying with the manager or supervisor. This time waster will come back to cause more problems within the organization and the atmosphere will be intense with confusion. This is why poor communication in the workplace leads to performance problems and time-wasting activities. Preoccupation with the wrong things can lead to low quality and non-productive work.

The second time waster is managers and supervisors holding frivolous meetings that regurgitate information that can be emailed or personally delivered to the affected individuals. Some would say that attending a boring  and useless meeting is like going to the doctor for a rectal exam or to the dentist for tooth extraction. I understand that in the federal government meetings are frequent and sometimes non-productive. The old saying in the federal government is that “we have a meeting before the real meeting takes place”.

Numerous meetings are unproductive time wasters. As reported in Industry Week [4], out of 613 (men and women) a large majority found that meetings are a big waste of time. As reported in Psychology Today [5], a team of psychologists and neuroscientists has provided the cognitive explanation for why meetings are wasteful.

All agree that we have very limited cognitive ability on a daily basis. This is diminished when we don’t get enough sleep or take in the right amount of nutrients to help us focus, retain information, and make decisions at these meetings. This is why long meetings, especially discussing projects or contractual agreements, are counterproductive.

We make bad decisions or choices in these meetings. On the other hand, if meetings are necessary, we should always have an agenda. If possible, we should provide information a day early so that people can read it prior to the meeting and focus only on the issues at hand; we must leave petty gossip and negative attitudes at the door. Meetings should take no more than one hour, and the less time the better. Finally, we need to create follow-up agenda for the next meeting.

The third time waster is workers engaging in frivolous or time-consuming gossip; even supervisors and managers can be guilty of this. Every organization globally deals with, for example, workers using cell phones/texting more frequently than when regular phones were in use or visiting websites that are not job related, which may cause the worker to shift focus formatively project that needs to become the next day. In paying attention to the distracters within the workplace context, the worker is engaging in non-productive time. The individual worker is focusing on a task that is non-productive toward the goal, objective, or mission of the organization.

The worker is being sidetracked from the essential task at hand. As reported by Career Builders, an online survey conducted by Harris poll with 2175 professional participants between February and March 2015 said that the top three time wasters in the workplace are the use of cell phones/texting, with 52% agreeing that this is a productivity killer, surfing unofficial websites on the job, with 44% agreeing, and gossiping, with 37% agreeing [6]. Most organizations have put in place measures to mitigate the time wasters; for example, some companies monitor workers’ internet usage via attacking mechanism on servers that pinpoints non-productive work on computers.

To produce efficiency in the workplace and eliminate time wasters, below are three suggestions and tips to implement for an office that is currently non-productive.

2.1. Suggestion Number One

Have a plan; the old saying is “if you don’t have a plan, then you plan to fail”. This includes managing your time effectively and efficiently; we do this in life with retirement, our jobs, marriage, and even starting a family.

As a supervisor or manager, you are responsible for the forward movement of the organization in accordance with  your mission plan, including operations, training of new personnel, and securing equipment and resources.

You’re the one who knows where the weak links are within the organization. You should develop a plan for the next six months to a year to tackle areas of deficiency within the organization. Don’t wait until the busy season to start training folks, getting resources, and securing equipment. Plan ahead to invest in the organization. For example, my office has a timeframe in which we are absolutely busy for two months; no one can go anywhere or take vacation and if people are sick they have to be really sick to stay out of work. Prior to this time, managers and supervisors plan six months out to allow supervisors and team leaders to attend training, and training is conducted with the whole group of specialists. Therefore, in the busy season this year, we experienced increased efficiency and quality and a boost in creativity. This in turn increased job satisfaction and job ownership within the organization. Workers should manage their time by establishing priorities. Schedule large projects up front and avoid distracters such as co-workers piling around your cubicle gossiping; reserve your workspace for productive work only. As a good time manager, schedule frivolous conversation for your breaks or at lunchtime.

Remember, the organization hired workers who are reliable, educated, and efficient. High efficiency increases productivity in the workplace, which then increases profitability for both the organization and the individual worker.

2.2. Suggestion Number Two

Know yourself and your people. This comes from my old army training; if you take care of your people, they will take care of you. However, you have to know yourself; you have to know your limitations, weaknesses, and strengths. If you don’t know yourself and take care of yourself, how can you take care of others? Once you find out who you are and identify those things that hold you back, address those issues. Take care of yourself physically and mentally; don’t be the leader who stands in the way of your organization’s progress.

If you don’t know your people, how can you lead them or plan day-to-day activities and operations with them? You need to get on the floor or in the trenches. Workers are individuals under your control; talk with them, listen to them, and don’t be preoccupied with other less important things. Talking with your colleagues, attending to your emails, answering your phone, or addressing a stranger who walks into your office and demands your immediate attention instead of tending to the task at hand sends a signal of disrespect for your workers, both as individuals and as team members.

Managers and supervisors must be aware of the people around them and treat them with respect. When you speak to an individual, get into the position of listening. This may mean that your eyes are glued on this person’s eyes and mouth as you listen and repeat back the person’s message. Consciously and unconsciously, we all pride ourselves on being effective listeners, but we are frequently preoccupied with other things that take the attention that should all go to the worker.

2.3. Suggestion Number Three

Stay focused, stay focused, and stay focused on your workers. You need to talk about hot projects, problems on the job, and how to fix those problems. Staying focused means being organized and listening to your team consciously and unconsciously; if you do this, you’ll be successful every time. There is no such thing as multitasking; research reveals that a small percentage of the population is true multitasks. The rest of us are good at stopping one task and focusing on a new task then going back to the first task and picking up where we left off.

However, statistics also show that productivity and creativity drop when you do that, so the moral of the story is to focus on one thing at a time. If you do, then you will be successful at many things [3].

  1. Conclusions

To avoid time wasters and being more productive in the workplace, managers and supervisors need to examine their behaviors that may cause wasted time. Efficiency across the board is the name of the game. The new reality in the workplace is doing more with less. Organizations want workers who are highly efficient in an environment that fosters productivity because increased productivity in the workplace increases profit.

Managers and supervisors need to examine their time-wasting behaviors, such as finding new ways to disseminate information to workers rather than holding frivolous meetings. Workers need to become better time managers and protectors of their workspace so that it doesn’t become a hangout spot for co-workers. Additionally, everyone can avoid the big time wasters: use of cell phones, visiting websites that are not job related, and engaging in frivolous conversation. All of these activities can be completed in your off time or on official breaks.

Finally, managers, supervisors, and workers should respect each other’s time in the workplace. For example, holding workers hostage while the supervisor or manager is preoccupied with distracters such as emails and unscheduled interruptions should be vigorously avoided.


[1] Rosen, C. (2008) The Myth of Multitasking. The New Atlantis, 20, 105-110.

[2] Loukopoulos, D., Dismukes, K. and Barshi, I. (2008) The Multitasking Myth. Ashgate Publishing, Farnham.

[3] Crenshaw, D. (2008) The Myth of Multitasking: How Doing It All Gets Nothing Done. 1st Edition, Jossey-Bass, San  Francisco, 144.

[4] Industry Week (2005) Meetings a Waste of Time, Employees Complain. http://www.industryweek.com/archive/meetings-waste-time-employees-complain.

[5] Psychology Today (2010) Want to Improve Productivity? Scrap Meetings. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201010/want-improve-productivity-scrap-meetings.

[6] CareerBuilder (2015) Biggest Time-Wasters at Work? You May Be Surprised.


Derrick C. Darden

Tiffin University, Tiffin, OH, USA

Email: derrick.c.darden@gmail.com

Received 3 August 2015; accepted 25 August 2015; published 28 August 2015

Copyright © 2015 by author and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).


August 7, 2015

He’s Lazy or He’s Lazy Not…

lazy man

As a manager of a large product manufacturing plant, you are reviewing the cost of operating all departments under your responsibility in order to efficiently maintain your product line. At the conclusion of your review, you discover one department is lagging behind the other departments under your control. Furthermore, the supervisor has been one of your top achievers in years past. As you review all of the workers within the departments, you discover that the performance of one particular worker (let’s call him “Homer”) has been very poor compared with that of his peers. You wondered if this worker is receiving the proper training. Is it lack of skills or lack of motivation?  You don’t know, but you will soon pay a visit to Homer’s supervisor.

The following week, you pay a visit to the supervisor of the underperforming department. During casual conversation with the supervisor, you mention that the production line is not operating at the capacity of efficiency that you are used to seeing. The supervisor mentions that he has an employee who is not pulling his weight in his department. His name is Homer. The supervisor proceeds to accuse Homer of being uninterested and unmotivated, and his co-workers agree that his behavior is not energetic and is lazy. The supervisor is visibly spewing emotionally heralding negative comments about the employee. The supervisor then suggests that Homer should be fired.

You reply to the supervisor that, in your research of the employees under his supervision, you learned that Homer had an exceptional record upon being hired; he tested higher than anyone in the present department, and the interviewer remembers him as being highly intelligent, motivated, and passionate about starting work. You tell the supervisor that his interpretation of Homer is wrong; that Homer needs to be challenged, motivated, and inspired. Homer has not been motivated and not challenged, and, as a result, he seems no longer enthusiastic about the job.

Although many speak about motivating someone, only a few really know how to engage someone to perform and challenge themselves in performing the task at hand. How do you get that individual to take ownership of the task and do so without using negative comments from the supervisor and co-workers?

For those who find themselves in this scenario, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Communicate with your employees at all times. Tell them what you have noticed about them and ask how you can help them to further their careers. When you ask a question as such, be prepared to listen.
  2. Role model the behavior you want your employees to display on the job. Be that example your employees can model.
  3. Give employees challenging assignments or projects; don’t give them busy work.
  4. When you give out assignments or projects to your employee, explain their importance, encourage them to perform their best and tell them how critical the assignment or project is to the job .

Remember, when employees appear less proficient on the job and less productive, perhaps the manager or supervisor needs to further examine areas of motivation and their leadership style in order to model motivation.

July 12, 2015

Time Wasting Activities within the Workplace (Don’t Be Apart of Them)

If you work in an office for a small or large organization, you will notice managers, supervisors, and even your co-workers engaging in time-wasting activities during the day. Typical examples of such activities are talking around the water cooler spreading office gossip or sitting in non-productive meetings. These non-productive, time-wasting activities are common in the workplace. This paper’s objective is to help you to identify time-wasting behaviors and what to do about them, based on information gathered through observations in the workplace and recent research articles on the topic. In particular, the paper identifies three areas of non-productivity: preoccupation and not focused on the task at hand, attending useless meetings, and time-consuming communication unrelated to office business. The paper also identifies the time frames during which time-wasting activities occur.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 7
Keywords: Time wasters, Time Management, Workplace, Frivolous meetings, Boring, Preoccupation, Productivity
Darden, Derrick C., Time Wasting Activities within the Workplace (Don’t Be Apart of Them) (June 25, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2623378(Full Text)

July 9, 2015

Rumors, they’re Here to Stay


Derrick C Darden


Rumors, fortunately or unfortunately affects us all and in many ways then we care to remember.   Take for instance this juicy example, you’re working on a small facility in the middle of no where and everyone knows your name. Then one day someone spot you  riding  a car with young single  women, not once but twice.   Two people have spotted both of you together and they tell their friends that a relationship is happening between both of you. And now these friends tell others and so on.  Two weeks later this information gets back to you. You know that nothing has happen and the married lady is innocent. Also, how can you stop this embarrassment and shame that have made your name mud?   According to the author of “Rumors and Rumor control: A Manager’s Guide to Understanding and Combating Rumors,” Kimmel (2004), writes that rumors usually appear either through situations of extreme stress, mistrust and confusion.  Further, rumors can also thrive on these irrelevant facts or die a slow death when the crisis has subsided.   Bottom-line is that rumors are unsubstantial claims they’re inaccuracy, mistaken beliefs and misconception. Rumors, causes high anxieties when people have uncertainty with ambiguity.   But, on the other hand rumors can help promote positive information as well.  Rumors or gossip are particularly useful in organizations.  You may ask how? It’s through the grapevine method.    Some researcher credits the grapevine with transmitting 75 to 90 percent of information to be factual.  Others claim that a company grapevine show if an organization is healthy or not.  So, rumors can hurt or harm an individual or a group of people and rumors can promote whatever ideal you want to expose others to in your organization.

In the landmark study conducted by both Drs. Allport and Postman (1951), “Psychology of Rumors.”  They concluded that as rumors travel from person to person, they can become shorter and easier to comprehend as they are told from recipient to recipient. Seventy percent of the details in the message were lost during repetitive transmission of the rumor.

So, why do people bother with rumors? What are some of the intrinsic values do rumors present?    Researcher Kimmel (2004) evaluates that rumors present a basic elements   of how humans interact with each other.  So, whether these rumors are negative or positive they have the capacity to address our human desires, needs and wants. .


Benefit to organizations

Organizations can benefit through the spreading of rumors and gossip in the workplace.  Researchers Noon and Dell Bridge (1993) cites in their article “News from behind my hand: Gossip in Organizations” that rumors or gossip in organizations can sustain and perpetuate positive factors within the organization.   And these positive factors perpetuate clarity and understanding of the social structure within the organization.  Second, they point out important ramification for the relationship and formal structure within the workplace.  Third, rumors or gossip can protect the organization by offering individuals, informal social mobility influence and an escapism.




I heard it through the grapevine


Another positive influence that organizations can have on the flow of communication within the workplace is to use the grapevine to control what information is transmitted.  It’s the grapevine that transmit informal communication occurs within the organization.  .  According to Dr. Robbins (2004), the grapevine experience can be beneficial to managers by knowing the morale levels within the organization. Second, the grapevine experience can help manager understand the uncertainties and stresses among us their employees. Third, manager can understand and evaluate how formal and informal communication effectively assimilates within the organization.

Stop the rumors

Lastly, if you want to stop the rumors or gossip from spreading?  There are a number of methodologies, both credible and non-credible. It depends on your situation and how effective you want the result to manifest. Bottom-line, deal with rumors and gossip head on.


       So, the bottom line with rumors or gossip can be mentally stressful to an individual or a group. they can convey positive as well as negative messages throughout any organization.  And rumors and/or gossip will always be around as long as people cohabitant.





Allport, G. W & Postman, L. (1947). Psychology of Rumor. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Cauldron, S. (1998). On the Contrary: They heard it through the Grapevine. Workforce, Vol. 77, (11), p.25-27.

Delbridge, R. & Noon, M. (1993). News from behind my hand: Gossip in Organizations. Organization Studies. 14(1), p.23-26.

Kimmel, A. (2004). Rumors and Rumor Control: A manager’s Guide to Understanding and Combating Rumors. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc .

Robbins, S (2004). Essentials of Organizational Behavior (8th ed.) New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

March 3, 2014

A Poor Thought Process: Fear by Dr. Dennis Kimbro

So many of our decisions are motivated by fear; fear of what we cannot achieve or what we will lose. There are usually two big fears that prevent you from achieving your greatest potential: the fear of losing respect and the fear of losing money.

The fear of losing money is a very common fear. We all have bills to pay and know all too well the consequence that follow. However, you must remember that poverty begins and ends in your mind. If you decide that you are poor and that there is no possible way to lift yourself up, then you are doomed to remain in terror of losing all your money.

However, once you let go of that fear and embrace the idea that you can and should be wealthy, you can move forward without terror making your decisions. Almost every millionaire in my book The Wealth Choice has had to face hard times, but each one of them came out on top.

The other fear—the fear of losing respect—comes from dealing with those who do not believe in you. Sadly, there are people who would scoff at your dreams because they are too afraid to dream their own. You cannot let their scorn drag you down. No one would have believed that a fourteen year-old Maya Angelou would go on to be one of the most celebrated artists of the century, but her unshakeable faith in herself made her a legend in her own time.

There will always be those who wish to drag you down, but you must not let their comments push you from your path. You are never truly alone in your path, and you will come to find those who truly support you as time passes. However, you must move forward with courage and passion, and you must not be afraid of letting go of those relationships with those who would see you fall.

Both of these fears can be conquered. It simply takes the right attitude to transform your fears into the catalysts for a better outlook and a better life.

December 26, 2012

The psychological impact of working in a negative-workplace

Researchers have found a growing national trend in employees experiencing some form of negative behavior in the work environment. Schat, Frone & Kelloway reported in 2006 in a prominent study of U.S. workers that 41.4% or approximately 47 million American workers reported being involved at their workplace with psychological antagonism over the past 12 months (Schat et al., 2006). In a survey conducted by the U.S. government of federal employees, out of forty-two thousand or 58% of those participating in the survey, 13% or 1 in 8 witnessed some kind of form of negative behavior in the workplace (Federal Government, 2012).
Studies into negative work behaviors and their environments have researchers looking at the relationship of work-related psychosocial hazards and relationship to psychological illness. Negative behaviors aimed at an individual or a group of co-workers have various labels such as manipulation and exploitation, bullying, degrading and humiliation, and harassment (Zapf & Einarsen, 2003).
Most recent research has linked negative behaviors to the health of the employee. In a study by Bowling and Beehr (2006), found that various behaviors such as depression, anxiety and physical symptoms had a significant relationship. Other researchers found bullying or negative behavior in the workplace and that employee intention to leave the organization has an indirect link to ill health (Djurkovic et al., 2004).
These studies confirm that when employees experience the negative effects of psychological workplace hazards and the above-mentioned behaviors are prominently displayed amongst the individual or group, it results in high absenteeism and huge turnover rates in the organization.
In a recent study done by the University of Copenhagen psychology department, 2,154 healthcare workers were followed for three years to investigate the risk of turnover when exposed to a negative environment at the workplace. In the first year, the study found that 9.2% of the workers responded to a negative environment on a frequent basis. In years two and three, they saw a strong correlation between frequent exposure to a negative work environment and high turnover rates. This study also pointed out the correlation between the health of the worker and work Conditions (Hogh A, Hoel H, Caneiro IG, 2011b).
Three factors stood out in this study regarding why these workers wanted to quit: poor leadership, constant exposure to negative behavior, and health problems, which can affect the worker in the long term (Hogh A, Hoel H, Caneiro IG, 2011b).
As a result, organizations experience high absenteeism, and high turnover that ultimately end up with low productivity, poor creativity and a decline in work quality (Hogh A, Hoel H,

Caneiro IG, 2011b).
All of this hampers an organization’s ability to compete in a competitive environment, their ability to hire and retain talented individuals, and the fostering of a healthy work environment. Negative behaviors should not be tolerated in the workplace. It is too costly for the organization and the individual. Additionally, it undermines the goals, vision and ultimately the success of the organization.
Whenever this negative behavior is exposed in an organization, a zero tolerance policy should be implemented throughout the organization. Managers and leaders should monitor the work environment on a constant basis. Managers need to keep an open door policy for all employees to talk about problems they may be experiencing in the organization. Seniors managers should conduct town hall meetings with all employees to understand the work climate. Senior managers should be approachable without being judgmental at all times.
In conclusion, a negative workplace environment affects all employees in both the private and government sector. Mitigating and eliminating a negative work environment may save the organization costly medical bills and decrease absenteeism. Negative behaviors can arise in every workplace environment and needs to be dealt with swiftly by upper management and leadership.
Further research is needed to understand the nature, causes, and consequences of negative workplace behaviors, such as aggression, and perhaps most importantly, policies and interventions to reduce such behaviors.

Bowling N.A. & Beehr T.A. (2006) Workplace harassment from the victim’s perspective: a theoretical model and meta-analysis. The Journal of Applied Psychology 91 (5), 998–1012
Djurkovic N., McCormack D. & Casimir G. (2004). The physical and psychological effects of workplace bullying and their relationship to intention to leave: a test of the psychosomatic and disability hypotheses. International Journal of Organization Theory and Behavior 7 (4), 469–497.
Federal government (2012). One in eight feds have witnessed workplace violence in past two years. Federal Government Publication, Baltimore, MD.
Hogh A, Hoel H, Caneiro IG (2011b) Bullying and employee turnover among health-care workers. A three-wave prospective study. Journal of Nursing Management, 19,742-751.
Schat, A.C.H., Frone, M.R., & Kelloway, E.K. (2006). Prevalence of workplace aggression in the U.S workforce: Findings from a national study. In E.K. Kelloway, J. Barling, and J. Hurrell (Eds.), Handbook of workplace violence. Thousand Oaks, CA:SAGE.
Zapf D., Einarsen S., Hoel H. & Vartia M. (2003). Empirical findings on bullying in the workplace. In Bullying and Emotional Abuse in the Workplace. International Perspectives in Research and Practice, 1st edn., Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 44, 103- 126.


By Derrick C Darden