PhD Research Proposal Presentation: Anna-Maria Broomes

Thursday, May 23, 2024 13:00to15:00

Anna-Maria Broomes

Ms. Anna-Maria Broomes, a doctoral student at McGill University in the area of Organizational Behaviour will be presenting her research proposal entitled:

Integrating Bottom-Up Initiatives with Formal Structures for Managing Job Demands


Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 1:00pm – 3:00pm

Student Committee Chair: Professor Patricia Hewlin and Professor Roman Galperin

Please note that the presentation will be conducted in person. Please let us know if you wish to attend and we will provide you with the room number.


Organizational theory recognizes the crucial link between managing job demands and fostering employee success. These demands, including physical, psychological, and social pressures, can significantly hinder employee performance. Most frameworks acknowledge that job demands, while potentially motivating, can induce stress and harm both individual workers and overall organizational effectiveness. This dissertation explores how proactive employee initiatives can interact with formal structures to address job demands over time, offering novel mechanisms to theories of job demands and change, which often emphasize isolated bottom-up or top-down approaches.

In the first paper, I address challenges of studying bottom-up change, such as limited time frames and restricted access to employee communications. To overcome these challenges, I propose a unique data source in social science: formal grievance texts. These grievances, spanning over 2500 entries across six years, highlight issues such as unfair scheduling, inadequate safety measures, and interpersonal conflict. They provide valuable context for understanding the real-world complexities of job demands. More specifically, I use the empirical context of the maritime industry and longshore work to inform theory development. The study of job demands is especially critical in global shipping, where longshore workers undertake strenuous and dangerous tasks to load and unload cargo. Frequent and economically debilitating longshore worker strikes across North America highlight an urgent need to forefront these workers in organizational studies. Through the inductive analysis of grievances filed across two collective bargaining cycles and two major strikes, I explore how seemingly routine challenges to working conditions may accumulate and transform over time. Triangulating the grievance data with the analysis of organizational policies, public statements, news articles, and legislative changes, I propose that this accumulation can shape employee perceptions of job demands, foster disruptive workplace experiences, and ultimately influence broader organizational processes and future job demands.

In the second paper, I take a different approach to theorizing about the management of job demands. Ambiguity surrounding work expectations and job demands can lead to costly implications for organizations. Yet theories of job demands often overlook the role of formal contracts in clarifying these demands. To address this limitation, I propose the analysis of textual similarities between collective bargaining agreements and worker grievances to identify discrepancies between formal structures and complaints about job demands. I examine the longshore workers’ grievance filings to compare how similar these grievances are to each other (grievance alignment), and the formal contract (contract alignment). I develop novel propositions that categorize different combinations of these alignment scores (e.g., low grievance alignment and high contract alignment). These configurations capture the interplay between contract clarity and shared understandings among employees, reflecting contract efficiency. I use word embeddings and cosine similarity to construct these alignment scores and investigate the relationship between changes to the formal contract and variation in alignment configurations. I also validate my measures on the formal grievances of checkers, an occupation working alongside longshore workers to verify ship cargo. Analyzing grievance texts through this lens offers a unique window into the interplay between formal and informal expectations. This approach advances theorizing on contract interpretation and implementation by highlighting types of disconnect between codified terms and workers' lived experiences.

Back to top