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Robert Eisenberger, Ph.D.

Robert Eisenberger

Professor of Psychology (College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences)
Professor of Management (C. T. Bauer College of Business)
Ph.D., University of California, Riverside

126 Heyne Building
713-743-3159
reisenberger2@uh.edu
Research Website
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Teaching

PSYC 7363: Organizational Psychology
PSYC 8393: Job Attitudes
PSYC 8393: Applied Research
PSYC 8393: Theory Building

Teaching Philosophy

My goal is to teach students to develop a broad understanding of the subject matter and to develop their ability to think critically and creatively about the field of study.

Social Psychologists have found that a majority of students go through their undergraduate courses in psychology retaining many of the basic misconceptions that they started out with. This may be due in part to the fact that so much knowledge has been accumulated in psychology that it is easy to wind up memorizing a multitude of facts in classes to prepare for tests while failing to understand important principles that organize those facts. Therefore, students need to understand the basic principles that that make sense of the diversity of information.

Knowledge in psychology as all science is cumulative with many diversions from simple progress. Understanding the controversies in psychology helps students to better understand how science develops. This Understanding is also promoted by learning to think critically and creatively about the topic. The best way for students to do this is to become actively engaged in their course, thinking about what makes sense and what does not, what they agree with and what they do not, and how they might develop alternative interpretations for the phenomena being discussed.

I very much enjoy research with students as part of the educational process. Students are my partners in research and with them I have co-authored many of my conference papers and publications. Whenever discussing research readings, I generally ask all of us to focus on three issues for discussion: What do I not understand? What do I disagree with? What ideas do the readings suggest for testing prior theories or for new theoretical development? I especially enjoy working with students who are just learning a field. They have enough knowledge to begin to ask interesting questions but not so much knowledge that they begin to unconsciously accept the presumptions in the area without question. Some of my best collaborative research has come from working with students who were learning about a new field and came up with very interesting suggestions.

Research Interests

  1. Employee-Organization Relationship. Most of my research concerns the relationship of employees with their organization and its representatives. According to my organizational support theory, employees form a perception concerning the extent to which the organization values their contribution and cares about their well-being (perceived organizational support, or POS). Research on POS began with the observation that if managers are concerned with their employees’ commitment to the organization, employees are focused on the organization’s commitment to them. Organizational support theory holds: (a) employees develop POS in order to meet needs for approval, esteem and affiliation, and to assess the benefits of increased work effort; (b) POS is strongly influenced by the favorableness of treatment that employees view as discretionary as opposed to treatment that the organization appears pressured or forced to provide; and (c) employees return supportive treatment by helping the organization meet its goal and objectives. Employees with high POS have been found to experience their jobs more positively (e.g., increased job satisfaction, enhanced mood, and reduced stress) and to be more invested in their organization (e.g., improved performance of required activities, greater citizenship behavior and innovation, and reduced absenteeism and turnover).
  2. Moral emotions. I study moral emotions, such as gratitude and anger, which involve the attribution of credit or blame for one’s treatment.  At work, these emotions arise from favorable or unfavorable treatment from the organization and its representatives and influence employee wellbeing, attitudes and performance.  Yet, gratitude and anger have received little research attention in the organizational context.  My colleagues, students and I have undertaken an extensive research program to study the role of moral emotions in the employment relationship.  We study how daily change in moral emotions and more long-term change in moral emotions are influenced by fluctuation in daily treatment by others and by more enduring factors such as perceptions of organizational support.
  3. Unethical behavior in organizations. Managers sometimes encourage or pressure subordinates to engage in unethical behaviors that harm stakeholders for the benefit of the managers or the organization. My colleagues and I are studying factors influencing subordinates’ susceptibility to such influence.  Our experimental and field studies suggest that requested dishonest behavior is enhanced by (a) a strong exchange relationship between the manager and employee and (b) a strong exchange relationship between the manager and his or her own manager. By contrast, displays of moral virtue by fellow employees increases resistance to managers’ requests for dishonest behavior.

Sample Publications

Ford, M. T., Wang, Y., Jin, J., & Eisenberger, R. (2018). Chronic and episodic anger and gratitude toward the organization: relationships with organizational and supervisor supportiveness and extra-role behavior.  Journal of Occupational Health Psychology 23, 175-187.

Eisenberger, R., & Stinglhamber, F. (2011). Perceived organizational support: Fostering enthusiastic and productive employees. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Books.

Kurtessis, J. N., Eisenberger, R. Ford, M. T. Buffardi, L. C. Stewart, K. A., & Adis, C. S. (2017). Perceived organizational support: A meta-analytic evaluation of organizational support theory.  Journal of Management, 43, 1854-1884.

Shoss, M., Eisenberger, R., Restubog, S. L. D., & Zagenczyk, T. J. (2013). Blaming the organization for abusive supervision: The roles of perceived organizational support and supervisor’s organizational embodiment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98, 158-168.

Eisenberger, R., Karagonlar, G., Stinglhamber, F., Neves, P., Becker, T. E., Gonzalez-Morales, M. G., & Steiger-Mueller, M. (2010). Leader-member exchange and affective organizational commitment: The contribution of supervisor’s organizational embodiment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 1085-1103

Eisenberger, R., Huntington, R., Hutchison, S., & Sowa, D. (1986). Perceived organizational support. Journal of Applied Psychology, 71, 500-507.