The Kahneman-Treisman Center for Behavioral Science & Public Policy would like to share the news of an experiment completed under the Campus Behavioral Science Initiative (CBSI), which aims to bring together researchers and administrators who are interested in researching and addressing significant problems on Princeton’s campus through the lens of behavioral science and policy. 

Theories in psychology and behavioral sciences suggest that participatory meetings, in which group members discuss work-related challenges, solutions, and personal goals, can motivate behavior. Acting center director Betsy Levy Paluck and graduate student Sherry Wu led an experiment, which included participants from 32 Princeton academic departments (172 staff members), to determine whether participatory meetings can change group productivity and work-related attitudes among administrative staff teams.

Paluck and Wu found that participatory meetings increased facets of staff empowerment and efficiency. Staff teams in the treatment condition, who held six 20-minute participatory meetings over six weeks in fall 2017, reported significantly higher levels of communication efficiency, willingness to voice opinions at work, and more favorable attitudes toward their own team, compared with teams that did not experience participatory meetings. Treatment staff teams also reported more job satisfaction and sense of control at work, even though the differences were not statistically significant.

With findings from this learning in combination with evidence from prior experiments in a large modern multinational apparel company, it is reasonable to conclude that brief participatory meetings help promote and sustain a supportive and efficient group environment for work teams. Princeton managers may contact your Senior Human Resources Manager for strategies that may be applicable for your department.