Phenomenological Look At Workplace Procrastination Through The Eyes Of An Employee

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Aim: The major purpose of this study is to explore procrastination at the workplace from a phenomenological perspective. The present study aims to look through the eyes of a procrastinator and understand one’s individual interpretation of this complex phenomenon. The study will explore subjective reasons for and consequences of workplace procrastination, including the effects on an individual’s identity. It aims to gain a deeper understanding of lived experiences of workplace procrastination, the ways individuals perceive, talk and assign meanings to it as well as understanding employees’ perspectives on how workplace settings may contribute to procrastination.

Background: Work procrastination is known to be a very expensive issue for organisations. On average, every procrastinator costs companies around $8,875 annually (D’Abate and Eddy 2007). Demanding workplace tasks, open access to internet, authoritative management, etc. are all external factors which employees may be exposed to on a daily basis. Each of these variables may have a significant negative effect on employees’ productivity and contribute to the degree of procrastination at work. In addition to these external factors, each of us is subjected to individual problems such as illnesses, family issues and personals concerns as well as personal characteristics which can exacerbate procrastination tendencies. Each of these factors combined determine an employee’s workplace procrastination habits and subsequently to what degree workplace procrastination will hinder the company’s overall performance. However, there is currently no consensus on what causes workplace procrastination, how to treat it and how to help employees and organisations deal with it.

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While there is a significant amount of research into academic procrastination, there is a lack of research on daily workplace procrastination. For decades, many empirical studies and theories have been attempting to address the issue of procrastination and determine its causes. Predominantly, researchers use a quantitative approach when studying this topic, covering the breadth of the issue and generating results but not digging deeper into individual experiences. Explanations are focused on measuring and exploring correlations between emotional intelligence, perfectionism, anxiety, intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, locus of control, efficacy, gender, age, social status, level of stress, responsibilities, stress, pressure, etc. with procrastination (D’Abate et al., 2007; Katz et al., 2014; Klingsieck et al., 2013; Mzoughi et al., 2007; Stöber et al., 2001). Nonetheless, there is a lack of subjective understanding of the issue.

Methods: According to Smith (1996) the qualitative method Interpretative Phenomenological Approach (IPA) is considered to be the most appropriate when studying human experiences. IPA will therefore be used to understand the inner world and subjective nature of procrastination (Brocki and Wearden, 2006). The study will be based on 3-4 semi-structured interviews with professionals working in central London in a corporate environment who would acknowledge themselves as being procrastinators. People will be recruited through social media platforms such as linkedIn and Facebook websites. Finally, the list of themes will be identified and analysed.

Contribution: There is no single answer to address the issue of procrastination and this study does not aim to do so. However, for the first time the problem will be approached from a subjective perspective where sense-making and personal experience will be the main focus. This may shed some light on the emotional state of workplace procrastinators and consequences workplace procrastination may have on employees and organisations. Moreover, it will aid in helping organisations to choose the right approach to deal with the issue as well as helping them to save costs. Additionally, by approaching this issue from a phenomenological perspective, it will close the gap in the current literature and attempt to give further explanations as to what causes the workplace procrastination.


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