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The influence of subjective time on employee attitudes and behaviors in temporary organizations

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posted on 13.04.2022, 01:31 by Syed Waqas Shah

Subjective time is an individual’s psychological experience of time and refers to how an individual thinks about and uses time. An individual’s thinking about time is generally measured by ‘temporal focus’, their attention towards past, present, and future. Time use is generally measured by ‘polychronicity’, or an individual’s preferences around performing multiple tasks simultaneously, and by their ‘pacing style’, or the way people pace their work and activities over time. Individuals differ significantly in their subjective perception of time. Many studies have been conducted to understand the influence of temporal focus, polychronicity, and pacing style on organizational behaviors, but researchers have rarely studied the influence of these temporal differences on behaviors in temporary organizations. Temporary organizations are time-bound organizations having a limited operating time and an institutionalized termination date, such as those found in software development or construction projects. Studying the influence of subjective time on employee behaviors in temporary organizations is important, given the increasing use of projects. This thesis incorporates both facets of subjective time—that is, both thinking about time and using time—and the four studies presented here examine the influence of temporal focus, polychronicity, and pacing style on the attitudes and behaviors of employees in projects. To ensure relevant literature is reviewed and research gaps identified, a systematic literature review was conducted in Study 1, assessing how time is conceptualized and used in the literature around temporary organizations. The results show that time is at the center of projects and project management, but that researchers have rarely examined the influence of differences in subjective time on employee behaviors in these organizations. To address the gap in the research regarding ways of thinking about subjective time as identified in Study 1, the influence of temporal focus on employees’ performance behaviors was investigated in Study 2 by carrying out 34 semi-structured interviews with project managers and team members in Australia. The results demonstrate that the temporal foci of past, present, and future individually and collectively influence employee performance behaviors. The three temporal foci are interconnected, and individuals can wander freely between them to collect the information they require to make decisions and perform tasks. Then to address the gaps in the research identified in Study 1 regarding the use of subjective time, 55 semi-structured interviews were conducted with information technology (IT) project managers and project team members in Pakistan. The influence of polychronicity and pacing styles fit between employees and their supervisors on employees’ attitudes and behaviors was investigated. The results demonstrate that individuals associate high temporal fit with positive outcomes while individuals with low temporal fit initiate a process of adjustment, and that supervisors can help in this adjustment process. To further investigate the findings of Study 3, 309 Pakistani IT professionals were surveyed in Study 4 to examine the effects of individual-organizational polychronicity fit on employee turnover intentions and the mediating roles of exhaustion and work overload between the polychronicity misfit and turnover intentions relationship. The results from polynomial regressions and response surface analysis show polychronicity fit is significantly related to employee turnover intentions, such that employee turnover intentions are high when organizational polychronicity is higher than individual polychronicity. Exhaustion and perceptions of work overload partially mediate the relationship between polychronicity fit and turnover intentions. Overall, the results of this thesis suggest that managing subjective time differences between employees and organizations in temporary organizations can ensure positive individual and organizational outcomes. These findings extend our theoretical understanding of subjective time phenomena in organizations.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Study 1. It’s about time: A systematic review of the study of time in project management -- Chapter 3. Study 2. Past, present, and future: Unpacking the phenomena of temporal focus in organizations -- Chapter 4. Study 3. From misfit to fit: How individuals adjust to polychronicity and pacing styles misfit -- Chapter 5. Study 4. Polychronicity fit and turnover intentions in projects: The mediating roles of exhaustion and work overload -- Chapter 6. Discussion and conclusion -- All references -- Appendices


"April 2021" A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Includes bibliographical references (pages 251-257) Thesis by publication

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Macquarie Business School, 2021

Department, Centre or School

Department of Management

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Denise Jepsen


Copyright disclaimer: https://www.mq.edu.au/copyright‐disclaimer Copyright Syed Waqas Shah 2021.




1 online resource (xiii, 257 pages)