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Management professor awarded prestigious Plumptre Research Fellowship

Julie McCarthy, a professor of organizational behaviour, was named the recipient of the Plumptre Faculty Research Fellowship. (Photo by Ken Jones.)

by Hilori Kaloti

Management professor Julie McCarthy has been awarded this year’s Plumptre Faculty Research Fellowship for her proposal on the implications of workplace anxiety.

The Wynne and Beryl Plumptre Faculty Research Fellowship was established in honour of Wynne Plumptre, a distinguished Canadian economist who was Principal of the Scarborough campus from 1965 to 1972, and his wife Beryl, a well-known Canadian economist. The fellowship is funded by donations from the Plumptre family and friends.

“I was absolutely delighted,” smiled McCarthy, when asked about her reaction to the award. “I had applied for it a couple of years previously and I received a small monetary incentive along with positive feedback from the committee that encouraged me to try again. This year they said that they received a number of very high quality applications, and I was honoured to be named the recipient.” The winner was selected by a panel of management faculty members and researchers at the University of Toronto.

McCarthy’s award-winning public policy proposal includes an in-depth study of performance anxiety in the workplace as well as social anxiety in the workplace. A professor of organizational behaviour, McCarthy seeks to uncover questions such as “to what extent do these types of anxieties have an impact on job performance as rated by supervisors?” The study was conducted with RCMP officials and the response was an overwhelming success. “More than 1,200 officers responded to the survey and their supervisors also rated their performance, so this is an extremely valuable data set,” said McCarthy.

The $5,000 research fellowship will help her further her research in public policing in Canada and the implications of workplace anxiety. McCarthy notes that “the goal is to try to obtain a better understanding of the types of anxieties faced by these RCMP officers and what impact it is having on their performance so that we can come up with recommendations and strategies and to make their jobs a little easier.”

McCarthy’s other research interests include hiring and personnel selection, personality in the workplace and work-life balance, and she has published a number of related papers and articles on these topics. When McCarthy first discovered that “people had a lot of anxiety around the selection process, including anxiety about hiring, the use of standardized tests, job interviews, the promotional process and the like,” it captured her attention immediately. “We often look at the selection system from the organization or employer’s viewpoint, but it struck me that it would be interesting and worthwhile to look at it from the side of applicant,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy has been with the University of Toronto Scarborough since 1992 and holds a cross-appointment with the Rotman School of Management on the St. George campus. “I like to think I am very student centered with respect to my teaching style,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to encourage students to think in rational ways, so that they can apply what they have learned to their future organizations. To do this, I view myself as a facilitator of learning, and not simply an expert who delivers information. I encourage students to think critically about the theories and empirical work and ultimately try to ensure that they leave with invaluable critical thinking and problem solving skills.”

McCarthy’s passion for understanding anxiety and stress translates across to her students in her teaching style. “Because I study anxiety, I am particularly sensitive to how students manage anxiety. Many of my students do come and talk to me and we will talk about strategies to help them balance [anxiety] and it is very rewarding for me to feel like I helped them,” smiled McCarthy.

The Plumptre Faculty Research Fellowship will be presented to McCarthy at an evening reception and lecture, at a date and location to be announced. Watch for details on the web site.

Hilori Kaloti is a third-year student in the management co-op program at U of T Scarborough.




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