Psychological and workplace attributes that influence personal web use (PWU) : a dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial/Organisational Psychology, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Using the Internet during work time for personal interest is defined as personal web use (PWU), yet only limited knowledge is available on why people engage in varying degrees in this activity. To address this shortcoming, this research project tested a heavily moderated theoretical model of thirteen psychological and workplace attributes expected to influence differences in individuals’ PWU: moral norms, boredom, workgroup norms, workload, use of the ‘ledger neutralisation strategy’, certainty about PWU rules, attitude towards work, reactance, supervisor treatment, attitude towards PWU control, status, tenure and social loafing risk. Five facets of PWU were measured as separate criterion variables: past frequency, habitual PWU, duration, and two PWU activity types. Data for the model testing was gathered through an extensive on-line questionnaire. The responses of 267 participants with varying demographics and work situations were used to test the theoretical model, using moderated regression analyses. Significant interactions were explored further through the Modgraph procedure. The model testing results showed that PWU was more common in respondents who morally approved of PWU and who were bored at their work. How often people engaged in PWU (either out of habit or in general), for how long and in what types of activities, was influenced by specific combinations of the remaining attributes. Only four of the hypothesised twelve interactions played statistically significant roles, only habitual PWU was influenced by workload; and only information-seeking activities were influenced by workgroup norms. Attributes with ‘revenge’ connotations were noticeably absent as significant influences. The findings are discussed in some detail. To further explore the context of PWU, thematic analysis was undertaken of answers to two open-response questions provided by a sub-sample of 119 participants. Results supported the role of workplace boredom in PWU situations, specified the moral issues of PWU approval, and suggested that PWU is best understood and examined in the wider context of organisational culture. The thesis concludes with synthesis and discussion of statistical and qualitative analyses results, identifying the contributions the research has made to the field of study. Suggested practical applications of the findings, limitations of the research project and suggestions for future studies conclude the documentation.
Organisational psychology, Internet use