Tag Archives: Teams

Your Negative (But Honest) Feedback Might Just Set a Narcissist Off

narcissistic

Stock photo: Narcissism

How many times have you heard a supervisor or coworker say: “I welcome any feedback.” On the surface the statement “I welcome any (or your) feedback” suggests someone who is receptive to getting feedback. It might also imply that people are welcomed and invited to come share about problems, issues, and/or concerns.

Myers (2010) said feedback works best when it is presented in an honest and specific manner. However, there’s a caveat: Even when the feedback is delivered honestly and specifically, the reaction of the receiver to that feedback might not always be what you would expect.

There is research (Bushman, Baumeister, Thomaes, Ryu, Begeer, & West, 2009) suggesting that individuals high in narcissism and self-esteem are more likely to either retaliate or be aggressive toward those who give feedback that the person with high narcissism and self-esteem perceived to be critical or insulting.

Simply stated, if you have a narcissistic boss or colleague with very high self-esteem (yes high, not low; there are narcissists with low self-esteem¹), be careful the type of feedback (especially if it’s critical or negative) you share with them. If they perceive your comments/statements as threats to their inflated egos (researchers call it the threatened egotism hypothesis), then there’s a good chance their reactions (words and/or behaviors) will be aggressive².

“[N]arcissists with high self-esteem are eager to dominate their social environment and claim the admiration to which they apparently feel entitled, and when their interaction partners fail to cooperate, they may turn aggressive” (Bushman et al., 2009, p. 441).

Interestingly, the researchers “found no support for the view that low self-esteem causes aggression. . . . On the contrary, low self-esteem reduced or eliminated the independent effect of narcissism on aggression” (Bushman et al., 2009, p. 441).

¹Bushman and colleagues explained that, “Narcissists with low self-esteem may be shy, socially anxious and unconfident, and preoccupied with their own possible inadequacy, but they are still highly self-absorbed” (p. 441).

²Aggression is defined as, “Behavior directed toward the goal of harming another living being who is motivated to avoid such treatment” (Baron & Branscombe, 2012, p. 322).

References

Baron, R. A., & Branscombe, N. R. (2012). Social psychology (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Bushman, B. J., Baumeister, R. F., Thomaes, S., Ryu, E., Begeer, S., & West, S. G. (2009). Looking again, and harder, for a link between low self-esteem and aggression. Journal of Personality, 77(2), 427-446. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2008.00553.x

Myers, D. G. (2010). Social psychology (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

How Expertise can Strengthen or Dilute your Credibility

trust

Photo Credit: Flickr

Japanese television offers a wide selection of variety shows. Unlike those in the U.S., Japanese variety shows will invite a group of “talents” (although I’m still not sure what many of their talents are, other than smiling and tasting different foods). The thing that immediately got my attention about all of these variety shows was the repeated use of talents (actors or comedians) to comment on any issues, whether the person was qualified to do so or not.

It is simply baffling to me how a group of people, with no discernible expertise on a subject matter will comment on just about anything. The subjects can vary from management to mental health to melting snow, and believe it or not, a group of people will comment on it. Last week, I saw five people on one variety show standing around commenting on different shapes of snow.

In another week, a young man (one of the “talents”) was on a talk show embedded inside a joint infomercial and a soap opera (I’m not joking). The young man shared that he was concerned about his melancholy outlook on life and his tendency to be negative. Another “talent” (I think he’s a former teacher) proceeded to play armchair therapist by asking the guy to read aloud from Romeo and Juliet.

Ok, so what does all of this nonsense have to do with psychology and workplace behaviors? Two things: expertise and credibility.

I realize I’m making a huge leap from talking about Japanese variety shows to the business environment, so please bear with me. But, the more I watched these “talents” the more I kept thinking about expertise and credibility. Because these “talents” do not have the expertise to offer anything of substantive value (that I could not otherwise get by simply asking my next door neighbors for their opinions), they (at least in my eyes) end up diminishing their own brand and/or jeopardizing their own credibility.

In Business Leadership (2003), Kouzes and Posner said credibility is one admired characteristics of a leader:

“Credibility is the foundation of leadership” (Kouzes & Posner, 2003, p. 262).

“The qualities of being honest, inspiring, and competent compose what communications researchers refer to as source credibility. In assessing the believability of a source of information—whether it is the president of the company, the president of the country, a sales person, or a TV newscaster— researchers typically use the three criteria of trustworthiness, expertise, and dynamism. Those who rate highly in these areas are considered to be credible sources of information” (Kouzes & Posner, 2003, p. 261).

Kouzes and Posner (2003) said your credibility must be earned over time. It’s not something that’s bestowed upon you when you get a new title or job. What’s more, credibility can affect the workplace.

“Credibility has a significantly positive outcome on individual and organizational performance” (Kouzes & Posner, 2003, p. 266).

In The Leadership Challenge (2007), Kouzes and Posner explained in greater details about why credibility matters. They wrote (pp. 38-39):

“Using a behavioral measure of credibility, we asked organization members to think about the extent to which their immediate manager exhibited credibility-enhancing behaviors. In our studies we found that when people perceive their immediate manager to have high credibility, they’re significantly more likely to

  • Be proud to tell others they’re part of the organization
  • Feel a strong sense of team spirit
  • See their own personal values as consistent with those of the organization
  • Feel attached and committed to the organization
  • Have a sense of ownership of the organization

When people perceive their manager to have low credibility, however, they’re significantly more likely to

  • Produce only if they’re watched carefully
  • Be motivated primarily by money
  • Say good things about the organization publicly but criticize it privately
  • Consider looking for another job if the organization experiences problems
  • Feel unsupported and unappreciated

“Credibility makes a difference” (Kouzes & Posner, 2007, p. 39).

References

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2003). Leadership is a relationship. In J. M. Kouzes (Ed.), Business leadership (pp. 251-267). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2007). The leadership challenge (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Analysis Paralysis-A Self-Imposed Bottleneck

In a conversation about how, in one organization, management had known for quite some time what needed to be done, but they just didn’t do it, a professor inquired: “What purpose might it serve for an organization to be in possession of possible solutions yet choose not to implement them?”

What a great question.

Robert Sutton (2010) contended that what separates good bosses from bad ones is that good bosses find ways to link talking to doing, and that bad bosses are oblivious and often don’t even realize that they “routinely stifle and misdirect action” (p. 130).

Perhaps this is overly simplistic, but with regard to why organizations that are in possession of possible solutions but choose not to implement them, I think sometimes managers and/or organizations fall prey to “analysis paralysis” where there’s a tendency to over analyze everything and which can result in the crippling or stifling of timely actions.

The Ultimate Business Dictionary (2003) defines analysis paralysis (or paralysis by analysis) in this manner :

Paralysis by analysis is “the inability of managers to make decisions as a result of a preoccupation with attending meetings, writing reports, and collecting statistics and analyses” (p. 235).

The obsession with studying a problem and analyzing an issue to death is akin to creating a self-imposed bottleneck. The obstruction/congestion is your own doing.

References

Sutton, R.I. (2010). Good boss, bad boss: How to be the best…and learn from the worst. New York: Business Plus.

(2003). The Ultimate Business Dictionary: Defining the World of Work. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.

Book Review-The Orange Revolution

I’m a very picky book reader. Prior to reading “The Orange Revolution: How One Great Team Can Transform an Entire Organization,” I had actually started and given up reading several other business books. But “The Orange Revolution” restored my belief that business books can be entertaining, researched-based, and instructive.

Culling research from a 350,000-person database (employees from 28 industries) by the Best Companies Group, as well as from their own interviews with exceptional teams at leading companies, the authors found that breakthrough teams had not only remarkable leaders, but also team members, all of whom share similar characteristics!

These characteristics comprised what Gostick and Elton called “The Basic 4 + Recognition” (p. 45):

  • Goal setting (knowing where you are going)
  • Communication (wise use of your voice and ears)
  • Trust (believing in others and being trustworthy)
  • Accountability (doing what you say you will do)

Plus

  • Recognition (appreciating others’ strengths)

From the first few pages, Gostick and Elton’s writing style immediately caught my attention. Their story about Thomas Edison’s success in creating the incandescent lightbulb set a beautiful tone throughout the book. Although Edison is almost universally thought of as the one person who invented the incandescent light bulb, it was his team working together under his supervision that made it a reality! That’s right, Edison envisioned it, but it took a team of remarkable “assistants” who made it happen. In fact, Edison searched for men of integrity, who were hungry for knowledge and who expected excellence. He would then put them into small teams, gave them a goal, and let them independently pursue it. Edison did not do it alone. He had help from a breakthrough team.

“By creating an Orange culture that not only expects but also nurtures competency, and then combining it with a high regard for team members, breakthrough teams generate a self-perpetuating collaborative energy” (Gostick & Elton, 2010, p. 42).

A world-class team is not about who is on the team, but rather what the team can do. Gostick and Elton discovered that six core traits defined breakthrough teams: (1) they dream ambitious goals; (2) they believe in one another and what the team can accomplish together; (3) they take calculated risks but (4) measure their results; (5) they persevere even when conflicts or challenges occur; and (6) they tell stories that illustrate what they’re trying to achieve.

Indeed, it is this last trait that, in my opinion, separates “The Orange Revolution” from the sea of business books out there. Stories are amazingly powerful and Gostick and Elton did a masterful job incorporating incredible stories into their book.

According to the authors, all breakthrough teams follow The Rule of 3 (p. 16):

  • Wow—Breakthrough teams commit to a standard of world-class performance.
  • No Surprises—All team members are accountable for openness and honest debate, and each knows what to expect from the others.
  • Cheer—Team members support, recognize, appreciate, and cheer others and the group on to victory.

But more than any other story, the one about Patrick Poyfair’s Arsenal Strikers (a second girl’s Double A soccer team created for girls who were told they weren’t good enough to be in the first soccer club) really touched me. It’s in the last chapter of the book so I don’t want to give the story away. Since my summary here won’t do the story any justice, I’ll just briefly say this: The power of cheering for one another transcends the workplace and into the home and our lives outside of work. It’s so inspiring to hear about breakthrough teams, but it is even more empowering to know that we can create and be a part of our own breakthrough teams.

Gostick & Elton (2010) showed that “soft” ideas such as recognition, goal setting, trust, etc. can “actually drive competency every bit as much as technical ability” (p. 45).

Summary: One of the best and most practical business books I have ever read. This is a book I would definitely take with me if I were stranded on an island somewhere and could only bring three books. Well written and witty, with amazing and uplifting stories to inspire and warm the heart. Gostick and Elton have done a wonderful job convincing me, “how one great team can transform an entire organization.” My highest recommendation!

References

Carrots.com. The Orange White Paper. http://www.carrots.com/public/files/whitepapers/Orange_White_Paper.pdf

Gostick, A., & Elton, C. (2010). The orange revolution: How one great team can transform an entire organization. New York: Free Press.

Lack of Career Advancement Leads to Turnover Despite Training


Photo: movin’ up

According to the American Society for Training & Development, U.S. organizations spent about $171.5 billion on employee learning and development in 2010. But what good does it do a company if the very workers the organization spent money on to train will quit and take their newly acquired training with them?

I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal titled, “When Training Leads to Turnover” and found it interesting. However, it’s important to note that the title is a bit misleading since training (by itself) does not lead to turnover. Rather, it’s the idea that without an opportunity to advance/move up in a company, employees (even those who have received training) are more likely to leave compared to those who have opportunities to advance in the organization. As Silverman later clarified in the WSJ article, “employee turnover can increase after training if a company fails to also provide career development and opportunities to get ahead.”

Kraimer, Seibert, Wayne, Liden, and Bravo (2011) discovered that employees who’ve been trained by their company will leave if they do not see any chance to advance. On the other hand, workers who see a career opportunity within the organization will stick around. Thus, it would have been more fitting to label the WSJ article “When Lack of Career Advancement Leads to Turnover.” But then that wouldn’t be as eye-catching. In fact, the research study the WSJ cited is titled, “Antecedents and outcomes of organizational support for development: The critical role of career opportunities.” Note the last part of the title, “The critical role of career opportunities.”

Training does not occur in a vacuum and, by itself, is not enough to retain employees, if those employees do not see career opportunities in their future.

Researchers defined two important concepts: (a) organizational support for development (OSD) as “employees’ overall perceptions that the organization provides programs and opportunities that help employees develop their functional skills and managerial capabilities” (Kraimer et al., 2011, p. 486); (b) perceived career opportunity (PCO) as “employees’ belief that jobs or positions that match their career goals and interests exist within the organization” (Kraimer et al., 2011, p. 486).

Most notably, the researchers found that development support was associated with reduced voluntary turnover when perceived career opportunity was high, but it was associated with increased turnover when perceived career opportunity was low. In other words, even when organizations provide programs and opportunities to help employees develop their skills, if employees perceive that career advancement opportunity is low, they are more likely to leave.

Practical Implications: “Organizations should seek to manage employees’ perceptions of career opportunity if they wish to retain career-oriented employees. If organizational career paths do not lead to opportunities that match those desired by employees, they may choose to look for alternative jobs in the hopes that another organization will offer more desirable job paths. Given the high costs associated with staffing and turnover, expenditures for development support may be well justified, but only when employees perceive that there are career opportunities within the organization that match their career goals and interests. When many employees do not perceive desirable career opportunities, our results suggest that development support may simply provide them with the mobility capital to leave…” (Kraimer et al., 2011, p. 496).

References

American Society for Training & Development (ASTD). 2011 State of the Industry Report.

Kraimer, M. L., Seibert, S. E., Wayne, S. J., Liden, R. C., & Bravo, J. (2011). Antecedents and outcomes of organizational support for development: The critical role of career opportunities. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(3), 485-500. doi:10.1037/a0021452

Silverman, R. E. (2012, June 25). When training leads to turnover. The Wall Street Journal [Online]. Retrieved August 2, 2012, from http://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2012/06/25/when-training-leads-to-turnover/

Does Time of the Day Impact Moods at Work?

Photo: Monday again

It’s probably safe to assume that most, if not all, of us have at one time or another, wondered whether our moods are influenced by the time of the day or the day of the week. Well, wonder no more.

According to Robbins and Judge (2009), people are more likely to be in their worst moods (i.e., highest negative affect and lowest positive affect) early in the week and in their best moods (i.e., highest positive affect and lowest negative affect) late in the week.

What about time of day? Does it make any difference if someone is a “morning” person versus another who might be an “evening” person? Robbins and Judge said that no matter what time we go to bed in the evening time or when we wake up in the morning, our levels of positive affect peak about midway between the time we wake up and the time we go to sleep.

Watson (2000), in his book “Mood and Temperament,” said this:

“Although different people reach their acrophase [peak time or time at which the peak of a rhythm occurs] at different times and show somewhat different curves over the course of the day, our analyses have demonstrated that this basic circadian rhythm—that is, low Positive Affect at the beginning and end of the day, with a peak occurring somewhere in the middle—is remarkably robust and generalizable across individuals” (p. 116).

What implication does this have in the workplace? Well, as many of us can already confirm, Monday morning is not a good time to deliver bad news. And in terms of time of the day, employees will tend to be more positive from about midmorning going forward and (certainly not surprising) later in the week.

References

Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. A. (2009). Organizational behavior (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Watson, D. (2000). Mood and temperament. New York: The Guilford Press.

Book Review-The Advantage

I was excited when I received Patrick Lencioni’s “The Advantage” on my doorstep. I eagerly opened the box, removed the book, and began reading. Truth be told, I initially struggled because I am accustomed to theories and research-based books and had to fight off that mentality because Lencioni’s “The Advantage” isn’t based on research, and wasn’t meant to be. As he explains, “Because I’m not a quantitative researcher, the conclusions I draw here are not based on reams of statistics or finely crunched data, but rather on my observations as a consultant over the past twenty years” (Lencioni, 2012, p. xvii). I appreciated his upfront honesty.

Lencioni said that most organizations have plenty of talent, intelligence, and expertise to be successful. What’s more, he contends that almost every organization has access to the best ideas and practices about technology, strategy, and many other topics because information is everywhere and easy to locate. However, what many organizations lack is organizational health.

Organizational health is about integrity—whole, consistent, and complete. An organization is healthy “when its management, operations, strategy, and culture fit together and make sense” (Lencioni, 2012, p. 5).

Healthy organizations have the following qualities:

  • Minimal Politics
  • Minimal Confusion
  • High Morale
  • High Productivity
  • Low Turnover

What “The Advantage” is, is a call to action and a blueprint about how to go from an unhealthy to healthy organization. It’s simple and practical, and it won me over. The real-world examples and true client stories were particularly compelling because they reinforced the concepts and brought them to life.

Lencioni offered his “Organizational Health Model” which consisted of four disciplines: (1) Build a Cohesive Leadership Team; (2) Create Clarity; (3) Over-Communicate Clarity; and (4) Reinforce Clarity.

In addition to the emphasis on creating and maintaining a cohesive team, Lencioni contends that there are six critical questions that a leadership team must rally around and clearly answer. They include:

  • Why do we exist?
  • How do we behave?
  • What do we do?
  • How will we succeed?
  • What is most important, right now?
  • Who must do what?

“Most organizations are unhealthy precisely because they aren’t doing the basic things, which require discipline, persistence, and follow-through more than sophistication or intelligence” (Lencioni, 2012, p. 148).

By eliminating politics and confusion from an organization’s culture and environment, a healthy organization will almost always find a way to thrive and succeed because, without politics and confusion, it will tap into and use every ounce of “knowledge, experience, and intellectual capital that is available to [it]” (Lencioni, 2012, p. 11).

Whether you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the pastor of a medium-size church, or the president of a small volunteer group, Lencioni’s “The Advantage” is your road map to both the ins and outs of what healthy organizations do and the costly mistakes that unhealthy organizations make.

Reference

Lencioni, P. (2012). The advantage: Why organizational health trumps everything else in business. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Disclosure: Although I received Lencioni’s “The Advantage” as a complimentary gift, my review and recommendation were given as if I had purchased it.

Overreliance on Computer May Leave You Ill-Suited for High-Trust Jobs

Stereotypes – Computer Nerd” by Edward Miller

Many of us have seen, heard, or read about the computer geek who is so consumed about interacting with his computer that he forgets how to interact with other people in a real-world situation. Well, there’s actually research to confirm this! But what is really surprising is not just anecdotal but goes far beyond it. It is estimated that 20% of all digital natives* satisfy the clinical criteria for pathological Internet use (Mullen, 2011).

*Digital natives: collectively include the youngest of the 50 million members of Generation X (i.e., Americans born between 1964 and 1980), the members of Generation Y (or “millennials,” born between 1981 and 2000), and those born since 2001.

Citing research studies supporting the notion that developing minds are highly susceptible to external influences and that “certain digital activity (e.g., electronic gaming) can suppress and temporarily turn off the frontal lobe in young brains, the region responsible for cognitive and sensory integration and decision making” (p. 2014), Mullen maintains that “long-term excessive electronic exposure can have severe consequences to the development of nonverbal communication skills, empathy, and interpersonal relations” (p. 2014).

The short of it is this: The neural pathways required to sharpen and polish the interpersonal skills, empathic capacities, and effective personal intuitions are frequently “left unstimulated and underdeveloped in digital natives” (Mullen, 2011, p. 2015).

Much of our human communication in a face-to-face (FtF) setting is nonverbal. Think about the facial expressions, hand gestures, and other nonverbal cues we send out and receive from others while we’re talking. It is not surprising, then, to learn that those who spend a prolonged period of time interacting with other human beings through computer-mediated communication (CMC) miss out on the more subtle nuances of human interactions.

So what, you might ask? Consider this, digital natives who depend too much on computer-mediated communication (CMC) will tend to miss nonverbal cues indicating deception and insincerity. The ramifications, for the digital natives who are employees and for their employers, are that “many who have been raised in the Internet Age may be ill suited for high-trust professions involving the establishment of FtF relationships.”

As Mullen states: Those who have an overreliance on computer-mediated communication (CMC) will tend to miss out on much of the “real” message, have difficulty sorting out the “felt” from the “false” facial expressions. In essence, they have “no opportunity to pick up on nonverbal cues indicating deception, discomfort, doubt, or insincerity on the part of their interlocutor” (Mullen, 2011, p. 2023).

Neuroscientists and researchers argue that empathy (our ability to understand someone else’s point of view) is crucial to our moral reasoning, ethical sensitivity, social influence, and development of healthy interpersonal relationships. Our sense of empathy is developed through our accumulated face-to-face (FtF) interactions from the time we’re born through young adulthood. However, those who depend too much on computer-mediated communication (CMC) will tend to miss out on much of the “real” message and have difficulty sorting out the “felt” from the “false” facial expressions. In essence, when computer use is excessive and FtF interaction decreases, these individuals have “no opportunity to pick up on nonverbal cues indicating deception, discomfort, doubt, or insincerity on the part of their interlocutor” (Mullen, 2011, p. 2023).

“Today’s young digital natives may be ill-suited for jobs in high-trust fields such as diplomacy and sales, because prolonged exposure to computers is reconfiguring their neural networks and possibly diminishing their empathy and social skills, says John K. Mullen of Gonzaga University. With 55% of person-to-person communication being nonverbal (tone of voice, inflection), overreliance on computer-based interactions may hamper an individual’s ability to judge intent and influence others, Mullen suggests” (HBR Daily Stat).

Reference

Mullen, J. K. (2011). The impact of computer use on employee performance in high-trust professions: Re-examining selection criteria in the Internet age. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41(8), 2009-2043. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2011.00790.x

A Positive Mindset and Happy Attitude Help You Succeed at Work

happiness is” by Melissa Deakin

In his book, “The Happiness Advantage” (2010) Shawn Achor asserts that happy employees can actually help improve an organization’s bottom line. Achor says we often think that if we work hard and become successful, then we’ll be happy. But, he argues (convincingly I might add) that the formula is backward. Instead of success first and happiness second, it should be happiness first, and then success.

In a related Harvard Business Review article, Achor (2012) cites a meta-analysis of 225 research studies that found happy employees have about 31% higher productivity, 37% higher sales, and three times higher creativity! As he says in his book, “happiness leads to success in nearly every domain, including work, health, friendship, sociability, creativity, and energy” (Achor, 2010, p. 21).

The best part is that we can all adopt a more positive way of thinking and a happier attitude. The human brain is amazing because it possesses something scientists call neuroplasticity, a big word meaning that our brains are malleable—capable of changing and adapting throughout our lifetime.

One great tip Achor offers in his book is a technique called “The Tetris Effect,” a way to train the mind to concentrate on the positives instead of the negatives in our daily life. He recommends this:

Write down THREE good things in your job and life that happened today (do this each day). This forces your mind to look back on your day for positives, potentials, and possibilities. These three things can be simple, small things—things that made you smile or laugh, things that brought a sense of accomplishment or hope, etc. It doesn’t have to be anything deep or profound, only specific.

While this exercise might seem silly, Achor (2010) cited a research study that found people who “wrote down three good things each day for a week were happier and less depressed at the one-month, three-month, and six-month follow-ups” (p. 101). That’s incredible!

The lesson is this: The better we become at scanning our world for good things to jot down, the more good things we’ll see, by habit. To help you stick to this exercise, pick the same time each day to do this.

References

Achor, S. (2012). Positive intelligence: Three ways individuals can cultivate their own sense of well-being and set themselves up to succeed. Harvard Business Review, 90(1/2), 100-102.

Achor, S. (2010). The happiness advantage: The seven principles of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work. New York: Crown Publishing Group.

The 5 Whys (and Some Limitations)

Why” by Willbryantplz

I came across this video on the Harvard Business Review website called “The 5 Whys.” Sometimes, a video helps explains an idea better/clearer than just written words alone. However, in oversimplifying a concept, we may sometimes leave out a critical analysis of its weaknesses as well as devising strategies to address them.

The 5 Whys or asking why a problem exists five times is borrowed from the Toyota production system (mentioned in the book “The Toyota Way”). The idea is to get to the root cause, by going deeper with each “Why?”, of what caused something to fail (whether it’s a server crash or product that doesn’t work) and then fix that root cause.

“Behind every seemingly technical problem is actually a human problem waiting to be found.” -Eric Ries, entrepreneur-in-residence at Harvard Business School

Had the video used a more interactive graphics that simulates/moves as the speaker is talking, I think that would be even better. That said, here’s the link to that video (sorry, there was no link on HBR to the flash video for WordPress).

5 Whys: Ask 5 Times (here’s an example from Eric’s April 2010 post):

  1. A new release broke a key feature for customers. Why? Because a particular server failed.
  2. Why did the server fail? Because an obscure subsystem was used in the wrong way.
  3. Why was it used in the wrong way? The engineer who used it didn’t know how to use it properly.
  4. Why didn’t he know? Because he was never trained.
  5. Why wasn’t he trained? Because his manager doesn’t believe in training new engineers, because they are “too busy.”

Nothing is a perfect system and the 5 Whys is no exception. In fact, the more I think about asking “why” the more I think back to my time in undergrad studying philosophy. If we’re not careful, we can easily fall into the trap of asking an endless series of hypothetical/conceptual whys with no pragmatic solutions (this was the reason why I switched from philosophy to psychology).

Anderson (2009) had this to say:

“Under a 5 Whys approach, it is possible to get to root causes in a relatively short period of time. However. . .ease of use and speed also need to be balanced with the risk of failure from recurrence of the problem should the 5 Whys fail to find the true root cause.”

Here is Anderson’s critique of the 5 Whys (in his own words):

  • Using 5 Whys doesn’t always lead to root cause identification when the cause is unknown.
  • An assumption underlying 5 Whys is that each presenting symptom has only one sufficient cause. This is not always the case and a 5 Whys analysis may not reveal jointly sufficient causes that explain a symptom.
  • The success of 5 Whys is to some degree contingent upon the skill with which the method is applied; if even one Why has a bad or meaningless answer, the whole procedure can be thrown off.
  • The (5 Whys) method isn’t necessarily repeatable; three different people applying 5 Whys to the same problem may come up with three totally different answers.

Anderson points out that it’s extremely important to understand the difference between root causes and causal factors. “Causal factors are those factors that contribute to the occurrence of a problem, but are not necessarily the initiating cause of a problem—the root cause. Therefore, causal factors and chains need to be analyzed further to determine their root causes.”

“A robust problem-solving method must be adept at not only identifying a problem’s causal factors, but equally adept at uncovering the root causes that underpin the causal factors.” -Stuart Anderson, president of Kaizen Solutions Inc.

References

Anderson, S. (December, 2009). Quality Digest – Root Cause Analysis: Addressing Some Limitations of the 5 Whys. Retrieved from http://www.qualitydigest.com/inside/fda-compliance-news/root-cause-analysis-addressing-some-limitations-5-whys.html

HBR – The 5 Whys
http://blogs.hbr.org/video/2012/02/the-5-whys.html

HBR – The Five Whys for Start-Ups
http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/04/the_five_whys_for_startups.html

Distracted Doctoring is a Workplace Safety Issue

Surgery” by Army Medicine

I came across a fascinating article (Richtel, 2011) posted on the New York Times. The article talked about doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff who are distracted by texting, surfing the web, doing online shopping, and/or using social networks (e.g., Facebook).

The NY Times article said that the unintended consequence of depending on computers and smartphones to access patient data, drug information, and patient care resources is that doctors and nurses are now fixated on these devices and not their patients, even during critical care (such as during an operation).

Examples include a neurosurgeon who, instead of focusing on the surgery, was making a personal phone call or a nurse who was checking airfares during surgery. Forget distracted driving, let’s talk about distracted doctoring!

Results from an October 2010 online survey posted on a perfusion* listserv and forum revealed that use of a cell phone during the performance of cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) was reported by 55.6% of perfusionists, and sending text messages while performing CPB was acknowledged by 49.2% (Smith, Darling, & Searles, 2011).

*In basic terms, cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) refers to using a heart-lung machine to take over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery and maintain blood and oxygen flow throughout the body.

Ironically, while many perfusionists believed that cell phone use raises significant safety issues when operating the heart-lung machine, the majority of them have used a cell phone while performing this activity.

According to the Institute of Medicine,

  • Between 44,000 to 98,000 Americans die as a result of medical errors every year.
  • Medication-related mistakes for people who are hospitalized cost about $2 billion annually.
  • Medical mistakes/errors kill more Americans per year than breast cancer, AIDS, or motor vehicle accidents.

The NY Times article summed this up well:

“Doctors and medical professionals have always faced interruptions from beepers and phones, and multitasking is simply a fact of life for many medical jobs. What has changed, doctors say, especially younger ones, is that they face increasing pressure to interact with their devices.”

Just as in distracted driving, one might ask the rhetorical question:

“What is so important that it just can’t wait until after you’re finished?” Or “What’s so important that you can’t hold off until after performing the operation?”

References

Institute of Medicine. The Chasm in Quality: Select Indicators from Recent Reports Retrieved from http://mem.iom.edu/?id=14991

Richtel, M. (December, 2011). As Doctors Use More Devices, Potential for Distraction Grows. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/15/health/as-doctors-use-more-devices-potential-for-distraction-grows.html

Smith, T., Darling, E., & Searles, B. (2011). 2010 Survey on cell phone use while performing cardiopulmonary bypass. Perfusion, 26(5), 375-380. doi:10.1177/0267659111409969

Virtual Workplaces and Telework

Railay Beach Office” by EvanLovely

I saw an article on Time magazine’s website today called, “The Beginning of the End of the 9-to-5 Workday?” (Schawbel, 2011). The article maintained that companies need to embrace workplace-flexibility programs. The author of the article stated that “between new technology and global workplace dynamics, companies are implementing flexible work arrangements for everyone.” The article also quoted a flexibility-strategy leader who said: “This notion of an eight-hour day is rapidly disappearing, simply because we work so virtually and globally.”

While this all sounds great, several important caveats were left out of the article. In this post, I’ll delve into the many terms that cover virtual work. I’ll also discuss trends (there’s an interesting change for 2010). Finally, I’ll talk about some important things to consider for both the employees who telework or who might consider telework, as well as for the organizations that currently have telework or might be considering it in the near future.

TERMINOLOGIES

According to WorldatWork (2009), there are several different, but related terms to describe virtual work. These include:

Telecommute: To either periodically or regularly perform work for one’s employer from home or another remote location.

Telework: To perform all of one’s work either from home or another remote location, either for an employer or through self-employment.

Employee Telecommuter: A regular employee (full or part time) who works at home or another remote location at least one day per month during normal business hours.

Contract Telecommuter: An individual who works on a contract basis for an employer or is self-employed, and who works at home or at a remote location at least one day per month during normal business hours.

Employed Telecommuters: Individuals (either employees or contractors) working at home or remotely at least one day per month during normal business hours; the sum of “employee telecommuters” and “contract telecommuters.”

STATISTICS AND TRENDS

According to WorldatWork’s Telework Trendlines (2009):

  1. More Americans, and a higher percentage of Americans, telecommuted in 2008.
  2. Occasional telecommuting is on the rise.
  3. The most common locations for remote work are home, car and a customer’s place of business.
  4. Today’s telecommuters are most often 40-year-old male college graduates.

The number of Americans who telecommute or work remotely at least once per month increased between 2006 and 2008. In 2006, approximately 8 percent of Americans telecommuted at least one day per month; in 2008, that number increased to just over 11 percent. In the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, as many as one in 10 workers are part-time telecommuters. In the Greater Washington Area, more than 450,000 employees telecommuted at least one day a week in 2007, 42.5 percent more than in 2004, according to a survey by Commuter Connections, a regional network of transportation organizations coordinated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The percentage of employees who telework surged to 19 percent from 13 percent during that time period (Kotkin, 2008). In the five years from 2003 to 2008, the total number of teleworkers rose 43% to 33.7 million Americans, most just part-time (WorldatWork, 2009).

WHY IS TELECOMMUTING INCREASING?

This trend toward more telecommuting is due to a combination of factors, including:

  • The increase in number of high-speed and wireless Internet access making it less costly and more productive to work remotely
  • Improvements in virtual workspace technologies (Vickers, 2007)
  • Rising fuel and commuting costs
  • The trend by employers to embrace work-life balance concepts (WorldatWork, 2009)
  • Government policies influencing the trend. In 2000, the U.S. Congress ordered federal agencies to allow employees to work from home “to the maximum extent possible without diminished employee performance” (Vickers, 2007 citing Bridgeford).

TELECOMMUTING DECLINED IN 2010

It is quite interesting to note that, according to WorldatWork (2011), telework in 2010 declined.

“For the first time since WorldatWork began studying the telework phenomenon in 2003, the number of teleworkers has dropped. The total number of people who worked from home or remotely for an entire day at least once a month in 2010 was 26.2 million, down from 33.7 million in 2008.”

The Telework 2011 Special Report (WorldatWork, 2011) stated that the decline is likely due a combination of factors: fewer Americans in the workforce over all due to high unemployment, higher anxiety surrounding job security, and lack of awareness of telework options.

THINGS TO CONSIDER

Six crucial aspects of the next level of development for teleworking are:

(1) Overcoming the teleworking stigma of no face-to-face time. A Futurestep poll of 1,320 global executives in 71 countries found that 61% of senior managers think telecommuters are not as likely as conventional office workers to be promoted, despite the fact that over three-quarters also think teleworkers are equally productive as (42%) or more productive than (36%) their office-dwelling colleagues (Vickers, 2007 citing Bridgeford). Managers might recognize that teleworkers are productive, but they are still accustomed toward face-to-face interactions. Therefore adapting to the world of telework requires both managerial and organizational adjustments.

(2) Employment screening and training of teleworkers (Vickers, 2007).

(3) Equipping management with the teleworking mindset and management skill sets to properly and effectively lead virtual teams and teleworkers (Vickers, 2007; Cagle, 2008).

(4) Teleworker’s own initiative, responsibilities, and accountability (Cagle, 2008). Interestingly though, Cagle discovered that, “a number of studies, including one performed by Sun in 2007 showed that one of the older stereotypes of teleworkers as people who would tend to do a little work then skip to some other activity, watch TV or surf the web actually proved to be something of a myth – for the most part most teleworkers actually tend to put in longer days working than they would in the office.”

(5) Safeguarding business, customer, and personal information and ensuring a high level of protection from theft or loss – from computer viruses to stolen laptops (Cagle, 2008).

(6) The last factor to consider is legal regulation. For example, where does a teleworker work? The answer will have implications for states with income taxes (Cagle, 2008).

Suggestion: With regards to organizational climate and culture, it behooves organizations to create both a climate (perception/feeling/affect) as well as culture (what’s written down/effective/values) to clearly outline support for and understanding of face-to-face and teleworkers (Landy & Conte, 2007).

Note: Information for this post was adapted from an assignment I completed for a class.

References

Cagel, K. (2008). Is Telework the New Face of the Agile Workforce? O’Reilly. Retrieved from http://news.oreilly.com/2008/08/is-telework-the-face-of-the-ag.html.

Kotkin, J. (2008). Skipping the Drive: Energy Costs May Fuel the Growing Telecommuting Trend. The Washington Independent. Retrieved from http://washingtonindependent.com/100/skipping-the-drive.

Landy, F. J. & Conte, J. M. (2007). Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Schawbel, D. (December, 2011). The Beginning of the End of the 9-to-5 Workday? Time Moneyland. Retrieved from http://moneyland.time.com/2011/12/21/the-beginning-of-the-end-of-the-9-to-5-workday/

Vickers, M. (2007). Adapting to Teleworker Trends. American Management Association’s Moving Ahead Newsletter, 2(10). Retrieved from http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/Adapting-to-Teleworker-Trends.aspx

WorldatWork (2009). Telework Trendlines 2009. Retrieved from http://www.workingfromanywhere.org/news/Trendlines_2009.pdf

WorldatWork (2011). Telework 2011: A WorldatWork Special Report. Retrieved from http://www.worldatwork.org/waw/adimLink?id=53034

Using Reappraisal to Handle an Angry Face


Thinking” by Hans Kristian Aas

An interesting study by a team of researchers (Jens Blechert, Gal Sheppes, Carolina Di Tella, Hants Williams, and James J. Gross at Stanford University) has found that when you tell yourself (i.e. reappraise) that someone is mean to you is simply having a bad day, you may be able to fend off bad feelings.

Reappraisal isn’t anything new. It goes by the name of reframing and is used by cognitive-behavioral psychologists to help clients reframe a distressing problem using a more positive perspective, making it a more a manageable one.

Professor Gross discussed this idea of reappraisal in the book “Developing Your Conflict Competence” by Craig Runde and Tim Flanagan. In it, he talked to one of the authors about using cognitive reappraisal by challenging the way you initially interpret things you see. “Cognitive reappraisal involves using alternative interpretations of the meanings about situations” (Runde & Flanagan, 2010, p. 50).

Runde and Flanagan (2010) said: “Reappraisal (also known as reframing) involves a cognitive process through which the facts underlying a conflict are reexamined for nonthreatening, alternative explanations” (p. 49). Incredibly, brain imaging seems to support this and indicate that, with practice in reappraising/reframing your thinking, your negative feelings will be reduced while more positive feelings will surface (Ochsner, Bunge, Gross, & Gabrieli, 2002).

Ask yourself the following:

  • “Is it the only way of seeing the situation?”
  • “Are there rational, nonthreatening ways of understanding the matter?”

In the study by Blechert and colleagues, participants were shown a series of angry faces and the reactions of the participants were assessed. When participants were told that the angry faces had a bad day, but that it had nothing to do with the participants personally, the participants were able to fend off bad feelings the next time they saw that same angry face. However, when the participants were told to only feel the emotions brought on by seeing an angry face, they remained upset by that face when it was shown to them again.

Bottom line: Blechert says, “If you’re trained with reappraisal, and you know your boss is frequently in a bad mood, you can prepare yourself to go into a meeting” and not be negatively affected by your boss’ bad mood.

References

Association for Psychological Science. (November, 2011). Press Release. The Brain Acts Fast To Reappraise Angry Faces. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/the-brain-acts-fast-to-reappraise-angry-faces.html

Ochsner, K. N., Bunge, S. A., Gross, J. J., & Gabrieli, J. D. E. (2002). Rethinking feelings: An fMRI study of the cognitive regulation of emotion. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 14(8), 1215-1229. doi:10.1162/089892902760807212

Runde & Flanagan, (2010). Developing your conflict competence: A hands-on guide for leaders, managers, facilitators, and teams. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Weisul, K. (November 2011). How to handle an angry boss. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57329138/how-to-handle-an-angry-boss/

Employees Misbehave When They Are Bored

Bruursemaa, Kesslerb, and Spector (2011) conducted a study in which they found that employees who were bored are more likely to also misbehave. Previously, counterproductive work behavior (CWB) were viewed as made up of five types: abuse against others, production deviance, sabotage, withdrawal, and theft.

In this study, the researchers added a sixth type, horseplay. Bruursemaa, Kesslerb, and Spector (2011) studied responses from 211 participants recruited via email in North America. They discovered that being prone to boredom (boredom proneness) and job boredom was strongly associated with certain types of counterproductive work behavior (CWB).

This is actually not surprising to me. In my previous job consulting with educators about classroom management, special education issues, and students with behavioral problems, one of the first things I do when I observe students in the classroom is to watch what they do when they are bored. It never fails because once boredom kicks in, whether it’s because the task is too easy, too hard, uninteresting, etc., the student will almost certainly find a way to misbehave.

Reference

Bruursemaa, K., Kesslerb, S. R., & Spector, P. E. (2011). Bored employees misbehaving: The relationship between boredom and counterproductive work behavior. Work & Stress, 25(2), 93-107. doi:10.1080/02678373.2011.596670

Bosses and Powerful People Do Not Listen


Photo Credit: I’m Not Listening by Suwani

A recent study found that the more power people have, the more likely they will discount advice due to an elevated sense of confidence in their own judgment.

Across four studies, researchers found that “the psychological experience of power elevates confidence and exacerbates the already strong tendency for individuals to overweight their own initial judgments and insufficiently incorporate input of others.” Furthermore, the researchers discovered that “power can lead people to be less open to factual advice, even when that advice can help achieve accuracy objectives and improve performance.”

Study 1 (a field survey): people who see themselves in a power position were viewed by their colleagues as overly confident and less likely to accept advice.

Study 2 (an advice-taking task): those with more self-perceived power also had more confidence in their own judgment and were less willing to adjust their answers in the direction of an advisor.

Study 3 (advice taking experiment): priming a high power mentality increased confidence in a person’s initial answers and led to that person being less willing to accept advice.

Study 4 (experiment with analysis of judgmental accuracy): even with higher confidence levels, higher power individuals had significantly less accurate final judgments than lower power participants.

Take-Away: Power increases a person’s tendency to overestimate his/her own initial judgment. What this means is that powerful decision makers can also be the least accurate.

Reference

See, K. E., Morrison, E. W., Rothman, N. B., & Soll, J. B. (2011). The detrimental effects of power on confidence, advice taking, and accuracy. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Advance online publication. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2011.07.006