Category Archives: Occupational Health Psychology

Customers Hate Rudeness Even When It’s Not Directed at Them

In their research studies, Porath, MacInnis, & Folkes (2010) “demonstrate[d] that witnessing an incident of employee-employee incivility cause[d] consumers to make negative generalizations about (a) others who work for the firm, (b) the firm as a whole, and (c) future encounters with the firm, inferences that go well beyond the incivility incident” (p. 292).

We might expect that incivility directed at consumers would just have negative effects on those consumers. However, and this is what’s noteworthy, research showed that “consumers are also negatively affected even when they are mere observers of incivility between employees” (Porath et al., 2010, p. 301).

In Study 1, the researchers (Porath et al., 2010) used an employee-employee incivility incident among representatives of a bank, and involved a reprimand of one employee by another. Study 1 demonstrated that consumers became angry when they witnessed an employee behaving in an uncivil manner toward another employee, even when the organization was new (or unknown) to them (consumers).

In Study 2, the researchers (Porath et al., 2010) used an employee-employee incivility incident among representatives of a well-known bookstore. The researchers discovered that, even for a place that was familiar, when customers witnessed one employee being treated uncivilly by another, the customers’ anger lead to ruminating about the incident and faster and more negative generalizations about the company.

Sound Bite: Customers are watching not only how companies treat them, but how these organizations treat their own employees and how coworkers within the organizations treat one another. More importantly, even when bad behaviors are not directed at the customers themselves, their negative observations of incivility between employees lead to negative impressions about the organizations for which the employees work.

“[I]ncivility (and the anger it induces) causes consumers to make far-reaching and negative conclusions about the firm” (Porath et al., 2010, p. 300).

Reference

Porath, C., MacInnis, D., & Folkes, V. (2010). Witnessing incivility among employees: Effects on consumer anger and negative inferences about companies. Journal of Consumer Research, 37(2), 292-303.

Seven Ways to Avoid Becoming the Boss from Hell

The American Management Association posts articles, white papers, and various other training materials for business professionals on its website. I came across this piece about a year ago (although it was originally posted in April 2007), that ties in quite nicely with Dr. Robert Sutton’s newly released book, “Good Boss, Bad Boss.” You can read my review of “Good Boss, Bad Boss” in my August 2010 post.

Below (in its entirety) are Seven Ways to Avoid Becoming the Boss from Hell:

  1. Treat employees with respect and dignity
    • Discuss personal and sensitive issues in private rather than publicly.
    • Get to know your employees as people rather than mere workers.
  2. Involve employees in decisions
    • Let employees know that their ideas are welcome.
    • Thank employees for their suggestions and use them.
  3. Empower employees
    • Delegate whenever possible.
    • Allow employees to have more of a say in how they do their work.
  4. Clearly communicate assignments
    • Communicate goals and expectations both individually and in writing.
    • Ask employees to restate the goals and assignments in their own words.
  5. Listen, listen, listen
    • Practice active listening techniques such as asking open-ended questions.
    • Learn how to probe for information, ideas, and feelings when speaking with employees.
  6. Recognize that your job includes solving “people problems”
    • Be prepared to address employee issues such as ineffective performance, health problems, family crises, substance abuse, and harassment from coworkers.
    • When necessary, seek counsel and involvement from professionals in the human resource department.
  7. Provide personal recognition
    • Catch employees in the act of performing well and provide them with recognition immediately, rather than waiting for the next performance review discussion.
    • Just like the best gifts to receive are those when there is no occasion, periodically thank employees individually for their hard work.

Reference

American Management Association. (2007). Are you the “Boss from Hell?” Retrieved from http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/Are-You-the-Boss-from-Hell.aspx

Work Stresses, Bad Bosses, and Heart Attacks

“In 2007, nearly 80 million Americans—one out of every three adults—had some type of cardiovascular disease (CVD)…[In fact,] CVD has been the leading killer of U.S. adults in every year since 1900, with the exception of 1918, when a pandemic flu killed more people” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 347).

Robert Sutton in his new book “Good Boss, Bad Boss” located a Swedish study which tracked 3,122 men for 10 years. The study found that those with the best bosses suffered fewer heart attacks than those with bad bosses. Another researcher discovered that no matter what the occupation, roughly 75% of the workforce listed their immediate supervisor/boss as the most stressful part of their job (Sutton, 2010).

Landy & Conte (2010), citing studies by Fox, Dwyer, & Ganster; Cohen & Herbert; Krantz & McCeney) state that work environments that are stressful are linked to increases in cortisol (a stress hormone). Furthermore, long-term, elevated levels of stress hormones (like cortisol) lead to decreased functioning of the immune system and heart disease. Cortisol is released as our bodies adjust to chronic stress, and stays in the bloodstream longer because of slower metabolic responses. If the stress remains unresolved, cortisol can reduce the body’s ability to fight off diseases and illnesses (Donatelle, 2009).

“The largest epidemiological study to date, the INTERHEART Study with almost 30,000 participants in 52 countries, identified stress as one of the key modifiable risk factors for heart attack. Similarly, the National Health Interview Study, conducted annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, has reported that stress accounts for approximately 30 percent of the attributable risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack)” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 65).

Bottom Line: 75% of the workforce say their immediate boss is the most stressful part of their job (Sutton, 2010). Stress-filled jobs usually mean working for “bad bosses.” As statistics (on stress and heart attacks) indicate, and as Sutton (Aug. 2010) explains, “Lousy bosses can kill you—literally.”

References

Donatelle, R. (2009). Health: The basics (8th ed.). San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Landy, F. J. & Conte, J. M. (2010). Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology (3rd Ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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

Sutton, R.I. (August 2010). Why good bosses tune in to their people. McKinsey Quarterly. Retrieved from https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Why_good_bosses_tune_in_to_their_people_2656

Are You A Chronic Kicker?

In a previous post (“Busy Work and Fake Work“), I talked about a man named Dilbert, a real person with a fictional name. Dilbert never worked, but instead was always doing “busywork” and complaining to everyone around him about how busy he was.

In this follow-up post, I’ll talk about the chronic complainer or a “chronic kicker.”

A “chronic kicker” is a person who’s constantly complaining about his or her job (Spector, 2008). This person may look like a “Dilbert” (i.e. complains and is engaged in only busywork) or it can be someone who actually does “real” work but is constantly complaining while working.

The opposite of a “chronic kicker” is an individual who is “hardy.” In their classic I-O psychology text, Landy and Conte (2010) talk about individuals with a “hardy personality” as having THREE characteristics:

  1. They feel they are in control of their lives.
  2. They feel a sense of commitment to their family and their work goals and values.
  3. They see unexpected change as a challenge rather than as an obstacle (Landy & Conte, 2010, p. 470).

What’s more, people who are always whining and complaining about their work and life tend to be those who are more likely to be sick, have more physiological reactions to stress, and have lower general well-being compared to those who are more “hardy.” And the opposite is true – those who are “hardy” are less prone to being ill, have fewer physiological reactions to stress, and have higher levels of general well-being (Kobasa, Maddi, & Kahn, 1982).

“[H]ardiness is an important characteristic associated with stress resistance and successful performance in demanding occupations” (Landy & Conte, 2010, p. 470).

References

Kobasa, S.C., Maddi, S.R., Kahn, S. (1982). Hardiness and health: A prospective study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42(1), 168-177.

Landy, F. J. & Conte, J. M. (2010). Work in the 21st century: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (3rd Ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Spector, P.E. (2008). Industrial and organizational psychology: Research and practice (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Book Review: Good Boss, Bad Boss

good-boss-bad-boss-book-cover

In an email exchange, Professor Robert I. Sutton (author of the highly acclaimed book, “The No Asshole Rule”) asked me if I was interested in seeing a “galley” of his upcoming book, “Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst” (due out September 2010). According to Dr. Sutton, “galleys” are “essentially cheap paperback versions of the book that usually have a few typos and may need a little more editing” sent as advanced copies “to the press and other opinion leaders.” I responded that I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of his book and would love to have an advance copy.

I am a fan of Dr. Robert Sutton. I follow his blog, Work Matters regularly and enjoy his writing style. Because I’m fascinated by workplace psychology (I write the WorkplacePsychology.Net blog), I am always interested in articles and books that have a good mixture of research and practical writing and applications. In other words, cut through the bull and tell me what I need to know and make sure that what I need to know is backed by evidence and research. Last year, a book I read (“The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It” by Christine Pearson and Christine Porath) met this practical application + evidence-based criteria.

Here’s a little history for those not familiar with Dr. Sutton’s previous book. “The No Asshole Rule” is about the harm done by jerks or assholes in the workplace and what to do to survive working with or for an asshole and how organizations can get rid of or better yet, screen these individuals out before hiring them in the first place. As he explained, while words like bullies, jerks, creeps, tyrants, etc. could have been used, the word “asshole best captures the fear and loathing I have for these nasty people” (Sutton, 2007, p. 1).

Ok, let’s move on to “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”

Dr. Sutton says that as more people shared with him their asshole stories, about working and dealing with assholes (as a result of reading or hearing about “The No Asshole Rule”), he realized that everything came back to one central figure — the boss. It was from the countless workplace asshole stories and the desire to share how to be a skilled boss or how to work for one that led Dr. Sutton to write “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”

The book cites a University of Florida study that found employees with abusive bosses were much more likely than others to slow down or make errors on purpose (30% vs. 6%) [the technical term for this is “counterproductive work behavior”]. When you purposefully slow down your work, it’s called production deviance. Employees with abusive bosses also hide from their bosses (27% vs. 4%), not put in maximum effort (33% vs. 9%), and feign being sick (29% vs. 4%).

“Good Boss, Bad Boss” is about the best bosses and what they do. It’s not about incompetent or even mediocre bosses. As Dr. Sutton puts it, it doesn’t matter if you’re a boss whose team brought in the highest sales number or a principal of an award-winning school, if you treat people badly, you don’t deserve to be called a great boss.

Good bosses need to have the right mindsets by embracing five beliefs:

(1) Following Lasorda’s Law? Finding the balance between over-managing (or micromanaging) and under-managing. Good bosses understand when to exert more control vs. when to back off, and when to coach vs. when to discipline.

(2) Got Grit? Good bosses think of managing in terms of a marathon, not like a sprint. Effective bosses can communicate a sense of urgency without treating things like one long emergency.

(3) Small Wins? Having long-term goals is important, but good bosses also know that the day-to-day efforts and small accomplishments also matter. The best bosses are those who can break down problems into bite-size, achievable pieces for their employees.

(4) Beware the Toxic Tandem? The Toxic Tandem is made up of the boss’s obliviousness (to what their employees need, say, and do) and self-centered ways and the idea that followers closely watch their boss’s words and actions.

(5) Got Their Backs? Good bosses protect and fight for their employees. These bosses take the heat (from upper management) when their employees screw up.

Good bosses have their fingers (and ears) on the pulse of what their employees are thinking, feeling, and acting. These bosses know that to be successful they have to spend time and energy to reading and responding to employees’ feelings and actions. Good bosses also possess self-awareness, being highly aware of their strengths and weaknesses while striving to overcome pitfalls that may sabotage their performance.

“Good Boss, Bad Boss” warns that there is no panacea. There is no magic formula to what makes a good boss, and anyone who “promises you an easy or instant pathway to success is either ignorant or dishonest — or both,” says Dr. Sutton.

“Good Boss, Bad Boss” ends by asking and suggesting the audience think about two questions. These two questions should be something good bosses focus on daily:

(1) Would people want to work for you and would they choose to work for you again if given a choice?

(2) Are you in tune with what it feels like to work for you?

Summary: “Good Boss, Bad Boss” is an insightful and well-researched book. Following in the footsteps set by The No Asshole Rule, “Good Boss, Bad Boss” delivers a knock-out punch to those asshole bosses whose cluelessness continues to harm both their employees and the overall organization. Using the power of storytelling, Robert Sutton masterfully weaves together research and stories about good and bad bosses and behaviors in the workplace that led to their successes and failures. If you want a magic pill or quick solutions on how to be a great boss and avoid being a bad one, this is not the book for you. However, if you value the power of insight and self-awareness as part of an on-going process toward becoming a great boss, then you’ll love “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”

References

Pearson, C. & Porath, C. (2009). The cost of bad behavior: How incivility is damaging your business and what to do about it. New York, NY: Portfolio.

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

Sutton, R. I. (2007). The no asshole rule: Building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn’t. New York: Business Plus.

What Gets You Up in the Morning?

Rule #23

Keep Two Lists: What Gets You Up in the Morning? What Keeps You Up at Night?

As I’m gearing up to teach my next college course, thinking about how to best help my students be successful, I picked up Alan Webber’s “Rules of Thumb” while sorting through stacks of papers in my room. Webber delivers yet another wonderful story, this time about what energizes you about work.

Webber, as you recall in an earlier post I wrote called Failure is Failing to Try, is the co-founder of Fast Company magazine. About 18 months into Fast Company’s young existence as a magazine, the topic of business was cool again. With the new economy featured prominently in the news, the explosion of the Internet and technology, and the emergence of innovation, Webber observes…

“All of a sudden America had a new attitude toward work: work didn’t have to be drudgery. The work you did could make a difference, make you rich, make a dent in the universe” (p. 111).

Webber noticed that people “were genuinely excited about the things going on in their workplaces” (p. 111). “Work” became the subject of many conversations. And it didn’t matter what line of work people were in or when or where, talks about work would come up.

For Webber, the question was more than just “what are you working on,” it should be, “What gave them a jolt of purpose in the morning? What was waiting for them at work that got them excited?”

It was in thinking about this that Webber refined his question to:

“What Gets You Up in the Morning?”

Fast Company took great pride in their interviews with thought leaders and innovative executives and noticed that when they read interviews with top executives in other business magazines, the interviews “almost always were puff pieces; the whole point seemed to be to give the executive a platform for broadcasting the company line” (Webber, 2009, p. 112).

Wanting to set itself apart, Fast Company instead began its interviews by asking executives:

“What Keeps You Up at Night?” (the counterquestion to “What Gets You Up in the Morning?”)

It was a way for Fast Company to stand apart from the rest of the pack, but more importantly it was a way to solicit authentic answers from these executives. This counterquestion “became a Fast Company signature question” (p. 112).

Webber wrote,

“Some people just have jobs. Others have something they really work at. Some people are just occupied. Others have something that preoccupies them” (p. 113).

As I’ve written in the “About this Site,” we spend 8 to 9 hours a day, 5 days a week working. When you add it up, we spend one-third of our day or half of our waking hours at work. If you work 40 hours a week for 47 weeks out of the year (taking 5 weeks off for various vacation, holiday and sick days), that would add up to 1,880 hours a year. And if you work from the age of 23 to 63 or 40 years, you will have spent 75,200 hours of your life working!

The idea is not to quit work, but to honestly answer the question:

“What Gets You Up in the Morning?”

Webber advises that if the answer to this question doesn’t jolt you out of bed in the morning and give you a sense of purpose and direction then the next question to ask yourself is:

“What are you going to do about it?”

“[W]hatever your answers are, you’re spending almost two thousand hours a year of your life doing it. That makes it worthwhile to come up with answers you can not only live with but also live for” (Webber, 2009, p. 115).

Reference

Webber, A. M. (2009). Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business without Losing Your Self. New York: HarperCollins.

Job Insecurity and Employee Health

The New York Times ran an article (Luo, 2010) that talked about job loss and adverse impacts on health. What’s most intriguing were the health studies mentioned in the article linking layoffs to poor health and life expectancy. The article also mentioned a 2009 study finding persistent perceived job insecurity to be a strong predictor of poor health and even more damaging than actual job loss.

Occupational Health Psychology Quiz

  1. Did you know that layoffs more than doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke among older workers compared to those who continued to work (Gallo, Teng, Falba, Kasl, Krumholz, & Bradley, 2006)?
  2. Did you know that a person who lost a job had an 83 percent greater chance of developing a stress-related health problem (e.g., diabetes, arthritis or psychiatric problems) (Strully, 2009)?
  3. Did you know that even people who lost their jobs but became reemployed still faced increased risk of developing new health conditions (Strully, 2009)?
  4. Did you know that insecurity about one’s job can also create health problems, and in some cases be even more damaging on health than actually losing a job (Burgard, Brand, & House, 2009)?

References

Burgard, S.A., Brand, J.E., & House, J.S. (2009). Perceived job insecurity and worker health in the United States. Social Science & Medicine, 69(5), 777-785. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.06.029

Gallo, W.T., Teng, H.M., Falba, T.A., Kasl, S.V., Krumholz, H.M., Bradley, E.H. (2006). The impact of late career job loss on myocardial infarction and stroke: a 10 year follow up using the health and retirement survey. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 63(10), 683-687. doi: 10.1136/oem.2006.026823

Luo, M. (2010, February 25). At closing plant, ordeal included heart attacks. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/25/us/25stress.html

Strully, K.W. (2009). Job loss and health in the U.S. labor market. Demography, 46(2), 221-246. doi: 10.1353/dem.0.0050

Coping With Fear-Lessons for Business and Life

In his book, Rules of Thumb, Alan Webber talks about one of the rules in his book: When things get tough.

Rule #1: When the going gets tough, the tough relax.

In crisis management, I teach people that fear is normal and natural. In fact, what matters most is our behaviors in these stressful, frightening situations that strongly determine the difference between a safe or disastrous outcome. If it weren’t for our ability to experience fear, we would not be able to survive for too long in this world. Just think about the number of times your own fears warned you of impending dangers (a car coming dangerously close to yours on the freeway, a stranger who seems a bit creepy, etc.). Most of us are familiar with the “fight-or-flight response,” which experts describe as a physiological arousal response in which the body prepares to fight or escape a real or perceived threat (Donatelle, 2009). Although this instinctual response is designed to help us, if overused, it can actually damage our bodies.

Simply stated, although it’s normal to be afraid, if you live a life based on fear, you will hurt yourself and those around you.

In Webber’s case, his fear was of failure, of being embarrassed, or appearing to ask a stupid question. The person he was scheduled to interview, Helmut Schmidt (a former German chancellor), was “notoriously difficult.” It was completely understandable that Webber was fearful of this guy “dismissing my questions as stupid” (Webber, 2009, p. 3).

However, rather than letting his fear get in the way, Webber decided to jot down some notes to himself on a yellow legal pad. On it he wrote: “Relax! Smile! This is a blessing, a treat, and an honor. It’s not a punishment to be endured.” After all, “[h]ow many people get to sit across from a world leader and ask him questions?”

Webber’s advice, applicable to business and life, is this:

“Anytime you approach a task with fear you are at least a double loser. First, you color the work with fear and increase the chances of failure…Second, you guarantee that you won’t enjoy the experience. Whether you succeed or fail, wouldn’t you like to remember the experience as one you enjoyed, not one you suffered through?” (Webber, 2009, p. 5)

“Don’t let fear undermine your chance to do that one thing you’ve wanted to do.” -Alan M. Webber

References

Donatelle, R. (2009). Health: The basics (8th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Webber, A. M. (2009). Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business without Losing Your Self. New York: HarperCollins.

Failure is Failing to Try

I love Half Price Books. You can pick up a $25 book for less than $7.00 and there’s even an educator’s discount. Earlier today, I picked up a book called “Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business without Losing Your Self” by Alan M. Webber. Webber is the cofounding editor of Fast Company and was the managing editor and editorial director of the Harvard Business Review.

I think I decided to get the book because on the book jacket flap Webber said that one of the high points of his life was being told he looked like Bruce Willis when he visited Japan. For the record, I don’t think he does and I’m Asian. Hey, I like an author with a sense of humor.

Webber’s Rule #45 caught my eye. It says: Failure isn’t failing. Failure is failing to try. Webber recounts the time, while working at the Harvard Business Review (HBR), that he felt that needed to “take shot at starting my own magazine (Fast Company)” (p. 225). He had been mulling over the idea of leaving HBR and starting Fast Company.

The decision wasn’t easy because the advice from his colleagues was to stay and use his position to further his career or stick with the job and he would be rewarded with a better one later on. It was hard to ignore the obvious advantages of the Harvard Business Review (prestige, security, and money). But Webber was determined to answer his inner calling of starting his own magazine.

As he said: “The question wasn’t whether it was a good idea. The question wasn’t even whether it would work. The question was, would I have the courage to try?

What was the worst thing that he could tell himself, that he tried to start a magazine and failed or that he failed to try at all?

This story of yearning to follow your heart resonates with me because in 2004, I left my life and home in Dallas, Texas to live and work on a tiny island in the North Pacific Ocean called Saipan.

That life-changing decision was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. I had been living my life vicariously, dreaming about great things but not having the courage to try them. In the end, the heart won out and I could no longer ignore the yearning of living abroad.

It’s hard to describe how fulfilled I felt when I came to Saipan. Within the first week or so, I knew that I had made the right decision. No one told me that I had made the right choice. No self-help or personal development book answered my deep longings. Rather, it was simply a feeling I felt in my heart. It just felt right.

I think Alan Webber felt the same thing when he left what was comfortable to start his own magazine.

“Ten years from now, what will you regret never having tried?” -Alan Webber

Reference

Webber, A. M. (2009). Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business without Losing Your Self. New York: HarperCollins.

Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

I want to thank WorkplacePsychology.Net reader Chris Webb for sending me a link to this video about Dan Pink’s book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.”

What’s so impressive are the visual illustrations done by the artist (also called a “graphic facilitator”) at Cognitive Media to visually capture what the author is trying to verbally communicate about motivation.

The video is a great complement to two earlier posts, 3 Primary Goals of People at Work and What Really Motivates Employees.

If you are like me, someone who loves to “think visually,” you’ll love this video. Thanks again Chris!

How Face-to-face Conversations Help Us Deal with Technostress

As I was sitting patiently waiting for my car to be repaired at the car shop the other day, I came across a great story in AARP Magazine titled, “Is Conversation Gone for Good?” It confirmed to me something I have been thinking about a lot lately — the missing element of face-to-face conversations and the level of stress we experience living in a high-tech world.

The article raises two important points I want to mention here:

  • Today, our talks are more results-oriented and less people-oriented. In person, we ask closed questions that can be answered by yes or no and we share brief exchanges. The author of the article remarked how his recent “conversations” were, in fact, Facebook postings.
  • The paradox of contemporary life—simultaneous connection and isolation. Think about it for a minute. We reach out to connect to others (many times strangers) through social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and yet, when we are in the same room with other people, we don’t have much to say to them.

We are bombarded by and bombard others with so much information that there is actually a term to describe this — technostress.

Technostress is stress resulting from our over-reliance on technology. According to Rebecca J. Donatelle, Ph.D., technostress is “a dependence on technology, the constant state of being “plugged in,” and the fear of technology failure” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 74).

She says that when technostress takes a hold of you, it sometimes interact with other forms of stress “to create a never-ending form of stimulation that keeps your stress response reverberating all day” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 74).

The power of technology allows us to be productive and encourages people to multitask, juggling many different things at once. We see this actually advertised and prized as a desired quality in an employee or person. However, research indicates that “people who multitask…are less efficient than those who focus on one project at a time” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 74).

A recent Harvard Business Review post says that multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity, increased stress, and a 10% drop in IQ (Bergman, 2010).

Signs of technology overload (Donatelle, 2009):

  • Increasing heart rate and blood pressure
  • Irritability and memory disturbances
  • Inability to relax
  • Feeling nervous and anxious during times when you are supposed to be having fun
  • Headaches
  • Stomach, digestive problems, ulcers
  • Skin irritations
  • Frequent colds
  • Difficulty in wound healing
  • Difficulty sleeping or lack of sleep
  • Gaps in attentiveness and changes in ability to concentrate

TIPS FOR FIGHTING TECHNOSTRESS (Donatelle, 2009):

1. Become aware of what you are doing.
Log the time you spend online, on social networking sites, e-mail, voicemail, etc. Set up a schedule to limit your use of technology. For example, spend no more than a half-hour per day answering e-mails.

2. Give yourself more time.
If you are surfing the Web for resources for a paper or project, begin early rather than the night before it is due.

3. Manage the telephone—don’t let it manage you.
Rather than interrupting what you’re doing to answer the call, screen phone calls with an answering machine or caller ID. Eliminate call waiting because it forces you to juggle multiple calls, and instead, subscribe to a voicemail service that takes messages when you’re on the phone.

4. Take regular breaks.
Even when you’re working, every hour get up, walk around, stretch, do deep breathing, or get a drink of water.

5. If you are working on the computer, look away from the screen and focus on something far away every 30 minutes.
Stretch your shoulders and neck periodically as you work. Play relaxing background music.

6. Resist the urge to buy the newest and fastest technology.
Such purchases causes financial stress and adds to your stress levels, especially when dealing with the glitches that occur from installing and adjusting to new technology.

7. Do not take laptops, PDAs, or other technological gadgets on vacation.
If you must take a cell phone for emergencies, turn it and your voice messaging system off, and use the phone only in true emergencies.

8. Back up materials on your computer at regular intervals.
There’s nothing more frustrating and stressful than losing work because of a power outage. In college, I heard about a girl crying hysterically because she lost a paper she had spent hours writing. The culprit was a squirrel who sacrificed his life running into a power line. Poor girl and poor squirrel.

9. Expect technological change.
The only constant is change. Nowhere is this more true than with technology. We blink and what we purchased or become accustomed to will become yesterday’s news. No matter how comfortable you are with your current computer, cell phone, PDA, and so on, at some point you will need to move on to a new one.

10. Unplug or Disconnect, Step Away, and “Talk.” – this last tip is my own.
When I was in my teens and early twenties, I was quite impatient as I suppose some people are growing up. But the older I become, the more I slow down to soak life in. It was this epiphany that led me back home, from working overseas, to be with my aging parents.

Just like the author of the AARP article, I too am enjoying conversations (face-to-face ones that is) with others. In the past few years, those precious conversations have been with my mother. And, like the author, I am finding wonderment in the “transformative power of human contact,” one that offers glimpses into the lives of those with whom I hold face-to-face conversations.

When I talk and listen to my mom, it’s almost as if time stops. When I am truly engrossed in conversation with her, I feel as though I’m traveling back in time to years past, learning about her, about myself, and about life. With our manic society, hyperactive workplaces, and a 24-7 mindset about being plugged in, it is comforting to know that, sometimes, the most profound and yet easiest solution on “unplugging” is to simply “talk.”

References

Bergman, P. (May 2010). How (and why) to stop multitasking. Harvard Business Review, May 20, 2010. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2010/05/how-and-why-to-stop-multitaski.html

Donatelle, R. (2009). Health: The basics (8th ed.). San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Dudley, D. (Mar/Apr 2010). Is conversation gone for good? AARP Magazine, Mar/Apr 2010, 62-67.

3 Primary Goals of People at Work

In “The Enthusiastic Employee” authors Sirota, Mischkind, and Meltzer (2005), working under Sirota Consulting, surveyed 2.5 million employees in 237 organizations in 89 countries about what they want from their jobs.

Contrary to wide and unsubstantiated claims made about worker attitudes, the authors found through their research that the overall satisfaction of workers with their work is strong and consistent across a wide variety of industries, occupations, and cultures. Furthermore, these researchers maintain that there is no evidence that younger workers are any more or less disenchanted than older workers.

The majority of the responses fall into three factors. The authors call this the Three Factor Theory of Human Motivation in the Workplace. They are: equity, achievement and camaraderie.

  1. Equity: To be treated justly in relation to the basic conditions of employment. These basic conditions include physiological (e.g., safe work environment), economic (e.g., job security, fair pay), and psychological (e.g., treated respectfully & fairly).
  2. Achievement: Employees are enthusiastic working for organizations that provide them with a clear, credible and inspiring organizational purpose – “reason for being here.” There are four sources of employee pride. In essence they reflect the idea of excellence:
    • Excellence in the organization’s financial performance.
    • Excellence in the efficiency with which the work of the organization gets done.
    • Excellence in the characteristics of the organization’s products such as their usefulness, distinctness and quality.
    • Excellence in the organization’s moral character.
  3. Camaraderie: Employees want to work collaboratively. They get the greatest satisfaction from being a member of and working on a team to achieve a common goal. In fact, the authors assert that cooperation, and not job descriptions or organizational charts, is the unifying force holding the various parts of an organization together.

Sirota, Mischkind, and Meltzer (2005) say that one key to overcome conflict and encourage cooperation is to build partnerships. The parties involved do this by collaborating to work toward common goals.

However, they caution that in order to build partnerships within and throughout the organization,

“[A]ction must begin with, and be sustained by, senior management” (p. 283).

It is only when senior leadership has the foresight to see what can be, not just what is, along with the perseverance and hard work to translate philosophy into concrete daily policies will partnership organizations emerge. Above all, it requires “seeing and treating employees as genuine allies in achieving change” (Sirota, Mischkind, & Meltzer, 2005, p. 301).

Reference

Sirota, D., Mischkind, L.A., & Meltzer, M.I. (2005). The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing.

7 Reasons Why Employees Leave

In “The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave (2005),” Leigh Branham outlined seven reasons why workers quit or leave their jobs:

  • Reason #1: The Job or Workplace Was Not as Expected
  • Reason #2: The Mismatch Between Job and Person
  • Reason #3: Too Little Coaching and Feedback
  • Reason #4: Too Few Growth and Advancement Opportunities
  • Reason #5: Feeling Devalued And Unrecognized
  • Reason #6: Stress From Overwork and Work-Life Imbalance
  • Reason #7: Loss of Trust and Confidence in Senior Leaders

Branham asserts that there are two distinct periods when an employee thinks about leaving. The first period is the time between his or her first thoughts of leaving and the subsequent decision to leave. The second period in which the employee considers leaving is the time between his/her decision to leave and actually leaving.

Branham shares three tips that leaders can do to avoid losing employees:

  1. Inspire confidence in a clear vision, a workable plan and the competence to achieve it.
  2. Back up words with actions.
  3. Place the leader’s trust and confidence in the work force.

Reference

Branham, L. (2005). The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave. Broadway, NY: AMACOM.

The Gender Pay Gap

Jumping Out Of College and Into the Pay Gap

As soon as people enter the workforce, salary figures indicate an initial gap in pay between men and women. The Harvard Business Review reports that a year after graduating from college, “the average woman earns 80% of what a man earns; however, after controlling for industry, type of job, prior experience, and other characteristics, this gap closes to 95%.” The AAUW, which derived these figures assert that the unexplained 5% gap indicates bias.

Clarifying the Numbers

In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Carl Bialik states that one of the most common claims about the gender pay gap is that “women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men do.” However, Casey Mulligan, an economist at the University of Chicago maintains that “the gender gap would be less than 10 percentage points if you had better data and could make all the reasonable adjustments.”

Still, no matter how one looks at the numbers, there’s no denying that there IS a gap between the salaries of women and men.

Career Detours: Women Who Off-Ramp

Perhaps the most eye-opening piece of all is the data on women who leave the workforce. According to the HBR article (which cited data from the Center for Work-Life Policy), 31% of highly qualified women leave the workforce voluntarily for an average of 2.7 years. When three-quarters of these women do return (about 73% later go back to work), only 40% find full-time jobs. The author concludes that “[t]aking time out – for any reason – is costly (for women).” Finally, citing research by the Center for Work-Life Policy (CWLP), the HBR article shows that women who off-ramp lose an average of 18% of their future earning power.

References

“Harvard Business Review;” Investigating the Pay Gap; Sarah Green; April 2010; http://hbr.org/web/extras/pay-gap/2-slide; http://hbr.org/web/extras/pay-gap/9-slide

“Wall Street Journal;” Calculating Pay Inequity; Carl Bialik; April 2010; http://blogs.wsj.com/numbersguy/calculating-pay-inequity-919/

National Stress Awareness Day

April 16th is National Stress Awareness Day. One of the areas I cover here at WorkplacePsychology.Net is Occupational Health Psychology (OHP). OHP is important because it is concerned about the health, safety and well-being of workers.

And because I love using visuals to tell a story, today’s post features this infographic (information graphic) by Julie Teninbaum. It is a great example of just how powerful the use of graphics, design, and data can combine to produce something that not only is eye-catching but also conveys important information.

Julie is a regular contributor to Fast Company and does a “Numerology” (infographic). For April, she created this infographic for Fast Company’s article “National Stress Awareness Month, by the Numbers.”