Category Archives: Uncategorized

Room to Read – Literacy Changes Lives

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Toward the end of December 2011, I wrote about donating to charity: water. This year, I want to talk about Room to Read. For some visitors who might not know, I’m passionate about charity and philanthropy. I have written often about various charities here on WorkplacePsychology.Net. As I shared back in a post about WeFeedback (an initiative of the World Food Programme), WorkplacePsychology.Net is about work, but it’s also about understanding the struggles of people, many of whom work. People all over the world struggle (sometimes daily with unimaginable hardships), and many of them are children who are already working or will grow up to work.

Why Literacy? (from RoomtoRead.org)

793 MILLION PEOPLE
in the world are illiterate about 16% of the world’s adults. Of the illiterate, 2/3 are women and 250 million are children.

61 MILLION PRIMARY SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN
are out of school. The majority live in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

5.4 MILLION TEACHERS
are needed to achieve universal primary education by 2015, more than 1/3 of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

97 COUNTRIES
have not achieved gender parity at the secondary school level.

Room to Read combats global poverty by improving educational opportunities for children and “helping primary school children become lifelong, independent readers.” It does this by establishing libraries, improving school infrastructure, publishing local language children’s books and supporting reading and writing instruction through teacher training and material development (RoomtoRead.org).

Room to Read has an incredible story about an overworked and burnt out Microsoft executive named John Wood. What began as a backpacking trip to Nepal, resulted in a life-changing moment for John. While visiting a school, he saw “a dilapidated schoolroom and a severe shortage of books.” The headmaster of the school made a small request asking him to bring back some books if he ever visited again. A year later, after collecting children’s books, and with the help of his dad, John returned to Nepal with “a train of eight book-bearing donkeys.” When he saw the faces of the kids with the books, he knew what he had to do. John left Microsoft and started Room to Read.

“Literacy gives people tools with which to improve their livelihoods, participate in community decision-making, gain access to information about health care. . . . Above all, it enables individuals to realize their rights as citizens and human beings.” — Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General

Five Ways Giving Is Good for You (verbatim from Greater Good Science Center website):

1. Giving makes us feel happy.

In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”

2. Giving is good for our health.

In a 2003 study on elderly couples, Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan and her colleagues found that those individuals who provided practical help to friends, relatives, or neighbors, or gave emotional support to their spouses, had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period than those who didn’t.

In a 2006 study by Rachel Piferi of Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler of the University of Tennessee, people who provided social support to others had lower blood pressure than participants who didn’t, suggesting a direct physiological benefit to those who give of themselves.

3. Giving promotes cooperation and social connection.

Several studies, including work by sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer, have suggested that when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line—sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else.

4. Giving evokes gratitude.

Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a gift, that gift can elicit feelings of gratitude—it can be a way of expressing gratitude or instilling gratitude in the recipient. And research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds.

5. Giving is contagious.

A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”

December 2012 marks the three year anniversary of this WorkplacePsychology.Net blog. I am so grateful for all the loyal readers and visitors. The amount of visits and the media links and mentions of WorkplacePsychology.Net has been phenomenal and I want to thank each of you for continuing to stop by.

Wishing you great health and abundant happiness in the new year,

Steve Nguyen
WorkplacePsychology.Net

WorkplacePsychology Blogging Tips

Photo: Blogging Research Wordle

I created this list several years ago and have shared it with a few people. While I don’t think they really cared for it, I truly believe in its importance. If you are someone who is considering starting a blog or are a blog newbie, this post is for you. The advice I’m sharing here comes from my own experience setting up and running the WorkplacePsychology.Net blog as well as several other previous blogs. While I am certainly no blogging expert, I do know a thing or two, and want to pass the knowledge I’ve gained on to others.

Here’s my advice about blogging:

1) Time Commitment: Blogging takes a considerable amount of time, creativity, and energy. Have a clear understanding of what you want to write about and why you think it is relevant. Keep your content fresh so it’s important to post regularly. When you’re first starting out and are building readership, you’ll need to post 2-3 times a week. Once you build your “brand” (i.e. your name/reputation) then it’s ok to post less frequently.

2) Target Audience: Know who or what kind of person you want reading your blog. If you want business people reading your blog then the topics and tone of your blog should be about business or a particular business topic. If you want people interested in cooking then the topics and tone of your blog would cater to cooking.

For instance, on my WorkplacePsychology.Net blog, I focus on several key topics (Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Occupational Health Psychology, and Organizational Behavior) and only those topics. My audience are industrial-organizational psychology, occupational health psychology, organizational behavior, human resources, and business and management professionals. Thus, my content is targeted at that demographic only. By being everything to everybody, you lose focus and will turn people off.

3) Free vs. Paid Hosting

FREE:

Advantage: If you want to save money, I recommend that you use, WordPress.com. It’s free and there are many templates available to you. The learning curve isn’t too steep and there’s much more flexibility down the line if and when you want to do more with your site. You go to WordPress.com, create a blog name, and within minutes you are online with your very own blog!

The two biggest advantages to going the free route are that (1) you don’t have to worry about maintaining it (on the back-end side) and guarding your blog from people trying to hack in, (2) it’s free or the upgrades available are much more affordable (premium themes, options, etc.).

Disadvantage: While you can tweak a pre-existing theme somewhat, you can’t design your site (i.e., your theme) from scratch and you are limited to the themes available to you.

PAID:

Advantage: You’ll have total control over how your blog/website will look.

Disadvantage: However, when starting out, I do not recommend the paid hosting route for anyone new to blogging. First, the cost involved is much greater. Second, it is much more complicated to set up your own domain (yourname.com), install or set up the CMS (content management system) like WordPress, and maintain it on your own. Third, and most importantly, it is VERY easy to mess up your blog if you do not know what you are doing (e.g., html, ftp, etc.).

4) SEO (Search Engine Optimization): A good blog will use keywords and be search engine-friendly. So when people look up topics (they type in business consultant) your name will come up in Google searches “higher” than someone who didn’t optimize his/her site. WordPress.Com does a nice job helping you optimize your blog if you continue to use a set of keywords or tags.

5) Blog Name: Pick a name that’s easy to remember and that ends in either .Com or .Net. If possible, keep it short but if it’s easy to say then it’s fine that it’s a little long. In general, I recommend a short, easy to remember blog name. Avoid using a dash (-) or underscore (_).

Here’s what I did for my own blog. For WorkplacePsychology.Net, I’m using the free WordPress.Com’s service. That means I don’t pay anything to have my blog “hosted” on the Internet (it’s where your blog lives online). But WordPress.Com forces me to have a domain name like this: “workplacepsychology.wordpress.com”

As you can see that’s too long for anyone to remember. So, I bought the domain upgrade which replaces my site’s default address with a custom domain of my choice. Instead of https://workplacepsychology.wordpress.com/, this upgrade makes my site available at https://workplacepsychology.net/.

6) Layout: Make sure your blog is user-friendly and easy to navigate. Font size should be large enough so people don’t squint reading it. There should not be “clutter.” On my blog, I paid for a premium theme and added some information unique to my site on the right sidebar. Some blogs are littered with ads, flashing signs, and stuff everywhere. Those are big no-nos. Pick a design (theme) that is easy on the eyes, with legible font size.

7) Academic & Scholarly: This last and final tip applies to bloggers who want to write a scholarly/academic blog. A key differentiator about my WorkplacePsychology.Net blog is the scholarly content and crediting of sources, but one that’s presented in an easy-to-digest manner. My inspiration for this comes from the “The Idea in Brief” (a short, bite-sized summary of an article) that the Harvard Business Review uses in its magazine and website. Naturally, each person’s blog and writing style is different and what works for me might not work for you. That said, if you plan on providing academic content on your blog, my advice is to keep it short and simple. Experience has taught me that no one wants to read or listen to academic jargon. Perhaps one of the funniest stories about academic-speak comes from a conference I attended in which one professor attempted to explain a concept he was unfamiliar with. However, instead of being upfront and telling the audience that he had limited knowledge and giving a short summary, he went on and on, further confusing the audience and himself in the process. Those of us who actually knew the material (I was one) could not help but laughed. Finally, to put the poor guy out of his misery, a charismatic and wise professor (he’s also a retired Army Colonel) stood up, interrupted him, and asked this beautifully rhetorical question: “Do people really talk like that?” The entire room erupted in laughter! He said what we were all thinking but couldn’t say. It boils down to this: Keeping it simple has nothing to do with “dumbing down” the material, but everything to do with understanding it well enough to simplify it for others to grasp. That takes a great deal of effort.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein

Why I Started the WorkplacePsychology blog

Photo: Inspirational Quotes – Happy Purpose

The irony about working hard to create my very own blog and watching it become recognized online (i.e., my blog ranks high on Google search) is that I get many requests from people who want to do guest posts. It’s got me thinking back to why I started this blog. The more I thought about it, the more I felt the need to share my thoughts with the readers and visitors of WorkplacePsychology.Net.

Although this blog is not a business (e.g., there’s no revenue stream), I do consider myself the sole proprietor (i.e. it’s owned and managed by one person). Being in the driver seat gives me complete control over this blog, but it also means I have total responsibility for it.

The main reason why I do not accept guest posts:

As the sole creator and author of the WorkplacePsychology.Net blog, I want to ensure that what is written comes directly from me. This is because WorkplacePsychology.Net is written through a scholarly lens (that’s why there are citations in almost every post). I often spend days researching and writing just one post. Why? The reason is simple. In order to keep my promise of a blog that’s scholarly but written in a “clear, concise, and easy-to-understand manner” I have to wade through textbooks, psychology journals, and/or sites such as the New York Times, Forbes, the Harvard Business Review or the Wall Street Journal to gather information. Next, I have to make sense of the information and communicate it to my readers in an informative and engaging manner.

Because of the time-intensive nature of what goes into each post, I do not post as frequently as many other bloggers. I am a firm believer in quality over quantity. In my humble opinion, it is more important to me that there is one high quality, well-researched post than five or ten shorter and not as substantive posts in a month.

Prior to starting WorkplacePsychology.Net, I sat down and mapped out my purpose for writing the blog and who I wanted my target audience to be. I then looked at the gap (i.e., where I felt I could contribute), which was very wide. On one end of the continuum were blogs written with absolutely no citations or crediting of sources. In my opinion, this is not only careless but irresponsible writing. On the other end were blogs attached to psychology associations. More often than not, these are not only boring to read, but because the designs were poor, they were also difficult to read because the font size was too small.

So that’s where this WorkplacePsychology blog sits. Of course, it would not make any sense if I discussed not accepting guest posts, without talking about my goals for starting this blog.

My two reasons for starting this WorkplacePsychology blog are as follows: (1) I want people to read, understand, and be excited about how psychology applies to the workplace, and (2) I want the blog to be a reputable and trusted resource for people to turn to.

I am very lucky because both of these goals have come to fruition. This, I truly believe, would not have been possible had I not crafted and labored over every post. Granted, there are posts that I am really proud of and there are some that are not as substantial as I would have liked.

To those who have contacted me asking about guest posting, thank you for your interest in contributing. I hope this post explains why I do not accept guest posters. This might change someday down the road, and when that day comes, I’ll be sure to let everyone know. But, as it stands, this WorkplacePsychology blog shall remain a “one-man band.” Thanks for your understanding.

Kind regards,

Steve

Announcement about Ads

Thank you for noticing this new notice” by Martäng

Dear Loyal Visitors and Friends of WorkplacePsychology.Net,

While I have tried to resist placing advertisements on WorkplacePsychology.Net, the truth is that it has become costly to maintain this site. In fact, in order to offer a site that is simple, clutter-free, and presents information that informs and interests visitors, I pay for features and services out of my own pocket. There have been zero advertisements on this blog, until today.

The traffic that WorkplacePsychology.Net receives has been a blessing and I am truly grateful for all visitors and loyal readers. This blog is not that old (about 2.5 years), but in terms of Internet longevity, I suppose it is. In the past two years, I have had many requests to post advertisements on this site and have always resisted, because like many of you, when I visit a website or blog, I don’t want to see huge ads or blinking lights distracting me. More importantly, I was concerned that the ads were not a good fit for the purpose and mission of WorkplacePsychology.Net.

In late 2011, I applied for WordAds, which is a partnership between WordPress.com (where this blog is hosted) and Federated Media. The WordAds program is the only approved advertising method I am permitted to use. It’s actually a selective program, and only an exclusive group of sites are even approved. Or so I’m told.

I believe the small amounts that will be earned via this WordAds program will help to partially cover the cost of hosting this blog. It is also my sincere hope that the advertisements displayed will be few and tastefully done.

Please know that I have not forgotten the reason why I started WorkplacePsychology.Net, and I am as committed as ever to provide my loyal readers and visitors great content. If the ads become too numerous and/or distracting, I will pause or discontinue the program.

I appreciate your continued readership and thanks for your understanding,

Steve

In Memoriam of John N. Jonsson, Baylor University’s Emeritus Professor of Religion

I was looking through the Fall 2011 issue of Baylor Magazine, a magazine sent to all students and alumni of Baylor University and saw the obituary for Dr. John N. Jonsson (1925-2011), a professor I had for a class in world religions back in 1992. He was and always will be, at least in my mind, the Jack Palanceesque professor. He was tall and had a strong physique. He also had a death-grip of a handshake. In between teaching us about the different religions of the world, Dr. Jonsson would do one arm push-ups in class. I think he was already in his late 60’s at the time! But it wasn’t his physical strength or classroom theatrics that caught my attention, rather, it was his words.

I still remember what he told us:

“You cannot help people if you’re standing over them and kicking them.”

It’s simple really. If you put yourself above others, you will never understand their plight and, thus, will never be effective in working with them to assist them in resolving their problems. His teachings transcended religion. Instead, it was about respecting others and seeking justice and fairness.

The short tribute to Dr. Jonsson in Baylor Magazine paints a picture of a man who not only talked the talk, but walked it. The son of Scandinavian parents, he was born in Natal, South Africa. Dr. Jonsson was a South African pastor and scholar who was actively involved in protesting apartheid. In 1985, he was the only Baptist minister to sign the Kairos Document (it called on all churches to demand that the government gave equal rights to all South Africans). In 1989, he was one of a few white citizens of South Africa invited to attend the first Conference for a Democratic Future in South Africa, which led to the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.

Dr. Jonsson died May 26, 2011 at his home in South Africa. He was 86. Although I only had him for one class and it was 19 years ago, I was touched by his teaching, his kindness and sense of humor, and most of all, his passion for justice. I will miss him.

Links

Baylor Magazine (Fall 2011). Alumni News & Updates. John N. Jonsson (p. 62). Also retrieved from http://www.baylor.edu/alumni/magazine/1001/news.php?action=story&story=101593

Baylor Mourns Death of Emeritus Professor of Religion John Jonsson. Retrieved from http://www.baylor.edu/pr/news.php?action=story&story=94875

Further Reflections on John N. Jonsson (1925-2011). Retrieved from http://pilgrimpathways.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/further-reflections-on-john-n-jonsson-1925-2011/

Steve Jobs of Apple dies at 56

Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple, died today (October 5, 2011). Apple has posted the following on its website:

“Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”

Links

Apple’s Obituary. Retrieved from http://www.apple.com/stevejobs/

Kane, Y. I., & Fowler, G. A. (October, 2011). Apple’s Steve Jobs Is Dead. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304447804576410753210811910.html

Working Preferences of Americans by Gender

Gallup asked American adults this question,

“If you were free to do either, would you prefer to have a job outside the home, or would you prefer to stay at home and take care of the house and family?”

U.S. Adults Outside Home % Stay Home % Both
 (vol.) % No
 Opinion %
2008 Aug 7-10 63 34 1 2
2007 Aug 13-16 58 37 3 2
2005 Aug 8-11 54 41 4 1
2003 Jun 12-18 58 38 3 1
2002 Jun 3-9 59 36 4 1
2001 Jun 11-17 62 35 2 1

Even more telling is when it’s broken down by gender…

Men Outside Home % Stay Home % Both
 (vol.) % No
 Opinion %
2008 Aug 7-10 74 23 * 3
2007 Aug 13-16 68 29 1 2
2005 Aug 8-11 68 27 3 2
2003 Jun 12-18 73 24 3 *
2002 Jun 3-9 72 24 3 1
2001 Jun 11-17 73 24 2 1

Notice the difference between the men’s preference to work outside the home versus the women’s preference…

Women Outside Home % Stay Home % Both
 (vol.) % No
 Opinion %
2008 Aug 7-10 52 45 1 2
2007 Aug 13-16 50 45 4 1
2005 Aug 8-11 42 53 4 1
2003 Jun 12-18 45 51 3 1
2002 Jun 3-9 47 48 4 1
2001 Jun 11-17 53 45 2 *

I wonder what this says about men and women and about our society in general?

In their book, “Social Psychology,” Kassin, Fein, and Markus (2008) maintain that,

“Beliefs about males and females are so deeply ingrained that they influence the behavior of adults literally the moment a baby is born” (pp. 154-155).

In other words, what society says about boys and girls, men and women and the corresponding roles we occupy in our society has a significant and powerful impact on our thinking and actions – almost from the moment we enter this world.

When asked to describe a typical man and woman, “males are said to be more adventurous assertive, aggressive, independent, and task-oriented; females are thought to be more sensitive, gentle, dependent, emotional, and people-oriented” (Kassin, Fein, & Markus, 2008, p. 154). What’s amazing is that these descriptions of men and women were shared by 2,800 college student from 30 countries, confirming the universal significance of gender stereotypes (Kassin et al., 2008).

Children learn gender stereotypes and roles from their parents and other adults and carry these stereotypes with them into adulthood. Thus, it isn’t surprising to find the discrepancy between men’s and women’s responses to working outside the home.

References

Gallup, Inc. Work and Workplace. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/1720/Work-Work-Place.aspx

Kassin, S., Fein, S., & Markus, H. R. (2008). Social psychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.