Undercover Boss and Emotional Intelligence

A new reality TV show called Undercover Boss will soon hit the air. The idea is for top executives to go undercover by working as rank and file (ordinary) employees in their own organization. Each week a different executive will work undercover deep inside their company.

While working alongside their employees, they will see the effects their decisions have on others, where the problems lie within their organization and get an up-close look at both the good and bad while discovering the unsung heros who make their company run. -Undercover Boss website

The show is set to premier February 7, 2010 after the Super Bowl.

It seems that by helping executives become aware of what it’s like at the bottom of the ladder in their corporate hierarchy, that they would somehow become enlighten and change how they conduct business and/or run the organization.

Peter Senge says, “The quality of our leadership depends on the quality of our awareness.”

Among the leadership competencies identified, emotional intelligence is one quality that is important for effective leadership (Goleman, cited in Yukl, 2010).

Emotional intelligence is the extent to which a person is attuned to his or her own feelings and to the feelings of others and is able to integrate emotions and reason such that emotions are used to facilitate cognitive processes, and emotions are cognitively managed. – Gary Yukl

Emotional intelligence can help leaders solve complex problems, improve decision-making and time management, adapt to changing situations and better manage crises (Yukl, 2010).

So by working alongside ordinary workers, these CEOs will (hopefully) gain emotional insights into what life is like to work in that job for that company. They will gain skills to better understand what it’s like to “walk in their workers’ shoes.”

Reference

Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Corporate Irresponsibility or Just Plain Heartless?

My wife and I enjoy volunteering to help others. While living in Saipan (Northern Mariana Islands), we volunteered to help clean up the island and helped start a group to combat the stigma of mental illness.

Back during my college days at Baylor University, I would make my group do volunteer work. And though some of them didn’t like it at first, they thanked me for it later on. For almost two years, I volunteered at a food pantry center, cleaning and organizing can goods which would then be given to those who needed food.

It’s a great feeling knowing deep down that what you do (i.e. helping others without any financial reward) comes back tenfold in the form of emotional gifts of thanks or just knowing that you did the right thing.

So when I came across this story in the New York Times about a clothing store discarding brand new clothes rather than giving them away to those who could use them, it made me really sad and then mad.

According to the NY Times, “bags of garments that appear to have never been worn” were found at the back entrance of the H&M clothing store. What’s even more disturbing was that these unworn garments were “slashed most of them with box cutters or razors” to make sure that no one could wear them!

Not too far from the H&M store were trash bags (found the week before Christmas) with clothing tagged for sale in Wal-Mart stores. These garments had “holes punched through it by a machine” to also prevent people from being able to use them.

With phrases on the H&M’s website like corporate responsibility and text carefully crafted promising to donate clothes to charity, I wonder if these acts (they’ve happened before) of destroying unworn clothes rather than giving them away are indications of a blatant disregard for the well-being of others and a general decay in the moral fabric of our society.

Kassin, Fein, & Markus (2008) found that there are two qualities that predict helping behaviors, empathy and moral reasoning. It would seem that the companies that exhibit these heartless acts lack both the heart and the brain to care.

I’ll leave you with two questions to consider:

  1. Have we fallen so far down the hole of greed that we’ve forgotten or ignored the cries of our fellow men and women in need?
  2. What ever happened to our sense of decency and compassion?

References

Dwyer, J. (2010). A Clothing Clearance Where More Than Just the Prices Have Been Slashed. The New York Times. Retrieved on January 7, 2010 from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/nyregion/06about.html

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

Feeling Refreshed and Back to Work

Photo: Hammock BVI by T Dominguez

The Christmas and New Year holidays forced people who are employed to take pause in their work. Earlier today one person commented on Twitter that the tweets (what people post about) were so great that she didn’t want to sign off/log off because she was so interested.

I wondered if people’s rest due to the holiday season was the reason for this level of activity.

Binnewies, Sonnentag, and Mojza (2009) conducted a study involving 358 employees who worked with people with special needs (those who were mentally or physically disabled). I can say, based on experience, it’s a stressful area.

Two questionnaires were given six months apart. The researchers found that when people feel recovered (mentally and physically refreshed) during their leisure time their performance on the job increased.

“[H]ighly recovered individuals showed increased task performance after 6 months because they felt more capable of successfully accomplishing work-related tasks” (p. 252).

They clarified that feeling recovered during leisure time is about how much a person feels refreshed mentally and physically. This feeling of recovery (feeling recovered during leisure time) is positive compared to a need for recovery and mental fatigue. The need for recovery represents a negative recovery because a person is forced to rest due to work-related demands and/or work-induced fatigue.

Put simply, deciding to rest before you’re stressed and exhausted is a good thing.

Although this sounds like common sense, I thought it was important to cite reputable research and therefore this study was worth mentioning.

I think this quote from Ralph Marston perfectly summarizes today’s post…

Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.

Reference

Binnewies, C., Sonnentag, S., & Mojza, E.J. (2009). Feeling recovered and thinking about the good sides of one’s work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 14(3), 243-256.

Bad Attitudes Lead to Bad Behaviors

Back in the 1990’s I took a vacation to Cancun, Mexico. It was a great experience. One thing I still don’t understand is why people get so dressed up when they fly. Think about it, you’re sitting uncomfortably in a seat designed for a child because any adult over 4 feet tall can attest, it’s pretty snug squeezing yourself into the seat, sometimes in between two other passengers. And let’s be honest, airline seats aren’t the cleanest. Then there’s the whole going to the restroom bit.

For all these reasons and more, I almost always wear the most comfortable clothes I have. On most days, this means t-shirt, shorts, and a pair of sandals.

On the flight from Cancun back to Houston (and then Dallas), I was lucky enough to be bumped up to first class. I forgot why, but I think the airline made some type of mistake. No worries, I was excited to be able to stretch my legs and not be packed in with the other passengers back in coach class.

Anyone who’s ever been on vacation as a tourist understands that you end up buying and wearing clothes you’ll never, ever wear again. But, at the time, it’s fun. While in Cancun, I got myself one of those cool (at least I thought so) ponchos that had “Cancun, Mexico” printed on it.

Thus, my traveling outfit that day consisted of my Cancun poncho, shorts, and sandals. I looked like a cross between the guy from the movie Sixteen Candles (the one that said “Automobile?”) and a Mexican cowboy. Looking back, I’m fairly certain I could have been nominated to be on a “make-over” TV show. I still laugh when I think back to what I was wearing that day.

But what happened once I got on the plane wasn’t so funny.

I was like a kid in a candy store. I still couldn’t believe my good fortune to be placed in first (or business) class. Proudly sporting my Cancun poncho and in my comfortable shorts and sandals, I headed to my seat and proceeded to sit down.

Still standing over my seat and just as I was about to sit down, a flight attendant came rushing down the aisle towards me and in a strong tone said, “Sir, you can’t sit here!”

I don’t remember if I was surprised or offended or both, but I smiled and responded, “Ma’am, I’m suppose to be here. This is my seat” and showed her my boarding ticket with my seat assignment.

The great thing about being bumped up to first class is that no one knows about it. So this flight attendant had no idea if I paid for my seat or if I got placed there as a free upgrade. But, that shouldn’t have mattered.

Clearly surprised, the flight attendant nodded, mumbling and stumbling over her words, apologized, and left.

Why did she apologize? Because she took one look and formed an attitude (an impression) about me and my place on the plane, which was clearly not in first class. We all do this. We see people (their appearances) and form opinions about them. Our bad attitudes will lead to our bad behaviors.

In their classic textbook titled “Social Psychology,” Kassin, Fein, & Markus (2008) found that when attitudes (our positive, negative, or mixed reaction to a person, object, or idea) are strong and specific they determine our actions. We vote based on our political opinions, we based our buying decisions on attitudes about the products, and racism is rooted in our negative feelings about a person based on their membership in certain groups.

Attitudes are important determinants of behavior. – Kassin, Fein, & Markus (2008, p. 189)

Our bad attitudes lead, not only to our bad behaviors, they also hurt our organizations in at least two important ways:

  1. Lost of revenue, and
  2. Damage to corporate image

In my case with the flight attendant, forming negative attitudes about others based on their appearances can be embarrassing (at best). But at the other end of the spectrum, you can offend customers so much that you lose them as valuable clients (or fail to maintain those customers who are loyal), and they’ll tell others about how poorly you treated them.

Suppose I wasn’t some college kid, but ran my own business or was CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer) for a company. And the actions of this flight attendant offended me so much that not only did the airline lose me as a valued member, but I wrote a complaint letter about the incident to the airline president. What’s more, suppose I had told all my family members and friends about what happened. That didn’t happen, but let’s suppose it did.

This next story actually did happen several years ago during a car buying experience. We were so turned off by the car salesman’s condescending attitude (“Can you pay for this car?”) that we actually walked out during the negotiation process and purchased a car from a competitor. And the answer to his question was “yes” we could afford to pay, and gladly did so – to his competition.

How many of us have ever chosen to avoid dining at restaurants with a rude wait staff? How many of us have ever done business with a company because we liked the people working there and how they treated us, even if they weren’t the cheapest? I have and I bet you have too.

How to Change Attitudes

Persuasion by Communication (Change as a Result of Others)

  1. Our attitudes change based on the merits of the source (i.e., influenced by the strength & quality of the arguments).
  2. Our attitudes change based on superficial cues (e.g., if the person has a good reputation, speaks or writes well, we tend to believe and accept his/her message).

Persuasion by Our Own Actions (Change from Within Ourselves)

Sometimes when our actions deviate so far from our character and convictions (called cognitive dissonance), it causes us to want to change our attitudes.

I’ll take the cognitive dissonance example and relate it to the world of business. When leaders, managers, and/or employees act badly (behaviors) toward customers, it’s crucial to get to the root cause by examining both the individual’s and the organization’s attitudes (thinking).

When bad behaviors (toward customers and even one another) deviate so far from your corporate mission & culture, ask yourself:

Isn’t it time the entire company change its corporate attitude?

Reference

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

Poor Customer Service Hurts Your Business

One thing I always notice is how often quality is sacrificed for speed. At the local supermarket near where I live in north Dallas, they have a “self-checkout” lane that can accommodate up to six customers. For those who have never had the pleasure (I’m being sarcastic here) of using one of these “self-checkout” lanes, let me fill you in on what you are not missing out on.

Apparently, in the quest to improve customer service (and cut cost), grocery chains and even Wal-mart have created lanes that allow customers to scan their own items. In essence, the customer now becomes the unpaid employee.

The idea is fine, that is let the customer do the work while reducing the cost to hire an employee because by doing the work the customer is in control.

This is not very smart. First, your customers should never perform duties meant for employees. This is not elitist, it’s simply the idea that when I go into a store to buy a product, I should not also be forced to work as an unpaid employee.

Second (and my biggest complaint) is that the customer is not trained to perform tasks that paid employees can do. Let’s go back to the “self-checkout” lane. Maybe it’s just that I always have bad luck because these “self-checkout” lanes never work right. At first my wife thought that I didn’t know how to use them. And while it’s true that my wife is right about lots of things, it turns out that she also has trouble with “self-checkout” lanes herself.

Why?

The first problem is the annoying automated voice that speaks when it senses any item being removed from the bagging compartment without permission. Makes you feel like a second grader doesn’t it? For some reason, this bagging compartment police prevents you from scanning your next item until you put back what you took out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to know when things are removed or placed back and will keep repeating the same message.

So, after slowing down the process (with people staring and waiting impatiently behind you), I’ll look around for some assistance (there’s always one person standing there, I think, to supervise). The “paid” employee then walks over, punches in a few codes, and then it’s back to work for the “unpaid” employee.

The second problem is that when you have an item that isn’t listed, you have to find it on the touchpad. But it isn’t always simple to find because there are different varieties of tomatoes, etc.

So, again, after slowing down the process, I’ll look around for some assistance and the “paid” employee then walks over (again), punches in a few codes, and then it’s back to work for the “unpaid” employee. You get the idea.

Call it bad luck because this insane scenario seems to happen to me 9 out of 10 times I’m in these “self-checkout” lanes. It’s rarely ever faster, and instead creates more problems and ends up wasting time (mine and the “paid” employee).

In Harvard Business Review’s “What service customers really want,” Dougherty and Murthy (2009) point out that customers are no longer putting up with “rushed and inconvenient” service that’s become commonplace in today’s business. Customers want a great experience when they come into a business establishment, whether it’s selling groceries or dry cleaning clothes. Businesses that understand this will gain customer loyalty.

In their research, Dougherty and Murthy (2009) discovered that when customers contact businesses for service (i.e., calling customer service), they want two things.

First, is the employee helping me (frontline employee) knowledgeable?

Second, will the issues I have be resolved on the first call?

Regrettably, many service centers (call centers) continue to track and measure time on hold and minutes per call just as they have done so for decades! The irony is that when companies do this, the message to the employees is to hurry up, resulting in a rushed job – exactly the kind of experiences customers hate.

On average, 40% of customers who suffer through bad experiences stop doing business with the offending company.

Companies need to allow for some flexibility. Give your employees some latitude “to meet individual customers’ needs and provide positive, satisfying experiences.” Managers should check whether the customers’ problems were resolved during first contact, find out what the true problem is (if the issue isn’t resolved in one call), and then make the change needed.

Some companies are arrogant enough to believe that irritated, pissed off customers will forgive them and come back for more. But “research indicates that, on the contrary, alienated customers often disappear without the slightest warning.”

Bottom line: Never sacrifice quality for speed. Your customers will become irritated and disappear and your business won’t have the “customer” in customer service to worry about anymore.

Reference

Dougherty, D. & Murthy, A. (2009). What service customers really want. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved January 1, 2010 from http://hbr.org/2009/09/what-service-customers-really-want/ar/1

Welcoming a Fresh Start to 2010

Here in the U.S., we think of ending the old year and starting the new one with a New Year’s Eve celebration. But in Japan, the tradition is very different.

My wife told me that in Japan, the tradition of welcoming the new year is drastically more peaceful and zen-like compared to the U.S.

For Japanese, the tradition is called 大掃除 “oosouji” meaning a big cleaning. During this cleanup time (which lasts until the end of the year), Japanese clean their homes and cars.

New Year is the biggest and most important holiday in Japan. It’s a way to start over, a fresh start. Japanese believe that New Year’s day represents how the rest of the year will be like. Thus, the day should be stress-free and everything should be clean.

Unlike the festive traditions involving fireworks and loud parties, Japanese enjoy a zen-like moment of peace. Monks in temples ring large bells (Joya-no-kane) 108 times throughout Japan signaling the end of the old year and the start of the new one. The bells are rung 108 times because, according to Buddhism, humans have 108 problem desires and by hearing the bells 108 times, we can rid ourselves of all these desires at the end of the year.

While waiting for the arrival of the new year, Japanese eat 年越し蕎麦 (としこしそば or toshikoshi soba), which means “end the old year and enter the new year soba noodles”. Toshikoshi soba (or buckwheat noodles) dates back to around the Edo period (17-19th century) and are believed to symbolize longevity.

Growing up in Vietnam and now having spent a good portion of my life here in the U.S., I’m used to the loud fireworks and parties. But, for 2009’s end and 2010’s beginning, I will start a new tradition – a cleansing of the old and a more peaceful and zen-like beginning to the new.

Wishing all friends and visitors to WorkplacePsychology.Net a fresh start to 2010,

Steve

References

Ajinomoto. JOYA NO KANE (Midnight Tolling of the Temple Bells). http://www.ajinomoto.com/traditions/winter_06.html

Ajinomoto. TOSHIKOSHI SOBA (New Yearユs Eve Buckwheat Noodles). http://www.ajinomoto.com/traditions/winter_07.html

Itoh, M. (2008). Toshikoshi Soba or Year-End Soba: A bowl of hot soba noodles to end the year. Retrieved December 29, 2009 from http://www.justhungry.com/2003/12/toshikoshi_soba.html

Leadership, Psychological Well-Being, and Meaningful Work

We hear often about leadership having an impact on employees. Many blogs and articles online talk about it without properly citing data to back it up. Well, I located a research-based article that offered support for the positive impact of leadership on employee well-being. Because this blog covers employee well-being, meaningful work, and leadership, I felt this topic was captured well in this research article by Arnold, Turner, Barling, Kelloway, & McKee (2007).

The researchers conducted two studies, one involving employees of a long-term care facility and the other study involving funeral directors and dental hygienists.

In Study #1, the researchers sent surveys to 319 employees of a long-term care facility in a midsized Canadian city measuring transformational leadership, meaningful work, and psychological well-being.

Here’s how the researchers defined the terms in Study #1:

Transformational leadership is seen as leadership that communicates a vision, develops staff, provides support, empowers staff, is innovative, leads by example, and is charismatic.

Meaningful work

From Workplace Spirituality scale: included items such as “I see a connection between my work and the larger social good of my community” and “The work I do is connected to what I think is important in my life.”

Psychological well-being

From Positive Affective Well-Being scale: looks at how the employee felt in the last 6 months (e.g., motivated, cheerful, enthusiastic, lively, joyful, and energetic).

In Study #2, the researchers sent surveys to 95 funeral directors and 51 dental hygienists.

This time, the researchers defined the terms in this manner:

Transformational leadership

From the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire: Four dimensions of transformational leadership—idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration.

Meaningful work

“The work I do in this job is fulfilling,” “The work I do in this job is rewarding,” “I do not achieve important outcomes from the work I do in this job”, and “I am able to achieve important outcomes from the work I do in this job.”

Psychological well-being

From General Health Questionnaire: “Been able to concentrate on whatever you are doing?” and “Been able to enjoy your day to day activities?”

Although not earth-shattering, results of the studies offered data to support often hearsay or anecdotal evidence about the relationship and/or positive impact of transformational leadership on well-being.

Based on results of the two studies, the researchers concluded that “transformational leadership of supervisors exerted a positive influence on the psychological well-being of workers” (Arnold et al., 2007, p. 200). Believing and viewing the work as meaningful seems to play a role in explaining this positive relationship.

Sound Bite: “[L]eaders can transform followers’ beliefs to enhance well-being” (Arnold et al., 2007, p. 202).

Reference

Arnold, K., Turner, N., Barling, J., Kelloway, E., & McKee, M. (2007). Transformational leadership and psychological well-being: The mediating role of meaningful work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12(3), 193-203.

Being Attractive Helps Get You Hired

[NOTE: This post was updated October 2017]

When making decisions about whether or not to hire prospective job applicants, interviewers are influenced by an applicant’s attractiveness (Shahani-Denning, 2003, citing Watkins & Johnston, 2000; Jawahar & Mattsson, 2005). There is a great deal of evidence that being good-looking positively impacts the hiring decisions of employers (Shahani-Denning, 2003, citing Watkins & Johnston). This is known as the “what is beautiful is good” stereotype (Shahani-Denning, 2003, citing Dion, Berscheid & Walster, 1972).

Kassin, Fein, & Markus (2008, citing Hosoda, Stone-Romero, & Coats, 2003) found that as a society, we tend to favor those who are good-looking. And while this isn’t fair, research has found it to be true (Watkins & Johnston, 2000).

“Research shows that not only are good-looking applicants more likely to be hired, but they are likely to be hired at a higher starting salary. Attractiveness makes a difference with promotions, too. People ascribe more positive characteristics to attractive people” (Eichinger, Lombardo, & Ulrich, 2004, p. 124).

Whether researchers studied business school students or real-life HR professionals, the results were almost identical. The majority of the candidates hired were more attractive (Jawahar & Mattsson, 2005). “[A]ttractive applicants are preferred over less attractive applicants” (Jawahar & Mattsson, 2005, p. 571). While not surprising that attractive applicants tend to be hired more than less attractive applicants, what is surprising is that attractive applicants are also offered higher starting salaries compared to those considered less attractive (Toledano, 2013).

There is research suggesting that experienced managers do not seem to fall prey to this attractiveness/beautyism bias compared to managers who are not as experienced (Jawahar & Mattsson, 2005).

However, this quote from a Cornell HR Review article is quite clear:

“In short, attractive individuals will receive more job offers, better advancement opportunities, and higher salaries than their less attractive peers—despite numerous findings that they are no more intelligent or capable” (Toledano, 2013, para. 5).

So, given this unfair reality, what are applicants (who aren’t as attractive) to do? Jawahar & Mattsson (2005) assert that because good-looking people are believed to have better social skills, the bias against those who aren’t as good-looking might have more to do with the belief that the “less attractive” are less socially skilled. The researchers recommended that people who aren’t good-looking can help themselves by “demonstrating their social skills and directing the interviewer’s attention to other strengths” (Jawahar & Mattsson, 2005, p. 572).

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership Advisor & Talent Development Consultant

References

Dion, K. K., Berscheid, E., & Walster, E. (1972). What is beautiful is what is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24, 285-290.

Eichinger, R. W., Lombardo, M. M., & Ulrich, D. (2004). 100 things you need to know: Best people practices for managers & HR. Minneapolis, MN: Lominger Limited.

Hosoda, M., Stone-Romero, E. F., & Coats, G. (2003). The effects of physical attractiveness on job-related outcomes: A meta-analysis of experimental studies. Personnel Psychology, 56, 431-462.

Jawahar, I. M., & Mattsson, J. (2005). Sexism and beautyism effects in selection as a function of self-monitoring level of decision maker. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(3), 563-573.

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

Shahani-Denning, C. (2003). Physical attractiveness bias in hiring: What is beautiful is good. Hofstra Horizons, Spring 2003, 15-18. Retrieved from http://www.hofstra.edu/pdf/orsp_shahani-denning_spring03.pdf

Toledano, E. (2013, February 14). May the Best (Looking) Man Win: the Unconscious Role of Attractiveness in Employment Decisions. Cornell HR Review. Retrieved from http://www.cornellhrreview.org/may-the-best-looking-man-win-the-unconscious-role-of-attractiveness-in-employment-decisions/

Watkins, L. M., & Johnston, L. (2000). Screening job applicants: The impact of physical attractiveness and application quality. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 8, 76-84.

The Cost of Unemployment

In an earlier post, I talked about job loss and its impact on an employee’s health.

When people are employed, common stressors at work include physical/task stressors (e.g. heat, noise, pace of work, workload, and number of hours worked) and psychosocial stressors (e.g. role ambiguity, interpersonal conflict, and lack of control) (Landy & Conte, 2007). Workplace stress takes an incredible toll resulting in physical/medical (e.g. heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure), psychological (e.g. burnout, anxiety, family problems), and behavioral (e.g. absenteeism, substance abuse, accidents, violence) (Landy & Conte, 2007, citing Quick, Quick, Nelson & Hurrell) and research has shown a connection between job stress and depression (Dragano, He, Moebus, Jockel, Erbel, & Siegrist, 2008).

Unfortunately, when an individual becomes unemployed, he/she may still experience many of the same symptoms of stress (as when employed) such as poor psychological health, depression, insomnia, irritability, and general anxiety (Landy & Conte, 2007, citing Warr).

Recently, the New York Times wrote an article about the emotional and financial toll of being unemployed (Luo & Thee-Brenan, 2009). The NY Times polled 708 unemployed adults between Dec. 5 to Dec. 10, 2009. Here is what they found about unemployed Americans:

EMOTIONALLY

  • 69% are more stressed.
  • 55% have had trouble sleeping.
  • 48% have experienced emotional or mental health issues (e.g., anxiety or depression).
  • 46% have felt ashamed or embarrassed about being unemployed.

FINANCIALLY

  • 53% have borrowed money from family members or friends since losing their jobs.
  • 54% have reduced visits to doctor or medical treatments.
  • 47% is without health care coverage.

In this difficult time, I encourage each one of us to take care of ourselves and one another. Do what you can, where you’re at right now to reach out and help someone else – emotionally and/or financially. Remember, it’s not the amount of the gift, but the heart in which it is given.

“How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.” -George Washington Carver

References

Dragano, N., He, Y., Moebus, S., Jockel, K., Erbel, R., & Siegrist, J. (2008). Two models of job stress and depressive symptoms: Results from a population-based study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 43,72–78.

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.

Luo, M. & Thee-Brenan, M. (2009). Poll reveals trauma of joblessness in U.S. The New York Times. Retrieved December 15, 2009 from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/us/15poll.html

People with a Situational Value System

rude-customers

“A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person” (Barry, 1998, p. 185).

[NOTE: This post was updated January 2015]

Many years ago, while waiting for a show at a nice hotel in Dallas, my wife and I were standing in line to order some coffee. As we were in line waiting (we were second in line) at a busy one-person coffee stand, the woman waiting behind us (she was third in line) yelled out, “Can I go ahead and pay for this?” It didn’t matter to her that two other people (the first lady in line and us) were ahead of her in this ordering process.

I forgot what this was. It might have been a bottle of water or something small. But pretty much everyone else waiting patiently in line was ordering something small. After she interrupted and cut in line, she made some disparaging remarks about the single employee working there.

My wife and I both used to work as a waiter (me) and waitstaff trainer (wife) and thus we’re especially sensitive to and aware of how we and others treat waiters, waitresses, or anyone in a people service profession (e.g., hotel maids, bellmen, etc.). When I see behaviors like this woman’s, it brings me back to the time, more than 20 years ago, when I worked as a waiter for a restaurant in Austin, Texas.

I didn’t know it at first but was quickly informed by the other waitstaff that I was waiting on a baseball celebrity and his family. “Ok, not a big deal,” I thought. I’ll just make sure that I’m at my best and take care of them as I always do with all of my customers.

Because the family was busy visiting and chatting loudly, I stepped back to give them time to decide what they wanted to order. Not long afterwards, the wife snapped her fingers at me (like a rich person does when she beckons her servants). After the family ordered, she dismissed me, like “I’m done with you now leave my sight” type of attitude.

William H. Swanson, Chairman and Former CEO of Raytheon, cautioned:

“Watch out for people who have a situational value system, who can turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with . . . Be especially wary of those who are rude to people perceived to be in subordinate roles.” [Cited in USA Today “CEOs say how you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character”]

I think this advice should be taken very seriously, especially by those in a supervisory or management role. In a USA Today article, Siki Giunta (CEO of Managed Objects, but who previously worked as a bartender) summed this up well when she said this type of situational behavior is a good predictor of a person’s character because it’s not something you can learn or unlearn easily but instead it shows how you were raised.

The woman who cut in line to place her order felt that she was special and deserved special treatment and gave herself permission to cut in front of others and then displayed contempt by mumbling unkind comments about the person preparing the coffee.

Takeaway: Whether it’s ordering coffee on a Saturday night or interacting with employees at work on a Monday morning, each of us—whether you’re a CEO, manager, or employee—needs to treat everyone, both in and outside the office (regardless of their status or title in the social or corporate ladder) with kindness, dignity, and respect.

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.

References

Barry, D. (1998). Dave Barry Turns 50. New York, NY: Ballantine Publishing Group.

Jones, D. (2006, April 17). CEOs say how you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2006-04-14-ceos-waiter-rule_x.htm

Workplace Incivility Hurts Employees & Businesses

Work stress
Work stress

Earlier this week, I talked about the Manic Society and the Hyperactive Workplace. For today’s post, we’ll shift gears and cover workplace incivility. This topic is a favorite of mine, so I’ll leave you with something to think about for the weekend. NOTE: The information for this post came from an assignment I completed for a class.

Workplace incivility is defined as “the exchange of seemingly inconsequential inconsiderate words and deeds that violate conventional norms of workplace conduct” (Pearson & Porath, 2009, p. 12).

“Workplace incivility is low-intensity deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target, in violation of workplace norms for mutual respect. Uncivil behaviors are characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others” (Pearson, Andersson, & Wegner, 2001, p. 1397). These are rude, insensitive or disrespectful behaviors in the workplace.

Examples include: ignoring or making derogatory remarks about someone, taking credit for the work of others, passing blame for your own mistakes, belittling the efforts of others, failing to return phone calls or respond to emails, setting others up to fail, leaving snippy voice mail messages, withholding information, leaving a mess for others to clean up, shutting someone out of a network or team, avoiding someone, throwing temper tantrums (Pearson & Porath, 2009).

Workplace incivility is so common that we often don’t even notice it. Pearson & Porath (2009) found in their studies that 1 in 5 people in their sample claimed to be targets of incivility from a coworker at least once a week. About 2/3 said they witnessed incivility happening among other employees at least once a month. 10% said they saw incivility among their coworkers every day.

A survey of public sector employees in the United States found that 71% of respondents reported at least some experience of workplace incivility during the previous 5 years, and 6% reported experiencing such behavior many times (Cortina, Magley, Williams, & Langhout, 2001).

What’s more, it’s not unique to the U.S. The researchers (Pearson & Porath, 2009) discovered that 50% of Canadians in their study also reported suffering from incivility directly from their coworkers at least once a week. 99% said they witnessed incivility at work and 25% reported seeing incivility occurring between coworkers daily.

When civility is disregarded in the workplace, the results are negative effects – not only on the target(s) of the incivility, but also the on effectiveness and efficiency of the teams and the overall organization (Andersson & Pearson, 1999; Pearson & Porath, 2009).

Researchers found that workplace incivility has an insidious effect, first negatively impacting the targets, and later with repercussions rippling like waves to other areas of the organization. The end result is an adverse effect on the health of the employee (Cortina, Magley, Williams, & Langhout, 2001) and the efficiency and productivity of the organization (Pearson, Andersson, & Wegner, 2001). What’s even more troubling for psychology and business is that workplace incivility harms not just the targets and the organizations but also those who are witnesses to these incivilities (e.g., customers).

References

Andersson, L., & Pearson, C. (1999). Tit for tat? The spiraling effect of incivility in the workplace. Academy of Management Review, 24(3), 452-471.

Cortina, L. M., Magley, V. J., Williams, J. H., & Langhout, R. D. (2001). Incivility in the workplace: Incidence and impact. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 6, 64–80.

Pearson, C., Andersson, L., & Wegner, J. (2001). When workers flout convention: A study of workplace incivility. Human Relations, 54(11), 1387-1419.

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.

Hyperactive Workplace

This is part II – Hyperactive Workplace – of a 2-part series on Dr. Robert Holden’s book, “Success Intelligence: Essential Lessons and Practices from the World’s Leading Coaching Program on Authentic Success.” In his book, Dr. Holden discusses the impact that a Manic Society, Busy Generation, and Hyperactive Workplace have on our lives.

Hyperactive Workplace

In today’s workplaces, we’re required “to work faster and better, to do more with less, to change continuously, and to invent new ways of working” (Holden, 2005, p. 28). Our work is dominated by long hours, a permanent state of busyness, goals and to-do lists, attitudes and incivility, and no downtime. In the hyperactive workplace, we’re always “doing” but never getting enough “done” (Holden, 2005, p.29).

“We are ‘doing’ all through the day, ‘doing’ in our free time, and ‘doing’ ourselves out of a life…We’re ‘doing’ to the point of exhaustion [and] literally ‘doing’ ourselves to death-killing ourselves for our careers, [and] in the name of success” (Holden, 2005, p.29).

In a 2008 Quality of Working Life survey among managers in the UK and Australia, over half of managers felt that the hours they work negatively affected their health (53.4% in the UK, 55.6% in Australia); around 45% thought that the hours they worked had a negative impact on their productivity and over half thought that the hours they worked had a negative impact on their social lives and their relationships with their spouse or partner. However, despite this awareness, over 90% of managers in both countries insist on working over their contract hours.

Across the Atlantic, the Conference Board (2007) found, in a survey of 5,000 U.S. households, that less than half of all Americans say they’re satisfied with their jobs, down from 61% in 1987.

Sound bite: “In the hyperactive world of work, we end up overworked and overspent, and our lives are over before we know it. If we are not careful, we get so lost in our constant activity that we fail to recognize what the real work of our lives is about” (Holden, 2005, p. 34).

References

Holden, R. (2005). Success intelligence: Essential lessons and practices from the world’s leading coaching program on authentic success. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc.

The Conference Board (2007). U.S Job Satisfaction Declines, The Conference Board Reports. Press Release/News Feb. 23, 2007. Retrieved December 6, 2009 from http://www.conference-board.org/utilities/pressDetail.cfm?press_ID=3075

Worrall, L., Lindorff, M. & Cooper, C. (2008). Quality of working life 2008: A survey of organisational health and employee well-being. Comparisons of the perceptions of UK managers and managers in Victoria, Australia. Chartered Management Institute, UK.

Manic Society

Today, I’ll be doing part I – Manic Society – of a 2-part series on Dr. Robert Holden’s book, “Success Intelligence: Essential Lessons and Practices from the World’s Leading Coaching Program on Authentic Success.” Dr. Holden talks about our Manic Society, our Busy Generation, and our Hyperactive Workplace, where people work without vision and joy.

Manic Society

The word “manic” comes from “mania” meaning a state of frenzy. In the U.S., we’re taught to believe the idea that everyone can be richer and happier if we would just go faster and work harder. We live and work in a constant state of mania, of frenzy madness. But for what? We speed through time spent with others that we never truly connect with them (Holden, 2005). We work like mad only to come back to houses wall-off by ten-foot high fences and our children already in bed. In the end, this manic lifestyle and our manic workplaces take their toll on our health, our relationships, and ultimately our happiness.

“The National Institute for Occupational safety and Health estimates that 40% of the U.S. workforce is affected by stress, making it the top cause of worker disability…Around the globe, stress-related illnesses are a major financial drain on organizations, $200 billion per year for treatment alone” (Pearson & Porath, 2009, p. 72).

The Manic Society sells the myth that everyone can be an “instant winner” and an “overnight success” if we would just go faster and work harder. But our nonstop busyness can easily cloud our vision. We’re living faster and working faster, but what for? “Without vision, we can so easily confuse speed with progress, adrenaline with purpose, and urgency with importance” (Holden, 2005, p. 9).

“’We all pay for our mad rush, our blind push, our hurried lives,’ wrote Jonathon Lazear, author of Meditations for Men Who Do Too Much…Vision must always lead the pace, otherwise we are simply fast-forwarding to nowhere in particular” (Holden, 2005, p. 10).

If we don’t get off the Manic Society bus every once in a while, we will lose our sanity while letting life go by. In the process of chasing the “dream”, whatever it may be, we’ll miss out on actually living and experiencing it.

Sound bite: “If we never stop, we end up skimming the surface of life; our time disappears and we miss the richness, depth, and texture of each occasion” (Holden, 2005, p.13).

References

Holden, R. (2005). Success intelligence: Essential lessons and practices from the world’s leading coaching program on authentic success. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc.

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.

A 24/7 Mindset about Work is Bad for Your Health

Companies and organizations want employees who are fully engaged at work. Work engagement has been shown to be related to positive organizational outcomes (Sonnentag, Mojza, Binnewies, & Scholl, 2008, citing Salanova et al., 2005). However, if you are someone who is always thinking about work (even during time off work) your health might be negatively affected.

Work engagement is defined as ‘‘a positive, fulfilling work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigour, dedication, and absorption’’ (Sonnentag et al., 2008, p. 259, citing Schaufeli, Bakker, & Salanova, 2006).

Sonnentag et al. (2008) studied 159 workers from five German organizations in various industries. Workers were asked to complete surveys twice a week, at the beginning and the end of four consecutive working weeks. The researchers confirmed earlier findings that engagement at work and disengagement from work during time off the job both predicted workers’ affective states.

The study found that detaching psychologically from work, when you’re off work, is especially important when work engagement is high. It makes common sense to understand that employees who are highly engaged need time off the job to unwind and distance themselves from their work. The researchers recommend focusing on activities not related to work.

Sound bite: Being able to balance between high engagement at work (being “on”) and high disengagement from work (being “off”) will help protect employees’ well-being. Approaching work with a 24/7 mindset “is a double-edged sword that in the end might threaten employee health and well-being” (Sonnentag et al., 2008, p. 273.)

References

Salanova, M., Agut, S. & Peiro, J.M. (2005). Linking organizational resources and work engagement to employee performance and customer loyalty: The mediation of service climate. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 1217-

Schaufeli, W.B., Bakker, A.B. & Salanova, M. (2006). The measurement of work engagement with a short questionnaire. A cross-national study. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 66, 701

Sonnentag S., Mojza, E.J., Binnewies, C., & Scholl, A. (2008). Being engaged at work and detached at home: A week-level study on work engagement, psychological detachment, and affect. Work & Stress, 22(3), 257-276.

The Science of People at Work