Japanese television offers a wide selection of variety shows. Unlike those in the U.S., Japanese variety shows will invite a group of “talents” (although I’m still not sure what many of their talents are, other than smiling and tasting different foods). The thing that immediately got my attention about all of these variety shows was the repeated use of talents (actors or comedians) to comment on any issues, whether the person was qualified to do so or not.
It is simply baffling to me how a group of people, with no discernible expertise on a subject matter will comment on just about anything. The subjects can vary from management to mental health to melting snow, and believe it or not, a group of people will comment on it. Last week, I saw five people on one variety show standing around commenting on different shapes of snow.
In another week, a young man (one of the “talents”) was on a talk show embedded inside a joint infomercial and a soap opera (I’m not joking). The young man shared that he was concerned about his melancholy outlook on life and his tendency to be negative. Another “talent” (I think he’s a former teacher) proceeded to play armchair therapist by asking the guy to read aloud from Romeo and Juliet.
Ok, so what does all of this nonsense have to do with psychology and workplace behaviors? Two things: expertise and credibility.
I realize I’m making a huge leap from talking about Japanese variety shows to the business environment, so please bear with me. But, the more I watched these “talents” the more I kept thinking about expertise and credibility. Because these “talents” do not have the expertise to offer anything of substantive value (that I could not otherwise get by simply asking my next door neighbors for their opinions), they (at least in my eyes) end up diminishing their own brand and/or jeopardizing their own credibility.
In Business Leadership (2003), Kouzes and Posner said credibility is one admired characteristics of a leader:
“Credibility is the foundation of leadership” (Kouzes & Posner, 2003, p. 262).
“The qualities of being honest, inspiring, and competent compose what communications researchers refer to as source credibility. In assessing the believability of a source of information—whether it is the president of the company, the president of the country, a sales person, or a TV newscaster— researchers typically use the three criteria of trustworthiness, expertise, and dynamism. Those who rate highly in these areas are considered to be credible sources of information” (Kouzes & Posner, 2003, p. 261).
Kouzes and Posner (2003) said your credibility must be earned over time. It’s not something that’s bestowed upon you when you get a new title or job. What’s more, credibility can affect the workplace.
“Credibility has a significantly positive outcome on individual and organizational performance” (Kouzes & Posner, 2003, p. 266).
In The Leadership Challenge (2007), Kouzes and Posner explained in greater details about why credibility matters. They wrote (pp. 38-39):
“Using a behavioral measure of credibility, we asked organization members to think about the extent to which their immediate manager exhibited credibility-enhancing behaviors. In our studies we found that when people perceive their immediate manager to have high credibility, they’re significantly more likely to
Be proud to tell others they’re part of the organization
Feel a strong sense of team spirit
See their own personal values as consistent with those of the organization
Feel attached and committed to the organization
Have a sense of ownership of the organization
When people perceive their manager to have low credibility, however, they’re significantly more likely to
Produce only if they’re watched carefully
Be motivated primarily by money
Say good things about the organization publicly but criticize it privately
Consider looking for another job if the organization experiences problems
Feel unsupported and unappreciated
“Credibility makes a difference” (Kouzes & Posner, 2007, p. 39).
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2003). Leadership is a relationship. In J. M. Kouzes (Ed.), Business leadership (pp. 251-267). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2007). The leadership challenge (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Forbes has a funny post about the silly job titles that some top executives hold (e.g., Chief Listening Officer [at Kodak]). Please understand I’m not commenting on the skills and competencies of the individuals who hold these titles, only in the silliness of the titles themselves.
The Forbes article quoted Mark Stevens, author of Your Marketing Sucks, in saying: “It is all corporate Kindergarten playtime title-making . . . It’s a puppet show.” According to Stevens, having “Chief” in the title is merely for show. “These people have absolutely no power . . . Most of these vanity titles don’t even report to the CEO.”
Here’s the bottom line: “The only C’s with ‘real’ power are the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and, occasionally, Chief Operating Officer” (Forbes).
Similarly, Josh Dreller wrote in a blog post about the most meaningless job titles on LinkedIn. As his post showed, title inflation is not unique to top executives. Instead, it’s an epidemic that is spreading to every level, in every company. On LinkedIn, Josh came across various silly titles, such as “Senior Road Warrior Marketing Intern”, “The Social Media Badass”, “Chief Thought Provoker”, “Chief People Herder”, and “Digital Marketing Magician.”
I love what Robbin Block (an author and a radio host who commented on Josh’s post) said:
“It’s getting ridiculous to the extreme. A label can be useful, but not if it’s completely fabricated . . . Titles actually used to mean something and indicated a person’s expertise and experience.”
Although Robbin was referring to marketing titles, I think this is certainly applicable in every industry.
All silliness aside, a job title is important for several reasons. I/O psychology professor Michael Aamodt (2010) explained that an accuratejob title does the following:
It describes the nature of the job.
It aids in employee selection and recruitment (by indicating the nature of the job, thus helping an organization match potential applicants with the requirements for the job).
It provides employees with some form of identity.
It affects perceptions of the status and worth of a job.
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
Aamodt, M. G. (2010). Industrial/organizational psychology: An applied approach (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
In a conversation about how, in one organization, management had known for quite some time what needed to be done, but they just didn’t do it, a professor inquired: “What purpose might it serve for an organization to be in possession of possible solutions yet choose not to implement them?”
What a great question.
Robert Sutton (2010) contended that what separates good bosses from bad ones is that good bosses find ways to link talking to doing, and that bad bosses are oblivious and often don’t even realize that they “routinely stifle and misdirect action” (p. 130).
Perhaps this is overly simplistic, but with regard to why organizations that are in possession of possible solutions but choose not to implement them, I think sometimes managers and/or organizations fall prey to “analysis paralysis” where there’s a tendency to over analyze everything and which can result in the crippling or stifling of timely actions.
The Ultimate Business Dictionary (2003) defines analysis paralysis (or paralysis by analysis) in this manner :
Paralysis by analysis is “the inability of managers to make decisions as a result of a preoccupation with attending meetings, writing reports, and collecting statistics and analyses” (p. 235).
The obsession with studying a problem and analyzing an issue to death is akin to creating a self-imposed bottleneck. The obstruction/congestion is your own doing.
Sutton, R.I. (2010). Good boss, bad boss: How to be the best…and learn from the worst. New York: Business Plus.
(2003). The Ultimate Business Dictionary: Defining the World of Work. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.
Politicians and car salesmen are notorious for being dishonest. But what’s often overlooked are skilled liars who might be a coworker, a supervisor, a top executive, a family member, or even a neighbor. It isn’t until a major scandal, like the ones involving Ponzi schemers Allen Stanford and Bernie Madoff, that people take note that lying is more pervasive and much more difficult to detect than we think.
The scandal in 2009 involved CEO Allen Stanford and other top executives of Stanford Financial Group. They were charged and convicted of fraud for scheming investors (for more than two decades). Allen Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in prison for a $7 billion Ponzi scheme.
The NY Times article said: “Prosecutors argued that Mr. Stanford had consistently lied to investors, promoting safe investments for money that he channeled into a luxurious lifestyle, a Swiss bank account and various business deals that almost never succeeded.” It also stated that Stanford was convicted “of running an international scheme over more than two decades in which he offered fraudulent high-interest certificates of deposit at the Stanford International Bank, which was based on the Caribbean island of Antigua.”
And, even as he made his final statement in court, Stanford continued to lie by saying: “I’m up here to tell you from my heart I didn’t run a Ponzi scheme.” The federal prosecutor called his statement “obscene” and said this: “This is a man utterly without remorse . . . from beginning to end, he treated all of his victims as roadkill.”
But a scandal in late 2008 is perhaps even more outrageous and infamous. It involved Bernie Madoff, wherein he lied, stole and laundered money, and deceived thousands of investors out of billions of dollars. Even more incredible was that the scheme lasted for two or even three decades! Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for his Ponzi scheme.
An article in Scientific American led me to a book by professor Aldert Vrij called “Detecting Lies and Deceit” (Vrij, 2008). Professor Vrij defines deception or lying as:
“a successful or unsuccessful deliberate attempt, without forewarning, to create in another a belief which the communicator considers to be untrue” (Vrij, 2008, p. 15).
Dr. Vrij identified three different categories that make detection of lying challenging: (1) a lack of motivation to detect lies; (2) difficulties associated with lie detection; and (3) common errors made by lie detectors. I want to focus on “good liars” (identified on pp. 378-381), one of the seven reasons listed under “difficulties associated with lie detection.”
“Good liars are those people: (i) whose natural behaviour disarms suspicion; (ii) who do not find it cognitively difficult to lie; and (iii) who do not experience emotions such as fear, guilt, or duping delight when they are lying” (Vrij, 2008, p. 378).
CHARACTERISTICS OF GOOD LIARS
There are 8 Characteristics of Good Liars (Vrij, 2008, p. 378-379):
(1) Being natural performers: “Directed gaze to a conversation partner, smiling, head nodding, leaning forward, direct body orientation, posture mirroring, uncrossed arms, articulate gesturing, moderate speaking rates, a lack of ums and ers, and vocal variety” are often associated with being honest and likable.
(2) Being well prepared: “Good liars therefore say as little as possible or say things that are impossible for others to verify. The less verifiable information is given, the less opportunity it provides for the lie detector to check.” The better the preparation (and the more believable the lie), the easier it is for good liars to lie effectively.
(3) Being original: People who are especially good at lying are mentally creative and original. They’re able to offer a convincing and credible answer in almost any situation.
(4) Rapid thinking: Good liars are quick to respond to a question because waiting too long to answer would arouse suspicion. Thus, being able to think quickly is an important characteristic.
(5) Being eloquent: Being eloquent, in the context of being a good liar, means that you provide a long-winded, intentionally vague response to avoid answering the question. Good liars might even say something that, on the surface, sounds plausible, but actually does not answer the question. Just imagine a skilled politician dodging a question and you get the idea.
(6) Good memory: Good liars must have a good memory or else they risk getting caught in their web of lies. They have to be able to recall what they’ve previously said so they can repeat theta same information without contradicting themselves.
(7) Not experiencing guilt, fear, or delight: “Deceiving others is made easier if the liar does not experience feelings of guilt, fear or delight, because in that case there will not be any emotional behaviour that needs to be suppressed.”
(8) Good at acting: If a person is not a “natural performer” (the first characteristic listed) or they are not especially skilled at masking their guilt, fear, or delight when lying (the seventh characteristic listed), then being a good actor is a must. Good liars are masters with excellent decoding skills. They can adapt to quickly to disarm suspicion.
SPOTTING LIARS DIFFICULT DUE TO LIE DETECTION MISTAKES
Under “Common Errors Made by Lie Detectors”, Dr Vrij explained that, in addition to lie detection being difficult, those who play the role of lie detectors also make SEVEN mistakes. I’ll just mention five mistakes below.
(1) Examining the Wrong Cues: Lie detectors (referring to people whose job is to spot liars, such as police detectives) might look at the wrong cues. For instance, one police manual says that liars tend to look away and make grooming gestures. But a lie detection study, Dr. Vrij found that the more police officers endorsed the lie cues promoted in that police manual, the worse they were at detecting suspects who lied and suspects who told the truth.
(2) Neglect of Interpersonal Differences: There are large differences when it comes to people’s behavior, speech, and physiological responses. “The result is that people whose natural behaviour looks suspicious (e.g., people who naturally avert their gaze or fidget a lot) are in a disadvantageous position, because they run the risk of being falsely accused of lying . . . Introverted and socially anxious people in particular run such a risk” (Vrij, 2008, p. 383).
(3) Neglect of Intrapersonal Differences: “Not only do different people respond differently in the same situation (interpersonal differences), the same person also responds differently in different situations (intrapersonal differences). Neglecting or underestimating those intrapersonal differences is another error that lie catchers make. The failure to control adequately for intrapersonal differences is one of the main criticisms of concern-based polygraph tests” (Vrij, 2008, p. 383).
(4) Use of Heuristics: Following general decision rules (heuristics) can easily lead to mistakes and biases. For example, facial appearance heuristic is the “tendency to judge people with attractive faces or baby-faced appearances as honest” (Vrij, 2008, p. 385). And the fundamental attribution error which occurs when we form impressions of others and then overestimate their character factors while underestimating situational factors. Thus, if we believe someone to be trustworthy, we will judge that person a telling the truth in any given situation. On the other hand, if we think someone is untrustworthy, we’ll tend to judge that individual as dishonest in any given situation. “Obviously, trustworthy people are not honest all of the time and untrustworthy people are not always dishonest” (Vrij, 2008, p. 385).
(5) Overestimating the Accuracy of Lie Detection Tools: We tend to overestimate the accuracy of lie detection tools. However, despite the belief that polygraphs or fMRI brain scans are effective, Dr. Vrij argued that “every single lie detection tool used to date is far from accurate and prone to errors” (p. 386).
Polygraphs measure finger sweating, blood pressure, and respiration. Dr. Vrij explained that one of the most frequently used polygraph test today is the Comparison Question Test (CQT), also referred to as the Control Question Test. I would recommend reading Ch. 11 “Physiological Lie Detection: The Concern Approach” of his book for a detailed explanation about the CQT and the criticisms of the CQT. Professor Vrij (pp. 304-305 citing Iacono ) contended there are three reasons why the CQT is controversial: (i) there is no consensus amongst scientists that there exists an adequate theoretical foundation for its application; (ii) the polygraph profession operates outside the scientific environment and is practiced most by law enforcement officials trained at freestanding polygraph schools that are unrelated to universities; and (iii) polygraph tests can have profound consequences for individuals subjected to them. [***It is not the intent of this post to argue for or against the merits of the CQT because I do not possess expertise in this area. However, the criticisms about the CQT are worth noting.]
According to Dr. Vrij, when we try to deceive others, we activate higher centers of the brain. fMRI scans (when used to detect deception or lying) are supposed to reveal this. However, “different people tested in the same situation revealed different patterns of brain structure and area activity when they lied (interpersonal differences) and the same person shows different patterns of brain structure and area activity when he or she lies in different situations (intrapersonal differences)” (Vrij, 2008, p. 371). Therefore, Dr. Vrij argued, fMRI scans aren’t much different from the traditional polygraph lie detectors.
“So far, research has not yet shown that the fMRI technique does produce more accurate results than traditional polygraph testing, and I therefore do not recommend using such scans in real-life settings for lie detection purposes” (Vrij, 2008, p. 372).
The sad reality is that there are very skilled liars who are able to effectively lie for years or, in the case of Allen Stanford and Bernie Madoff, even decades before they’re caught. And, I suspect, there are many other good liars who have never been and probably will never be caught.
A 2016 study in Nature Neuroscience discovered that our brain actually adapts to being dishonest, and that habitual lying can desensitize our brains from “feeling bad,” and may even encourage us to tell bigger lies in the future.
Bottom line: Good liars (those with natural behavior that disarms suspicion, who do not find it cognitively difficult to lie, and who do not experience fear, guilt, or delight when they are lying) can be hard to spot because they’re very skilled at the art of lying. Even polygraphs and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning techniques will not adequately identify those who are good at lying because these lie detection methods have important limitations.
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
Iacono, W. G. (2000). The detection of deception. In J. T. Cacioppo, L. G. Tassinary, & G. G. Berntson (Eds.), Handbook of psychophysiology, 2nd edition (pp. 772–793). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
I’m a very picky book reader. Prior to reading “The Orange Revolution: How One Great Team Can Transform an Entire Organization,” I had actually started and given up reading several other business books. But “The Orange Revolution” restored my belief that business books can be entertaining, researched-based, and instructive.
Culling research from a 350,000-person database (employees from 28 industries) by the Best Companies Group, as well as from their own interviews with exceptional teams at leading companies, the authors found that breakthrough teams had not only remarkable leaders, but also team members, all of whom share similar characteristics!
These characteristics comprised what Gostick and Elton called “The Basic 4 + Recognition” (p. 45):
Goal setting (knowing where you are going)
Communication (wise use of your voice and ears)
Trust (believing in others and being trustworthy)
Accountability (doing what you say you will do)
Recognition (appreciating others’ strengths)
From the first few pages, Gostick and Elton’s writing style immediately caught my attention. Their story about Thomas Edison’s success in creating the incandescent lightbulb set a beautiful tone throughout the book. Although Edison is almost universally thought of as the one person who invented the incandescent light bulb, it was his team working together under his supervision that made it a reality! That’s right, Edison envisioned it, but it took a team of remarkable “assistants” who made it happen. In fact, Edison searched for men of integrity, who were hungry for knowledge and who expected excellence. He would then put them into small teams, gave them a goal, and let them independently pursue it. Edison did not do it alone. He had help from a breakthrough team.
“By creating an Orange culture that not only expects but also nurtures competency, and then combining it with a high regard for team members, breakthrough teams generate a self-perpetuating collaborative energy” (Gostick & Elton, 2010, p. 42).
A world-class team is not about who is on the team, but rather what the team can do. Gostick and Elton discovered that six core traits defined breakthrough teams: (1) they dream ambitious goals; (2) they believe in one another and what the team can accomplish together; (3) they take calculated risks but (4) measure their results; (5) they persevere even when conflicts or challenges occur; and (6) they tell stories that illustrate what they’re trying to achieve.
Indeed, it is this last trait that, in my opinion, separates “The Orange Revolution” from the sea of business books out there. Stories are amazingly powerful and Gostick and Elton did a masterful job incorporating incredible stories into their book.
According to the authors, all breakthrough teams followThe Rule of 3 (p. 16):
Wow—Breakthrough teams commit to a standard of world-class performance.
No Surprises—All team members are accountable for openness and honest debate, and each knows what to expect from the others.
Cheer—Team members support, recognize, appreciate, and cheer others and the group on to victory.
But more than any other story, the one about Patrick Poyfair’s Arsenal Strikers (a second girl’s Double A soccer team created for girls who were told they weren’t good enough to be in the first soccer club) really touched me. It’s in the last chapter of the book so I don’t want to give the story away. Since my summary here won’t do the story any justice, I’ll just briefly say this: The power of cheering for one another transcends the workplace and into the home and our lives outside of work. It’s so inspiring to hear about breakthrough teams, but it is even more empowering to know that we can create and be a part of our own breakthrough teams.
Gostick & Elton (2010) showed that “soft” ideas such as recognition, goal setting, trust, etc. can “actually drive competency every bit as much as technical ability” (p. 45).
Summary: One of the best and most practical business books I have ever read. This is a book I would definitely take with me if I were stranded on an island somewhere and could only bring three books. Well written and witty, with amazing and uplifting stories to inspire and warm the heart. Gostick and Elton have done a wonderful job convincing me, “how one great team can transform an entire organization.” My highest recommendation!
According to the American Society for Training & Development, U.S. organizations spent about $171.5 billion on employee learning and development in 2010. But what good does it do a company if the very workers the organization spent money on to train will quit and take their newly acquired training with them?
I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal titled, “When Training Leads to Turnover” and found it interesting. However, it’s important to note that the title is a bit misleading since training (by itself) does not lead to turnover. Rather, it’s the idea that without an opportunity to advance/move up in a company, employees (even those who have received training) are more likely to leave compared to those who have opportunities to advance in the organization. As Silverman later clarified in the WSJ article, “employee turnover can increase after training if a company fails to also provide career development and opportunities to get ahead.”
Kraimer, Seibert, Wayne, Liden, and Bravo (2011) discovered that employees who’ve been trained by their company will leave if they do not see any chance to advance. On the other hand, workers who see a career opportunity within the organization will stick around. Thus, it would have been more fitting to label the WSJ article “When Lack of Career Advancement Leads to Turnover.” But then that wouldn’t be as eye-catching. In fact, the research study the WSJ cited is titled, “Antecedents and outcomes of organizational support for development: The critical role of career opportunities.” Note the last part of the title, “The critical role of career opportunities.”
Training does not occur in a vacuum and, by itself, is not enough to retain employees, if those employees do not see career opportunities in their future.
Researchers defined two important concepts: (a) organizational support for development (OSD) as “employees’ overall perceptions that the organization provides programs and opportunities that help employees develop their functional skills and managerial capabilities” (Kraimer et al., 2011, p. 486); (b) perceived career opportunity (PCO) as “employees’ belief that jobs or positions that match their career goals and interests exist within the organization” (Kraimer et al., 2011, p. 486).
Most notably, the researchers found that development support was associated with reduced voluntary turnover when perceived career opportunity was high, but it was associated with increased turnover when perceived career opportunity was low. In other words, even when organizations provide programs and opportunities to help employees develop their skills, if employees perceive that career advancement opportunity is low, they are more likely to leave.
Practical Implications: “Organizations should seek to manage employees’ perceptions of career opportunity if they wish to retain career-oriented employees. If organizational career paths do not lead to opportunities that match those desired by employees, they may choose to look for alternative jobs in the hopes that another organization will offer more desirable job paths. Given the high costs associated with staffing and turnover, expenditures for development support may be well justified, but only when employees perceive that there are career opportunities within the organization that match their career goals and interests. When many employees do not perceive desirable career opportunities, our results suggest that development support may simply provide them with the mobility capital to leave…” (Kraimer et al., 2011, p. 496).
American Society for Training & Development (ASTD). 2011 State of the Industry Report.
Kraimer, M. L., Seibert, S. E., Wayne, S. J., Liden, R. C., & Bravo, J. (2011). Antecedents and outcomes of organizational support for development: The critical role of career opportunities. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(3), 485-500. doi:10.1037/a0021452
This video is from The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project which focuses public attention on the ability to move up or down the economic ladder within a lifetime or from one generation to the next.
The video shows the difference between two measurements of economic mobility. It’s important to note that there are two ways of measuring economic mobility: absolute and relative. As the video states, each offers an understanding of the health and status of the American Dream; however, neither measure should be taken in isolation for a complete picture of economic mobility in our country.
The example of being on the escalator (starting at the 1:58 mark to the 2:30 mark) is a great visual aid. As the Pew explains:
“For more than two centuries, economic opportunity and upward mobility have formed the foundation of the American Dream, and they remain at the core of our nation’s identity. As policy makers seek to foster equality of opportunity, it’s critical that their decisions be informed by a robust and nonpartisan fact base on economic mobility.”
In addition to this eye-catching video, one might also observe that economic mobility is linked to our salaries or compensations for the work we do. Interestingly,
“Many experts now believe that money is a much more important motivator than was previously believed, more because of its inherent or symbolic value than because of what it can buy. . . . One recent study found that people who are more highly paid have higher job performance because the higher paycheck makes them feel more valued in the organization (i.e., they have a more positive self-concept)” (McShane & Von Glinow, 2010, p. 167).
McShane, S. L., & Von Glinow, M. A. (2010). Organizational behavior: Emerging knowledge and practice for the real world (5th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
I was contacted by a career advice reporter with FINS.com, the jobs and career website of The Wall Street Journal, for my thoughts for an article about why workers struggle when they have to fire someone with whom they have a close personal relationship. While I’m glad to see my name mentioned, I feel that much of what I shared with her was left out of the article. Two things did manage to make the cut – cognitive dissonance and the mention of the Parker and McKinley (2008) article. However, without offering more details, I’m afraid that readers of that article might miss my message.
Here is what I emailed her:
We spend a great deal of time working alongside others at work. In fact, if you consider that the typical worker spends 8 hours a day at work, it means that many of us spend more face-time with our colleagues than with our own families.
A more specific explanation of why workers struggle when they have to fire someone with whom they have a close personal relationship is something called cognitive dissonance. It’s a state of tension, which we want to avoid, that occurs when we perceive an inconsistency between our beliefs, feelings, and behavior.
So, if we spend a great deal of time with someone and have developed a close relationship with that person, then it is understandable that having to turn around and fire that individual would create conflicts or tensions between what we are required to do (i.e. the act of firing someone) and our feelings (i.e., that person I must fire is a friend or someone I care about).
Parker and McKinley (2008) wrote about how employees who assist in the implementation of layoffs at their organization (i.e., they help the company lay off other employees) experience cognitive dissonance. They maintained that the longer you spend with the employee being terminated, the greater the odds of you experiencing cognitive dissonance when you need to let that employee go.
Parker and McKinley (2008) said in order to help reduce cognitive dissonance, the one terminating (the agent) might subscribe to an ideology of shareholder interest (the belief that shareholder value should be the main criterion for management decision-making). If the layoff agent is a strong believer in this ideology of shareholder interest, he or she would regard the increase of shareholder wealth as the first priority of management and thus back or defend actions that enhance shareholder wealth.
Basically, according to cognitive dissonance theory and the article by Parker and McKinley, the person who must fire a coworker can change the way he or she thinks about firing or letting someone go and rationalize that while the layoff or termination of a coworker might harm that individual employee, it would have positive consequences for the overall organization.
Parker, T., & McKinley, W. (2008). Layoff agency: A theoretical framework. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 15(1), 46-58. doi:10.1177/1548051808318001
It’s probably safe to assume that most, if not all, of us have at one time or another, wondered whether our moods are influenced by the time of the day or the day of the week. Well, wonder no more.
According to Robbins and Judge (2009), people are more likely to be in their worst moods (i.e., highest negative affect and lowest positive affect) early in the week and in their best moods (i.e., highest positive affect and lowest negative affect) late in the week.
What about time of day? Does it make any difference if someone is a “morning” person versus another who might be an “evening” person? Robbins and Judge said that no matter what time we go to bed in the evening time or when we wake up in the morning, our levels of positive affect peak about midway between the time we wake up and the time we go to sleep.
Watson (2000), in his book “Mood and Temperament,” said this:
“Although different people reach their acrophase [peak time or time at which the peak of a rhythm occurs] at different times and show somewhat different curves over the course of the day, our analyses have demonstrated that this basic circadian rhythm—that is, low Positive Affect at the beginning and end of the day, with a peak occurring somewhere in the middle—is remarkably robust and generalizable across individuals” (p. 116).
What implication does this have in the workplace? Well, as many of us can already confirm, Monday morning is not a good time to deliver bad news. And in terms of time of the day, employees will tend to be more positive from about midmorning going forward and (certainly not surprising) later in the week.
Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. A. (2009). Organizational behavior (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Watson, D. (2000). Mood and temperament. New York: The Guilford Press.
Burnout is a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job, and is defined by the three dimensions of exhaustion (overwhelming exhaustion), cynicism (cynicism and detachment), and inefficacy (a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment) (Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001; Maslach, Leiter, & Schaufeli, 2009).
More broadly, Maslach and Leiter (2005) said burnout includes losing three things:
Burnout is lost energy.
Burnout is lost enthusiasm.
Burnout is lost confidence.
We typically think of a “burnt-out” employee as someone who has been on the job for a long period of time. A worker who experiences burnout is someone who is exhausted emotionally. This individual exhibits low motivation and lack of energy for the job (Spector, 2008). However, there are, in fact, more than one type of burnout.
The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), a scale measuring burnout, divides it into three components:
Emotional exhaustion is feeling tired and fatigued at work (it can result in absence from work).
Depersonalization is developing a callous/uncaring feeling, even hostility, toward others (either clients or colleagues).
Reduced personal accomplishment is feeling you (the employee) are not accomplishing anything worthwhile at work. This can lead to a lack of motivation and poor performance.
The Burnout Clinical Subtype Questionnaire (BCSQ-36), another scale, also divides burnout into three subtypes:
The “frenetic” type describes involved and ambitious subjects who sacrifice their health and personal lives for their jobs.
The “underchallenged” type describes indifferent and bored workers who fail to find personal development in their jobs.
The “worn-out” type describes neglectful subjects who feel they have little control over results and whose efforts go unacknowledged.
In a study of 409 employees at a university in Spain, Montero-Marín and colleagues (2011) discovered that those who work more than 40 hours a week faced the greatest risk for “frenetic” burnout. They found that administration and service personnel encountered the greatest risk of “underchallenged” burnout compared to teaching and research staff. Finally, the researchers found that employees with more than sixteen years of service in the organization faced the greatest risk of “worn-out” burnout versus those with less than four years of service.
Take-Away: The “frenetic” profile is associated with the number of hours per week dedicated to work. The “underchallenged” profile is related with the type of occupation and the “worn-out” profile is associated with the cumulative effect over time of the characteristics of an organization.
Suggestions: There are two, rather obvious, ways to reduce burnout. One is to take a vacation (Fritz & Sonnentag, 2006), even though a few weeks after returning to work, feelings of burnout often return. The second way to reduce burnout is to have supervisors offer emotional support to workers through positive feedback and discussions about the positive aspects of the job (Kahn, Schneider, Jenkins-Henkelman, & Moyle, 2006).
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership, Training, and Talent Consultant
Fritz, C., & Sonnentag, S. (2006). Recovery, well-being, and performance-related outcomes: The role of workload and vacation experiences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(4), 936–945. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.91.4.936
Kahn, J. H., Schneider, K. T., Jenkins-Henkelman, T. M., & Moyle, L. L. (2006). Emotional social support and job burnout among high-school teachers: Is it all due to dispositional affectivity? Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27, 793–807. doi:10.1002/job.397
Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (2005). Banishing burnout: Six strategies for improving your relationship with work. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Maslach, C., Leiter, M. P., & Schaufeli, W. (2009). Measuring burnout. In S. Cartwright & C. L. Cooper (Eds.). The Oxford handbook of organizational well-being (pp. 86-108). Oxford: Oxford Univerrsity Press.
Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397-422.
Montero-Marín, J., García-Campayo, J., Fajó-Pascual, M., Carrasco, J. M., Gascón, S., Gili, M., & Mayoral-Cleries, F. (2011). Sociodemographic and occupational risk factors associated with the development of different burnout types: The cross-sectional University of Zaragoza study. BMC Psychiatry, 11:49. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-11-49
Spector, P. E. (2008). Industrial and organizational psychology: Research and practice (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
“Having an organizational culture that emphasizes ethical behavior can cut down on misbehavior of organizations. Research shows that whether an organization develops a culture that emphasizes doing the right thing even when it is costly comes down to whether leaders, starting with the CEO, consider the ethical consequences of their actions. Leaders with a moral compass set the tone when it comes to ethical dilemmas” (Truxillo, Bauer, & Erdogan, 2016, p. 385).
Robbins and Judge (2009) offer a nice list of what management can do to create a more ethical organizational culture. They suggest a combination of the following practices:
Be a role model and be visible. Your employees look to the behavior of top management as a model of what’s acceptable behavior in the workplace. When senior management is observed (by subordinates) to take the ethical high road, it sends a positive message for all employees.
Communicate ethical expectations. Ethical ambiguities can be reduced by creating and disseminating an organizational code of ethics. It should state the organization’s primary values and the ethical rules that employees are expected to follow. Remember, however, that a code of ethics is worthless if top management fails to model ethical behaviors.
Offer ethics training. Set up seminars, workshops, and similar ethical training programs. Use these training sessions to reinforce the organization’s standards of conduct, to clarify what practices are and are not permissible, and to address possible ethical dilemmas.
Visibly reward ethical acts and punish unethical ones. Performance appraisals of managers should include a point-by-point evaluation of how his or her decisions measure up against the organization’s code of ethics. Appraisals must include the means taken to achieve goals as well as the ends themselves. People who act ethically should be visibly rewarded for their behavior. Just as importantly, unethical acts should be punished.
Provide protective mechanisms. The organization needs to provide formal mechanisms so that employees can discuss ethical dilemmas and report unethical behavior without fear of reprimand. This might include creation of ethical counselors, ombudsmen, or ethical officers.
A good case study of an unethical organizational culture is the now defunct Enron. Sims and Brinkmann (2003) described Enron’s ethics as “the ultimate contradiction between words and deeds, between a deceiving glossy facade and a rotten structure behind” (p. 243). Enron executives created an organizational culture that valued profits (the bottom line) over ethical behavior and doing what’s right.
“A business perceived to lack integrity or to operate in an unethical, immoral, or irresponsible manner soon loses the support of customers, suppliers and the community at large*” (Tozer, 2012, p. 476).
*In addition to losing customers, suppliers and the community, I would also include losing the support of employees and managers.
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership & Talent Consultant
Robbins, S.P., & Judge, T.A. (2009). Organizational behavior (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Sims, R.R., & Brinkmann, J. (2003). Enron ethics (or: Culture matters more than codes). Journal of Business Ethics, 45(3), 243-256.
Tozer, J. (2012). Leading through leaders: Driving strategy, execution and change. London, UK: KoganPage.
Truxillo, D. M., Bauer, T. N., & Erdogan, B. (2016). Psychology and work: Perspectives on industrial and organizational psychology. New York: Routledge.
In “Leading Change” (1996), Kotter outlined an 8-Stage Process to Creating Major Change:
Establish a Sense of Urgency: Examine market and competitive realities; identify and discuss crises, potential crises, or major opportunities
Create the Guiding Coalition: Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change; get group to work together as a team
Develop a Vision & Strategy: Create a vision to help direct the change effort; Develop strategies for achieving that vision
Communicate the Vision: Use every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies; have Guiding Coalition role model the behavior expected of employees
Empowering Action: Get rid of obstacles to change; change systems or structures that undermine the vision; encourage risk-taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions
Generating Short-Term Wins: Plan for visible performance improvements or “wins”; create those “wins”; recognize and reward employees who made “wins” possible
Consolidate Gains and Produce More Change: Use increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision; hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the change vision; reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents
Anchor New Approaches in the Corporate Culture: Create better performance via customer- and productivity-oriented behavior, more and better leadership, and more effective management; articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success; develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession.
Professor Kotter (1996) shared about a time he consulted with an intelligent and competent executive who struggled trying to implement a reorganization. Problem was many of his managers were against it. Kotter went through the 8-stage process. He asked the executive whether there was a sense of urgency (Stage #1) among the employees to change. The executive said, “Some do. But many probably do not.” (Kotter, 1996, p. 22). When asked about a compelling vision and strategy to implement (Stage #3), the executive replied, I think so [about the vision]…although I’m not sure how clear it [the strategy] is” (Kotter, 1996, p. 22). Finally, when Kotter inquired whether the managers understood and believed in the vision, the executive responded, “I wouldn’t be surprised if many [people] either don’t understand the concept or don’t entirely believe in it [the vision]” (Kotter, 1996, p. 22).
Kotter (1996) states that when Stages #1-4 of the Kotter model are skipped it’s inevitable that one will face resistance. The executive ran into resistance because he went directly to Stage #5. Kotter states that in attempting to implement change, many will rush through the process “without ever finishing the job” (Kotter, 1996, p. 22) or they’ll skip stages and either jump to or only do Stages 5, 6, and 7.
Schermerhorn, Hunt, and Osborn (2005) maintain that when employees resist change they are protecting/defending something they value and which seems threatened by the attempt at change.
Eight Reasons for Resisting Change (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005):
Fear of the unknown
Lack of good information
Fear of loss of security
No reasons to change
Fear of loss of power
Lack of resources
To overcome resistance to change, make sure that the following criteria are met (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005):
Benefit: Whatever it is that is changing, that change should have a clear relative advantage for those being asked to change; it should be seen as “a better way.”
Compatibility: The change should be as compatible as possible with the existing values and experiences of the people being asked to change.
Complexity: The change should be no more complex than necessary; it must be as easy as possible for people to understand and use.
Triability: The change should be something that people can try on a step-by-step basis and make adjustments as things progress.
There are 6 methods for dealing with resistance to change (and their advantages & drawbacks)*** (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005; Kotter & Schlesinger, 1979 & 2008):
Education & Communication: educate people about a change before it is implemented; help them understand the logic behind the change.
Participation & Involvement: allow people to help design and implement the changes (e.g., ideas, task forces, committees).
Facilitation & Support: provide help (emotional & material resources) for people having trouble adjusting to the change.
Negotiation & Agreement: offers incentives to those who resist change.
Manipulation & Cooptation: attempts to influence others.
Explicit & Implicit Coercion: use of authority to get people to accept change.
***For additional (and quite valuable) information related to the six methods for dealing with resistance to change outlined by Schermerhorn and colleagues, there is a Harvard Business Review article by Kotter and Schlesinger (1979 & 2008). The 2008 article, “Choosing Strategies for Change” is a reprint of the same 1979 article. For better layout and graphics, I’ve referred to the 2008 article. I believe the six methods for dealing with resistance to change outlined by Schermerhorn and colleagues (2005) is based on or came directly from Kotter and Schlesinger’s 1979 article.
***In Kotter and Schlesinger’s 1979 HBR article (and in the 2008 HBR reprint) the six methods for dealing with resistance to change included the six approaches (e.g., education + communication, negotiation + agreement, etc.) as well as three more columns (commonly used in situations; advantages; and drawbacks). I found this to be especially useful and have posted a screenshot (above) of the graphic used in Kotter and Schlesinger’s 2008 HBR article. I would encourage readers to read Kotter and Schlesinger’s HBR article.
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
Kotter, J. P. & Schlesinger, L. A. (1979). Choosing strategies for change. Harvard Business Review, 57(2), 106-114.
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
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.
“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.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
Barry, D. (1998). Dave Barry Turns 50. New York, NY: Ballantine Publishing Group.
In his book, What is Your Life’s Work? Bill Jensen asks people to write a letter to a loved one about the meaning and importance of work. Specifically, he wanted them to think about this question:
“What is the single most important insight about work that you want to pass on to your kids? Or to anyone you truly care about?”
In the course of writing these letters, people experienced something remarkable — clarity about what “it” is that’s most important to them and the power of following their dreams.
“There are only 1440 minutes in every day. No do-overs. Time stolen from you at work means less time for whatever really matters to you…We must all be respectful of how work uses the precious time in people’s lives — as a guiding principle in whatever [we] do every day” (Jensen, 2005, p.9).
“I’m a workaholic. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t striving for full-throttle success. As it turns out, I failed in one critical area. I had turned my back on life.”(A Letter Writer quoted in Jensen’s book)
According to over 40 Gallup studies, about 75% of workers are disengaged from their jobs. And based on a recent U.S. Job Retention Survey, 75% of all employees are now searching for new employment opportunities. Jensen also found, in a New American Dream Survey, that more than four out of every five of us (83%) wish we had more of what really matters in life (Jensen, 2005, p.5).
In the past 20 years, Jensen has interviewed and surveyed over 400,000 people in more than 1,000 companies. What he found was that “[m]ost of us already know what really matters. We just let all the daily excuses and conflicting priorities cloud our judgment…Yet the people who are truly focused on what matters rarely have this problem. They know how to listen to themselves – how to quiet all the outside noise long enough to hear their own heartbeat and their own wisdom” (Jensen, 2005, p.16).
Jensen (2005) recommends several things:
Face what you fear
Get grounded, there are others like you
Let go, nobody’s watching
Suspend judgment, others’ “aha” moments can reveal a lot
Find your passion, write it down
Laugh at your own excuses
Rewrite the script, because you can
“[T]he most important quality in a candidate is passion for what he does and who he is. This passion will drive people to succeed even when obstacles occur in the workplace…For my money, give me someone with passion. We can teach him the rest.”(Mike Grabowski, quoted in What is Your Life’s Work?)
Wishing you good work life, health, and well-being.
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
Jensen, B. (2005). What is Your Life’s Work?: Answer the BIG Question About What Really Matters…and Reawaken the Passion for What You Do. New York, NY: HarperCollins.