Emotional Intelligence

So your boss is a psycho?

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Do you get on well with him or her? If so you may have Machiavellian tendencies and lack empathy. So you won’t get upset about being treated badly.

People who score high in primary psychopathy lack empathy and are cool-headed and fearless. They don’t react to things that cause other people to feel stressful, fearful, or angry” according to Professor Charlice Hurst from Notre Dame University in Indiana.

She argues that businesses run by psychopaths end up as psychopath traps employing similar types as people with normal emotions can’t stand the toxic environment and leave.

She asked over 300 experienced employees about two fictional managers. One was adept at corporate speak but bullied people, showed a total lack of empathy, and took credit for others’ work. The other was inspirational, supportive, and considerate. Both were said to be equally valued and respected by the company.

Asked about working for the two managers and how angry it would make them working for him all said they would be happy working for the supportive one and most disliked the bully. But some people saw no difference and that depended on their own level of psychopathy.

Those with high levels weren’t upset by being abused at work and even said they felt more engaged at work. It could mean that a company led by psychopaths ends up with a highly engaged workforce of psychopaths.

Psychopaths thriving under abusive supervisors would be better positioned to get ahead” said Hurst. “Companies with a problem with endemic abuse might notice increased turnover among employees low in primary psychopathy and retention of those high in primary psychopathy”

I’ve always thought that toxic workplaces need both a psychopath at the top and a culture that encourages bullying and abuse.

It’s well known that psychopaths are attracted to positions of power. There is extensive literature on the dark side triad of psychopathy, machiavellianism, and narcissism.

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A Look Inside the Mind of a Narcissist

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MakeItUltra™

By Dr. Perry, PhD


” But that’s the thing about narcissists. They can try to fool you, with all their heart, but in the end, they’re just fooling themselves.” ~Ellie Fox

An individual with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) has spent most of their life creating the illusion of a confident and self-assured individual. Tightly wound up in this facade is the desperate struggle to maintain this self-created image. Much like a toddler swimming in a grown-up’s suit, a narcissist has a difficult time filling out their personality with the essential characteristics of what they believe to be human. The narcissist’s eggshell ego is dependent on this armor for its very survival.

At the core of this personality disorder, there is a grandiose sense of self-worth, vanity, and entitlement. In order to feed their fragile egos, they seek out constant praise and admiration from others. They are unable to maintain healthy relationships and…

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Nurses have no time for compassion

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Mike the Psych's Blog

On the one hand the idea that all nurses are compassionate creatures was never true. I say that as someone with 20 plus years experience working in the NHS and more recently as a patient.

That’s not to say some, maybe most, nurses aren’t. I particularly remember one who held my hand throughout an uncomfortable 2-hour eye operation carried out under local anaesthetic and another who rubbed my back during an endoscopy examination.

But according to a recent study of professional values there is “a moral vacuum at the heart of nursing”.

Nurses are so ground down that they end up as “robots going through the motions” with a focus on clinical skills driving compassion from the job“. Yet compassion is part of the UK’s Nursing Vision.

Eight out of ten say their work conflicts with their personal values much of the time. The study concluded that it…

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How bright do leaders need to be?

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Well, intelligent enough to convince your team you know what you are doing but not so intelligent that it creates a barrier.

A study at Lausanne University, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, tested more than 350 middle managers then asked staff to rate their ability.

There was a strong link between intelligence and ratings for those at the lower to middle end but above an IQ of 120 the connection  started to reverse. Once the IQ gap between you and your employees is bigger than 18 points you are in trouble.

John Antonakis, the author of the report, said “The idea is that you need to be smarter than the people you are leading and smart enough to keep rivals at bay. But you mustn’t be so smart that they can’t understand you“.

This is not new. Adrian Furnham, a business psychologist and academic, writing in the Sunday Times back in 2005 made the same point along with others I think are worth repeating. He said:

–People prefer bright leaders

–The more intelligent the leader the more effective the team

–Intelligent people learn more quickly & inspire confidence

–Leaders need to be bright – but not too bright. If a lot more intelligent than team they will be misunderstood or seen as a threat

–IQ more related to Leadership when not under stress, which counters intelligence

–Leaders need to be stable ie resilient and hardy

–Social skills are important

So there is more to it than just your IQ score. Emotional Intelligence plays a big part.

As does not having a dark side personality that terrible triad of narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism. And if you want to influence you have to demonstrate warmth as well as competence (Prime Ministers take note).

And if you want to stay ahead and keep brighter – only mix with the brightest!

And if you’re worried about the IQ gap between you and your team you know what to do – recruit more women!

Is it possible to help criminals with psychological interventions?

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Recent reports in the press suggest yes – but not in a good way.

In fact research shows that rather than make them better citizens it just helps them to be better at criminal activity.

In the latest reverse researchers at the George Mason University in Virginia tested Mindfulness Meditation on 259 prisoners. They were shown how to meditate focussing on their thoughts and accepting negative feelings.

They were tested before and after the sessions to assess their criminal tendencies and chances of re-offending. The results?

It actually made offenders more likely to blame others and psychologists said there was a direct link between mindfulness and the conditions likely to cause criminal behaviour.

It failed to bring prisoners out of “criminal thinking patterns” and actually made them worse because mindfulness encourages people not to judge themselves, which may have led offenders to avoid responsibility for their actions.

And this is a treatment accepted by the NHS for anxiety and depression with 20 or more apps you can use on your smart phone. Yet the warning sign were there. Mindfulness doesn’t work well with men.

Researchers at Brown University found gender differences in the effect of mindfulness meditation. “The mechanisms are highly speculative at this point, but stereotypically, women ruminate and men distract,” said a Dr Briton.

And in the UK the Ministry of Justice has shut down two Sex Offender Treatment Programmes (SOTPs) including a six months psychological group therapy programme designed to rehabilitate rapists and paedophiles. These have cost £100 million since being set up in 1991.

An independent study of the programmes found that it only made the criminals more dangerous and they had an above-average re-offending rate.

For example paedophiles who took the course had a 25% higher re-offending rate over a 10-year period especially those convicted of attacking children.

The programmes included CBT (which the Ministry believes to be the most effective way of reducing offending behaviour) and group discussions to help the sex offenders to understand their crimes and increase their awareness of victim harm. 

A former consultant on the programme who resigned told the Mail on Sunday that they weren’t adapting the course in line with new knowledge and many delivering the programme weren’t qualified but chaplains, prison officers and other para-professionals.

You can imagine that some in the group would relish the re-telling of their crimes and/or learn from others’ experiences.

Some years ago I remember reading about attempts to teach psychopaths to have more empathy and be more emotionally intelligent. It turned out that it just made them better at convincing victims they could be trusted. I couldn’t find the original source of that and it was a few years ago but in my search I came across Dr George Simon’s blog on this topic.

He wrote: “Times were when empathy training was a required component of most treatment programs for sexual offenders and predators. But the evidence indicated that providing such training had no effect on recidivism rates.

Moreover, some evidence emerged that teaching psychopathic predators about empathy only gave them increased knowledge about the vulnerabilities and sensitivities of others, which, in turn, they were prone to use to become even more adept predators“. (George Simon blog – already tweeted).

And more recent research shows that psychopaths do have an “empathy switch” but choose not to use it leading some scientists to believe it could help their rehabilitation. They need to revisit earlier work in this area if they believe that.

Given that some of these criminals will have personality disorders – notoriously difficult to deal with therapeutically – it comes as no surprise to me that these interventions show such poor outcomes.

Brits like to keep people at arms length

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It’s been well documented that different cultures have different concepts of personal space. I was including this stuff in my presentations on NVC a long time ago, and have taken part in international cross-cultural conferences where the concept was used to great effect in workshops. So I thought there was nothing new.

However scientists around the world have come together looking at the way people interact and how their personal space is influenced not just by culture but by wealth, and even weather and published their findings in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology with some intriguing results.

9,000 people were asked how far they would prefer to stand from someone – depending on their relationship. Stranger, acquaintance, or intimate or close friend?

Temperature was one factor tested in the research. One theory is that hotter climates make people stand closer because hot weather encourages emotional intensity and friendship. Alternatively it could make people stand further apart to avoid the risk of contracting disease or parasites. (Interestingly it’s been suggested that head lice is spreading in schools due to kids standing close together sharing their smartphones).

People from warmer countries did on average stand closer to strangers, but relatively farther apart from people they knew. Interestingly it was Germany and Norway who kept their closest friends closest.

Previous research had scientists standing at different distances from people in an MRI scanner. When they got too close for the subject’s comfort the amygdala was activated. (The amygdala is responsible for assessing threats and activates the fight or flight response. Also referred to in the EI literature e.g. Amygdala hi-jacking). So personal space is probably a defensive measure although why should it vary so much between cultures?

At opposite extremes were the Argentinians and the Romanians, at lest with regard to strangers. The Argentinians are the most touchy-feely people with preferred distances for strangers, acquaintances and intimate friends at 76cm, 59cm,  and 40cm respectively. They keep strangers at the same distance that Canadians keep lovers.

Romanians prefer to keep strangers more than 1.3 m away but once they know you they are happy for you to be as close as the Argentinians at 40cm.

Brits like to keep people at 1 m, 80cm, or 50cm depending on their relationship with them. 

Keeping strangers at arm’s length seems sensible to me and has probably evolved over time as a survival mechanism. As we become a more crowded island we may value our personal space more or adapt to shorter distances but with less eye contact or with other ways of protecting our space.

Women bosses are the best? The jury is still out

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Researchers in Norway at the BI Business School say that women almost have it all when it comes to leadership ability.

They are better than men at using people skills, the ability to take others with you, to compromise with good grace and to make employees feel valued.

They also outperform men in getting things done, can set ambitious goals and follow them through methodically.

They are even better at entrepreneurial skills such as innovation and have the courage to seize the initiative and communicate a vision clearly.

So what’s the catch? Well when the going gets tough it’s men that get going apparently.

After examining personality traits among Norway’s managerial elite it seems women are more likely to lack the emotional stability required in leadership so they wilt under pressure.

The authors said ” The survey suggests that female leaders may falter through their stronger tendency to worry – or lower emotional stability. However this does not negate that they are decidedly more suited to management positions than male counterparts. If decision-makers ignore this truth they could be employing less qualified leaders and impairing productivity”.

The researchers looked at the correlation between leaders and emotional stability, an outgoing personality, openness to new experiences, agreeableness and a methodical nature (these are all traits in the Big 5 personality model).

They also compared  managers in the public and private sectors. They found that public sector leaders showed higher degrees of innovation, stronger people skills and more meticulous attention to detail. This applied more to senior rather than middle managers.

The most effective managers were those motivated by a genuine interest in their work and a sense of its value.

After the recession there were lots of anecdotal stories of female CEOs being preferred to mop up the mess left behind by former (male) CEOs and research that showed that female CEOs were trusted more. And there is evidence that having females in your team can make it more effective.

Whether or not people like working for female bosses is a different matter. Are they too nice, or too bossy?

Marissa Meyer seemed to have lost the plot at Yahoo after banning working from home and building a creche next to her office so she didn’t have to.

Here in the UK there have been some embarrassing examples of senior women managers in the NHS who have had to leave their posts in disgrace. Perhaps only proving that there is equality and that women can be just as bad leaders as men

Should we dumb down our smartphones to stop us becoming more stupid?

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Mike the Psych's Blog

Last September I asked on my other blog: Have we finally realised we need to unplug ourselves from endless apps and social media connections?

aansyq1I described the Light Phone and the fact that the old Nokia 3310 from 2000 was selling well on the internet. Now it’s been announced that the Nokia will be sold again with a larger colour screen but with only basic call and text facilities for around £49 in the UK.

It seems that the smartphone idea was being dumbed-down. Is that a bad idea?

Well in the Times Body & Soulsection last weekend they asked “is your smartphone making you stupid?.

41-epxoutyl-_sx309_bo1204203200_They thought it was – if you count a fleeting attention span, a poorer memory, and a more passive intellect as signs of increasing stupidity.

Arianna Huffington‘s book “Thrive: The third metric to redefining success and creating a happier life”

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Don’t call me hard-working – it’s sexist

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business_man_and_woman_1600_wht_5662A Cambridge don thinks calling women “hard-working” or “enthusiastic” is sexist.

Dame Athene Donald who is a master of Churchill College (isn’t that a bit sexist?) and a professor of experimental physics says references are often unintentionally written in a “gendered way” with academics more likely to describe women applying for research posts or fellowships as “hard-working” or “team players“.

She thinks this fails to communicate just how good female applicants are unlike when using words like “excellent“, “driven” or “outstanding” which apparently are often reserved for males.

She said “If letter writers just sit down and write the first adjectives that come into their heads to describe men and women, the words may be poles apart even if the subjects of the letters are indistinguishable in ability”.

Do you really mean that your star PhD student is hard-working and conscientious or was the message you wanted to convey that she was outstanding, goes the extra mile, and always exceeds your expectations about what is possible, demonstrating great originality en route? There is an enormous difference in the impact of the two descriptions“.

She believes that this clearly can lead to a significant detriment to the woman’s progression, even if without a sexist intent.

Stanford University analysed performance reviews in technology firms and found that women’s evaluations contained almost twice as much language about their communal or nurturing style using words such as “helpful” or “dedicated”.

Men’s reviews on the other hand contained twice as many references to their technical expertise and vision.

Why is this surprising? Do people like Dame Donald think men and women actually behave the same at work? Of course there is an overlap but there is enough research which shows that women respond to stress differently, are often better at soft skills than men, can improve teams, and may be more emotionally intelligent to boot.

Professor Donald suggested that people writing references should use a gender bias calculator website that highlights words in texts that may be received as gendered. She also calls for training for selection panels – something most organisations have been doing for decades (my colleague and I introduced this into an NHS Trust back in the 1990s). I think she means well if a little too PC but maybe a bit out of touch with the real world.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the centre for education at Buckingham University disagrees with her. He is quoted as saying “How do we know that academics using these words have unconscious bias? being a team player and hard worker are very important. It is perfectly possible that candidates do have these strengths and it is important that a referee is able to say so”

Common sense from one academic at least. And read what happened when a journalist investigated this issue for himself.

Charity helps you get on in work and life

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donation_can_hands_1600_wht_5539Saying you are hardworking and a team player seems to influence recruiters, corny as it may sound. More than whether candidates had IT skills or a degree.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) asked 2,000 executives what they looked for in candidates when recruiting.

More than half said they were more likely to employ someone who had done charity work. This was a higher proportion than were impressed by sporting achievements or people being physically fit.

The rationale behind companies liking charity workers was simple. The skills they learned doing voluntary work brought in an extra £36,000 to the companies. They also thought volunteers were more caring, reliable and driven.

And those members of staff who had done voluntary work earned about £1,000 a year more.

Some volunteers said it also made them more attractive to the opposite sex and helped them get dates.

The BHF said “Volunteers are absolutely essential to the success of the charity and play an integral part in fighting coronary get disease. We couldn’t continue our life-saving work without them”

 

If you want to get brighter, only mix with the brightest, or suffer the consequences

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head_gear_500_wht_2011That’s according to Professor James Flynn, who was once considered controversial because of his research which suggested that people were getting more intelligent each generation – the Flynn Effect.

In his new book “Does your family make you smarter” he proposes that intelligence, rather than plateauing at 18 years of age, can increase throughout adulthood, providing you have a stimulating lifestyle.

Households where people talk, challenge, joke  and share cultural pastimes can boost the IQ of family members by several points.

And workplaces that impose intellectual challenges on staff can over time raise their individual intelligence.

The opposite is also true. People who share a home or workplace with dullards for any length of time risk seeing their IQ enter a sharp decline because of lack of stimulation.

Flynn says “Intelligence has always been thought to be static … the new evidence shows that this is wrong. The brain seems to be rather like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets. That means you can upgrade your intelligence during your lifetime“.

He suggests the best way to improve your IQ is to marry someone smarter than you, find an intellectually stimulating job, and hang out with bright friends.

Up to now we’ve believed that intelligence is controlled by genes influenced by our nutrition and environment up to age 18 when it stabilises.

Flynn’s research took 65 years of IQ tests from the US and correlating the  results with the age of the people creating IQ age tables. From these he draws two conclusions. The cognitive quality of a family alters the IQ of all members but especially children i.e. it can lift them or hold them back.

For example a bright child of 10 with siblings of average intelligence will suffer on average a 5-10 point IQ disadvantage compared to a similar child with equally bright brothers and sisters.  A child with a lower IQ can gain 6-8 points by having brighter siblings and educational support.

The effects are more clear in the early years with arithmetic skills strongly controlled by the home environment up to age 12 and verbal skills affected up to teenage years.

He also believes, based on this research, that although genetics and early life experience determine about 80% of intelligence the rest is strongly linked to our lifestyle as adults.

As you leave childhood behind the legacy of your family diminishes but the game is not over. A large proportion of your cognitive quality is now in your own hands. You can change it yourself and your IQ can vary through life according to your own efforts” says Flynn

“Going through life feeling your childhood is holding you back is misunderstanding how much power you have to improve yourself”.

I don’t know if his book (out next month) makes any reference to the use of technology and social media and its impact of family interaction because that would have some impact.

This is certainly a game-changing idea and will undoubtedly be challenged although there has been other research which suggests there is something more to IQ than commonly believed.

In 2011 researchers at the University of Pennsylvania said that they found that high IQ scores are a result of high intelligence plus motivation whereas low IQ scores could be because of the lack of either intelligence or motivation (published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

They also said that students offered incentives improved their IQ scores and suggested that people with high IQs may be not only more intelligent but also more competitive

There is also research that shows you can improve the collective IQ of a group by adding more women.

Research in Scotland found that people with mentally stimulating jobs suffered less cognitive decline as they got older.

And recently researchers at the University of Texas found that busy over-50s had higher cognitive scores than younger people.

Experts in emotional intelligence have long held that EI, unlike IQ, continues to develop into adulthood. Now it seems we have the capacity to develop both our cognitive and socio-emotional skills.

The name’s Bond, Jane Bond

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business_people_line_door_1600_wht_9932British Intelligence chiefs want to recruit more middle-aged and mid-career women in a drive to improve diversity.

Ministers believe that this will help MI5, MI6 and GCHQ to better fight against terrorism and other threats.

They have been advertising widely including on Mumsnet after a report by MPs which identified a gender imbalance in the intelligence community (Women currently make up 38% of MI6 staff and 42% of MI5 staff. Not a bad proportion I would have thought given the nature of the work)

They are looking for women with high levels of emotional intelligence rather than focussing on standard qualifications. They are also offering flexible hours and child-care support. Not a return to the days of Mata Hari!

So no more cold war warriors.  No room for the Harry Palmers and Smileys as described in the post war espionage literature. But it makes sense as there is evidence that adding women to teams can increase the group’s IQ levels.

And this new diversity initiative should come as no surprise. MI5 comes in at No. 7 in Stonewall’s Top 100 gay-friendly workplaces and GCHQ prides itself on its neuro-diversity