Nothing surprising there you might think but confirmation from an international study on bosses who procrastinate when carrying out tasks or making decisions showed that this led to less commitment from staff.
This is because staff feel less committed. “If the boss can’t be bothered why should I” is probably how they feel.
Employees are also more likely to display abnormal and unpleasant behaviour such as taking unnecessary sick days, being abusive to colleagues or stealing office supplies.
Dr Alan Lee, senior lecturer in Organisation studies and management at the University of Exeter’s business school who led the study said “We have found that procrastination from managers can be detrimental to their staff and companies need to take action to ensure that there are better relationships between bosses and employees”
Previous research showed that bosses who had mood swings had the worst impact on anxiety levels of employees. Staff like consistency.
I’ve always believed that toxic work places are a combination of poor leadership, bad recruitment and organisation culture.
Other research suggests that having positive goals can increase your well-being. Of course that depends on your relationship with the boss too. But it can offset intensive working if you believe that you are working to a goal that is positive or helps other people e.g. in the voluntary sector.
“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.
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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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!
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.
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.
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
Last September I asked on my other blog: Have we finally realised we need to unplug ourselves from endless apps and social media connections?
I 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?.”
Arianna Huffington‘s book “Thrive: The third metric to redefining success and creating a happier life”
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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.
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”