Researchers in Germany led by Professor Claus-Peter Ernst at Frankfurt University have found that adding a friendly emoji or smiley face is all you need to soften the blow.
They found that happy symbols could significantly influence how the message is interpreted but that sad or negative symbols had little effect.
“The usage of happy and ironic emoticons significantly shapes the subtext of a message, namely the relationship and self-revelation level. whereas sad emoticons do not have such an effect. (So) senders can use happy or ironic to soften their messages…”
The researchers wondered if using emoticons had the same effect as non-verbal gestures and facial expression in face-to-face meetings when delivering bad news at work.
They found that recipients of a message could largely identify the social and emotional meaning of an emoticon. “... emoticons are able to help to communicate a current mood or provide information about the mental state of the sender”.
They also found that the happy and ironic emoticons had a significant effect at the relationship level ….. but not at the factual level.
This contradicts earlier research from Ben Gurion University in Israel which found that the inclusion of such emojis didn’t change people’s perception of warmth and in fact lowered their perception of the sender’s competence.
Alison Green from Inc.com makes the point that a lot depends on your workplace culture and that if you have to use an emoticon maybe your message isn’t clear enough.
Personally I think it’s unprofessional in formal communications (as bad as people adding kisses). But then I think sacking people or delivering bad news by e-mail or text is a shabby HR practice. But we see plenty of examples of that these days don’t we.
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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Jobs generating almost £300 billion could be lost – almost a third of the UK total.
The North East and Northern Ireland are at risk of losing 50% of all jobs. London is the area least likely to be affected.
Responses to this “threat” are varied. Jeremy Corbyn has called for “common good intervention” by the state so that workers don’t lose out. The government has spoken of creating “jobs for the future”. Such as?
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) want a co-ordinated response with the establishment of a regulator to oversee the “ethical use of robotics and artificial intelligence“.
It thinks that increasing automation could deliver a boost to the economy but might only benefit investors and small numbers of highly skilled workers while everybody else loses out. (A bit like globalisation then?). It rejects the idea that we are heading for a post-human economy saying most jobs would be re-allocated not eliminated.
One of the authors admits however that “Some people will get a pay rise while others are trapped in low pay, low-productivity sectors. To avoid inequality rising the government should look at ways to spread capital ownership and make sure everyone benefits from increased automation”
- Industries most likely to be affected are agriculture, transport, food processing, and administrative jobs.
- The safest jobs are likely to be in education, information, and communication sectors.
There is also the risk that automation could increase gender inequality as jobs held by women are at more risk.
Now some of you might think you are dealing with a robot when it comes to making an insurance claim but this is serious.
With predictions by Oxford University that robots could take over 35% of jobs within twenty years with insurance under-writers at the top of the list, it’s no laughing matter.
Aviva has promised that any employee who says that their job would be done better if automated will be retrained for another job within the company. What kind of job that would be is not made clear but they will probably be less skilled, less rewarding and lower paid.
The idea, proposed by their American finance chief, is to “remove the robot from the person, not replace people with robots”. Nice soundbite but what does it mean when the company is planning to replace people by robots?
A White House report last year concluded that almost 50% of all American jobs could be automated and 80% of jobs paying less than $20 an hour. And the governor of the Bank of England has warned that 15 million British jobs are at risk (just under 50% of the UK workforce).
There are some jobs robots can’t do – yet. They can do administrative, clerical, and production tasks like building cars. They can make coffee and flip burgers. The former Chief executive of McDonald’s has been quoted as saying it’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robot arm than employ someone who is inefficient at $15 an hour. Our local McDonald’s has just introduced touch screen ordering so no queuing to give your order to people.
Robots can even do surgery and may be better than humans with certain procedures but when it comes to selling, developing business ideas, or similar jobs relying on human interaction maybe not.
However online companies manage to sell an awful lot of stuff without any human intervention, and robots are being developed as companions for the elderly.
Originally posted February 28 2017 —————————————
In December an AI-based recruitment manager called Andi developed by Microsoft and Botanic started assessing candidates for three occupations.
It also offers lessons in interview techniques. The cartoon Avatar asks multiple choice questions but also sizes up the applicant’s personality through speech and body language using the video app Skype.
Mark Meadows, the founder of Botanic says the system could measure 24 aspects of a person’s character or personality through speech patterns and body language.
A manager wanting to hire someone can ask Andi to identify 10 candidates for a particular job and it is able to interview 1,000 candidates within an hour and come up with the best ten and rank the top three of them.
He gave an example of someone who “ums” and ‘ahs”s a lot who wouldn’t be picked for a public speaking job (human interviewers might be able to work that one out Mark).
Botanic’s previous creations include medical advice bot and a language teacher. He’s keen to develop what are essentially expert seems bots for a variety of applications.
In the meantime Andi looks like it will be doing HR, occupational psychologists and career coaches out of jobs!
updated January 8 2018
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.
Robots. Yes robots or rather AI is being used by Vodaphone to help recruit callcentre and shop floor staff according to a report in The Times.
So now candidates submit videos of themselves answering a standard questionnaire and that is then assessed by a computer algorithm which assesses their suitability for a role.
The AI examines subtle face cues and voice intonation. Only once they have been given the go-ahead by the robot do they get an interview with a human being. (So still back to the good old unreliable interview).
Vodaphone has processed about 50,000 such applications so far and is so pleased with the results that it plans to extend the system to help it hire senior managers and executives. I’m sure candidates at that level will be looking forward to being rejected at the shortlisting stage by a robot.
Catalina Shveninger, head of resourcing, said “It takes a tremendous amount of time out of the hiring process: it halves the time and allows us to fish in a much bigger pool”
“We are the first multi-national implementing a programme like this one on a global scale. This is the future of resourcing”.
Wow, not only are robots taking our jobs they’ll be choosing which of us can have any jobs left over!
This is all possible because of huge leaps in the computing power and storage available. The algorithms “learn” as they process more and more data (just like Amazon’s learning what you like to shop for to target you).
Of course they need to be programmed by human beings to start with. If Facebook can infer users’ mood swings using its algorithms what other aspects of human communication will such algorithms identify. Posh accents? And are they colour blind? Presumably they will not suffer from implicit bias but how good are they at detecting lies (or sociopaths at senior levels)?
The company that developed it has sold it to more than 50 businesses including airlines (that might explain RyanAir’s robotic approach to passengers) and banks in America.
Some techies are unhappy about these developments. Critics say AI systems like these are the “biggest existential threat to humanity“. Terminator stuff indeed.
Now you might argue Vodaphone needs all the help it can get given its standing with customers (EE and Vodafone generated the most complaints throughout 2015 – both at a volume above the sector average and considerably higher than rivals O2 and Three. For EE, the amount of complaints decreased in the second half of the year, whereas Vodafone’s went up)
Perhaps it’s a bigger threat to HR departments and recruiters. Instead of sending in your CV you upload a video shot on your smartphone and the computer says Yes or No. Might be scope for fancy filters on your camera and off-screen coaching by former recruiters re-purposing themselves . As young people are addicted to selfies they will probably love the idea. And the narcissists among the senior management candidate pool.
And I wonder if the robot/AI has a name? Being a big fan of Arthur C Clarke and the infamous HAL (Heuristically programmed Algorithmic computer) I think it should have a name. Perhaps TERRY (The End of Real Recruitment)?
Now a new study by the University of Sussex has found that discrimination occurs when candidates refer to membership of gay associations in their CVs.
But not in the direction you might expect.
400 participants were shown fictitious CVs. One was clearly from a lesbian, one from a gay man and the other two from a straight man and woman. The CVs were identical in terms of qualifications and experience except for a reference to membership of a gay professional association.
The researchers found that female managers were more likely to pick gay and lesbian candidates whereas men were more likely to pick straight candidates.
Benjamin Everly from the university’s School of Management & Economics said the findings suggest employers should consider carefully who was making their recruitment decisions. “These results show that bias against gay men and lesbians is much more nuanced than previous work suggests“. He could have said that there is evidence of bias against heterosexual candidates, by women, but that might not have sounded so PC.
He thought “Hiring decisions made by teams of both men and women could lead to less biased decisions”. He though that the findings could influence when and how gay men and lesbians disclosed their sexual orientation in the recruitment process.
The report in the Times doesn’t say what job the fictitious candidates were applying for or from what sectors the 400 participants came from. It’s possible they were students at the Business School but I don’t know that.
However research at Anglia Ruskin University suggested that at graduate entry level gay men received the fewest invitations of interview in traditional male occupations such as accountancy, banking,finance, and management and lesbians received fewer invitations for shortlisting in traditionally female occupations like social care, social services and charity work.
Recruiters are notoriously bad as selecting the right person for the job and the whole process is about discriminating against unsuitable candidates. Many people in recruitment have not been trained appropriately (worryingly the Sussex study refers to managers not HR people) and line managers are often the worst as seen recently in the steakhouse incident.
Leaving sexual orientation aside (and is Sussex going to replicate the research across the whole gender fluid/LGBT spectrum?) men and women have been shown to be discriminated against just on the basis of their looks, with women rejecting attractive female candidates and insecure men rejecting good-looking men.
Interestingly the recruitment process for the new head of the Metropolitan Police included psychometric testing, probably for the first time. (Don’t know what they used but hope it wasn’t the MBTI or DISC).
Offering advice on how to dress for the job is taking a risk. As ana ex-HR Director I know only too well. Telling someone a backless top is not appropriate in an office or that they must wear high heels? You get the point.
But someone has decided that if you want to work in “the city” there are certain things you can and can’t get away with.
- Wearing brown shoes – or blue shoes or suede shoes or trainers or flip-flops – I could go on
- Wearing a belt that’s a different colour from your shoes
- Wearing socks a different colour from your underpants (I made that up but I know someone who always matched)
- Wearing heels the wrong height – not too short and not too tall
- Wearing a skirt that’s too short i.e. above the knee
- Wearing a white shirt (says you’re playing safe and insecure apparently)
- On the other hand wearing an Hawaiian shirt (says you’ve no taste)
- Wearing a shirt with a pocket (only Dilberts wear those)
- Wearing a brightly patterned tie
- Showing too much cleavage
- Wearing dangly ear-rings or anklets
- Wearing tattoos especially sleeves or on the neck or face
- Wearing piercings
- Showing a t-shirt under your shirt (unless you’re a corbynista)
OK I made some of these up but does anyone really know the truth?
And can you hide some of the taboo stuff on the list?
I invite you to add your own caption to these photographs from the Times newspaper. They show Sir (as of today he still has his knighthood) Philip Green and Mike Ashley, both in defensive mode before parliamentary business select committees.