Psychology

Bosses’ poor behaviour rubs off on staff

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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.

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The Patriarchy Paradox – not quite what you might expect

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Feminists and equal opportunity campaigners will be disappointed to read the latest research which suggests that the more gender equality there is in a country, the more people revert to gender stereotypes and think differently.

A survey of 130,000 people from 22 countries by scientists from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that the more women there are in the workforce, parliament and education, the more they differ and diverge on psychological traits.

This counter-intuitive finding has been has been replicated so it’s worth considering – even if no-one really understands why!

Other research published by Plos One found that in countries ranked less equal in gender by the World Economic Forum, women were more likely to choose traditional male courses such as sciences.

Erik Mac Giolla, the lead researcher at Gothenburg, said if anything the research found bigger differences than previously. Measuring personality using the well-established “Big 5″ model OCEAN i.e. Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism, women typically scored higher on all of them although there is always an overlap with men’s scores on those factors.

For example in China, which scores low on gender parity, the personality overlap between the sexes is as high as 84%. In the Netherlands on the other hand, one of the world’s most gender-equal societies, it is 61%.

“It seems that as gender equality increases, as countries become more progressive, men and women gravitate towards traditional gender norms. Why? I don’t really know” said Giolla.

Steve Stewart-Williams at the University of Nottingham says this effect is also seen in other ways, not just personality. “The same counter-intuitive patterns have been found in many other areas, including attachment styles, choice of academic speciality, choice of occupation, crying frequency, depression, happiness, and interest in casual sex

“It’s definitely a challenge to one prominent stream of feminist theory, according to which all differences between the sexes come from cultural training and social roles”.

He thinks that those living in wealthier and more gender-equal societies have more freedom to pursue their own interest and behave more individually, which would magnify natural differences.

He also believes we should stop thinking of sex differences in society as being automatically a product of oppression. They could actually be a sign of the living in a fair and free society.

To sum up you might think it’s reasonable for people brought up in cultures where men and women are treated differently and have different opportunities that they will end up a lot more different than they would in cultures where they are treated more equally.

However the opposite seems to be true. Treating mean and women differently makes them more the same and treating them the same makes them more different.

So perhaps once women have achieved parity with men in their chosen careers etc they then relax and revert to type?

That would explain the Queen Bee phenomenon.

Queen bees still buzzing around

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It’s seven years since I first posted on this topic asking whether they were the victims or the oppressors. five years ago other researchers were saying the phenomenon didn’t exist.

Well it does according to recent research report which shows that 70% of female executives report being bullied by other women trying to block their ambitions.

HSBC global banking’s consultant Cecilia Harvey said “Queen bees are women who treat colleagues in a demoralising, undermining, or bullying manner.They are adult versions of the mean girls from school”.

She surveyed 100 female executives and found 70 had been bullied by their female bosses while another 33 had been undermined by women on the same level or below. She said “research suggests that 55%of workplace bullies are women and they often victimise other women. Queen bees target women almost 90% of the time”

So it’s not just sexist men that hold women back and as organisations strive to increase the number of women at the top they need to take the Queen Bee phenomenon seriously.

You might expect women to band together and support each other rather than diminish each other but that’s not what Harvey experienced. In my experience when women bully they do it on personal issues which can be quite hurtful but hard to prove.

According to research in the journal Development & Learning in Organisations, Queen Bee syndrome occurs where women use “social intelligence” to manipulate relationships or damage colleagues’ reputations. It can be the biggest hindrance to women advancing in the workplace

The Chartered Management Institute, which has a Women Network, says “Women should not be smashing through the glass ceiling only to pull the ladder up behind them”

More evidence that mixed-sex teams perform better

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I’ve blogged before about teams and team effectiveness and the fact that including women in previously male teams can increase productivity and problem-solving ability

New research shows that mixed gender fund management teams make more money for investors than those made up of only men or women.

They produced a 0.5% bigger return for investors over a three-year period than teams made up of just men and 4.3% more over teams made of just women, according to research by Citywide which looked at the performance of 16,000 fund managers.

The judgement and approach of men and women doing this work is under scrutiny as women are generally believed to be more risk-averse and conservative.

Not everyone believes that. “I find some of the most aggressive leaders I’ve worked with are women” said Paola Binns who runs corporate bond portfolios at Royal London Asset Management. “There aren’t as many women as men but they can be more prone to take risks in my experience”.

Never the less the study confirms that there are behavioural differences between men and women. Men-only teams took more risk whereas the presence of women acted as a restraining influence on them. Mixed teams took more risk than women-only teams.

Only 10% of fund managers are women and only 8% of the funds they tracked (worth $16 trillion) were co-led by a man and a woman.

There are country-wide differences. In Germany only 4% of fund managers are women. It’s 6% in Denmark. The UK and Ireland have only 9%. France, Italy and Spain have almost 20%. Singapore has 18% of women and Hong Kong almost a quarter.

There is a Gender Diversity Partner Programme which is attempting to address the issue of the under-representation of women with the CFA Society. Apart from gender bias in the sector it seems investors prefer male fund managers.

Research shows that many employees have the same view generally.

Phrases that annoy you at work

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You all know those trite phrases that people trot out at work that irritate you.

Here are the latest from a survey by Glassdoor:

Touch base – this has been around for decades. Is it enjoying a revival?

No-brainer – same with this. Obvious really?

Punch a puppy – picking on soft targets like puppies. Check that workplace for bullying

Game changer – a bit old-fashioned. Paradigm shift anybody?

Pick it up and run with it – let’s just get on with it shall we?

Lipstick on a pig – is this a polite way of using Boris Johnson’s recent comment?

I want to leverage your synergies – someone’s been on an MBA course

Reverse engineer – this is an actual technical term so what’s the problem?

Low hanging fruit – another old favourite.

Nothing really hits me as being OTT or particularly creative. I wonder what happened to “singing from the same hymn sheet” or “let’s run it up the flagpole”? And the phrase that has irritated me most in recent years “going forward”.

 

Port Sunlight and William Lever, Social Philanthropist…………..should be compulsory reading for HR professionals

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Excellent blog with spot on commentary

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

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Yesterday I paid a second visit to Port Sunlight village and visited the museum and one of the workers cottages. The museum is small but well worth a visit if you are the least bit interested in our industrial heritage. As is the workers cottage next door, preserved and showing the living conditions the workers enjoyed.

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The museum tells the story of William Lever and his vision in creating this village for workers at his Sunlight Soap factory. The displays explore how the village developed, from the working conditions to the charming architecture and lively social scene. The museum is packed with nostalgia, from vintage soap packaging to the story Ringo Starr’s first performance with the Beatles, which took place in Port Sunlight in 1962. Through film shows, interactives, models and an array of intriguing artefacts you can discover the tale of this inspirational village.

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Port Sunlight is arguably the…

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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.

Open Plan offices not good for you. Now they tell us?

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I was involved in office landscaping in the early 1970s, moving hundreds of staff into a new civic building.

It was thought that it would give us more flexibility and improve communications between teams. There were still private offices for senior staff and meeting rooms but for 80% of staff they were in the open plan areas.

The irregular arrangement of desks separated by screens and potted plants was quite a contrast from the old offices in the Town Hall. There we still had a bell-call system for when you were summoned to see “Sir”. But this was a new start.

I didn’t realise at the time that the idea of office landscaping or bürolandshaft had been developed in the late 1950s, partly as a reaction to scientific management, and by the time we were adopting it it was almost over in Germany where it started.

And over the next couple of years there same thing happened in this project. More and more screens appeared and it became like a series of cubicles. People created signals  such as flags to say “do not disturb me” and the noise was a problem at times.

To make it worse the council had not installed the air conditioning system as a cost-saving initiative and the windows weren’t designed to be opened so in Summer everyone sweltered and tomato plants proliferated.

One of the purported advantages was that people would communicate more easily.  But with the advent of personal computing people were more likely to text each other or send an e-mail than actually walk across the room to have a conversation.

Now researchers at Karlstad University in Sweden have found that workers who share offices have lower job satisfaction.

They looked at ease of interaction among employees and their general well-being and thought that in open-plan offices of between 3 and 20 people workers reported lower levels on both these factors.

The open plan office may have short-term financial benefits but these may be substantially lower than the costs associated with decreased job satisfaction and well-being. 

Decision-maker should consider the impact of a given office type on employees rather than focusing solely on cost-effective office layout, flexibility and productivity” said Tobias Otterbring the lead author of the study.

Open plan offices have become significantly more common in the past decade in place of cubicles say the authors (ideas just keep recycling don’t they).However the study supports other research that shows that they interfere with an employees’ ability to concentrate on their work.

It’s been suggested that employees can lose almost a third of their productive time because of interruptions and distractions at work. To get round this some employees started work earlier or worked later to complete tasks without interruptions.

Another expert suggest that we are interrupted every three minutes in such an environment and that it takes up to twenty minutes for us to refocus.

Sacked by e-mail? No problem if you got a smiley face as well

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To me getting sacked by e-mail or text is totally unacceptable but I’m old school HR and apparently it happens.

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.

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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The robots are coming to take your jobs – lots of them!

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A think tank (IPPR) is predicting that a million people could lose their jobs to robots and artificial intelligence (AI) with serious effects on the economy.

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.

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Earlier this year I posted this about how insurance company Aviva had asked its 16,000 staff whether or not robots could do their jobs better than they can.

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