competence

HR practices in NHS are embarrassing

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As a former NHS Trust HR Director I cringe with embarrassment every time I read about yet another recruitment cock-up in the NHS.

At the end of 2016 we had the case of Katrina Percy, CEO of Southern Health Trust,  who, after coming under severe criticism following the death by drowning of a vulnerable teenager, was seconded into a made-up job, for which there were no other candidates, on her existing salary. Public pressure eventually forced her to resign.

And her chairman Mike Potter resigned just before the publication of a damming report by the Care Quality Commission.

And then we had Mike Scott CEO of St George’s University NHS Trust which was put into special measures under his watch. Did he lose his job? No, he was seconded on his salary to the NHS Improvement team helping other Trusts (not to go into special measures presumably).

And his successor, Paula Vasco-Knight, had been the COO under him and you would think would bear some responsibility for the Trust’s deteriorating position. She only actually lasted two weeks in the CEO role before she was suspended after allegations of fraud by her previous employer Devon NHS Trust.

She’d already been severely criticised at an employment tribunal after the way she treated whistle-blowers who accused her of nepotism. She’d tried to play the race card at the tribunal but to no avail.

Interestingly at one time Mrs Vasco-Knight was NHS England’s national lead on equality and diversity matters, was the first female BME Chief Executive in the NHS, received an honorary doctorate in Law from Exeter University and a CBE in 2014 for her work on equality and diversity. So obviously ticking a lot of the right boxes.

And is that why people turned a blind eye and didn’t carry out proper checks before appointing herald then ignored her bullying behaviour?

I ask because this week it’s been revealed that a senior NHS boss built £1 million, 10-year career on a fake CV.

Jon Andrewes (photo on right from ITV) called himself a doctor and claimed to have two PhDs. One in ethics management from Plymouth University, and one in business administration from Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh.

He also  claimed a master’s degree from Edinburgh and a degree from Bristol University, plus a diploma from CIMA.

He actually had a diploma in social work and had worked as a builder and probation officer and not, as he claimed, for the Home Office.

He got a job as CEO at St Margaret’s Hospice in Somerset in 2004 and was later appointed to the job of Chairman of the NHS Torbay Care Trust in 2007. In 2015 he beat 117 others to become Chairman of the Royal Cornwall NHS Trust.

Andrewes, aged 63, admitted obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception (when applying for the Torbay and Cornwall jobs) and two counts of fraud (at St Margaret’s hospice). He was jailed for two years and an application has been made to seize his assets.

The Department of Health says it is examining how he came to be appointed to posts such as chairman of the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust.

After he was convicted, NHS Improvement admitted that it had not checked his qualifications when it appointed Andrewes under its previous guide of the NHS Trust Development Authority. I wonder if anybody in HR is being disciplined for that oversight?

The Department of Health said:

Mr Andrewes held a significant position of responsibility and trust, and this sentence sends a clear message that fraud of any kind will not be tolerated in the NHS.

What about tolerating serial incompetence?

Some of the people I’ve referred to have probably done more damage to the NHS than Andrewes did but they were rewarded for their failures. It’s a pity we can’t send people to prison for incompetence.

As I said at the top of this post; I despair at the state of HR practices in the NHS. It seems not even the most rudimentary checks are being made. It seems senior people were blinded by his “qualifications”  – as, I suspect, with some of the others when it came to overlooking poor performance.
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Hey handsome, looking for a job?

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DSCF1550rIf you are just hope your potential boss isn’t insecure.

New research from America suggests that insecure bosses are less likely to employ good-looking men because they fear looking bad by comparison.

Attractive men are generally considered more competent (unlike women of which more later) which is why they do better in life generally.

However if they are being recruited into jobs where they may end up competing with their bosses then their good looks might work against them.

Marko Pitesa, professor of management at the University of Maryland, led the research – which investigated how people would behave in team activities as opposed to competitive scenarios using CVs with fake photos.

In the competitive situations being perceived as good-looking could work against you, Pitesa said “It’s not always an advantage to be pretty . It can backfire if you are perceived as a threat”

He added “The dominant theoretical perspective in the social sciences for several decades has been that biases and discrimination are caused by irrational prejudice. The way we explain it here pretty men just seem more competent so it is actually subjectively rational to discriminate against them” His research was published in the journal Organisation Behaviour and Human Decision Processes.

As I mentioned earlier women don’t get it all their own way either. In experiments involving recruitment using CVs with photographs, attractive women were discriminated against. This was put down to jealousy among the largely female recruiters.

Once you get the job however good looks seem to effect both men and women equally in respect of earnings with unattractive people earning up to 15% less than their more attractive counterparts.

And the latest investigation into restaurants shows that they give the best tables to the best-looking people (to attract other customers). So if you get tucked away in a corner you know you haven’t got the looks!

Leadership and Influencing

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businessmen_puzzle_shake_hands_1600_wht_3191Older managers may remember the days of Blake’s Grid and the 9:9 management style; striking a balance between people and productivity. That idea has been persistent, about getting the right balance in the way you manage people to get the best out of them.

John Adair, for example developed his Action-Centred Leadership model which was all about keeping the balance between the Individual, the Team and the Task.

And Machiavelli had something to say about this too. Was it better to be loved or feared? He thought it was better to be both but because that was difficult for one person to do he decided “it was safer to be feared than loved.

But times change and there is currently much interest in the science of influencing. Influencing ethically not in a manipulative or machiavellian way.

Many leaders believe that, particularly during those important first 100 days, they have to demonstrate competence and their strengths. But years of research by social scientists show that it’s better to first show your people side by displaying warmth, and then demonstrating your competence.

A spotlight article on Influence in July-August’s issue of the HBR “Connect, Then Lead” by Cuddy, Kohut and Neffinger, explains the current thinking on this.

Basically we judge our leaders on two criteria: how much we like them (warmth and trustworthiness) and how much we fear them (strength and competence). These appear to be the two primary dimensions of social judgement which account for 90% of the variance in the positive and negative impression we form of people.

We have all met people who are competent but display no sense of caring or warmth. They may elicit envy, respect or resentment in others. We may have met people who are warm but incompetent who elicit feelings of warmth but also pity and lack of respect (and it’s hard to imagine how they would become leaders).

So the best approach appears to be to start your leadership by exhibiting warmth, either verbally or using NVC, and making connections, the network building so important early in your leadership career. At the same time you are demonstrating that you are trustworthy.

Then, when appropriate, demonstrate your competence. In a study by Zenger and Folkman of almost 52,000 leaders only 27 of them were rated in the bottom quartile for likability and in the top quartile in terms of overall effectiveness. In other words only 1 in 2,000 leaders were disliked and effective.

But this approach – warmth first – is not easy and most leaders feel the need to demonstrate their strengths first.

Organisational psychologists, Abele and Wojciszke from the University of Gdansk, carried out experiments about training, offering either competence-based or soft skills programmes. They found that people chose competence-based programmes for themselves but soft skills programmes for other people. And when asked to describe a life-defining event they would tell a story about their own competence but when telling a story about other people refer to their warmth and generosity.

If you want to know more, including tips on how to project more warmth or more strength, you’ll have to read the full HBR article, in fact the whole of the July-August issue is devoted to Influence.

Bullshit still baffling brains

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inflate_self_PA_500_wht_5437You’d think people would react against people who promise the earth but never deliver on performance.

Recent research from America suggest it “ain’t necessarily so”.

It seems people admire cocky people even when their pretensions are exposed.

Confidence is compelling to observers because in the absence of information to the contrary observers assume it reflects superior ability” say behavioural researchers in Organisational Behaviour & Human Decision Processes.

Actual talent appears irrelevant. The sense of competence lingers even after it’s been shown to be a sham say the researchers at the universities of Pennsylvania and California.

Being perceived to possess the valued characteristics is the key to attaining higher status – it’s not necessary to actual possess them”.

Previously it was assumed that such over-confident charlatans would eventually be punished by their peers but it seems people are far more tolerant of failure – at least in the USA.

If the overconfident person has created peer impressions which persist groups may not punish them even after discovering that the confidence was unjustified.

Interestingly in the experiments, in which participants were asked to rate each other’s status, confidence, and ability as well as their own, those who rated their own ability highest were accorded high status by the others.

Previous research has suggested that being arrogant gives people the impression that you actually are superior.

Fathers get an easier ride at work

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images-1Research in America about how working mothers fare at work (not very well it seems – see stats at end) also looked at how working fathers were treated.

It appears that working dads are held to lower performance and punctuality standards and yet more likely to be promoted than childless men with identical qualifications.

Potential clients were asked to rate their impressions of fictitious male and female McKinsey consultants some of whom were parents. The father was the only one rated as warm and competent and the mother the only one considered warm but less competent than her childless peers.

I wrote about European research on the warm v competent dimensions a few posts ago and this has similar results. So not just an American phenomenon.

However the picture changes dramatically when the American dads take time off for child care. A number of studies show that men are penalised through lower performance ratings and fewer recommendations for rewards even after taking only a short break.

Being a father doesn’t hinder career prospects until you want to play a more active role in being a dad when your career may suffer.

Men are subject to a range of sanctions such as being passed over for promotion, having people doubt their competence behind their backs, and openly being mocked about taking time off.

And those stats on working mothers: chance of being hired in first place falls by 79%, and they are 50% less likely to be promoted than a childless woman.

It seem the image of the male breadwinner is alive and well.

Source: HBR September 2012

Men and Women are different at Work

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business_man_and_woman_1600_wht_5662Work affects men and women differently, no doubt about it.

  • Being happily married helps women resist work-place stress whilst men dissatisfied with their jobs are more likely to flirt.
  • If you’re a working mum stop worrying about it having negative effects on your kids but try not to work more than 30 hours a week.
  • If you’re a stay-at-home dad then you’re probably more satisfied with your life than dads who go out to work but, like many women, miss adult conversation.
  • If you are an independent women rejecting help may make people believe you are competent but cold, and vice versa. Not so for men.
  • In a mixed group women cooperate more than men but men are more cooperative than women when working in a single sex group.

 

But men and women do have one thing in common: taking work home – whether mentally or physically – can depress you and make you feel tired.

A study at UCLA, published in 2008 in Health Psychology, showed that happily married working women rebounded quicker from daily stress than women in less happy relationships.

Men showed lower stress levels as the day progressed – as measured by levels of cortisol in their saliva – whether happily married or not. So while marriage is often seen as good for men’s health it may come at a price for women in unhappy relationships.

But there is good news for working mums. Research at the University of Bath, published this year, shows that working mothers are significantly less likely to suffer from depression whether part-time or full-time and regardless of salary level: single mums 15% less likely and mums in a partnership 6% less likely.

The researchers said there seems to be little evidence to link stress at work to depression. Women going back to work showed a 26% drop in mental health problems compared to an increase of 25% for women giving up work. And the same results have been found in a 10-year study in America where working mums also report fewer symptoms of depression than mums who don’t work. Working part-time was the healthiest option of all.

We have known for decades that unemployment was bad for men and now the same applies to women. Work gives you a sense of identity and boosts your self-esteem which impacts on your well-being.

And there’s no evidence that babies suffer when their mums work. Past research found that returning to work early resulted in children who are slower learners and UNICEF recommended in 2008 that women stay at home for the first 12 months rather than put their children at risk.

But the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Study of Early Child Care followed 1,000 children over 7 years tracking their families and their development. The research published by the Society for Research in Child Development in 2010 showed that overall the net impact was neutral: the advantages of more income and better child care offset any downsides of the mums returning to work. Again part-time working of up to 30 hours a week offered better outcomes than full-time working.

But women don’t have it all their own way at work. When it comes to “benevolent sexism” a study reported in the European Journal of Social Psychology (2012) showed that women couldn’t win. If they accept someone’s offer of help, for example opening a door for them or helping with a computer problem, they are seen as warmer but less competent; if they reject help they are seen as competent but cold.

And the same researchers found that accepting help meant that women were judged less suitable for managerial jobs while rejecting help led to their being judged less suitable for care jobs that relied on emotional skills.

For men the results were different. Rejecting offers of help led to them being judged as competent but not less warm. And it seems men are judged both competent and warmer when they offer help which is accepted.

It seem that independent women are seen as competent but cold mainly by people who believe in benevolent sexism and who adopt paternalistic attitudes.

A review by Balliet of 50 years of research discovered that men are actually more cooperative than women. And they are more likely to help strangers and be cooperative in large groups, whereas women are seen as more supportive and agreeable.

Perhaps surprisingly men are more cooperative in single sex groups than women but in mixed sex groups women are more cooperative.

It seems that when men and women are working together they resort to stereotypical behaviours because of the presence of the opposite sex. Perhaps men like to show women how dominant they are which reduces cooperation.

And sexist men earn more, at least in the USA. Research at Florida University (published in the Journal of Applied Psychology) showed that men with traditional attitudes earned substantially more than their egalitarian colleagues whereas for women it was the other way round – although not such a big salary difference.

Over a 25-year period the traditionally-minded men earned an average of $8,459 more annually than egalitarian-minded men and $11,374 on average more than traditionally-minded women. The gap between egalitarian men and women was much less at $1,330.

The differences occurred regardless of education, type of job, family commitments or hours worked and the researchers aren’t really sure why. They surmise it might be unconscious bias.

Talking of egalitarian men, it seems that “stay at home” dads do better in terms of life, marital, and job satisfaction, than dads who work outside the home, according to research reported at the American Psychological Association‘s 2007 Annual Convention.

Men were staying at home for a number of reasons including deferring to their wives’ higher earnings potential and wanted to be more involved in bringing up their children. Being a full-time dad did have some stigmas attached and they also reported missing the adult work-place interactions (something often mentioned by women when they decide to return to work).

Finally one thing that applies to everybody: taking work home, whether mentally or physically, can make you feel depressed and tired.

Researchers at the University of Konstanz found that the greater people’s workload and work hours the harder it was to detach themselves from work. Workers experiencing high work demands need more recovery time but are less likely to get it because of their work habits and not having time to switch off.

Those workers with hobbies or who engaged in physical activity reported feeling less tired and more engaged. But the researchers also point out that thinking about work can be a mood booster as well if people are reflecting on their successes and accomplishments.

But let’s give the final words to women. There is evidence that while women can contribute a lot to teams they don’t always perform at their best in them. They are also more critical of organisations.

And there are people who believe that women are the winners at work anyway!

Does your company have a helping culture?

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teamwork_pass_the_puzzle_500_wht_7889As mentioned in previous posts employee engagement and discretionary effort are the current holy grail for many organisations.

And leaders can contribute by encouraging helping behaviour. One of the hallmarks of a top-performing company is that people help each other to get the best performance.

Organisational psychologists call this “citizenship behaviour” without which companies, which are complex with competing demands for time, loyalty, and team input v individual effort, would not function as effectively as they might with strict boundaries and rules.

A design firm called IDEO was the subject of a case study in the Harvard Business Review last year. A key element of the culture there is “collaborative help“.

IDEO is an organisation of knowledge workers tackling complex problems and the authors of the study discovered a number of key elements including leadership conviction that collaborative help works. The CEO Tim Brown says “the more complex the problem the more help you need“.

But promoting helping is not enough. The other side of the coin is that workers sometimes need a sounding board for their ideas so they need to be okay about asking for help without seeming incompetent.

The culture of the organisation at IDEO embedded the helping idea. Research showed that 89% of employees showed up in the top 5 helpers for everyone in the organisation and almost every person was named as a helper by at least one other person.

These helper friendly organisations are more efficient even though they build slack into the system. This is to enable access to potential helpers.

People in one office were asked to name the 5 colleagues who had helped them most and rate them along with a randomly chosen non-helper on three attributes.

These were competence, trust, and accessibility and trust and accessibility were more important than competence in the helpfulness ratings.

To read the whole story check out “IDEO’s Culture of Helping” by Amabile, Fisher, and Pillemer in HBR January-February 2014.