Of course if you are devious and manipulative or have high level influencing skills, you probably already have but most people probably put up with the poor relationship and just complain behind their boss’s back.
Not a healthy way to spend a good part of your life.
“Most business schools don’t teach anything about how to manage your boss, although it is a critical relationship,” says Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School.
“Maybe we don’t like talking about the fact that we do it, because people see ‘managing up’ as manipulating managers . . . but we should look at it instead as managing the relationship. Get it right and both your career and the company’s prospects should benefit.”
One way to approach this is by working with psychological profiles eg as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Knowing your own type and that of your colleagues and boss can pay dividends.
Understanding the differences in communication style between people with Extravert and Introvert preferences, or Sensing and Intuitive preferences can make all the difference in a relationship. The MBTI is claimed to be the most widely used psychometric tool for personal development and team building and well worth trying out.
An alternative but similar approach is to compare temperaments rather than types and this is an article on how to manage your boss based on the Keirsey Temperament measure.
This is an updated version of a post on SGANDA.
Harvard professor Robert Huckman and his colleague Bradley Staats from the University of North Carolina have also been researching teams across a range of organisations: military, corporate, healthcare and consultancy.
They found that too often managers liked to shake teams up to keep them fresh. Hackman found that the one exception where this can work is in R& D work where adding new members to a team, even by adding less experienced members, keeps things fresh as they ask questions no-one else does.
Basically there is a learning curve for teams just like individuals. they generally do better as they become more familiar with each other.
Research with Oxford University professor David Upton on over 1,000 projects involving over 11,000 staff in a Bangalore-based software services firm found that:
- when familiarity increased by 50%
- defects decreased by 19%
- deviations from budget decreased by 30%
- performance increased by 10% as judged by clients
The message is that managers should try and keep teams together and encourage familiarity between employees so that collaboration is easier.
Research from non-business areas shows that:
- Leaders of Special Ops teams such as Navy Seals try to keep the teams intact as they believe it helps them cope with dynamic environments
- In Pro basketball teams familiarity reduces bad passes but teams with too much familiarity committed more errors – perhaps because opponents could predict their moves.
- In aviation 73% of commercial aviation accidents occur on a crew’s first day of flying together. NASA found that fatigued but familiar crews made only half as many errors as rested but unfamiliar crews.
- The performance of surgeons who work at multiple hospitals varies from facility to facility – perhaps because of differing degrees of familiarity with the OR teams at different locations.
Main sources: HBR September 2013 & Richard Hackman
Teams which talk more aren’t necessarily sharing useful information and are not therefore getting better outcomes. And more introverted types will feel entitled to think “I told you so“, because what you talk about is more important for teams than how much you talk.
The researchers also found that teams communicate better when they are told to come up with a correct or best solution rather than a consensus.
This is yet another report which shows teams aren’t always as effective as people believe.
A report in the Quack Quack column – “We debunk the myths behind the headlines” – in The Times – cited research from the University of Arizona, reported in Psychological Science, which shows that the more people engage in superficial communication, the lower their morale.
This followed criticism of the report that you could measure the happiness levels of celebrities by analysing their tweets, some not very convincing research from the University of Edinburgh!
So like many things in life it’s the quality, not the quantity, that is important.
Originally posted on SGANDA
- 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!
Harvard Professor J Richard Hackman studied teams in a wide range of settings and was something of a guru when it comes to effective teams.
From his research he identified not causes but core conditions for effective teams;
1. The team must be a real team, not just a group of people doing the same thing (what he calls a co-acting group)
2. The team must have a compelling direction for its work
3. It must have an enabling structure that facilitates rather than impedes teamwork
In addition to the three core conditions there are two supporting conditions viz a supportive organisational context and sufficient support for the development of team members.
Some key questions to ask of team members are:
- Are you dependent on each other?
- Do you know who is in the team and who isn’t?
- Do you know how much authority you have?
- Do you have a stable team?
- Are you energised by your team’s vision?
- Does you team have a sense of direction?
- Do you feel engaged by your team?
- Do you see your work as meaningful?
- Do you feel personally responsible for work outcomes?
- Do you receive trustworthy knowledge of the results of your efforts ie feedback?
- Does your team operate within a supportive organisational context?
- Does it have available ample & expert support and coaching in teamwork?
Clearly you can answer YES to several of these questions.
However whether or not these elite athletes have the same vision as the British Olympic body is questionable.
Usually elite athletes such as these focus on their own performances (Bradley Wiggins was an honourable exception) but that means that they should feel responsible for their outcomes.
It’s doubtful if they are that dependent on each other; and would they know every one of the 550 athletes in Team GB?
They are certainly being provided with coaching and other technical support and regularly receive feedback.
So a lot of boxes are being ticked but you can’t make exact comparisons with business teams (about which there are lots of mistaken beliefs).
It’s also a big team, bigger than the majority of companies in the UK, and more like a regiment or a community. However even looking at it as a community it far exceeds Dunbar’s number of 150 ie “the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained“.
The team is also spread across different venues so is like a virtual team in that respect.
So Team GB is probably less like a real team and more like a co-acting group.
It was later announced that not all the athletes in Team GB would be attending the opening ceremony. BOA chief executive Andy Hunt said that around half of the 541 athletes attending the ceremony would be a “reasonable” outcome.
None of the tennis, swimming or athletics squads would be there, while members of the eventing, sailing and road race cycling teams werealso set to miss out. Others, such as triathlete Alistair Brownlee, were training in other parts of the country and overseas.
They’ve been told to put performance first which means getting a good night’s sleep. So whose idea was it to have the opening ceremony start at 2100? Did sponsorship or TV rights have anything to do with it?
In terms of the team spirit I would have thought that if the athletes felt part of Team GB they would want to be there together.
Which brings me back to my question: Was Team GB rely a team?
Joerg Melhorn in Scientific American Mind suggests some additional ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Most of you know that in the early stages of brainstorming criticism is discouraged and ideally here should be two stages; the first when ideas are generated and the second when they are critiqued and evaluated by a different group of people.
Melhorn suggests that you could hide the problem from the group and ask them to think about a broader topic e.g. attractiveness, before narrowing it down to the real issue e.g. packaging.
Brainwriting is another way of generating ideas. A group of 6 people are given a sheet of paper with empty boxes, say 3 columns of 6 where the columns represent different aspects of the problem.
Each person thinks about the problem then writes one idea in each of the top three boxes before passing it on to a colleague. The colleague then elaborates or expands on the ideas in each box and then passes it along again. Potentially there could be 108 different ideas using this method.
Brainwalking is similar but this time there are flip charts for each aspect of the problem and small groups work on these separately writing down all their ideas about that aspect before moving on to the next flip chart and adding to the ideas there.
The ideas produced tend to be much richer than traditional brainstorming.
You might recognise some of these are borrowing from OD methods such as World Cafe or Appreciative Inquiry, and there are other methods such as De Bono’s six thinking hats.
Source: Scientific American Mind Vol 17 No 4
Times and attitudes have changed although after-work drinks with colleagues after a busy or stressful day are not uncommon.
And it can have benefits as alcohol, in moderation, can help colleagues relax and encourage open exchanges of ideas.
However experiments with groups and individuals suggest that alcohol consumption makes groups, but not individuals, more competitive.
Using the prisoner’s dilemma game (where being cooperative pays off for both parties) and dividing participants into an alcohol drinking group, a placebo group and drinking & non-drinking individuals psychologists at the University of Kent found that, after the experimenters started off the experiment in a cooperative mode:
- Individuals showed the same level of cooperation whether they had been drinking or not
- Non-drinking groups were as cooperative as individuals
- Groups that had been drinking were significantly more competitive than the others
- Drinking can also make people take more risks, become more affectionate or effect expressions of prejudice.
All good reasons to prohibit drinking during working hours I would have thought!