There is much research showing that jobs perceived as helpful to others yield greater satisfaction and less stress. For example, in 2014 two researchers published an article in the Journal of Positive Psychology examining the lives of lawyers, and found that attorneys in high-income fields like corporate law, tort, and malpractice were unhappier and less satisfied than their lower-paid counterparts in service roles such as public prosecutors or legal defenders.
Perhaps you don’t think your job is especially helpful to others, but Arthur C. Brooks president of the American Enterprise Institute, suggests you rethink your attitude. Writing in The New York Times, Brooks says that “almost any work can be understood as a service job.” He illustrates the point with the parable of a traveler who happened upon two stonemasons. When he asked the workers what they were doing, one replied, “I am making a living.” But the other mason said: “I am building a cathedral.”
Brooks maintains that in our interconnected world, all work has an impact on the lives of others, and that “everyone, in every industry, affects the lives of co-workers, supervisors, customers, suppliers, donors or investors.” We endorse his suggestion of spending part of our morning commute considering how to improve the lives of others through our work, whatever it may be.
We want to hear. How does your work benefit others, and does considering its impact have a positive effect on you? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
According to a Gallup poll, nine out of ten American workers do not feel “engaged” with their jobs. Translation: Most of us would rather be doing something else—except we need our salaries. But we all want more than money: We want opportunities to grow and we want respect. As Barry Schwartz, Swarthmore psychology professor and author of the forthcoming book Why We Work, recently wrote in The New York Times: We want above all, “work that is meaningful — that makes a difference to other people and thus ennobles us in at least some small way.”
Research consistently shows that workplaces are more profitable when they offer employees challenging and meaningful work over which they have some control. In his book, The Human Equation, Stanford organizational behavior professor Jeffrey Pfeffer cites a study of 136 IPO companies across different industries. The study found that companies placing a high value on human resources were almost 20 percent more likely to survive for at least five years than those that did not. Similar differences in success were found in studies that compared the management practices of steel mills, clothing manufacturers, semiconductor manufacturers, oil refiners, and various service industries.
We appreciate the enormous role that communication plays in generating employee involvement, and we agree with Schwartz who says we can up engagement, “by giving employees more of a say in how they do their jobs…by encouraging them to suggest improvements to the work process and listening to what they say…[and by emphasizing] the ways in which an employee’s work makes other people’s lives at least a little bit better.”
We want to hear. What keeps you engaged at work, and how does your organization communicate in ways that generate employee involvement? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
A decade-long research study of work culture, work-life fit, and health, funded by the National Institute of Health, has found that workers in environments that support work-life balance show half the risk of cardiovascular disease, significantly lower levels of stress, improved physical and mental health—and higher job satisfaction.
In explaining the research Ellen Ernst Kossek, professor of management at Purdue University, said her own research supports that people are more depressed when they have “low boundary control,” i.e. that their home life and “time off” will be invaded by relentless work issues.”
Despite the well-known benefits of work-life balance, many organizations appear to have challenges implementing this type of support. Part of the problem may be that managers—many of whom have been conditioned to be workaholics themselves—simply don’t know how to facilitate employees’ work-life needs.
In one of Kossek’s research experiments, she and her team trained managers of a grocery store chain for 45 minutes to an hour on how to support employees’ work-life needs. They began to offer emotional support and instrumental support, helping employees get the right schedule. They learned not only how to be creative, but how to be role models. We agree with Kossek, when she says, “If you train the whole manager group…you change not just individual behavior, but the entire culture.”
We want to hear. Do you feel you have good work-life balance and how does that balance, or lack of it, affect the way you feel about your workplace? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
It’s called “humblebragging” when someone makes a self-deprecating statement (often veiled in a faux complaint) with the true purpose of drawing attention to something they’re proud of (as in, “Darn, I lost so much weight I have to spring for a new wardrobe.”) But studies show the humblebrag is not a good tool for self-promotion in business situations, especially job interviews.
According to recent research by Harvard Business School’s Ovul Sezer, Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton, cited in Forbes, when given the option to brag or to humblebrag, the former is better. The researchers hypothesized that humblebrags create negative impressions because they seem insincere, compared with pure bragging or pure complaining. Their supposition was tested in a series of five studies, detailed in their paper, “Humblebragging: A Distinct—and Ineffective—Self-Presentation Strategy.” The takeaway: By public perception, complainers are better than braggers. And humblebraggers are the worst.
Why do people humblebrag? “I think people have a tendency not to say something negative about themselves because that makes them vulnerable,” Gino says. But as we have said before, showing vulnerability can often have extremely positive results. We all appreciate honest people who can learn from their mistakes. It’s fine to brag if the brag is merited, and it is also fine to admit you could improve—because we all can!
We want to hear! Can you share with us a humblebrag you heard lately? How did you feel about the person who made it? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Recent research reveals that 80 percent of employers name “cultural fit” as a top priority when hiring. However, a recent New York Times article suggests that when so-called fit is evaluated in snap judgments, it can result in managers hiring only people who are personally similar to them, while excluding those who are not.
Lauren Rivera, an associate professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management researched the hiring practices of the country’s top investment banks, management consultancies, and law firms, interviewing 120 decision makers. She concluded that interviewers commonly rely on subjective measures like personal chemistry to make hiring decisions. They were also prone to hire applicants whose “hobbies, hometowns and biographies matched their own.” The obvious downside: “It is easy to mistake rapport for skill.” Highly qualified job seekers who do not hail from the same social strata can be left out completely.
We first published our Organizational Culture Survey and research in 1988 and it has been used by researchers and practitioners around the globe to measure and manage cultures. We acknowledge the importance of fit because employees who resonate with an organization’s goals and strategies will be more productive and stay longer. But we also agree with Professor Rivera that “fit” should reflect organization values, not personal preferences.
We want to hear: How would you describe your organizational culture, and how does your organization measure organizational fit? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Can attaining a position of power actually interfere with the ability to empathize? Sadly, research says it does.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Lou Solomon, CEO of the consultancy Interact, says this happens, “slowly, and then suddenly…with bad mini-choices, made perhaps on an unconscious level.” The powerful often become preoccupied with self-interest; simultaneously, they lose ability to read emotions and to adapt behavior to other people. In fact, power can actually change how the brain functions, according to research from neuroscientist Sukhvinder Obhi.
The good news: All of this can be mitigated with self-awareness and self-management. We agree with Solomon, who recommends that those who want to avoid such counterproductive power traps remember to ask for feedback and be willing to risk vulnerability. Invite others to share the spotlight when things go well and take your share of the blame when they don’t. In the end, generosity and humility will inspire loyalty, trust and enthusiasm in those around you.
We want to hear: Have you noticed a change in yourself or anyone else when promoted to a power position? How did you deal with it? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Ilan Zechory and Tom Lehman are not only self-described “best friends,” but also co-founders of Genius.com, a start-up that enables users to annotate song lyrics and other text available on the Internet. Like any two people in a close working relationship, they know conflict comes with the territory. They are also wise enough to know that conflict need not damage their relationship or their company.
After a recent blowup (the two entrepreneurs have opposite management styles and ways of approaching problems) they began seeing a therapist who counsels individuals, couples and some business partners. Once a week, they told The New York Times, they spend an hour articulating their differences and refining their ideas.
Their three big takeaways from the process: “Never let an opportunity pass to say something positive; walking away from a heated conversation doesn’t signal abandonment; and it is better to discuss a problem because it will surface anyway.”
We applaud these leaders, and we resoundingly agree with the lessons they have learned. The more that leaders take a productive approach to conflict, the more successful they and their organizations are bound to be.
We want to hear: Do you think people who work together should set aside time each week to creatively resolve conflict? Join the conversation by clicking "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
For most of the 20th century, business schools strived to turn out managers; now they promise to graduate leaders. According to The New York Times, the trend can be traced back to 1977 when Harvard professor Abraham Zaleznik, published a paper entitled “Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?”
Many remain skeptical of goals to “educate leaders who make a difference in the world” (Harvard), develop “brave leaders who inspire growth in people, organizations, and markets” (Northwestern/Kellogg), and create “leaders of consequence” (Duke/Fuqua). They ask: Can leadership really be taught?
We believe leadership can be taught. Leaders need core communication skills to create cultures that breed both performance and engagement. The more that business schools incorporate skills like encouraging collaboration and harnessing the innate power of conflict, the more their graduates will be prepared to innovate and inspire.
We want to hear: Do you think leadership can be taught, and what specific skills should be the focus? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
With employment on the rise, turnover is once again a key concern for employers. As a preventive measure, reports The Wall Street Journal, companies like Credit Suisse are analyzing data predicting who might have an eye on the door.
What they are seeing is a multi-faceted picture of what motivates retention—or not. Factors like pay, or even workers’ relationships with their bosses, can be trumped by how connected employees feel to their teams. And, “at Credit Suisse, managers’ performance and team size turn out to be surprisingly powerful influences, with a spike in attrition among employees working on large teams with low-rated managers.”
While no single piece of data predicts retention with certainty, many of the numbers appear to highlight the power of employee engagement. When workers are bonded to their teammates and when those teams have effective leaders, the impulse is to see things through. The rewards go beyond the monetary: It is hard to put a price tag on the sense of self-worth, excitement, and accomplishment that engagement generates.
On the other hand, it is easy to put a price tag on unwanted attrition. The median cost of turnover for most jobs, says the Center for American Progress, is about 21% of an employee’s annual salary. William Wolf, Credit Suisse’s global head of talent acquisition and development, says a one-point reduction in attrition saves the bank $75 to $100 million annually.
We want to hear: Why do you stay at your job…or what has made you want to leave a job in the past? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
“Athletics teach you to maximize your strengths, while also asking you to compensate for your weaknesses by relying on the strength of others. [Sports] asks you to embrace and respect the unique skills and talents of your teammates and how what they bring to the table contributes to the overall success of the team.” So says Chris Smith, former college athlete and CEO of Athlete Network.
Writing in Fast Company, Smith says the following lessons, which generate success on the field, build better leaders off it:
Success is a “we” thing – It’s a result of how seamlessly you integrate with teammates or co-workers.
A Diverse Team is Strongest -- Tackling a problem or question from a variety of viewpoints, backgrounds, and perspectives is empowering.
Nobody Wants to Work with a Brilliant Jerk -- Talent will take you places; arrogance, close-mindedness and ego won’t.
We agree. Working toward a common goal and respecting others’ skills is as necessary in business as in sports.
We want to hear! What business lessons have sports taught you? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
There’s lots of yelling at football games, but for the Oregon Ducks, that yelling is relegated to the stands. The old stereotype of coaches shouting in the faces of players to “motivate” them has given way to a kinder, gentler approach.
“It’s not about who can scream the loudest,” Mark Helfrich, the Ducks’ second-year coach told the Wall Street Journal (http://on.wsj.com/1IOCVE3). “We have excellent specialists in their field, great leaders of young men…There’s hopefully a lot more talking than yelling.”
“When you put your arm around a guy and say, ‘This is how it could be done better,’ they understand you care about them and you just want what’s best for the team,” said Marcus Mariota, Oregon’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. “Those guys already understand that they did wrong.”
The Ducks, who have embraced a more soft-spoken philosophy since implementing a “horizontal leadership structure” in 2009, are not alone in substituting constructive communication for a drill-sergeant approach. More organizations are doing likewise as their workforces are increasingly populated by Millennials, who are more comfortable being approached as collaborators.
While we are unabashed Ducks fans, that is not our only reason for endorsing the team’s use of constructive communication as a motivator. It is part of the growing wave of organizations that understand the benefits of viewing each of their members as leaders in their own way.
We want to hear: Is there a place for quieter talking and less yelling in sports? Have you known people – on or off the field -- motivated by yelling, or do you think there is always a better alternative? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
One morning in Bangalore, India, tech startup founder Archana Patchirajan, told her entire staff she had to let them go because the venture had run out of funds. Amazingly, her high-caliber engineers, who had their pick of jobs, said they would rather work for half their pay than leave her. They worked so hard that a few years later the company, Hubbl, sold for $14 million. Now Archana continues to work on startups from the US and her staff, thousands of miles away, continues to work for her.
When asked why they are so loyal, the staff mentioned their boss’s ability to be honest with them, give them time to analyze mistakes, and even share her own doubts and vulnerabilities. In short, she was authentic. http://bit.ly/1uZG5y0
Some leaders try to project an image of perfection and certainty at all times in order to be respected by others, but pretense often backfires. Our brains are wired to read cues so subtle that even when we don’t consciously register those cues, our bodies react. For example, according to research by James Gross at Stanford University, when someone is angry but hides their feelings we may not realize consciously they are angry (they don’t look angry); nevertheless, our own blood pressure will rise. On the other hand, when we are around someone who is authentic and vulnerable we perceive them as trustworthy—and that trustworthiness inspires engagement and loyalty.
We want to hear: Are you ever aware that someone is trying to project a false image, and how do you react? Are there leaders who inspire you with their willingness to appear vulnerable? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: Enrique Burgos
For years we heard about Google’s infamous job interview brainteasers (“How many times a day do a clock’s hands overlap?”), but the company has declared them useless in hiring (http://bit.ly/nobrainteasers)
According to Laszlo Bock, that company’s head of people operations, pedigrees from elite colleges and even high GPAs are also not strong predictors of job performance.
Bock told The New York Times (http://bit.ly/morehumility) that Google looks instead for “the ability to step back and embrace other people’s ideas when they’re better.” This “intellectual humility,” as Bock calls it, is fundamental to learning. It is expressed as an ability to process information on the fly and to absorb the lessons of failure. Google interviewers screen for it by asking how applicants handled tough situations.
Being intellectually humble does not mean being wishy-washy. As Bock describes it, employees who possess this quality will “fight like hell” for their position. But if a new fact is introduced, they are unafraid to say, “That changes things. You are right.”
We have long talked about the value of genuinely listening to the ideas of others. Successful teamwork and emergent leadership depend on this sort of open-mindedness and on the strength of character to trade certainty for curiosity.
We want to hear: Can you describe a circumstance where a willingness to embrace another point of view led to success? Does your organization have a way of screening for this quality in prospective employees? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: Alain Bachellier https://www.flickr.com/photos/alainbachellier/
Does your boss regularly email you a high-priority assignment or question at midnight? If so, your productivity may be negatively affected.
Jennifer Deal, a senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership, surveyed white-collar workers and found most were tied to email13.5 hours a day, well into the evening -- some not even taking a break during dinner. What haunts such workers is the expectation that they are supposed to reply immediately, no matter the hour, or face dire consequences. This endless, reflexive checking comes from dread—not true engagement.
This research (http://nyti.ms/1puscUX) discovered that continual emailing often masks poor management practices. When employees face endless questions and “cc’s” to every team member about each niggling detail, they often don’t feel empowered to make decisions. In contrast, when employees are actually empowered, they make more judgment calls and start using phone and face-to-face conversations to resolve issues quickly.
Limiting workplace email is actually a trend in high-productivity Germany, where Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom have adopted policies that limit work-related email during evenings and weekends. Can it happen in the U.S.? Only if it comes from the top. We believe that leaders should assess their use of email and make sure they are not inadvertently using it as an enabler of timidity and procrastination.
We want to hear! Are you tethered to email 24/7? What changes in email policy, if any, would you like to see in your organization? Join the conversation and click "comments" below.
Image Credit: Theen Moy https://www.flickr.com/photos/theenmoy/
Do you perform better at tasks you find both interesting and meaningful? You are not alone. Recounting her research in The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/1tWZtQh) Paula A. O’Keefe, assistant professor of psychology at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, describes an experiment where she and a colleague asked a group of undergraduates to work on word puzzles. “Before they began, we had them tell us how exciting and enjoyable they thought the task would be. Then they read a statement that framed the task as either personally valuable or of neutral value.”
Those who read the first statement, and who also thought the task would be enjoyable, solved the most problems. It wasn’t simply because their interest made them want to work longer. Their engagement was more efficient because they were focused and “in the zone.” A follow-up study showed that this group was also the least “mentally exhausted”(as measured by their ability to squeeze a hand-grip after the task was done). By contrast, those who were uninterested in the task not only performed worse, but also were mentally fatigued.
The lesson: liking our work matters! Leaders of any sort (managers, teachers, parents) should do all they can to frame work in a meaningful context—not only in terms of its immediate end but also its broader impact. Why is this work significant? What part does it play in achieving a greater goal? And—because related research shows that social engagement can foster interest—whom will it help?
We want to hear. Does your performance improve when you enjoy what you do? How do you motivate others to see work as interesting and meaningful? Join the conversation: click "comments" below.
Image Credit: Sebastaan ter Burg https://www.flickr.com/photos/ter-burg/