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.
Showing appreciation for a colleague at work (or even your boss!) is extremely powerful. A new report by TINYpulse--an app that sends weekly one-question surveys to employees--shows that frequent recognition increases the “fun” of work, and reduces turnover.
Drawing on survey results from over 500 clients, TINYpulse found that employees who reported getting lots of appreciation at work were the most likely to score highly on the question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how enthusiastic would you be about reapplying for your job? The report also revealed a strong correlation between recognition and workers describing work as “fun.” Additionally, workers were more likely to rate their bosses favorably if they got recognition when it was deserved.
Beyond all this, we want to point out another powerful benefit to praising others at work. As we write in our book, BE QUIET BE HEARD, tell people you like what they’re doing, and they’ll repeat it! Offering praise not only gets people to engage in the same behaviors again, but also to look for ways of improving them.
Give thanks for a little and you will get a lot!
We want to hear! Have you praised or been praised in the workplace recently? What effect did it have? 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.
The goal of feedback is to improve performance by increasing people’s self-awareness and understanding about how their actions affect others and how others perceive them. So feedback can provide a much-needed reality check.
But if the feedback you give seems to have little impact on behavior, maybe it’s because it’s not being given in the most effective way. Writing in The Harvard Business Review Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Professor of Business Psychology at University College London, offers ideas about what might be going wrong. Among them:
Finally, feedback shouldn’t begin and end with a performance review. As Chamorro-Premuzic says, “That’s just the beginning of the actual coaching, which requires follow through…”
We want to hear: How do you offer feedback and how do you like to receive it? Do you feel the feedback you have received has altered your behavior? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
With back-to-school excitement in the air, many parents are probably wondering how they can help their kids have a good year at school. The answer involves going back to basics. While there are many styles of parenting, one thing that consistently helps children is simply this: conversation.
Yes, just talking to your kids will help them emotionally, socially, and intellectually. And there appears to be a direct correlation between conversation length and reading ability. Speak often, speak wisely, and speak well: Because 88 to 98 percent of the words children use by age 3 are from their parents’ vocabularies! (Hart and Riley, 2003)
Can’t think of what to chat about? Read the kids a book! Studies also show that kids whose parents read to them at least 20 minutes a day are at least a grade level above others in reading by the time they are 15 years old.(PISA 2009 Assessment)
We want to hear: What do you like to talk about with the children in your life? What tips do you have for keeping conversations with kids afloat? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
It’s hard to top email for convenience. According to new research, however, we all sound smarter when we communicate verbally. Findings of a recent study cited in The New York Times suggest that phone conversations or face-to-face interactions may be more effective when trying to impress a prospective employer or to close a deal.
Vocal cues “show that we are alive inside — thoughtful, active…Text strips that out,” said Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and one of two co-authors of the paper, “The Sound of Intellect,” recently published in Psychological Science.
In an experiment presented in the paper, M.B.A. candidates were asked to prepare a pitch to a prospective employer — a two-minute proposal that the researchers recorded on video. Separately, the researchers recruited 162 people to evaluate these pitches. Some of the evaluators watched the video; a second group listened to the audio only; a third group read a transcript of the pitch. The evaluators who heard the pitch—via audio or video—rated the candidates’ intellect higher than those who read the transcript. In a second experiment, evaluators read a pitch specifically drafted by candidates to be read, rather than spoken. The result was the same.
We are not surprised by the results of these experiments. Good writing is an excellent tool, but no writing can convey the nuances of the spoken word, which is embellished by tone and cadence and amplified by gestures and facial expressions. Remember this study the next time you ask yourself if you should press “send” or speak your piece.
We want to hear! What criteria do you use to decide whether to write or speak what you have to say? Do you prefer it when others email you or speak with you directly? Join the conversation and 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.
In last week’s Capsule we wrote about the costs of Incivility to workers. But there is yet another group for whom incivility has a negative impact: customers.
Studies conducted by Georgetown business professor Christine Porath with marketing professors Deborah MacInnis and Valerie S. Folkes at USC found that people were less likely to patronize a business that has an employee they perceived as rude--whether the rudeness was directed at them or at other employees. “Witnessing a short negative interaction leads customers to generalize about other employees, the organization and even the brand,” writes Porath.
Why is respect, or disrespect, such a powerful motivator? Because even brief interactions affect our view of how others see us, which in turn can shape how we define ourselves. A smile, an acknowledgment, the sense that we are being heard can uplift us, while rude, dismissive behavior can leave us feeling devalued.
Sadly, Porath’s research shows incivility has soared over the past two decades: 25 percent of those surveyed in 1998 reported being treated rudely at work at least once a week. That rose to nearly 50 percent in 2005, and over 50 percent in 2011. Imagine how much lost employee and customer goodwill that adds up to! It’s time to reverse the trend, starting with identifying small moments when a slight change in demeanor can raise people up instead of bringing them down.
We want to hear! Have you ever stopped patronizing a business because workers there were rude to you or to one another? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Incivility at work costs. Christine Porath, associate professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, has researched the results of insensitive interactions for 20 years across 17 industries. Writing in The New York Times, Porath cites studies showing that incivility “hijacks workplace focus”—even contributing to patient deaths in hospital settings—and causes people to “miss information that is right in front of them.” People who feel belittled at work, she notes, also have fewer creative ideas.
Bosses demoralize workers by doing things like walking away or answering cell phones mid-conversation, pointing out flaws in front of others, and taking credit for wins while finger-pointing over losses. But Porath notes that incivility often grows out of ignorance, not malice. When asked why they behaved badly, most leaders told her they were overloaded and had no time to be nice.
Porath argues—and we whole-heartedly agree—”respect doesn’t necessarily require extra time.” Being conscious of how we communicate, not only with words, but also with tone, gestures, and facial expressions can go a long way toward creating a more civil and more creative and productive workplace.
We want to hear! Have you ever felt too rushed to be civil at work, or have you been the recipient of uncivil behavior? How would you make civility more the norm at work? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Have you been with people who talk on and on about themselves? While it may feel tiresome, there is no better way to make a good impression and come across as a great listener and communicator than to let another person self-disclose.
According to Harvard research published in Scientific American, revealing personal information to others produces a high level of activation in neural regions associated with motivation and reward. In short, it feels good. You can always prime the pump by asking people questions about their experiences, interests, and accomplishments.
In addition to making your conversation partner feel good and making you look good, there are other benefits to this kind of dialogue. Disclosing personal information to others increases social bonding and interpersonal liking. And sharing information gained through personal experiences can lead to performance advantages by facilitating teamwork.
We want to hear: How do you encourage others to talk about themselves, and what advantages do you think you gain from doing so? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
In one way or another we all vie for attention—whether pitching an idea or trying to be recognized for the good work we do. In his new book, Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention, recently profiled in Business Insider, author and investor Ben Parr summarized research on top attention-getting triggers.
We agree with Parr when he concludes that the greatest “masters of attention” create a sense of community with their audience.
We have seen over and over again how establishing common ground with others and recognizing them for their accomplishments predisposes them to listen attentively and respectfully to what you have to say.
We want to hear: How do you capture people’s attention and what do others do to capture yours? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Does a young person in your life have a “mindless” summer job right now? Harvard professor Jennifer Finney Boylan, writing in The New York Times, reminisced about the “so-called stupid jobs” she had as a teenager and young adult – including selling hot dogs and mowing lawns, working as an office temp and messenger, and hawking T-shirts at Grateful Dead concerts. “These jobs,” she wrote, “made me aware of class privilege in a way that my hours in Econ 101 surely did not.”
We agree that gaining some understanding of many different social realities can be one benefit of students’ summer jobs, but there are many more. Unless you are a lighthouse keeper, virtually every job entails communication skills, and many present opportunities for teamwork and collaboration. Learning to deal with a cross-section of customers and a spectrum of management styles, whether working at a retail store, in a restaurant, or on a construction crew, can provide invaluable experience for later positions.
In the theater, there is a saying: “There are no small parts.” Likewise, there are no small jobs. Taking pride in every job we do, staying engaged in the work, navigating conflict if it arises—even making and recovering from rookie mistakes—all prepare young people for the challenges ahead.
We want to hear: What valuable lessons did you learn from a summer job? To join the conversation, 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.
When Ed Catmull, a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, addressed the Class of 2015 at Johns Hopkins University, he urged new graduates to broaden their view of creativity by accepting that mistakes and “dumb ideas” are necessary—even desirable.
Many people ask how to become more creative, Catmull said. “I think this is the wrong question. The question is: What are the cultural and interpersonal forces that block creativity and change?” Because “new ideas are fragile and often off track,” Pixar long ago vowed to protect people who were “working on something that didn’t work…while they searched for something but didn’t know what it was.”
In order to facilitate a creative dynamic, Pixar—and now Disney, which acquired Pixar—holds creative sessions called The Braintrust, where directors, animators and writers convene to help each other. Braintrust gatherings, Catmull explained, are structured as peer-to-peer dialogues, with the power structure removed from the room. Everyone gives and listens to honest notes, and everyone shares ownership of success. “Dumb ideas” are welcomed, because they often lead to good ideas.
We agree with Dr. Catmull that this kind of candor-filled, listening-oriented, respectful communication “can lead to magic.” As Catmull said, “You feel the ego disappear. All attention is on the problem.”
We want to hear: What does your organization do to foster creative collaboration? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
How should a manager react when an employee makes a mistake or underperforms? Some managers reprimand; others show curiosity (how did this happen?) and compassion (how can I help you through this?). Research cited by Emma Seppala, PhD, a Stanford University research psychologist writing in the Harvard Business Review, shows the compassionate response yields more positive outcomes.
In particular, a study by Jonathan Haidt of NYU shows that the more employees look up to their leaders and are affected by their kindness and compassion (a state he calls elevation), the more loyal they become. And the results magnify: When compassionate behavior is shown toward one employee, anyone who has witnessed that behavior may also experience elevation and feel more devoted.
It’s not always easy to show compassion when we are frustrated and under pressure ourselves, but we agree with Dr. Seppala, who recommends taking a moment to step back, detach, and then imagine what the other person might be experiencing. The resulting empathy can help you resolve the problem constructively.
We want to hear: How do you handle it when someone makes a mistake? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.