1. When it comes to looking for jobs, it’s not how many you know, but how well you know them

    September 11, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences press release:

    While online networking sites enable individuals to increase their professional connections, to what extent do these ties actually lead to job opportunities? A new study in the INFORMS journal Management Science finds that, despite the ability to significantly increase the number of professional connections and identify more job leads with limited effort on these sites, unless the connection is a strong one, they typically will not lead to job offers.

    The study, “To Be or Not to Be Linked: Online Social Networks and Job Search by Unemployed Workforce,” was conducted by Rajiv Garg of the University of Texas and Rahul Telang of Carnegie Mellon University.

    The authors surveyed 424 LinkedIn users (all of whom were college graduates and either current or recent job seekers) regarding five major job search avenues: Internet sites (e.g., Monster.com), online social networking sites (e.g., LinkedIn), offline friends and family, newspapers and other print media, and recruiting agencies and career centers.

    The study showed that the highest number of job leads were generated by the Internet job boards, followed by LinkedIn. And while on LinkedIn, weaker ties provided marginally more job leads than strong connections, actual interviews and job offers resulted primarily from strong connections. On average, a 10 percent increase in the number of strong connections on social networking sites resulted in a .7 percent increase in the number of job offers, while a 10 percent increase in the number of weaker connections actually caused a 1.3 percent decrease in the number of job offers.

    “We found that strong ties have a significant and positive effect on job interviews,” said Telang. “Weak ties, on the other hand, while they had a greater impact on job leads, have a statistically insignificant impact on job interviews.

    “One possible interpretation is that, for leads to convert into interviews, your connections will most likely be required to conduct follow up on their end, such as make phone calls or provide recommendations,” added Telang. “If the connection is weak, these individuals may be less likely to undertake these efforts.”


  2. Do video game players make the best unmanned pilots?

    September 3, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Liverpool press release:

    New research from the University of Liverpool highlights the usefulness of Video Game Players (VGPs) as unmanned aircraft operators.

    The move to significant automation has been a feature of aviation over the last 40 years. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) operations, commonly known as a aircraft which are unmanned, have outpaced current training regimes resulting in a shortage of qualified UAS pilots.

    In an effort to address this problem researchers from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, led by Dr Jacqueline Wheatcroft, and the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering (Dr Mike Jump), explored the suitability of three potential UAS groups; VGPs, private pilots and professional pilots.

    The participants, 60 in total, all took part in a simulated civilian cargo flight to enable the researchers to assess their levels of accuracy, confidence and confidence-accuracy judgements (W-S C-A).

    The participants made 21 decision tasks, which varied across three levels of danger/ risk.

    As danger increased levels of confidence, accuracy and the relationship between how accurate the decision was and the level of confidence applied to those decisions decreased.

    The dangerousness of the decision also affected how confident participants were when choosing to intervene or rely on the automation; confidence was lower when the operator chose to intervene.

    Professional pilots and VGPs exhibited the highest level of decision confidence, with VGPs maintaining a constant and positive W-S C-A relationship across decision danger/risk.

    All groups showed higher levels of decision confidence in decisions controlled by the UAS in comparison to decisions where the operator manually intervened.

    Dr Jacqueline Wheatcroft, said: “Understanding which potential supervisory group has the best skills to make the best decisions can help to improve UAS supervision. Overall, video game players were less overconfident in their decision judgements.

    “The outcome supports the idea that this group could be a useful resource in UAS operation.”


  3. Gaining influence over others does not increase autonomy

    August 29, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Kent press release:

    Moving up the greasy pole in the office does not make people feel more personally free, new research has shown.

    The research, from the University of Kent, looked at whether exercising influence over others in social situations, such as at work, leads to a greater sense of personal freedom or ‘autonomy’.

    The study found that there was no correlation between elevated social influence, or ‘power’ and elevated personal freedom, suggesting that the relationship between influence and autonomy diminishes with increasing levels of power.

    However, the research, by Dr Mario Weick and Stefan Leach of the University’s School of Psychology and Dr Joris Lammers from the University of Cologne, Germany, did find that a lack of personal power correlates with a lack of social power.

    In one study 800 people from the US, UK, Germany and India were asked to recall events they thought of as either high or low in influence and high or low in autonomy. The researchers then asked participants how influential and autonomous they felt in these situations.

    A second study, asking 200 people to report how much influence and autonomy they experience in their everyday lives, confirmed that the relationship between influence and autonomy grows weaker with increasing levels of power.

    The research suggests that gaining influence over people does not lead to increased personal autonomy. Among the reasons for this, the researchers suggest, is that with every gain in discretionary abilities and control, for instance at work, individuals also gain additional responsibilities and often face an increase in scrutiny.


  4. ‘Smiley’ emojis in formal workplace e-mails could create frowns

    August 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev press release:

    A smiley face emoji and similar emoticons included in work-related e-mails may not create a positive impression and could even undermine information sharing, according to a new study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU).

    “Our findings provide first-time evidence that, contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence,” explained Dr. Ella Glikson, a post-doctorate fellow at the BGU Department of Management, Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management. “In formal business e-mails, a smiley is not a smile.”

    According to a new paper, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers from BGU, University of Haifa and Amsterdam University conducted a series of experiments with a total of 549 participants from 29 different countries.

    In one experiment, the participants were asked to read a work-related e-mail from an unknown person and then evaluate both the competence and warmth of that person. The participants all received similar messages. Some included smileys while others did not. The results demonstrated that in contrast to face-to-face smiles, which increase both competence and warmth, the smileys in an e-mail had no effect on the perception of warmth, and in fact had a negative effect on the perception of competence.

    “The study also found that when the participants were asked to respond to e-mails on formal matters, their answers were more detailed and they included more content-related information when the e-mail did not include a smiley,” says Dr. Glikson. “We found that the perceptions of low competence if a smiley is included in turn undermined information sharing,”

    In another experiment, the use of a smiley was compared to a smiling or neutral photograph. The findings show that in case of a photograph, a smiling sender was perceived as more competent and friendly than a neutral one. However, when e-mail on formal work-related matters included a smiley, the sender was perceived as less competent. The smiley did not influence the evaluation of the sender’s friendliness.

    Contributing to the ongoing discussion regarding the role of gender in use and interpretation of emoticons, this study found that when the gender of the e-mail writer was unknown, recipients were more likely to assume that the e-mail was sent by a woman if it included a smiley. However, this attribution did not influence the evaluation of competence or friendliness.

    “People tend to assume that a smiley is a virtual smile, but the findings of this study show that in the case of the workplace, at least as far as initial ‘encounters’ are concerned, this is incorrect,” Dr. Glikson says. “For now, at least, a smiley can only replace a smile when you already know the other person. In initial interactions, it is better to avoid using smileys, regardless of age or gender.”

    Dr. Cheshin of the Department of Human Services at the University of Haifa, and Prof. Gerben van Kleef of Amsterdam University also participated in the study. The study was funded by a grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.

     


  5. Study suggests managers can help prevent employees from working while sick

    August 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Wiley press release:

    A new study indicates that managerial support can help prevent employees who work extremely hard out of an obsessive drive (‘workaholics’) from forcing themselves to attend work when feeling sick. Such support from managers can also help address work-family conflict in workaholics.

    Increasing the awareness of supervisors of the harmful consequences and costs associated with showing up to work while ill (presenteeism) could allow them to recognise the value of rest and recovery. This could help prevent employees from feeling unable to cope efficiently with obligations pertaining to work and family.

    Managers should be trained to develop supportive leadership skills that are able to function as a protective factor buffering the detrimental association between an overwhelming compulsion to work and presenteeism,” said Dr. Greta Mazzetti, lead author of the International Journal of Psychology study.


  6. Study suggests how we balance work, family life may be learned from our parents

    August 23, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Queen Mary University of London press release:

    The extent to which we prioritise work versus family life may be shaped by our childhood experiences in the family home, according to a study co-authored by Dr Ioana Lupu from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

    Previous work-life balance research has focused more on the organisational context or on individual psychological traits to explain work and career decisions. However, this new study, published in Human Relations, highlights the important role of our personal history and what we subconsciously learn from our parents.

    “We are not blank slates when we join the workforce — many of our attitudes are already deeply engrained from childhood,” according to co-author by Dr Ioana Lupu.

    The study argues that our beliefs and expectations about the right balance between work and family are often formed and shaped in the earliest part of our lives. One of the most powerful and enduring influences on our thinking may come from watching our parents.

    The research is based on 148 interviews with 78 male and female employees from legal and accounting firms. Interviewees were sorted into four categories by the researchers: (1) willingly reproducing parental model; (2) reproducing the parental model against one’s will; (3) willingly distancing from the parental model; (4) and distancing from the parental model against one’s will.

    The study shows a number of differences between women and men who grew up in ‘traditional’ households where the father had the role of breadwinner while the mother managed the household. Male participants who grew up in this kind of household tended to be unaffected by the guilt often associated with balancing work and family.

    Male participant in the study: “I’ve always had a very strong work ethic drilled into me anyway, again by my parents, my family. So, I never needed anyone looking over my shoulder or giving me a kick up the backside and telling me I needed to do something — I’d get on and I’d do it. So, I found the environment [of the accountancy firm] in general one that suited me quite well.” (David, Partner, accountancy firm, two children).

    Women on the other hand were much more conflicted — they reported feeling torn in two different directions. Women who had stay-at-home mothers “work like their fathers but want to parent like their mothers,” says Dr Lupu.

    Female participant in the study: “My mum raised us…she was always at home and to some extent I feel guilty for not giving my children the same because I feel she raised me well and she had control over the situation. I’m not there every day … and I feel like I’ve failed them in a way because I leave them with somebody else. I sometimes think maybe I should be at home with them until they are a bit older.” (Eva, director, accountancy firm, two children).

    Women who had working mothers are not necessarily always in a better position because they were marked by the absence of their mothers. A female participant in the study remembers vividly, many years later how her mother was absent whereas other children’s mothers were waiting at the school gates.

    Female participant in the study: “I remember being picked up by a child-minder, and if I was ill, I’d be outsourced to whoever happened to be available at the time . . . I hated it, I hated it, because I felt like I just wanted to be with my mum and dad. My mum never picked me up from school when I was at primary school, and then everybody else’s mums would be stood there at the gate . . . And it’s only now that I’ve started re-thinking about that and thinking, well isn’t that going to be the same for [my son] if I’m working the way I am, he’s going to have somebody picking him up from school and maybe he won’t like that and is that what I want for my child?” (Jane, Partner, law firm, one child and expecting another).

    An exception was found in female participants whose stay-at-home mothers had instilled strong career aspirations into them from an early stage. In these cases, the participants’ mothers sometimes set themselves up consciously as ‘negative role models’, encouraging their daughters not to repeat their own mistake.

    Female participant in the study: “I do remember my mother always regretting she didn’t have a job outside the home and that was something that influenced me and all my sisters. […] She’d encourage us to find a career where we could work. She was quite academic herself, more educated than my father, but because of the nature of families and young children, she’d had to become this stay-at-home parent.” (Monica, director, AUDIT, one child)

    “We have found that the enduring influence of upbringing goes some way towards explaining why the careers of individuals, both male and female, are differentially affected following parenthood, even when those individuals possess broadly equivalent levels of cultural capital, such as levels of education, and have hitherto pursued very similar career paths,” says Dr Lupu.

    She says the research raises awareness of the gap that often exists between unconscious expectations and conscious ambitions related to career and parenting.

    “If individuals are to reach their full potential, they have to be aware of how the person that they are has been shaped through previous socialisation and how their own work?family decisions further reproduce the structures constraining these decisions,” says Dr Lupu.


  7. Study suggests individuals with bipolar disorder need workplace support

    by Ashley

    From the University of Michigan press release:

    People with bipolar disorder often find themselves unemployed due to exclusion, stigma and stereotypes directed at them at work, a new study found.

    These workers had to disclose their condition to co-workers and employers to receive special accommodations or more support, but often the outcomes are negative, say researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of California, Los Angeles.

    “Our findings suggest disclosure may risk job security,” said Lisa O’Donnell, the study’s lead author who was a doctoral student at U-M’s School of Social Work when the research was conducted.

    The study examined the relationship between social stressors at work — such as isolation, conflict with others and stigmas — and how a person functions on the job.

    The 129 research participants, whose average age ranged between 47 to 51, came from the Prechter Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder. They answered questions about conflict at work, exclusion and stigma by co-workers, social support and their mood.

    High depressive symptoms and conflict contributed to greater work impairments, the research showed. Meanwhile, exclusion at work and impact of stigma (identified as weak, lazy or incompetent) with keeping a job predicted the person’s work status.

    Exclusion at work — which is a passive form of bullying — can lead to negative consequences, such as less social support from others, the researchers say.

    “The results…underscore the importance of intervening to improve relationships with co-workers and supervisors,” said Joseph Himle, U-M associate dean for research and professor of social work and psychiatry.

    The researchers say more research is needed to identify the challenges found in the work environment — including inflexible hours, lower wages, access to adequate health care coverage — that individuals with severe mental illness commonly experience.

    “These innovations have the potential to improve how this disadvantaged population functions at work and potentially prevent unemployment,” said O’Donnell, a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA.

    Individuals with bipolar disorder could benefit from working with mental health clinicians, such as social workers, to develop more strategic ways to disclose their illness work, Himle says.

    The findings appear in the Journal of the Society for Social Work & Research.


  8. Study suggests managers often overestimate customer satisfaction

    August 21, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Indiana University press release:

    Despite the millions companies spend to gather information about customer satisfaction, senior managers often fail to understand those customers’ expectations.

    Neil A. Morgan, professor and PetSmart Distinguished Chair of Marketing at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, and four co-authors of a recent journal article present a huge disconnect between managers and customers in terms of understanding what drives customer satisfaction and loyalty.

    The researchers used data from 70,000 American Customer Satisfaction Index surveys and compared it with responses to the same questions posed to 1,068 marketing managers and those in customer-facing roles at the American Customer Satisfaction Index-measured companies, predominately Fortune 500 firms.

    Their results show that managers in a wide cross-section of industries often overestimate their customers’ satisfaction. This leads them to rely on unrealistic expectations when making marketing decisions and allocating resources to address marketplace issues.

    “Clearly there’s been a communication breakdown,” Morgan said. “Either the messages aren’t being disseminated, or they aren’t being understood within organizations. Otherwise, managers would have a better understanding of both the level and drivers of dissatisfaction among customers.

    “That means that there are customer satisfaction problems that are not being solved, because managers don’t know or don’t believe that they exist,” he added. “Even if they did, they try fixing the wrong things.”

    The paper, “Do Managers Know What Their Customers Think and Why,” appears in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

    Most of the large consumer-focused firms in the study sample have customer-satisfaction monitoring and feedback systems in place and invest heavily in them. Morgan believes that managers aren’t being exposed to the customer feedback data or they aren’t understanding it accurately.

    “These overly optimistic managers are likely to miss trouble signs when they appear,” the researchers wrote. “This is compounded by managers significantly underestimating the proportion of customers who have complained about the firm’s products or services in the recent past.

    Inaccurate understanding of what drives customers’ perceptions of products and services hampers a company’s ability to react to an issue. Even when managers recognize a need to improve customers’ perceptions, they may fail to do so in a way that leads to the desired outcomes.

    For example, the survey results indicate that managers are more likely to underinvest in raising customer quality perceptions as a way to enhance customer satisfaction.

    “Our findings may also provide an explanation for overemphasis on cost-cutting and efficiency observed in firms’ strategies relative to that on quality improvements or achieving differentiation,” the study said. “Where managers overestimate their own customer perception of the firm’s performance, cutbacks that undermine the quality of service, for example, may seem less dangerous than they really are.”

    “There seems to be a belief in lots of companies — and it’s kind of an urban myth — that most people who are unhappy won’t complain,” Morgan added. “Therefore, the complaints that you get are not representative of the level of satisfaction that exists among general customers. This data suggests that they shouldn’t be treating complaints as something different. They should be used as part of an overall customer feedback system.”

    Customer satisfaction is a significant factor on the bottom line, and previous studies have found that customer complaints impact stock returns.

    “For managers, the results of our study should serve as a wake-up call that all is not well with most firms’ customer satisfaction and complaint monitoring systems,” the researchers wrote. “Despite often being the single biggest line-item of most firms’ market research expenditures, existing customer feedback systems are not performing an effective management control role.”


  9. Study suggests engaging in casual video game play during rest breaks can help restore mood in response to workplace stress

    August 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society press release:

    More than half of Americans regularly experience cognitive fatigue related to stress, frustration, and anxiety while at work. Those in safety-critical fields, such as air traffic control and health care, are at an even greater risk for cognitive fatigue, which could lead to errors. Given the amount of time that people spend playing games on their smartphones and tablets, a team of human factors/ergonomics researchers decided to evaluate whether casual video game play is an effective way to combat workplace stress during rest breaks.

    In their Human Factors article (now online), “Searching for Affective and Cognitive Restoration: Examining the Restorative Effects of Casual Video Game Play,” Michael Rupp and coauthors used a computer-based task to induce cognitive fatigue in 66 participants, who were then given a five-minute rest break. During the break, participants either played a casual video game called Sushi Cat, participated in a guided relaxation activity, or sat quietly in the testing room without using a phone or computer. At various times throughout the experiment, the researchers measured participants’ affect (e.g., stress level, mood) and cognitive performance.

    Those who took a silent rest break reported that they felt less engaged with work and experienced worry as a result, whereas those who participated in the guided relaxation activity saw reductions in negative affect and distress. Only the video game players reported that they felt better after taking the break.

    Rupp, a doctoral student in human factors and cognitive psychology at the University of Central Florida, notes, “We often try to power through the day to get more work finished, which might not be as effective as taking some time to detach for a few minutes. People should plan short breaks to make time for an engaging and enjoyable activity, such as video games, that can help them recharge.”


  10. Study shows corporate wellness programs lead to increased worker productivity

    August 17, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of California – Riverside press release:

    coworker, managerCorporate wellness programs have been shown to save companies money by reducing absenteeism and health insurance costs. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, UCLA, and Washington University in Saint Louis, Mo., have now quantified an additional benefit to companies’ bottom line, showing that a wellness program they studied resulted in higher productivity for all participating employees. This improvement was dramatic: approximately equal to an additional productive work day per month for the average worker.

    Titled “Doing Well by Making Well: The Impact of Corporate Wellness Programs on Employee Productivity,” the study’s first author is Timothy Gubler, an assistant professor of management in the School of Business at UCR. It is forthcoming in the journal Management Science.

    Almost 90 percent of companies use some form of corporate wellness programs, with the most comprehensive offering biometric health screenings, nutritional programs, fitness classes, and educational seminars on topics ranging from smoking cessation to work-life balance. A recent meta-analysis found that each dollar spent on wellness programs saves $3.27 in health care costs and $2.73 in absenteeism costs.

    To quantify the additional benefit to companies through improved motivation and productivity, the current study examined individual productivity and medical data collected over a three-year period at five plants of an industrial laundry company in the Midwestern United States. The voluntary program was offered to workers, free of charge, at four of the five plants; the fifth did not participate because it used a different health insurance plan, providing a control group for the study.

    Employees who signed up for the program (about 85 percent of the staff) were offered access to a simple health exam that included drawing blood, taking blood pressure, and a health survey. Three weeks later, participants attended an educational seminar where a registered nurse presented them with a personalized health packet detailing their current health status and providing recommendations for improving their health. About two thirds of employees had a medical condition at the time of screening, according to an analysis by physicians hired by the researchers to evaluate the health data.

    After linking the medical data with individual worker productivity data, the authors found that participation in the wellness program increased average worker productivity by over 5 percent — roughly equivalent to adding one additional day of productive work per month for the average employee. By group, the results showed:

    Sick employees whose health improved during the program showed increased productivity levels that averaged 11 percent.

    Healthy workers whose health improved during the program showed increased productivity levels that averaged 10 percent.

    Healthy employees whose health did not improve during the program showed increased productivity levels that averaged 6 percent.

    Sick employees whose health did not improve did not show increased productivity levels.

    While unable to precisely identify the mechanisms driving improvements, Gubler said the increase in productivity was consistent with two factors: First, increased employee motivation that stemmed from higher job satisfaction and gratitude from those who discovered an undiagnosed illness; and second, improved capabilities due to improved physical and mental wellness. Employees who improved exercise and changed their diet saw the biggest increases in productivity.

    “By showing concern for workers, organizations can strengthen employees’ loyalty and commitment to the company. When workers discover unknown health problems through the program they may feel increased gratitude toward their employer and reciprocate that by increasing their efforts. Additionally, when programs help employees make healthy choices this can positively impact their wellness, mood, energy, and ultimately increase their productivity through increased capability,” Gubler said.

    Gubler said the findings add to a growing body of management research on the relationship between employee wellbeing and organizational performance. However, this is the first study to show a direct “causal link” for improvements in productivity through wellness programs, and employees improving their health.

    “Our research suggests that corporate wellness plans can boost employee satisfaction by offering a tangible benefit that empowers them to take care of their health in a way that’s integrated into their busy lives. The result is healthier and happier employees who are not only less expensive and less absent, but also more productive,” he said.