1. Study suggests staff satisfaction affects company performance

    November 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of East Anglia press release:

    Companies with high levels of staff satisfaction perform better financially, according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

    The study examined the effect of staff satisfaction on corporate performance using employees’ online reviews of where they work.

    Writing in the journal Economic Letters, the researchers from Norwich Business School say that firms rated highly by their current employees in terms of satisfaction achieve greater financial performance compared to firms characterised by low levels of employee satisfaction.

    They add that this association between employee satisfaction and corporate performance indicates that employees’ online reviews are good predictors of a firm’s financial results, and so of value-relevance for investors.

    However, they find that positive employee satisfaction is not fully reflected in equity prices on the stock market, as an analysis using a trading strategy based on investing in firms characterised by high levels of employee satisfaction achieved statistically and economically significant abnormal returns.

    Lead author Efthymia Symitsi said the findings have significant implications for both managers and investors: “Increasingly researchers from a wide range of disciplines argue that in the current knowledge-based economy, employees are a particularly valuable organisational asset as they can contribute to firm value through innovation and customer relationships.

    “Therefore, ensuring their wellbeing and general satisfaction should be a major concern for businesses. This human-centred view of the firm is in direct contrast to the traditional view, according to which employees perform unskilled tasks and, therefore, are expendable commodities. Naturally, which of the two views is the appropriate one is an issue of the utmost importance for both managers and investors.”

    The study, published online this month, analysed more than 326,000 employee ratings of 313 US public firms from 2009-2016. The sample only included firms that had more than 500 reviews during the period studied, with quarterly financial data also collected for each firm.

    Co-author Dr George Daskalakis said: “Our results provide empirical support for a human-centred view of the firm. Interestingly, however, it seems that this is not wholly recognised by equity investors, providing further evidence that intangibles are not fully priced in the stock market and, most importantly, that this is not due to lack of information, since we measure employee satisfaction on the basis of freely available online reviews.

    “The reason we find abnormal portfolio returns and, therefore, conclude that this intangible is not fully priced in the stock market, could be because equity investors don’t believe that employee satisfaction is value-relevant for firms or perhaps because it is difficult to actually quantify its value.”

    Previous studies investigating the effect of employee satisfaction on corporate performance are relatively limited and commonly based on the ‘100 Best Companies to Work for in America’ list, published annually by Fortune magazine.

    However, to potentially be included in the list a firm needs to be certified for a fee first by the California-based Great Place to Work Institute. Therefore, only firms that have, or believe themselves to have, significant levels of employee satisfaction have an incentive to pay this fee and get certified. The authors argue that this can result in any conclusions drawn being driven by self-selection bias.

    To avoid this possibility, this study based its analysis on freely available online reviews that employees posted on job and recruiting site Glassdoor.


  2. Study suggests performance appraisal success depends on frequent feedback and good standard setting

    November 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Leicester press release:

    Appraisal of employees often gets a bad press, but recent research suggests if it involves frequent feedback between the formal appraisal and good prior planning and communication of standards then it can be successful and appreciated by employees.

    The research, conducted by Stephen Wood at the University of Leicester and Shaun Pichler and Gerard Beenen, both at the California State University, Fullerton, is based on a meta-analysis of existing research. It shows that acceptability of appraisals is enhanced when feedback is frequent and standards are set and clear to employees but also that these two things have a synergistic relationship, so feedback has a greater effect when standard setting is good.

    Professor Shaun Pichler commenting on the results said: “People like receiving feedback, yet all too often employees do not get it. The research suggests that appraisal is unlikely to motivate employees, without frequent feedback throughout the review cycle and their being given meaningful performance standards.”

    The implications for practice are that rather than abandoning appraisals or continuing to treat that as an annual ritual, more attention should be paid to feedback and standard setting than is all too often the case. It is important that in standard setting and feedback the potential trade-offs between goals is acknowledged. And the existence of multiple or conflicting goals is not used to justify a fatalistic approach to appraisal, that it can never really be much use. Standards make appraisal and feedback easier so the appraisal does not need to focus on the person; and they can be defined as ideals and not obligations so the appraisal can focus on development and not ensuring obligations have been fulfilled.

    Professor Stephen Wood, of the University of Leicester School of Business, said: “All too often appraisal is treated as a once-a-year ritual or conceived as monitoring people’s performance, but with well communicated expectations and good quality feedback, it can be transformed from a tool of performance management to a potentially vital high-involvement management practice.”

    Just as feedback transforms the traditional attitude survey to a high-involvement management practice – the survey feedback method – so feedback transforms appraisal.


  3. UK study suggests sports psychologists working with elite footballers may suffer fear and uncertainty

    November 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Exeter press release:

    Sports psychologists have to cope with “fear and uncertainty”, job insecurity and long working hours when working with elite footballers, research shows.

    The experts are being increasingly used to give teams a competitive edge, but they have to face the pressure of losing their job when the football managers they work with are sacked or move, as well as long working hours and the constant need to prove themselves and to please others.

    The study, carried out with a psychologist who worked with a Premier League team, also suggests clubs are using sports psychologists who are untrained and unqualified and this could be dangerous for players. It warns there are few job opportunities for sports psychology and no structured career path.

    The profession is relatively new, but sport and exercise psychologists are now regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council in the UK. The role of a sports psychologist is diverse, but it typically includes working with athletes, coaches, and teams to enhance performance or support athletes who are injured, stressed or having difficulties managing their emotions. They also help sportsmen and women to better communicate, develop leadership skills, build confidence and find motivation and make the transition to a different career. Psychologists can be based in universities or with directly with teams or players.

    The research gives a rare glimpse into the working life of a sports psychologist in the English Premier League. “John”, who co-authored with study with academics from the University of Exeter and University of Portsmouth, is in his mid-30s and had worked for over a decade as a sports psychologist within the English Premier League (EPL) and the higher echelons of English County Cricket.

    John described how the role of a sports medic or psychologist can be incredibly rewarding when the team wins. But it is also precarious, and they often don’t benefit from job security or statutory entitlements because of their links with managers and coaches, who themselves often dismissed with no notice. Managers and coaches usually bring their own, trusted, staff with them when they move from role to role, as well as their own practices and regime. This means there can be a high turnover of medics and psychologists in clubs, and the job is highly competitive.

    John described how the changeover in managers could be “very volatile and unpleasant”. He had seen five managers come and go in five years.

    “This brings fear and uncertainty because any time there’s change you don’t know whether your face is going to fit. A lot of people will not believe that psychology has a place and that’s not a reflection on you or your capabilities, it’s just that they don’t want it in their team, or say they do and just sideline you. Or they have their own people, or a friend or a psych who they’ve used before, so you’re always at the mercy of one person’s attitude or perception, their team and their networks. All of this adds to the precarious nature of the work. You do the best you can to survive and hopefully thrive as well.”

    John described sometimes having to “hide” what he did. He worked with two coaches who didn’t believe in sports psychology. They wouldn’t let him speak to any of their players but he was able to work with players as part of a programme designed to support them off-field. Once the coaches saw this was successful they allowed him to carry out more sports psychology work.

    John helped professional sportspeople to improve their performance, develop and secure a place in the first team and helping them with issues or crises. He used different techniques, including one-to-one sessions with players to help them regulate their emotions and concentrate and set goals. He has now left club football for a more secure career in performance research and consultancy.

    John said: “It’s a life decision that you make to be fully involved in a team. You live and breathe what happens to them. You do whatever it takes. Everything must be done now, it’s a very instant culture and if you can do something to help the team win the next game then you need to do it. Ultimately it consumes your whole life and makes you vulnerable to change because you’re invested in it.”


  4. Study indicates all forms of sexual harassment can cause psychological harm

    November 13, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Norwegian University of Science and Technology press release:

    Being exposed to non-physical sexual harassment can negatively affect symptoms of anxiety, depression, negative body image and low self-esteem,” say Associate Professor Mons Bendixen and Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Psychology.

    This applies to derogatory sexual remarks about appearance, behaviour and sexual orientation, unwanted sexual attention, being subject to rumouring, and being shown sexually oriented images, and the like.

    The researchers posed questions about sexual harassment experienced in the previous year and received responses from almost 3,000 high school students in two separate studies. The responses paint a clear picture.

    Worst for girls

    This is not exclusively something boys do against girls. It’s just as common for boys to harass boys in these ways.

    Girls and boys are equally exposed to unpleasant or offensive non-physical sexual harassment. About 62 per cent of both sexes report that they have experienced this in the past year.

    “Teens who are harassed the most also struggle more in general. But girls generally struggle considerably more than boys, no matter the degree to which they’re being harassed in this way,” Kennair notes.

    Girls are also more negatively affected by sexual harassment than boys are,” adds Bendixen.

    Being a girl is unquestionably the most important risk factor when teens report that they struggle with anxiety, depression, negative body image or low self-esteem.

    However, non-physical sexual harassment is the second most important factor, and is more strongly associated with adolescents’ psychological well-being than being subjected to sexual coercion in the past year or sexual assault prior to that.

    Level of severity

    Bendixen and Kennair believe it’s critical to distinguish between different forms of harassment.

    They divided the types of harassment into two main groups: non-physical harassment and physically coercive sexual behaviour, such as unwanted kissing, groping, intimate touch, and intercourse. Physical sexual coercion is often characterized as sexual abuse in the literature.

    Studies usually lump these two forms of unwanted behaviour together into the same measure. This means that a derogatory comment is included in the same category as rape.

    “As far as we know, this is the first study that has distinguished between these two forms and specifically looked at the effects of non-physical sexual harassment,” says Bendixen.

    Comments that for some individuals may seem innocent enough can cause significant problems for others.

    Many factors accounted for

    Not everyone interprets slang or slurs the same way. If someone calls you a “whore” or “gay,” you may not find it offensive. For this reason, the researchers let the adolescents decide whether they perceived a given action as offensive or not, and had them only report what they did find offensive.

    The article presents data from two studies. The first study from 2007 included 1384 high school students. The second study included 1485 students and was conducted in 2013-2014. Both studies were carried out in Sør-Trøndelag county and are comparable with regard to demographic conditions.

    The results of the first study were reproduced in the second. The findings from the two studies matched each other closely.

    The researchers also took into account a number of other potentially influential factors, such as having parents who had separated or were unemployed, educational programme (vocational or general studies), sexual minority status, immigrant status, and whether they had experienced physical coercion in the past year or any sexual assaults previous to that.

    “We’ve found that sexual minorities generally reported more psychological distress,” says Bendixen. The same applied to young people with parents who are unemployed. On the other hand, students with immigrant status did not report more psychological issues. Bendixen also notes that sexual minorities did not seem to be more negatively affected by sexual harassment than their heterosexual peers.

    However, the researchers did find a clear negative effect of non-physical sexual harassment, over and beyond that of the risk factors above.

    Uncertain as to what is an effective intervention

    So what can be done to reduce behaviours that may cause such serious problems for so many?

    Kennair concedes that he doesn’t know what can help.

    “This has been studied for years and in numerous countries, but no studies have yet revealed any lasting effects of measures aimed at combating sexual harassment,” Bendixen says. “We know that attitude campaigns can change people’s attitudes to harassment, but it doesn’t result in any reduction in harassment behaviour.”

    Bendixen and Kennair want to look into this in an upcoming study. Their goal is to develop practices that reduce all forms of sexual harassment and thereby improve young people’s psychological well-being.


  5. Study suggests ways to make email and other technology interruptions productive

    November 11, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Stephen J.R. Smith School of Business, Queen’s University press release:

    The average knowledge worker enjoys a measly five minutes of uninterrupted time and, once interrupted, half won’t even get back to what they were doing in the first place. Yet organizational expectations or social pressures make it hard to resist the urge to check incoming emails or text messages — pressing tasks be damned.

    Research suggests that such interruptions are not necessarily bad, and can even be productive.

    “I know from personal experience that some interruptions are actually good,” says Shamel Addas, an assistant professor of information systems at Smith School of Business. “It depends on the content and timing. You can get some critical information that will help, like completing your task. So that’s one of the assumptions I feel needs to be challenged and tested.”

    Addas has conducted several studies to learn more about the relationship between technology-related interruptions and performance.

    He found that interruptions that did not relate to primary activities undermined workers’ performance — they led to higher error rates, poorer memory, and lower output quality. It also took longer for workers to return to their primary work and complete their tasks. Such interruptions also had an indirect effect on performance by increasing workers’ stress levels.

    Email interruptions that related to workers’ primary activities increased stress levels as well but also boosted workers’ performance. Such interruptions were tied to mindful processing of task activities, which led to better performance both in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.

    Addas also discovered that the very features of the interrupting technology can influence the outcomes of the interruptions positively or negatively. Individuals who engaged in several email threads of conversations at the same time or those who kept getting interrupted by email but let the messages pile up in their in-box experienced higher stress levels and lower performance.

    And those who reprocessed their received messages during interruptions episodes or rehearsed their message responses before sending saw some benefits. Doing this enabled them to process their tasks more mindfully, Addas says, which boosted their performance.

    What does this mean for managers? For one thing, just recognizing that there are different types of interruptions, each with its own trade off, can help managers mitigate the negative impacts on performance and stress.

    Addas suggests that managers develop email management programs and interventions, such as specifying a time-response window for emails based on their urgency or relevance to primary activities. They can also establish periods of quiet time for uninterrupted work. And they can encourage work groups to develop effective coordination strategies to ensure one person’s interruptions do not adversely affect colleagues.

    As for individuals, they can start handling interruptions in batch rather than in real time to reduce the costs of switching back and forth between tasks and interruptions. To reduce stress from overload, Addas suggests, people should limit parallel exchanges during interruptions and delete or folder messages that are of limited use for their core work.

    “People might well consider thinking about the messages they construct and examining carefully their previously received messages as needed to ensure that they process their tasks more mindfully, which is beneficial for performance,” Addas says.

    Addas believes there are design implications to consider as well, particularly relating to context aware systems and email clients. Context aware systems know what kinds of tasks people are working on and can detect high and low periods of workload. “Email clients can be programmed to screen messages for task-relevant content and distinguish between incongruent and congruent interruptions,” he says. “They can then manipulate the timing at which each type of interruption is displayed to users, such as masking incongruent interruptions until a later time.”


  6. Study suggests empowered employees are more proactive … even when they don’t trust their leader

    November 8, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    New research confirms that employees with empowering leaders are more proactive and, for the first time, shows that this effect occurs by increasing “role breadth self-efficacy” — defined as the confidence to do a variety of tasks beyond the job description. The research further shows that when subordinates trust the leader’s competency, the leader’s power sharing behavior increases the subordinates’ role breadth self-efficacy. However, contrary to what might be expected, the researchers propose that when subordinates trust the leader’s competency, it is less necessary for the leader to share their power to motivate proactive behaviors. The study, published today in Frontiers in Psychology, provides practical recommendations on empowering leadership for managers and organizations.

    “Despite the well-documented benefits of proactive behavior, the question of how to promote employee proactivity in the workplace is relatively under-explored,” says one of the study’s authors, Dr Yungui Guo from China’s Zhoukou Normal University, School of Economic and Management. “Our research elaborates a theoretical model that explains why, and when, empowering leadership might promote this.”

    A proactive workforce can strongly influence business effectiveness and competitiveness. Several studies demonstrate that proactive behaviors — like taking charge, seeking feedback and building social networks — can improve organizational creativity, processes and job satisfaction, among other benefits.

    Proactive behavior has been associated with empowering leadership, where managers share power with their subordinates and grant them a fair amount of autonomy. However, the details of how empowering leadership influences proactivity have not previously been investigated.

    “Most studies on empowering leadership focused at the team rather than the individual level, and did not separate out the influence of the leader from the employee’s personality,” says Guo. “The mechanism by which empowering leadership encourages proactivity has also not been studied in detail.”

    To provide deeper insight into this, the researchers surveyed 280 leader-follower dyads from a large state-owned Chinese company. The surveys assessed the level of empowering leadership in supervisors, while subordinates were assessed for proactive behavior, trust in leader competence, proactive personality and role breadth self-efficacy.

    The data confirm that empowering leadership is positively related to proactive behavior, even after controlling for proactive personality. The researchers also show how this works: sharing power leads to higher role breadth self-efficacy in subordinates, which in turn encourages their proactive behavior.

    The research additionally shows that the mediating effect of role breadth self-efficacy is stronger when employees have high trust in their leader’s competence.

    “When you think your leader is capable, you may view their sharing of power as an opportunity to learn new things,” explains Guo. “This gives you confidence to go beyond your job description — which increases your experience and mastery of different skills.”

    “In contrast, a low level of trust might make you suspect that delegating power is a way for the leader to shift responsibility. In this case you may be less willing to take on additional tasks.”

    However, contrary to what might be expected, the research suggests that it is less necessary for trusted leaders to share their power in order to motivate subordinates’ proactive behaviors.

    “If you view your leader as incompetent, you may prefer to make your own decisions than follow what he or she tells you to do,” explains Guo. “Therefore, empowered employees with lower level of trust in leader competency are more likely to seize opportunities to exert more proactive behaviors.”

    The findings have several implications for management.

    “Leaders can foster proactivity by sharing power and adopting empowering behaviors, such as advising subordinates to search for solutions themselves or as a team,” says Guo. “Organizations could also train leaders on how to effectively empower employees, or even selectively recruit and promote managers with a higher tendency to empower their subordinates.”

    Organizations could also improve proactivity by paying attention to role breadth self-efficacy.

    “Role breadth self-efficacy could be used as a selection criterion in the hiring process. Organizations can also foster this by encouraging job rotation and information sharing,” says Guo.

    One limitation of the study is that it only assessed Chinese leaders and subordinates — so the findings may not be applicable across all countries and cultures.

    “China was especially suitable for our empirical setting, because it is a country where employees’ work behaviors are significantly influenced by their leaders,” says Guo. “Future studies should utilize a larger and multinational sample to validate our findings.”


  7. Study examines workplace incivility: the silent epidemic

    November 6, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Texas A&M University press release:

    Workplace incivility is taking over our organizations, professional relationships and everyday interactions. According to Dr. Jia Wang, associate professor of human resource development, understanding why incivility happens and how to address it starts with awareness.

    “When we think about incivility we think about something major, but it doesn’t have to be,” explained Dr. Wang. “Most of the time it’s the little things accumulated in your daily life that make a huge impact.”

    When incivility happens and it affects enough employees, it can impact productivity and, eventually, an organization’s bottom line. Uncivil acts, also termed microaggressions, have been cited as a major cause of employee turnover, poor workplace climate and job dissatisfaction.

    “Many people experience incivility, but they choose not to speak up because they need the job or worry about retribution,” stated Dr. Wang. “I want to help people to be courageous and say ‘this is not right and it needs to stop.'”

    So, what can an organization do to reduce and prevent incivility in the workplace?

    Define Acceptable Behavior

    It starts with the organization’s leadership. To make a change in the workplace, leaders need to develop behavior statements. These statements define what qualifies as uncivil on both the personal and organizational level.

    “If I was holding a workshop session, I would have [an employer] sit down and brainstorm as many statements as they could. I would have them think about things they have observed and experienced and what they would consider uncivil,” explained Dr. Wang.

    Engage with Employees

    It is also important for leadership to take a look at their own actions and determine whether they are being civil to their employees. A leadership team has to be willing to engage in conversations with and take feedback from colleagues.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people — including CEOs and corporate leaders — are not willing to discuss uncivil behavior because it is uncomfortable and often confrontational.

    Recognize Behavior Patterns

    Dr. Wang recommends making small, daily changes such as starting a meeting to discuss bad behavior a company wants to stop and good behavior that deserves recognition.

    “To me, incivility is a culture thing and culture change does not happen overnight. But, you can educate people to be culturally aware and culturally competent.”

    Stay Accountable

    Human resource professionals can play a key role in this process by playing the role of executive coach. This relationship can support cultures and policies that measure behavior and hold individuals accountable.

    “What kind of culture do you want to foster in your organization? How do you translate that? The leadership really needs to be serious and sincere about that… being their coach is very important.”

    Reinforce your Values

    Dr. Wang says setting clear behavioral expectations is not enough to stem the flow of uncivil behavior, especially when they are only posted in hallways or addressed once a year.

    Continually reviewing and talking about an organization’s behavior statements shows employees that the leadership team isn’t just checking off a box, but that they really care about changing the climate.


  8. Study suggests nurses’ depression tied to increased likelihood of medical errors

    October 31, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Ohio State University press release:

    Depression is common among nurses and is linked to a higher likelihood they’ll make medical errors, new research suggests.

    The study found that more than half of nurses who took part in a national survey reported sub-optimal physical and mental health. Nurses in poorer health had a 26 to 71 percent higher likelihood of reporting medical errors than did their healthier peers. Depression stood out as a major concern among the 1,790 U.S. nurses who responded to the survey, and as the key predictor of medical errors.

    “When you’re not in optimal health, you’re not going to be on top of your game,” said lead author Bernadette Melnyk, dean of The Ohio State University’s College of Nursing and chief wellness officer for the university.

    Hospital administrators should build a culture of well-being and implement strategies to better support good physical and mental health in their employees. It’s good for nurses, and it’s good for their patients.”

    The study, which appears online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, also found that nurses who perceived their workplace as conducive to wellness were more likely to report good health.

    The National Academy of Medicine has prioritized clinician well-being in its recently launched action collaborative, acknowledging that burnout, compassion fatigue, depression and poor work-life balance affect a large percentage of doctors, nurses and other health professionals.

    The new research is the first large-scale national study to link nurses’ well-being to self-reported medical errors, Melnyk said.

    “Nurses do a great job of caring for other people, but they often don’t prioritize their own self-care,” she said. “And their work lives are increasingly stressful – patients are sicker, hospitals are crunched financially and nurses are having to find ways to juggle patient care with all of their other assigned tasks, such as tending to the electronic medical record.”

    Limiting long shifts and providing easy-to-access, evidence-based resources for physical and mental health, including depression screenings, could go a long way toward improving nurses’ wellness and decreasing the chances that mistakes will be made, Melnyk said.

    The data came from a survey conducted by the American Academy of Nursing’s million hearts sub-committee of the health behavior expert panel. The survey included 53 questions and was offered through nursing organizations and 20 U.S. hospitals. Only responses from nurses who were in clinical practice were included in the study. The majority of participants were white women and the average age of participants was 44, which closely resembles the demographics of the nursing workforce nationwide.

    More than half (54 percent) of the nurses reported poor physical and mental health. About a third said they had some degree of depression, anxiety or stress. Less than half said they had a good professional quality of life.

    And self-reported medical errors were common. About half the nurses reported medical errors in the past five years.

    When researchers compared the wellness data to the medical error data, they saw a significant link between poor health – particularly depression – and medical errors.

    While a survey that depends on self-reported perceptions has its limitations, the evidence should prompt efforts to improve the mental and physical health of nurses, physicians and other clinicians, Melnyk said.

    “Health care systems and hospitals have to do a better job of creating wellness cultures for their clinicians,” she said. “The National Academy of Medicine has identified this as a public health problem and has made clinician well-being a high priority for health care quality and safety.”


  9. Study examines effect of looks on job applications

    October 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American Psychological Association press release:

    While good-looking people are generally believed to receive more favorable treatment in the hiring process, when it comes to applying for less desirable jobs, such as those with low pay or uninteresting work, attractiveness may be a liability, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

    “Our research suggests that attractive people may be discriminated against in selection for relatively less desirable jobs,” said lead author Margaret Lee, a doctoral candidate at the London Business School. “This stands in contrast to a large body of research that concluded that attractiveness, by and large, helps candidates in the selection process.”

    The research was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

    Lee and her colleagues conducted a series of four experiments involving more than 750 participants, including university students and managers who make hiring decisions in the real world. Participants were shown profiles of two potential job candidates that included photos, one attractive and one unattractive (the photos were vetted by previous research to test attractiveness). The participants were then asked a series of questions designed to measure their perceptions of the job candidates and, in three of the experiments, whether they would hire these candidates for a less-than-desirable job (e.g., warehouse worker, housekeeper, customer service representative) or a more desirable job (e.g., manager, project director, IT internship).

    In all three experiments where they were asked, participants were significantly less likely to hire the attractive candidate for the less desirable job and more likely to hire the attractive candidate for the more desirable job.

    “We found that participants perceived attractive individuals to feel more entitled to good outcomes than unattractive individuals, and that attractive individuals were predicted to be less satisfied with an undesirable job than an unattractive person,” said Lee. “In the selection decision for an undesirable job, decision makers were more likely to choose the unattractive individual over the attractive individual. We found this effect to occur even with hiring managers.”

    The findings were surprising because, based on prior research, the prediction would be that decision makers select the attractive candidate no matter the position, according to Lee.

    “The most interesting part of our findings is that decision makers take into consideration others’ assumed aspirations in their decisions,” said co-author Madan Pillutla, PhD, also of the London Business School. “Because participants thought that attractive individuals would want better outcomes, and therefore participants predicted that attractive individuals would be less satisfied, they reversed their discrimination pattern and favored unattractive candidates when selecting for a less desirable job.”

    This research suggests that the taken-for-granted view that attractive candidates are favored when applying for jobs might be limited to high-level jobs that were the predominant focus of past research, according to Pillutla. Therefore, organizations and policymakers may need to implement different measures from those assumed by past work if they are to curb discrimination in the hiring process, he said.


  10. Study examines the workings of collective intelligence

    October 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Iowa State University press release:

    The concept of “collective intelligence” is simple — it asserts that if a team performs well on one task, it will repeat that success on other projects, regardless of the scope or focus of the work. While it sounds good in theory, it doesn’t work that way in reality, according to an Iowa State University researcher.

    Marcus Credé, an assistant professor of psychology, says unlike individuals, group dynamics are too complex to predict a team’s effectiveness with one general factor, such as intelligence. Instead, there are a variety of factors — leadership, group communication, decision-making skills -that affect a team’s performance, he said.

    Anita Woolley’s research supporting collective intelligence quickly gained traction in the business world when it was first introduced in 2010. The attention was not surprising to Credé. Because organizations rely heavily on group work, managers are always looking for a “silver bullet” to improve team performance, he said. However, after re-analyzing the data gathered by Woolley and her colleagues, Credé and Garett Howardson, an assistant professor at Hofstra University, found the data didn’t support the basic premise of collective intelligence. Their work is published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

    “For decades researchers have looked at what makes a team work well. They’ve typically found that if a team performs well in one area, that is largely unrelated to how the team will perform in a different area,” Credé said. “A team working on a production line requires a fundamentally different set of skills than a team trying to find creative solutions to a problem. While a Marine Corps fire team is great at its job, it’s not going to work well performing surgery.”

    Credé notes that of the six studies included in their re-analysis, only one — a 2014 study by researchers at Indiana University — correctly concluded there was no evidence of collective intelligence.

    Misinterpreting the data

    Credé says conflicting data was just one of three major problems he and Howardson discovered. Their analysis found participants in these studies were either unmotivated — which Credé suspects is likely the case — or they were confused by some of the tasks the groups were asked to perform. For example, as part of a brainstorming task, each team had 10 minutes to come up with different uses for a brick. Teams scored a point for each use, regardless of the practicality.

    At least one team included in the analysis received a zero on this task. Credé says it’s hard to believe a team could not come up with one use for a brick. In this example, if one group does poorly because of minimal effort, it can artificially inflate correlations between performance across tasks, the researchers explained in the paper. As a result, Credé says Woolley and her team may have misinterpreted the data as an indicator of collective intelligence.

    They also did not recognize that teams can exhibit some consistency in performance across tasks, even when the team members barely interact with each other. In other words, the teams may not have functioned collectively. Instead, Credé says individual team members may have developed separate responses that were averaged across the team, rather than true collaboration. The fact that study participants were college students receiving course credit or community members receiving a stipend also doesn’t reflect how teams form and function within organizations.

    “In real organizations, people typically know each other; they work together over time and work on very different tasks than the ones assigned in the study,” Credé said. “A lot of teams are also comprised of members with high-level and different skill sets, and often one member functions as a leader.”

    Work provides some useful insight

    Credé says in one study, Woolley and her team recorded team conversations while each group was completing a task, which offers a better understanding of how team members interact. In some groups, one team member dominated the entire conversation, and in other groups, there were more equal contributions. Credé says team performance generally suffers when one person controls the conversation.

    It is possible that team performance on one task may predict its performance on another similar task, Credé said. However, for researchers to fully understand this relationship, their work must mirror team composition and tasks in real organizations. Credé cautions that this may be difficult to replicate in a lab setting.