Managing Workplace Interruptions

Edward Sykes

Edward Sykes

Most office workers spend an average of two hours a day doing unplanned tasks, according to Sheridan Institute’s Edward Sykes.
These work interruptions are associated with:

Unplanned tasks decrease productivity and are characterized by:

  • Intrusions – Unplanned interactions initiated by others: Synchronous communication including instant message, phone call, or a coworkers visiting to talk,
  • Distractions – Unplanned focus change from a task to environmental conditions like other conversations,
  • Breaks – Unscheduled task stoppage to rest, visit the restroom, have a meal,
  • Discrepancy Detection – Unplanned task stoppage to correct errors or redirect work effort toward a revised objective.

Unplanned workplace interruptions are increasingly prevalent due to rising incidence of:

  • Open and collaborative workspaces,
  • Technological interruptions,
  • Meetings.
Sheldon Cohen

Sheldon Cohen

Open space floor plans increase unplanned interruptions, perceived stress, and “cognitive fatigue,” due to greater noise levels and reduced privacy for employees.
These factors also reduce employees’ job satisfaction, found Carnegie Mellon’s Sheldon Cohen and E. M. De Croon and team of University of Amsterdam.

Julie Renneker

Julie Renneker

Synchronous communications are more disruptive than asynchronous communications, which allow response at a convenient time and mitigate the negative impact of task-shifting on cognitive load and stress level, noted University of Texas’s Julie Rennecker and Lindsey Godwin, now of Champlain College.

Greg Oldham

Greg Oldham

Strategies to mitigate the impact of work disruptions include time management and boundary setting, according to Tulane’s Greg Oldham, Carol Kulik of University of South Australia and Florida State University’s Lee Stepina.
 They suggested that employees:

Carol Kulik

Carol Kulik

-“Batch” communication to check email and returning phone calls at specified intervals,

-Block technology pop-ups, alerts, sounds to avoid startling interruptions,

James Tyler

James Tyler

-Organize tasks around energy peaks, with tasks requiring the most effort and concentration earlier in the workday and after a break, also advocated by Purdue’s James Tyler and Kathleen Burns of University of Wisconsin,

Kathleen Burns

Kathleen Burns

-Take active breaks, such as walking outside to breathe outdoor air,

John Aiello

John Aiello

-Schedule interruption-free intervals, to increase perceived control over interruptions and reduce stress, also cited by Duke’s Andrew Carton and John Aiello of Rutgers,

-Create “work-arounds” for open space floor plans by:
.Installing higher cubicle dividers,
.Providing noise-cancelling headphones,
.Offering white noise machines to reduce ambient notice,
.Designating reservable private work rooms for audio privacy,

-Reduce meeting frequency to focus on issues that require group discussion, consensus, commitment.

Quintus Jett

Quintus Jett

A counterpoint argument is that task interruptions provide benefits, proposed by Rutgers’s Quintus Jett, and Jennifer George of Rice University.
The argued that unplanned and planned interruptions :

  • Jennifer George

    Jennifer George

    Prevent widespread rework when employees alert colleagues to a work discrepancy or error,

  • Increase productivity during repetitive or well-learned tasks that may lead to boredom, errors, or lost task focus.

-*How do you reduce the negative impact of workplace interruptions?

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Apologies: Repairing Relationships, Creating Interpersonal Peace

Jennifer Robbennolt

Jennifer Robbennolt

Apologies can resolve legal disputes ranging from personal injury cases to wrongful firings, according to University of Illinois’s Jennifer Robbennolt.

She found that admissions of guilt and remorse provide plaintiffs and “wronged” parties a sense of satisfaction, fairness, and forgiveness that enable settlement and reduce monetary damage awards.

Robbbenolt asked more than 550 volunteers to serve as “plaintiffs” in an experimental scenario, then to report their reactions to “settlement levers” including:

  • Reservation prices,
  • Aspirations,
  • “Fair” settlement amounts.

Apologies enabled injured parties to modify their perceptions of the situation and the “offender,” and to become more willing to participate in settlement discussions.
In addition, apologies changed the values injured parties’ assigned to settlement levers, so there was increased likelihood of settling the “case.”

The type of apologies and situational context affect the likelihood of case settlement.
Apologies that acknowledge responsibility and “blame” are more influential than apologies that express only sympathy.
Acknowledging accountability reduces the injured party’s anger, increases willingness to accept a settlement, and moves toward tangible and emotional “closure.”

Janelle Barlow

Janelle Barlow

Apologies are a well-known tactic to handle complaints in customer service settings, where “every complaint is a gift,” according to Janelle Barlow of TMI and Claus Møller.

Claus Møller

Claus Møller

They view complaints as valuable feedback that points out a gap between customer requirements and business performance.
In addition, complaints indicate needed changes in products, services, and market focus.

Benjamin Ho

Benjamin Ho

Medical settings have found that apologies have averted medical malpractice cases, sped settlement, and reduced financial awards, according to Cornell’s Benjamin Ho.

Although volunteer plaintiffs in Robbenholt’s study responded favorably to apologies, another of her studies demonstrated that lawyers express concern that apologies are an admission of guilt that can be used to leverage bigger settlements.
The power of apology has been acknowledged in at least thirty-five U.S. states, where statutes make some apologetic statements inadmissible at trial.

-*How do you determine when apologies are likely to repair a relationship and lead to “closure”?
-*What are the signs that apologies can deepen an interpersonal rupture?

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Expressing Anger at Work: Power Tactic or Career-Limiting Strategy?

Expressions of anger at work can be triggered by organizational pressures including complex relationships, chronic constraints, high stakes, and factors beyond individual control.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

When women and men express anger at work, they receive different evaluations of status, competence, leadership effectiveness.
Both male and female evaluators conferred lower status on angry female professionals, regardless of the actual occupational rank, reported Yale University’s Victoria Brescoll and Eric Luis Uhlmann, now of HEC Paris School of Management.

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Eric Luis Uhlmann

This negative evaluation of women who express anger was consistent across role statuses, from female CEOs to female trainees.
In contrast, men who expressed anger in a professional context were conferred higher status than men who expressed sadness.

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Similarly, women who express anger and sadness were rated as less effective than women who expressed no emotion, according to Kristi Lewis Tyran of Western Washington University.
Men who expressed sadness received lower effectiveness ratings than those who expressed in neutral emotions.

Observers also attribute different motivations and “root causes” to anger expressions by women and men.
Women’s angry emotional reactions were attributed to less changeable internal characteristics such as “she is an angry person,” and “she is out of control,” found Brescoll and Uhlmann.
In contrast, men’s angry reactions were attributed to changeable external circumstances, such as having external pressure and demands.

Ginka Toegel

Ginka Toegel

Donald Gibson

Donald Gibson

These differing evaluations and causal attributions are related to societal norms and expectations for women to regulate anger expressions, suggested Fairfield University’ s Donald Gibson and Ronda Callister of Utah State University.

Women may buffer the status-lowering , competence-eroding, and dislike-provoking consequences of anger at work by:

Rhonda Callister

-*What impacts and consequences have you observed for people who express anger in the workplace?

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“Feminine Charm” as Negotiation Tactic

Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

“Feminine charm” was one of the only negotiation tactics available to women for centuries, and has been portrayed in novels by Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, and George Eliot.

When former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright conceded to interviewer Bill Maher that she has used “charm” in challenging negotiations with heads of state, University of California, Berkeley’s Laura Kray and Alex Van Zant with Connson Locke of London School of Economics sought to define the component of “feminine charm” in negotiation situations.

George Eliot

George Eliot

Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright

Their investigation led to an operational definition of “feminine charm” as characterized by:

  • -Friendliness (concern for the other person) coupled with
  • -Flirtation (concern for self and self-presentation).

Like ingratiation, “the aim of feminine charm is to make an interaction partner feel good to gain compliance toward broader interaction goal,” according to Kray, Van Zant, and Locke.

Laura Kray

Laura Kray

Alex Van Zant

Alex Van Zant

They found that “feminine charm” (friendliness plus flirtation) created positive impressions that partially buffered the social penalties or “backlash” against negotiating, identified by Harvard’s Hannah Riley Bowles and her colleagues.

Connson Locke

Connson Locke

Hannah Riley Bowles

Hannah Riley Bowles

Women who were perceived as flirtatious achieved superior economic deals in their negotiations compared with women who were seen as friendly, validating suggestions by Stanford’s Deborah Gruenfeld and Carnegie Mellon’s Linda Babcock, that women achieve better negotiation outcomes when they combine power tactics with warmth.

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

Their findings expose “a financial risk associated with female friendliness:…the resulting division of resources may be unfavorable if she is perceived as ‘too nice’.”

-*How do you mitigate the “financial risk associated with female friendliness”?

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Writing Power Primer Increases Efficacy in High-Stakes Performance

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Power is the central regulator of human interactionbecause it creates patterns of deference, reduces conflict, creates division of labor — all things that make our species successful,” opined Columbia’s Adam Galinsky.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

He evaluated a power-enhancing technique used by Harvard Business School’s Francesca Gino when she applied for academic positions at top-tier universities after an initial unsuccessful round of interviews.

Gino wrote a “power prime” by recalling and summarizing a time she felt powerful.
She reviewed this prime before she presented a talk and interviewed for academic roles.
Using this approach, Gino received job offers from four top universities, in contrast to her previously unsuccessful interview attempts.

David Dubois

David Dubois

Based on this anecdotal evidence, Galinsky investigated whether changes in feelings of power are associated with different outcomes in professional interviews, with collaborators David Dubois of INSEAD, Tilburg University’s Joris Lammers, and Derek Rucker of Northwestern University.

Joris Lammers

Joris Lammers

They asked job applicants and business school admission candidates to recall and write about a time they felt powerful or powerless.
Independent judges, who were unaware of the power manipulation, rated the written and face-to-face interview performance of applicants.
They assigned highest ratings to those who recalled power experiences.

Derek Rucker

Derek Rucker

Judges power-primed applicants were preferred because they seemed more persuasive and confident than other applicants.
These candidates were offered job roles and business school admission more frequently than those who wrote about powerless experiences or those who considered neither powerful nor powerless situations.

The undermining impact of recalled powerlessness was also significant:  Only 26 percent of those who wrote about a time in which they lacked power were selected for roles and admission, considerably less than the expected average of 47 percent.

Sian Beilock

Sian Beilock

An earlier post highlighted Sian Beilock’s investigation of writing as a coping tool in stressful academic situations.
Her collaborators at University of Chicago, Vanderbilt, and Pace Universities showed that students could manage test anxiety by writing about their concerns to contain them and to maintain a calm mindset.

These findings suggest that merely recalling an experience of personal power can favorably influence impressions of persuasiveness and perhaps competence and likeability in professional interviews.
This effect can be enhanced by writing about power experiences to increase confidence and positive outlook when working toward desired goals.

-*How do you prepare for challenging professional interviews?
-*How effective have your found “power primes” in high-stakes performance situations?

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Career Advancement as Contest – Tournament and How to Win

Olivia Mandy O'Neill

Olivia Mandy O’Neill

If you work in an organization, you gave tacit agreement to participate in a Workplace Tournament, according to (Olivia) Mandy O’Neill of Wharton and Charles O’Reilly of Stanford.
They contend that careers unfold as a series of tournaments in which employees at lower levels compete with each other for career advancement.

Charles O'Reilly

Charles O’Reilly

The prevalence of implicit workplace contests was validated in O’Reilly’s study of executive pay with University of Edinburgh’s Brian G M Main and James Wade, now of Emory University.

Brian G.M. Main

Brian G.M. Main

“Winners” in the contest for advancement shared two characteristics in O’Neill and O’Reilly’s study MBA graduates’ incomes over an eight-year period.

James Wade

James Wade

Those with highest incomes four years after graduation said they preferred “masculine” organizational culture, and this relationship was stronger for women than men.

Eight years after graduation, men’s salaries were significantly higher than women’s, attributable to the greater number of hours men worked per week.
During this period, many women MBA graduates took time off or reduced the number of hours work to care for relatives, reducing the average number of hours worked.

One non-MBA mother whose income did not suffer is Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo.
In 2012, she took two weeks for parental leave, and her total compensation for the year was USD $36.6 Million.

Phyllis Tharenou

Phyllis Tharenou

Organizational hierarchies dominated by men were preferred by high-earners, and were associated with women advancing less frequently into lower and middle management, according to Phyllis Tharenou, now of Flinders University.

Employees with managerial aspirations and masculine preferences were more likely to advance in management roles, she found.
However, these effects were offset by “career encouragement” such as mentoring and structured career development programs.

Denise Conroy

Denise Conroy

With Denise Conroy of Queensland Technology University, Tharenou studied more than 600 female managers and 600 male managers across six organizational levels.
Women’s and men’s advancement was most closely correlated with workplace development opportunities and organizational structure, suggesting that structural, policy and program changes can increase the number of women in top leadership roles.

Women tend to excel in explicit workplace contests, such as in public sector jobs.
In contrast, women have less experience capitalizing on organizational “sponsorship” by advocates for their advancement.
Taken together, these studies suggest that women can improve opportunities for advancement by:

  • Recognizing that advancement is a tournament,
  • Behaving as a strategic competitor,
  • Communicating interest in advancement,
  • Seeking employment in organizations with formal career advancement programs, mentoring, and development training,
  • Seeking employment in organizations that support flexible work practices and use technology to enable employees to work “anytime, anywhere,”
  • Becoming comfortable operating in “masculine” organizations,
  • Identifying social support inside organizations,
  • Seeking and cultivating advocates and sponsors.-*How do you manage workplace “tournaments” for career advancement?

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Have You Agreed to Every Bad Deal You’ve Gotten?

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wasn’t inclined to negotiate her proposed salary until she was emphatically urged by her late husband and brother-in-law.

Accenture

Accenture

In contrast, most respondents to Accenture’s 2016 online survey of 4,100 business executive women and men across 33 countries said they had asked for a pay increase.

Almost as many women as men asked for more salary, and the number of women who negotiated increased by 10% from earlier surveys.
These negotiation efforts were effective: Four out of five respondents who negotiated said they received a pay increase, confirming the mantra “Just Ask” while being prepared for “No.”

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

This result is more encouraging than Linda Babcock’s earlier finding that women tend not to ask for raises, and are less likely to receive salary increases when they do ask.

The Accenture study also found that nearly half of women and men respondents reported asking for a promotion to greater job responsibility, suggesting willingness to advocate for themselves to achieve monetary rewards.

Emily Amanatullah

Emily Amanatullah

Gender differences in negotiations reflect women’s “contextually contingent impression management strategies,argued University of Texas’s Emily Amanatullah and Michael Morris of Columbia University.
Translated, this means that women’s assertive bargaining behavior is judged as congruent with female gender roles in some contexts.

As a result, many women consider this “contextual variation” and potential “backlash” against perceived incongruity when negotiating.
They adjust bargaining behavior to manage social impressions in contexts where assertive bargaining behavior is seen as incongruent with female gender roles.

Michael Morris

Michael Morris

Women who advocated for themselves reduced assertive behaviors and competing tactics, resulting in poorer negotiation outcomes.
In contrast, women advocated for others achieved better outcomes because they did not reduce assertive behaviors or engage in “hedging.”

Margaret Neale

Margaret Neale

Negotiation is interdependent process – every bad deal you’ve gotten, you’ve agreed to,” argued Margaret Neale of Stanford Graduate School of Business.
If true, this outcome can be counteracted by adopting a mindset that “everything is negotiable.

Her empirical research informed her recommended structure to achieve more effective negotiation outcomes, summarized by the acronym APAP:

–          What are the Alternatives or fall-backs to negotiating?

–          What are the Aspirational goals for the best possible outcomes?

-How realistic are these goals?
-What’s the “walk-away bottom line“?

–          Assess: How much influence do you have?
– How might the benefits of negotiating outweigh the costs?

–          Prepare: What are your interests (not positions, or proposed outcome)?
– What are the other person’s interests?

–          Ask: Propose a solution that packages issues with benefits to the other, the group, and you
Share information.

–          Package:  Avoid issue-by-issue negotiation by trading among issues.
Use If-then statements for counter-proposals,
Bundle alternative proposals.

Deborah Kolb

Deborah Kolb

An alternate model of three types of negotiation maneuvers was proposed by Simmons College’s Deborah Kolb and Carol Frohlinger of Negotiating Women, Inc.:

Power Moves attract others to participate in negotiation discussions:

  • Offer incentives,
  • Raise the cost of not negotiating,
  • Enlist support.

      Process Moves structure the negotiation interaction:

  • Take control of the agenda,
  • Seed ideas.

    Appreciative Moves
     enable the negotiation conversation to continue:
  • Solicit new perspectives,
  • Enable the conversation to continue,
  • Help others “save face.
Carol Frohlinger

Carol Frohlinger

Kolb and Frohlinger advocated:

-Skill building (including mutual inquiry to co-construct solutions to replace traditional Distributive Exchange and Integrative Exchange models),

-Organizational development to overcome structural barriers to women’s advancement.
These interventions may also reduce unconscious bias that excludes women from developmental assignments and advancement.

A counterpoint argument is that women can control their self-development, but they have less control over their organization’s willingness to transform its culture, practices, and awareness of bias.

-*How likely are you to ask for a salary increase or promotion?

-*What factors do you consider before making a request for more money or an expanded role?

-*What is the best negotiation pitch you’ve heard for a job-related salary increase or role promotion?

-*How did the person overcome objections?

-*How did the person manage the relationship with the negotiating partner?

-*How do you ask for what you want at work?

-*What power tactics do you employ to influence your negotiation outcomes?

-*How do you prepare for negotiations and overcome objections during negotiations?

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