Diverse Teams Analyze Problems More Effectively

When people anticipate working with people similar to themselves, they process information less effectively than when they anticipate collaborating with diverse co-workers.

Denise Lewin Loyd

Denise Lewin Loyd

Volunteers completed a survey about their political attitudes, read a murder mystery, determined the perpetrator, and rated their confidence in their conclusion in a study designed by MIT’s Denise Lewin Loyd, Cynthia S. Wang of Oklahoma State University, Columbia’s Katherine Phillips  and Robert Lount Jr. of Ohio State University.

Participants then wrote a statement about their conclusions before meeting another volunteer who had a different conclusion about the perpetrator to solve the case.

Cynthia Wang

Cynthia Wang

They learned the other person’s political affiliation and opinion about the murder and wrote their statements but were told the experiment was over, without meeting the other person.

Loyd’s team analyzed these preparation statements to determine “elaboration,” a measure of analysis complexity and depth, when people anticipated working with others who have different attitudes.

Katherine Phillips

Katherine Phillips

People who said they were members of any political party wrote less-detailed statements when they anticipated meeting with someone affiliated with the same political party.
In contrast, participants wrote more detailed statements when they anticipated meeting someone of a different political orientation.

Volunteers prepared less carefully when they anticipated working with someone who shared their views.
In contrast, when they expected to work with someone holding different views, they applied greater critical thinking to their problem analyses.

Robert B Lount Jr

Robert B Lount Jr

Some volunteers were instructed before preparing their written case analysis that developing a positive interpersonal relationship with the other person would increase solution accuracy.

Other participants learned that “concentrating on the task rather than the interpersonal relationship was most important way to have a productive meeting.”

People primed to focus on their interpersonal relations wrote less detailed preparation statements, suggesting that analytic rigor was sacrificed for interpersonal harmony.
In addition, when people were primed to focus on the task, they produced more thoroughly considered solutions.

When volunteers actually met to solve the case after writing their statements,
partners with the most accurate solutions came to the meeting with most detailed case analyses.

People in homogeneous groups may prepare less completely if they focus on cultivating interpersonal harmony and avoiding conflict.
In contrast, diverse groups may not attempt to form close social relationships, so are more able to focus on task analysis and solutions.
Diverse teams, then, provide multiple perspectives and greater focus on shared work tasks.

Ron Elsdon

Ron Elsdon

However, other researchers advocate workplace affiliation as a way to engage and retain employees.
Ron Elsdon, formerly of Cambridge University and Air Liquide America, suggested that workplace affiliation leads to organizational value creation, and Gallup’s Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman argued that “having a best friend at work” is both important for employee engagement and “one of the most controversial of the 12 traits of highly productive workgroups.”

Marcus Buckingham

Marcus Buckingham

Social relationships among similar people at work may feel good, but may not lead to the most effective or innovative problem analysis.

-*To what extent have you observed homogeneous work groups focusing on maintaining harmony at the expense of rigorous task analysis?

Curt Coffman

Curt Coffman

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“Derailing” Executive Personality Measures Predict Leadership Mishaps

Ellen Van Velsor

Ellen Van Velsor

Executive Derailment” occurs when a person with an executive-level position is seen by others to “fail” in achieving the most important goals for the role, including business outcomes and interpersonal relationships.
Ellen Van Velsor and Jean Brittain Leslie of The Center for Creative Leadership’s reassessed and confirmed their earlier findings on derailment dynamics.

Jean Brittain Leslie

Jean Brittain Leslie

Executive derailment can occur when:

  • An executive overuses or underuses a strength, resulting in a performance liability,
  • Superiors overlook an executive’s performance-impairing deficiencies in personality or character,
  • An executive encounters extreme market challenges or personal difficulties,
  • Career advancement leads the executive to behave arrogantly.

Derailed executives typically:

  • Do not achieve business objectives,
  • Are unable or unwilling to adapt to frequent changes,
  • Have interpersonal problems,
  • Lack broad functional experience,
  • Do not hire the right people and build a cohesive, readable team.

Derailment can also occur when an executive’s interpersonal skill deficits interact with adverse organizational conditions:

  • Unclear organizational direction, with misalignment between corporate strategy and objectives,
  • Lack of role mandate or clarity, in which the executive is not endowed with necessary power and authority to achieve the organization’s goals,
  • Lack of rapport with key stakeholders including the board, the management team, employees,
  • Inability to perceive, understand and respond to strategic market trends, customer priorities,
  • Inaccurate prioritization and abdicating accountability for delivery, execution, performance,
  • Unresponsiveness to rapidly changing market conditions and innovation opportunities.
Joyce Hogan-Robert Hogan

Joyce Hogan-Robert Hogan

“Derailing” personality measures were empirically differentiated from “everyday” personality tendencies by Robert Hogan and Joyce Hogan, then at University of Tulsa, with Gordon Curphy, then at Personnel Decisions, Inc.

They asked observers to rate individuals when they are “at their best” on the “Big Five” personality dimensions, also known as the Five-Factor Model (FFM) – Emotional Stability, Extraversion/Ambition, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Intellect/Openness to Experience.

Gordon Curphy

Gordon Curphy

This approach differs from self-report inventories because it is based on “socioanalytic theory” to understand individual differences in work performance, and avoids biases inherent in self report.

Hogan and Hogan observed a high base rate for managerial incompetence in any organizations based on validated assessment inventories.
These tools, they argue, can promote professional development by providing candid performance feedback to help managers modify dysfunctional behaviors associated with derailment.
However, this quantified feedback is valuable only if inept managers are willing to receive feedback and coaching, and develop a plan to observe and modify unproductive behaviors.

Brent Holland

Brent Holland

These “everyday” personality assessment scales also predicted occupational performance in addition to behavior patterns, in Joyce Hogan with Brent Holland‘s review of more than 450 validation studies predicting occupational performance across job roles and industries.

Timothy Judge

Timothy Judge

Similarly, the Five Factor model’s measures correlated with leadership behaviors, reported University of Notre Dame’s Timothy Judge, and Remus Ilies of National University of Singapore, with Joyce Bono of University of Florida and Miami University’s Megan Gerhardt.

They noted that extraversion consistently correlates with leadership dimensions, including leader emergence and leadership effectiveness.
Recent emphasis on the “power of introverts” suggests further investigation of how introverts assume and exercise leadership.

Joyce Bono

Joyce Bono

Derailment may be mitigated by developing:

  • Diverse career experiences,
  • Hardiness and composure under stress,
  • Responsibility by acknowledging mistakes and failures with honesty, candor, and poise,
  • Focus on solutions and learning from errors,
  • Ability to collaborate with diverse groups and individuals
Megan Gerhardt

Megan Gerhardt

-*How do you evaluate potential for leadership success and derailment?
-*How do you prevent derailment in your work activities?

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Do You Have Agreement Bias? Accept Bad Deals?

Taya Cohen

Taya Cohen

Agreement bias is the tendency to acquiesce in negotiation, even if that decision results in a disadvantageous outcome in business and interpersonal relationships.

During negotiation, participants may enter a “negative bargaining zone,” when their positions and interests diverge so much that there is little possibility of crafting a win-win resolution.
Skillful negotiators usually end the discussion if it is unlikely to move beyond the “negative bargaining zone.”

Leigh Thompson

Leigh Thompson

However, negotiators may be vulnerable to accepting a disadvantageous deal for several reasons, explained Carnegie Mellon’s Taya Cohen and Leigh Thompson of Northwestern with University of Toronto’s Geoffrey J. Leonardelli.

◦       Sunk Costs: Individuals may wish to achieve a resolution, even a bad one, to feel value was gained from the time and effort invested in the negotiation,

◦       Image: Participants may wish to be seen as likeable,

◦       Erroneous Anchoring: Individuals may assume that their interests and the negotiation partner’s are mutually exclusive, and may overlook innovative, “integrative” solutions,

◦       Strength in Numbers: Negotiators who are outnumbered by the opposite negotiation team are likely to acquiesce to suboptimal deals.

Geoffrey J Leonardelli

Geoffrey J Leonardelli

Negotiating teams tend to be less susceptible to agreement bias when discussions enter a negative bargaining zone, found Cohen, Thompson, and Leonardelli.

Solo negotiators demonstrated more agreeable behavior, and were more likely to agree to unfavorable conditions.
However, when solo negotiators were joined by only one person, they avoided agreement because they accessed additional decision support.

Douglas Jackson

Douglas Jackson

Agreement bias occurs in lower-stakes situations than person-to-person negotiation – anonymous surveys, reported Douglas Jackson, then of Educational Testing Services and Penn State.
This “yea-saying” propensity, called acquiescence bias, is triggered when people agree to survey items, no matter the content.

Samuel Messick

Samuel Messick

A major contributor to acquiescence bias was social desirability concern, confirmed in research by Jackson and his  ETS colleague Samuel Messick in a factor analysis of Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) items.

Robin Pinkley

Robin Pinkley

In addition, faulty judgments can lead to poor negotiation outcomes like agreement, noted SMU’s Robin L. Pinkley, Terri L. Griffith of Santa Clara University, and University of Illinois’s Gregory B. Northcraft.

Terri Griffith

Terri Griffith

Pinkley’s group demonstrated ineffective outcomes when negotiators:

  • Accurately processed faulty and incomplete information (information availability errors),
  • Inaccurately process valid or complete information (information processing errors).
Gregory Northcraft

Gregory Northcraft

-*How do you guard against agreeing to bad deals?

-*How do reduce the possibility of Information availability errors and information processing errors?

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Self-Stereotypes Still Limit Women’s Performance

A common cultural stereotype in the U.S. is that women perform more poorly than men on quantitative tasks and that Asians perform better than other groups.

Larry Hedges

Larry Hedges

Susan L Forman

Susan L Forman

Test performance data support these perceptions, according to separate findings by Northwestern’s Larry V. Hedges and Amy Nowell, then of University of Chicago, as well as by Susan L. Forman and Lynn Arthur Steen of St. Olaf College.

Lynn Arthur Steen

Lynn Arthur Steen

Asian-American women are susceptible to two conflicting stereotypes regarding quantitative performance.
-*Which stereotype most influences performance?

Margaret Shih

Margaret Shih

UCLA’s Margaret Shih, Todd L. Pittinsky of SUNY, 
and Stanford’s Nalini Ambady activated ethnic identity or gender identity before Asian-American women competed a mathematics test.

Todd Pittinsky

Todd Pittinsky

Volunteers performed better when their Asian ethnic identity was activated, but worse when their gender identity as females was activated, compared with participants who had neither identity activated.

Nalini Ambady

Nalini Ambady

The stereotype threat of gender identity contributed to poorer performance among individuals who could perform better.

Claude Steele

Claude Steele

This effect was demonstrated among African-American students, who were stereotyped to be poor students.
These volunteers underperformed compared with white students in a study by Stanford’s Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson of NYU.

Joshua Aronson

Joshua Aronson

Yale’s Becca Levy demonstrated the same effect by priming elderly participants with a negative stereotype of older people.

Becca Levy

Becca Levy

These volunteers performed more poorly on a memory task in contrast to their superior performance when they were primed with a positive stereotype of aging.

Individuals vulnerable to stereotype threat can mitigate effects by symbolically disconnecting from the self-reputational threat, according to Shen Zhang, then of University of Wisconsin with University of British Columbia’s Toni Schmader and William M. Hall.

Toni Schmader

Toni Schmader

They asked male and female volunteers to complete a math test using their real name or a fictitious name.
Women who used a fictitious name performed significantly better than those who used their actual names, and they reported less self-threat and distraction.

Zhang and team posited that women performed better when they were not part of a group attributed with poorer math performance.

In contrast, male participants performed equivalently when completing the math problems using real and fictitious names, suggesting that stereotype threat is not activated for men during quantitative tasks.

Stereotyping by others and even oneself can undermine task performance, yet consciously refuting the preconception may mitigate these effects.

-* What other approaches do you use to reduce and manage stereotype threat?

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Expansive Body Language Decreases Power for Some

Lora E Park Bunting

Lora E Park Bunting

Expansive body postures and feelings of power are related for some cultures, but not all, according to SUNY’s Lora E. Park Bunting and Lindsey Streamer with Li Huang of INSEAD and Columbia’s Adam D. Galinsky.

Lindsey Streamer

Lindsey Streamer

They built on much-cited work by Columbia’s Dana R. Carney and Andy J. Yap with Amy J.C. Cuddy of Harvard, demonstrating the posture-power connection, by evaluating three expansive postures among Americans and East Asians:

  • Hands spread on a desk
  • Upright sitting
  • Feet on a desk
Li Huang

Li Huang

Park and team demonstrated that “embodied emotion” depends on the posture and its symbolic meaning within the prevailing cultural context.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Both Americans and East Asians rated the feet-on-desk pose as least consistent with East Asian cultural norms of modesty, humility, and restraint.
In contrast, when Americans assumed this posture, they experienced greater power activation and action orientation.

This effect was reversed for East Asians when they demonstrated the feet-on-desk pose:  They showed less power activation and action orientation than Americans in this position.

However, when Americans and East Asians assumed hands-spread-on-desk and upright-sitting postures, they reported a greater sense of power than when they held a constricted posture (sitting with hands tucked underneath their thighs).

Albert Mehrabian

Albert Mehrabian

Changes in a person’s mood, emotion, and feelings expressed by changes in body posture was first demonstrated by Albert Mehrabian and John T. Friar of UCLA.

They asked nearly 50 volunteers to sit as they would in addressing another person in a variety of imagined scenarios.

Mehrabian and Friar considered relationships between Communicator attitude and gender as well as Addressee status and gender in relation to eye contact, interpersonal distance, head orientation, shoulder orientation, leg orientation, arm openness, leg openness, and hand, foot, and trunk relaxation.

Positive attitude was demonstrated by a slight backward lean of the torso, close distance, and greater eye contact.
When communicating with “high status” individuals, Communicators provided more eye contact and less sideways leaning.
Female Communicators used a more constrained posture with less arm openness when communicating with “higher status” individuals.

Dana Carney

Dana Carney

Carney and team demonstrated that these postural changes elicit measurable neuroendocrine changes.
When people in the U.S. assumed in high-power nonverbal displays, their  testosterone increased, their cortisol decreased and they reported increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk.

Andy Yap

Andy Yap

University of Florida’s Andrea Kleinsmith, P. Ravindra De Silva at Toyohashi University of Technology and University College London’s Nadia Bianchi-Berthouze demonstrated these cross-cultural differences in perceiving emotion and subjective experience from body posture.

Andrea Kleinsmith

Andrea Kleinsmith

Kleinsmith and team used static posture images of affectively expressive avatars or “embodied agents” to test emotion recognition by volunteers from three cultures. From these findings, they developed cultural models for affective posture recognition.

Andrea Kleinsmith-avatarsThese results suggest both the impact of changing body postures to elicit different feeling states, and caveats when adopting expansive postures to activate power while interacting across cultural groups.

Ravindra De Silva

Ravindra De Silva

Encouragement to “Think Big, Play Big” may require specific recommendations for culturally appropriate action.

-*How do you demonstrate power when interacting with colleagues from different cultural backgrounds?

Nadia Bianchi-Berthouze

Nadia Bianchi-Berthouze

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Brand You: Pronounceable Names are More Likeable, Maybe More Hireable

Simon Laham

Simon Laham

Personal names, like brands, evoke inferences about likability and specific characteristics, like gender, ethnicity, social class, intellectual competence, masculinity-femininity, and even personality characteristics, according to University of Melbourne’s Simon M. Laham, Peter Koval of University of Leuven, and NYU’s Adam L. Alter.

Peter Koval

Peter Koval

They argue that these assumptions affect impression formation and may lead to bias.

More than 20 years ago, UCLA’s Albert Mehrabian began investigating the impact of personal names and developed the Name Connotation Profile to assess attributions to specific names.

Albert Mehrabian

Albert Mehrabian

He concluded that “people with desirable or attractive names are treated more favorably by others than are those with undesirable or unattractive names,” base on findings from more than ten studies.

Personal names are also associated income and educational attainment, reported Saku Aura of University of Missouri, collaborating with Claremont McKenna College’s Gregory D. Hess.

Saku Aura

Saku Aura

They evaluated the relationship among “first name features” (FNF) including:

  • “Popularity” (frequency),
  • Number of syllables,
  • Phonetic features,
  • Scrabble score (?),
  • “Blackness” (fraction of people with that name who are African-American),
  • “Exogenous” background factors (sex, race, parents’ education).
Gregory Hess

Gregory Hes

In addition, Aura and Hess scrutinized associations between first names and “lifetime outcomes” including:

  • Financial status,
  • Occupational prestige,
  • Perceived social class,
  • Education,
  • Happiness,
  • Becoming a parent before age 25. 



First name features predicted education, happiness and early fertility, which were also related to labor market productivity.
However, workforce productivity can be reduced when discriminatory decisions about names reduce labor market participation, such as for names rated for “blackness.”

Marianne Bertrand

Marianne Bertrand

University of Chicago’s Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard documented this effect when they found that name discrimination affects hiring decisions. 
 Job applicants with “African American-sounding” names were less likely to be invited for a job interview than a person with a “White-sounding” name.

Sendhil Mullainathan

Sendhil Mullainathan

Bertrand and Mullainathan responded to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers by sending fictitious resumes containing “African-American” or “White” names.

They found that “White name” candidate received 50% more interview invitations across occupation, industry, and employer size.
This bias was centered more on inferred race than social class, suggesting that discrimination in hiring practices persists but has become more subtle, and perhaps even unconscious.

Claire Etaugh

Claire Etaugh

Another form of name discrimination is women who take their husband’s surname.
They are typically seen as less “agentic” and more “communal” than those who retain their own names, noted Bradley University’s Claire E. Etaugh, Myra Cummings-Hill, and Joseph Cohen with Judith S. Bridges of University of Hartford.
These attributions are usually associated with stereotypic “feminine” attitudes and behaviors, which can slow career advancement.

David Figlio

David Figlio

Gender-based name discrimination can affect males as well:  Gender-incongruous names seem to invoke social penalties for boys, according to Northwestern’s David Figlio.

He reported that boys who had names usually associated with girls were more likely to be expelled from school after disruptive behavior beginning in middle school.

Daniel Y Lee

Daniel Y Lee

In related findings, Shippensburg University’s David E. Kalist and Daniel Y. Lee found that people with unusual names (less “popular”) were more likely to have juvenile delinquency experiences.

These finding suggest that unusual names may provoke negative and stigmatizing attributions, which can lead to confirmatory behaviors that lead to asocial acts.

Besides racial and ethnic associations with names, some are easier for English speaking people to pronounce.

Adam Alter

Adam Alter

Easy-to-say names are judged more favorably than difficult-to-pronounce names, in related findings by LahamKoval, and Alter.

In fact, they found that people with easier-to-pronounce surnames occupy higher status positions in law firms, demonstrating the importance of “processing fluency”- the subjective ease or difficulty of a cognitive task – when forming an impression.

Laham and team pointed to the “hedonic marking hypothesis,” that posits “processing fluency” automatically activates a positive emotional reaction, which is then attributed to the evaluated “stimulus object” – a person’s name.

They noted that pronouncability strongly influences likeability and other evaluations, and can lead to decision bias, as in hiring choices.

Names matter, whether for products or people, because they carry emotional and cognitive associations that may bias impressions and decisions.

-*How have you modified your name?

-*What have been the effects on how others perceive you?
Your occupational opportunities?

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Least Skillful Performers May Have Greatest Self-Delusions of Skill: Pointy-Haired Boss Effect

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

The Foole doth thinke he is wise, but the wiseman knowes himselfe to be a Foole,” wrote  William Shakespeare in As You Like It.
Charles Darwin’ decoded this observation with his update: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

Both view are applicable to the workplace and notoriously “clueless” players like Dilbert’s Pointy Haired Boss.

Pointy Haired Boss

Pointy Haired Boss

Incompetent performance often results from ignorance of performance standards in both cognitive skills and physical skills, found Columbia’s David Dunning and Justin Kruger of NYU in a series of experiments.

David Dunning

David Dunning

Volunteers performed humor, grammar, and logic tasks, then viewed their performance scores and again estimated their performance rank.
Competent individuals accurately estimated their rank, whereas incompetent individuals overestimated their ranks despite actual feedback.

Dunning and Kruger posited that incompetent people:

  •          Overestimate their skill levels,
  •          Overlook other people’s skills,
  •          Underestimate their lack of skill in relation to performance standards.
Justin Kruger

Justin Kruger

However, training may reverse this “insight blindness.”
Low-skill individuals in some cases can benefit from corrective feedback and recognize their original lack of skill after they participate in skill training.

The Dunning–Kruger effect describes unskilled individuals’ sense of “illusory superiority,” when they rate their ability as much higher than average although it is actually much lower than average.
In contrast, highly competent individuals miscalibrate other’s performance.

Joyce Ehrlinger

Joyce Ehrlinger

Kerri Johnson

Kerri Johnson

These observations were validated by Washington State University’s Joyce Ehrlinger, Kerri Johnson of UCLA, and Cornell’s Matthew Banner.

People also demonstrate “illusory superiority” when they estimate their ability to identify deception and to infer intentions and emotions (interpersonal sensitivity),  found Columbia’s Daniel R. Ames and Lara K. Kammrath of Wilfrid Laurier University.

Daniel Ames

Daniel Ames

Their results replicated previous findings that most people overestimate their social judgment and mind-reading skills, and showed that people who demonstrate least accurate social judgment and “mind-reading” significantly overestimate their relative competence.

Lara Kamrath

Lara Kamrath

Ames and Kammrath suggested that these inaccurate self-assessments are based “in general narcissistic tendencies toward self-aggrandizement.”

Different tasks elicit differing degrees of the illusory superiority bias, according to University of Michigan’s Katherine A. Burson, Richard P. Larrick of Duke University, University of Chicago’s Joshua Klayman.

Katherine Burson

Katherine Burson

When performing moderately difficult tasks, best and worst performers provided similarly accurate estimates of their skills.
However, when they performed more difficult tasks, best performers provided less accurate skill estimates than worst performers.

Richard Larrick

Richard Larrick

Burson and team proposed that “noise-plus-bias” explains erroneous judgments of personal skill across competence levels.

Dunning and Ehrlinger showed that people’s views of themselves and their skill change when influenced by external cues.
They note that this effect can limit women’s participation in STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).

Joshua Klayman

Joshua Klayman

The team found that women performed equally to men on a science quiz, yet participants underestimated their performance because they assigned low judgments to their general scientific reasoning ability.
This inaccurate underestimate of abilities can dissuade many women from entering STEM careers.

The Dunning–Kruger effect may be culturally limited because one study found that East Asians tend to underestimate their abilities due to norms of humility, and see underachievement as a chance to improve themselves and cooperate with others.

-*How do you mitigate overestimate and underestimates of your skill performance?
-*Where have you seen inaccurate performance estimate affect long-range career achievement?

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