Category Archives: Business Communication

Business Communication

Women Who Express Anger Seen as Less Influential

Jessica Salerno

Jessica Salerno

Men who expressed anger were more likely to influence their peers, found Arizona State University’s Jessica Salerno and Liana Peter-Hagene of University of Illinois in their study of computer-mediated mock jury proceedings.
In contrast, women who expressed anger were seen as less influential, reinforcing trends reported in a previous blog post.

Liana Peter-Hagene

Liana Peter-Hagene

More than 200 U.S. jury-eligible volunteers reviewed opening arguments and closing statements, eyewitness testimonies, crime scene photographs, and an image of the alleged weapon in a homicide.

Participants rendered individual verdict choices, then exchanged instant messages by computer, with “peers” who were said to be deliberating their verdict decisions.

In fact, “peer” messages were scripted, with four of the fictional jurors agreeing with the participant’s verdict, and one disagreeing.
The dissenting participant had a male user name or a female user name or a gender-neutral name.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Half of the dissenting messages contained no emotion, anger, or fear, and these communications had no influence on participants’ opinions.

However, participants’ confidence in their verdict decision significantly dropped when a single “male dissenter” sent angry messages, characterized by “shouting” in all capital letters.
Confidence in the verdict decision dropped even when the vote was shared by the majority of other “jurors,” suggesting the persuasive impact of a single male dissenter’s angry communication.

In contrast, volunteers became more confident in their initial verdict decisions when their vote was echoed by the majority of other participants.

This confidence was not diminished when a single female dissenter responded with angry emotional message, suggesting that “female” anger was less influential.
“Women’s” dissent seemed to reinforce conviction in the shared decision.

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Male and female evaluators conferred lower status on angry female professionals compared with angry male professionals in research by Yale University’s Victoria Brescoll and Eric Luis Uhlmann, now of HEC Paris School of Management.
Evaluators assigned lower status to female CEOs and to female trainees when they expressed anger.

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Men who expressed anger in a professional context were conferred higher status than men who expressed sadness.
Likewise, women who expressed anger and sadness were rated less effective than women who shared no emotion, according to Kristi Lewis Tyran of Western Washington University.

Evaluators judged men’s angry reactions more generously, attributing these emotional expressions to understandable external circumstances, such as having external pressure and demands.

These differing judgments of emotional expression suggest that women’s anger is more harshly evaluated because anger expressions deviate from women’s expected societal, gender, and cultural norms.

-*What impacts and consequences have you observed for women and men who express anger at work?

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©Kathryn Welds

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Lonely People Increase Social Skills, Reduce “Choking” by Reframing Anxiety

Julianne Holt-Lundstad

Julianne Holt-Lundstad

Loneliness increases mortality risk by 26 percent, comparable to health risks of obesity, cigarette smoking, and excessive alcohol use, according to Brigham Young University’s Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy B. Smith, Mark Baker, Tyler Harris, and David Stephenson.
Besides triggering emotional discomfort, loneliness harms people’s health.

Timothy Smith

Timothy Smith

Loneliness and social isolation differ.
Some people report feeling lonely in the presence of others, whereas socially isolated people may not report loneliness.
However, both loneliness and social isolation increased risk for mortality in a meta-analysis of more than 3 million participants in studies of loneliness, social isolation, and living alone.

Megan Knowles

Megan Knowles

Lonely individuals benefitted more from learning to cope with social performance anxiety than from developing social skills, in studies by Franklin & Marshall College’s Megan L. Knowles, Gale M. Lucas of University of Southern CaliforniaFlorida State University’s Roy Baumeister, and Wendi L. Gardner of Northwestern.

Gale M. Lucas

Gale M. Lucas

More than 85 volunteers completed a loneliness self-report, then identified emotions on computer-presented faces.
Self-described lonely people out-performed non-lonely people when social sensitivity tasks were described as measures of academic aptitude.

Roy Baumeister

However, lonely participants performed worse when tasks were presented as tests of social aptitude.
These volunteers also reported difficulty forming and maintaining friendships, suggesting that social anxiety leads to “choking” in social “performance” situations.
The result is continued loneliness.

Wendi Gardner

Wendi Gardner

Lonely people may be more socially competent than the non-lonely: They were more skilled at remembering social information in studies by Northwestern’s Wendi L. Gardner, Cynthia L. Pickett of University of California Davis, and Ohio State University’s Marilynn B. Brewer.
The team assessed social recall by presenting volunteers with a simulated computer chat task that provided brief acceptance or rejection experiences, then a diary containing both social and individual events.

Cynthia L. Pickett

Cynthia L. Pickett

When social anxiety could be reattributed feelings to an external cause , it was associated with increased performance.
Volunteers consumed a non-caffeinated energy beverage and learned that jitters they might experience resulted from the “caffeine” they’d just consumed.
This explanation provided a plausible but false rationale for anxious feelings.

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

Similarly, Harvard’s Alison Wood Brooks found that reframing nervousness as “excitement” helped people perform better on stressful tasks.

An additional coping approach for lonely people is modifying personal mindsets following social loss cues.

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

Fixed mindset, identified by Stanford’s Carol Dweck, is a belief that personal capabilities are given, fixedand limited to present capacities.
This perspective is similar to
security-oriented, prevention-focused behaviors of lonely people observed by University of Southern California’s Lucas with Knowles, Gardner, Daniel C. Molden and Valerie E. Jefferis of Northwestern.
This mindset can lead to fear, anxiety, protectiveness and guardedness.

Daniel Molden

Daniel Molden

In contrast, growth mindset is similar to promotion-focused responses like attempts at social engagement.
This developmental mindset holds that personal capabilities can expand based on commitment, effort, practice, instruction, and correcting mistakes.
This perspective enables teamwork, collaboration, and social interaction.

Marilynn Brewer

Marilynn Brewer

Participants received either subtle cues of acceptance or rejection, and people who received positive primes were more likely to develop a promotion-focused growth mindset.
These participants also reported more effective social thoughts, intentions, and behaviors.

People who experience social anxiety and loneliness can reduce self-protective social avoidance by reframing discomfort as “excitement” and by redirecting mindset to embrace learning and new experience.

-*How do you manage loneliness?

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©Kathryn Welds

 

Workplace Incivility is Contagious, Damaging

James Bartlett

James Bartlett

Workplace incivility has numerous negative consequences including reduced employee engagement and productivity, according to North Carolina State University’s James E. Bartlett and Michelle E. Bartlett with Florida Atlantic University’s Thomas G. Reio.

Trevor Foulk

Trevor Foulk

Rudeness in the workplace is contagious and leads people to be vigilant for subsequent slights, reported University of Florida’s Trevor Foulk, Andrew Woolum, and Amir Erez.
They suggested that low-level workplace hostility enables similar behavior throughout the organization, eroding culture and productivity.

Andrew Woolum

Andrew Woolum

Ninety volunteers practiced negotiation with partners, and those who rated their initial negotiation partner as rude were more likely to be rated as rude by a subsequent partner.

This suggests that people assimilated and conveyed the first partner’s rudeness, and the effect persisted during the week between the first and second negotiations.

Amir Erez

Amir Erez

Foulk’s team presented staged interactions between an apologetic late-arriving participant and the study leader, who responded neutrally or rudely.
Then, volunteers distinguished real words from nonsense words in a timed task.

Participants who observed the leader’s rude response more quickly identified actual rude words than participants who had observed the neutral interaction.
This suggests that observing rude interactions “prime” people’s awareness and sensitivity to future uncivil interactions.

Walter Mischel

Walter Mischel

People who witnessed rudeness were more likely to be rude to others, confirming the impact of observing aggression on future behavior, demonstrated  by Stanford’s Walter Mischel, Dorothea Ross and Sheila Ross.

Mischel's experiment with Bobo doll

Mischel’s experiment with Bobo doll

Foulk’s group also observed this priming effect when
volunteers watched a video of a rude workplace interaction, then answered a fictitious customer neutral-toned email.
Participants’ responses were more likely to be hostile than those who viewed a polite interaction before responding.

Rudeness will flavor the way you interpret ambiguous cues,” noted Foulk, who contends that harsh interactions can reduce collaboration and trust in the workplace.

-*How do you stop the spread of workplace incivility?

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©Kathryn Welds

Anxiety Linked to Risk of Behaving Unethically

Sreedhari Desai

Sreedhari Desai

Anxious people were more likely to act with self-interested unethical behavior, in studies by University of North Carolina’s Sreedhari Desai and Maryam Kouchaki of Northwestern.

Maryam Kouchaki

Maryam Kou

Anxiety was also associated with increased threat perception and decreased concern about personal unethical actions in simulated subordinate–supervisor pairs.

Desai noted that “Individuals who feel anxious and threatened can take on self-defensive behaviors and focus narrowly on their own basic needs and self-interest.
This can cause them to be less mindful of principles that guide ethical and moral reasoning – and make them rationalize their own actions as acceptable
.”

Charles Carver

Charles Carver

Engaging in unethical behaviors may offer more options and greater control over outcomes, found University of Miami’s Charles Carver and Michael Scheier of Carnegie Mellon.
Unethical behavior was also associated with feelings of greater autonomy and influence, particularly in ambiguous situations, according to Ohio State’s  Roy Lewicki.

Michael Scheier

Michael Scheier

People can experience a cheater’s high‘ instead of guilt, found University of Washington’s Nicole E. Ruedy, Celia Moore of London Business School, Harvard’s Francesca Gino, and Maurice E. Schweitzer of Wharton.
University of California, San Francisco’s Paul Ekman referred to cheaters’ exuberance as “duping delight.”

Roy Lewicki

Roy Lewicki

Cheaters reported emotional uplift and self-satisfaction instead of guilt they predicted in Ruedy’s research

Nicole Ruedy

Nicole Ruedy

Nearly180 people completed a four-minute anagram task to earn $1 for every correctly unscrambled word.
Participants then rated current feelings from positive to negative, both before and after the task.

Celia Moore

Celia Moore

Volunteers’ actual answers on the task were compared from imprints between their answer sheets to determine which participants reported inaccurate results.

More than 40% of these volunteers wrote in additional answers to increase their earnings, and reported significantly positive feelings after cheating on the task.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Even when Ruedy’s team told volunteers that researchers knew participants may be providing inaccurate reports in an insoluble anagram task, more than half the participants reported implausibly high scores.

Cheaters had higher levels of positive affect even when confronted with the team’s awareness of their potential cheating.
They also showed higher levels of self-satisfaction and feeling clever, capable, accomplished, satisfied, and superior.

Earning more money didn’t add to the “cheater’s high,” suggesting a top threshold for positive feelings associated with cheating.

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

These findings suggest that organizational leaders can increase employee quality-of-life and diminish unethical workplace behaviors by clarifying roles, which reduces anxiety.

Leaders can reduce employees’ anxiety by:

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman:

  • Setting realistic expectations for employee workload,
  • Adopting Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and flex time,
  • Emphasizing the value of experimentation, flexibility, and innovation.

-*How have you seen high-anxiety workplaces affect employees’ ethical judgment?

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©Kathryn Welds

Range Offers vs Point Offers in Negotiation for Advantageous Settlements

Daniel Ames

Daniel Ames

Many people hesitate to present a negotiation offer as a range of values, assuming that co-negotiators will anchor on the lower value in the range as a “reservation price.” 

This is based on the powerful of first offers as negotiation anchors, such as in research by University of Chicago’s Nicholas Epley and Thomas Gilovich of Cornell.

Malia F Mason

Malia F Mason

Range offers actually led to stronger outcomes in controlled studies by Columbia University’s Daniel R. Ames and Malia F. Mason because they offer “dual anchors” that signal a negotiator’s knowledge of value as well as politeness.

Nicholas Epley

Nicholas Eple

In addition, negotiator credibility, interpersonal style and knowledge of value increase anchor potency to influrnece settlement outcomes.

Thomas Gilovich

Thomas Gilovich

Range and point opening offers have varying impacts, depending on perceived the proposer’s preparation, credibility, politeness, and reasonableness.

Ames and Mason tested three types of negotiation proposal ranges:

  • Bolstering range, which includes the target point value as the bottom of the range and an aspirational value as the top of the range.
    This strategy usually yields generous counteroffers and higher settlement prices, and is a recommended approach.
  • Backdown range, which features the target point value as the upper end of the range and a concession value as the lower offer.
    This approach often leads to accepting the lower value and is generally not recommended.
  • Bracketing range, which spans the target point offer and tends to have neutral settlement outcomes for the offer-maker.
    Compared with point offers, bracketing range offers provided some relational benefits because they were seen as less aggressive.
Martin Schweinsberg

Martin Schweinsberg

Extreme anchors can be seen as offensive, and may lead to negotiation breakdown, according to INSEAD’s Martin Schweinsberg with Gillian Ku of London Business School, collaborating with Cynthia S. Wang of University of Michigan, and National University of Singapore’s Madan M. Pillutla.
In fact, negotiators with little power in their studies were more likely to walk away from extreme anchors and high-power negotiators were equally offended by extreme anchors.

Gilliam Ku

Gilliam Ku

Previously, Mason and team showed the benefit of precise single number offers, and the current research shows the value of range offers.

Mason and team argued that point offers and range offers are independent and interactive informational processes with influence on settlement values:
“…bolstering-range offers shape the perceived location of the offer-maker’s reservation price, (and) precise first offers shape the perceived credibility of the offer-maker’s price proposal.

  • When do you prefer to present a precise, non-rounded negotiation offers instead of a negotiation range?

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Group “Intelligence” Linked to Social Skills – and Number of Women Members

Anita Wooley Williams

Anita Wooley Williams

A group’s “general collective intelligence factor” is related to social and communication skills, not to the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members, found Carnegie Mellon’s Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris of Union College, with MIT colleagues Alex (“Sandy”) Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone.

Instead, group intelligence was most closely associated with:

Christopher Chabris

Christopher Chabris

More than 695 volunteers completed an individual I.Q. test, then collaborated in teams to complete workplace tasks including:

  • Logical analysis,
  • Coordination,
  • Planning,
  • Brainstorming,
  • Moral-ethical reasoning.
Alexander Pentland

Alexander Pentland

Teams with higher average I.Qs performed similarly to teams with lower average I.Qs on collective intelligence tasks.

Simon Baron-Cohen

Simon Baron-Cohen

Each participant also completed a measure of empathy  and social reasoning based on identifying emotional states portrayed in images of people’s eyes.

This instrument, Reading the Mind in the Eyes , was developed by University of Cambridge’s Simon Baron-Cohen, Sally Wheelright, JacquelineHill, Yogini Raste, and Ian Plumb.

Reading the Mind in the Eyes

Sally Wheelright

This ability to infer other team members’ emotional states correlated with team effectiveness in solving workplace tasks, but not with extraversion and reported motivation.

Teams that performed best in online and face-to-face situations, also demonstrated stronger social and communication skills:

  • Accurate emotion-reading, empathy, and interpersonal sensitivity,
  • Communication volume,
  • Equal participation.

David Engel

High-performing teams excelled in inferring others’ feelings even if conveyed without visual, auditory, or non-verbal cues while interacting online in a study by Wooley’s team collaborating with MIT’s David Engel and Lisa X. Jing.

These studies demonstrate that teams may increase task performance when members have well-developed “Emotional Intelligence,” social insight, and communication skills rather than the highest measured IQ.

  • How do you enhance a work group’s collective intelligence in performance tasks?

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©Kathryn Welds

Nothing to Lose: Effective Negotiating Even When “Powerless”

Michael Schaerer

Most negotiators prefer to have a “fall back position.”
However, having no alternatives and less power than co-negotiators can improve outcomes, found INSEAD’s Michael Schaerer and Roderick Swaab with Adam Galinsky of Columbia.

Alternatives enable negotiators to gain concessions from co-negotiators because they have a BATNA – Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement, defined by Harvard’s Roger Fisher and William Ury.

Roger Fisher

Roger Fisher

Strength of the alternative is important in determining whether it helps or hurts a negotiation.
When an alternative is weak, it can undermine negotiating outcomes more than having no alternative because it establishes an “anchor point” based on competing options.

Anchoring is a frequent cognitive bias characterized by overvaluing one piece of information, according to Hebrew University’s late Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman of Princeton.

William Ury

William Ury

Negotiators usually anchor on the value of alternatives when making a first offer, and people with weak alternatives generally make lower first offers than those with no alternative.
“Lowball” first offers based on few or poor alternatives usually undermine a negotiator’s final outcome.

Professional athletes and their agents provide many anecdotal examples of negotiating better deals when they have no “back up” offers and “nothing to lose” because they can set ambitious anchor points.

Amos Tversky

Amos Tversky

In a separate study of job negotiation, Schaerer and team asked a hundred people whether they would prefer to negotiate a job offer with a weak alternative or without any alternative.
More than 90 percent indicated that they preferred an unattractive alternative offer, confirming the popular assumption that any alternative is  better than no alternative.

Another of Schaerer’s lab studies asked volunteers to imagine they were selling a used music CD by The Rolling Stones.
Participants were randomly assigned to three groups and gave each cohort received different information about their alternatives, ranging from:

  • No offers (no alternative),
  • One offer at USD $2 (weak alternative),
  • A bid at USD $8 (strong alternative).
Roderick Swaab

Roderick Swaab

Volunteers in each group proposed a first offer, and rated the degree of power they felt.
Not surprisingly, people with the strong alternative felt the most powerful and those with no alternative felt the least powerful.

However, people with a weak alternative felt more powerful than those with no alternative, but they made lower first offers, signaling less confidence than participants with no alternative.
Having any alternative can help people feel powerful but can undermine negotiation performance.

Schaerer’s team explored this paradox by pairing participants as a  “seller,” who offered a Starbucks mug during a face-to-face meeting, and a potential “buyer.”

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Before the meeting, the seller received a phone call from “another buyer,” who was actually a confederate of the researchers.
For half of the “sellers,” the potential buyer either made a low offer or declined to bid.

“Sellers” without an alternative offer said they felt less powerful, but made higher first offers and received considerably higher sales prices than negotiators with an unattractive alternative.

In another situation, half of the “sellers” concentrated on available alternatives (none, weak, or strong) and the remaining negotiators focused on the target price.

Volunteers with unappealing alternatives negotiated worse deals than those without other options when they focused on alternatives.
“Sellers” avoided this pitfall by concentrating on the target price.
These findings validate focusing on the goal when alternatives are weak, and of the power of first-offer anchors.

Negotiators with non-existent or unappealing alternatives benefit from tempering their cautious first offers when they feel powerless.
Instead, the situation can be opportunity to set audacious goals, reflected in an ambitious opening offer.

  • How do you overcome lowball anchoring when you have few negotiation alternatives?

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