Category Archives: Business Communication

Business Communication

“Emotional Contagion” in the Workplace through Social Observation, Social Media

Emotions can be “contagious” between individuals, and can affect work group dynamics.

Douglas Pugh

Douglas Pugh

Emotional contagion is characterized by replicating emotions displayed by others.
Contagion differs from empathy, which enables understanding another’s emotional experience without actually experiencing it, according to Virginia Commonwealth University’s S. Douglas Pugh.

Adam D I Kramer

Adam D I Kramer

“Viral emotions” can be transmitted through social media platforms without observing nonverbal cues, according to Facebook’s Adam D. I. Kramer, Jamie E. Guillory of University of California, San Francisco and Cornell University’s Jeffrey T. Hancock.
This suggests that social media can have a significant impact on workplace interpersonal relations and productivity.

Jeffrey Hancock

Jeffrey Hancock

Kramer’s team found that when positive emotional expressions in Facebook News Feeds were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts.
In contrast, when negative emotional expressions were reduced, people reduced negative posts, indicating that others’ emotional expressions influence bystanders’ emotions and behaviors.

Sigal Barsade

Sigal Barsade

People in performance situations are influenced by observing others’ emotions.   
When participants observed positive emotions in a decision task, they were more likely to cooperate and perform better in groups, found Wharton’s  Sigal Barsade.

Individuals who were more influenced by others’ emotions on R. William Doherty’s Emotional Contagion Scale also reported greater:

  • Reactivity,
  • Emotionality,
  • Sensitivity to others,
  • Social functioning,
  • Self-esteem,
  • Emotional empathy.

They also reported lower:

  • Alienation,
  • Self-assertiveness,
  • Emotional stability.
Stanley Schachter

Stanley Schachter

People are more likely to be influenced by others’ emotions when they feel threatened, because this elicits increased affiliation with others, according to Stanley Schachter‘s emotional similarity hypothesis.

Brooks B Gump

Brooks B Gump

Likewise, when people believe that others are threatened, they are more likely to mimic others’ emotions, found Syracuse University’s Brooks B. Gump and James A. Kulik of University of California, San Diego.

Elaine Hatfield

Elaine Hatfield

Women reported greater contagion of both positive and negative emotions on Doherty’s Emotional Contagion Scale.
Observers also rated these women as experiencing greater emotional contagion than men in research by Doherty with University of Hawaii colleagues Lisa Orimoto, Elaine Hatfield, Janine Hebb, and Theodore M. Singelis of California State University-Chico.

James Laird

James Laird

People who are more likely to “catch” emotions from other are also more likely to actually feel emotions associated with facial expressions they adopt, reported Clark University’s James D. Laird, Tammy Alibozak, Dava Davainis, Katherine Deignan, Katherine Fontanella, Jennifer Hong, Brett Levy, and Christine Pacheco.
This finding suggests that those with greater susceptibility to emotional contagion are convincing actors – to themselves and others.

Christopher K. Hsee

Christopher K. Hsee

Contrary to expectation, people with greater power notice and adopt emotions of people with less power, found University of Hawaii’s Christopher K. Hsee, Hatfield, and John G. Carlson with Claude Chemtob of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Participants assumed the role of “teacher” or “learner” to simulate role-based power differentials, then viewed a videotape of a fictitious participant discussing an emotional experience.
Volunteers then described their emotions as they watched the confederate describe a “happiest” and “saddest” life event.
People in higher power roles were more attuned to followers’ emotions than previously anticipated.

The service industry capitalizes on emotional contagion by training staff members to model positive emotions, intended to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

James Kulik

James Kulik

However, customer satisfaction measures were more influenced by service quality than employees’ positive emotion, according to Bowling Green State’s Patricia B. Barger and Alicia A. Grandey of Pennsylvania State University.

Emotions can positively or negatively resonate through work organizations with measurable impact on measures of employee attitude, morale, engagement, customer service, safety, and innovation.

-*How do you intentionally model and convey emotions to individuals and group members?
-*What strategies do you use to manage susceptibility to “emotional contagion”?

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©Kathryn Welds

What Evidence Supports Coaching to Increase Goal Achievement, Performance?

Anthony Grant

Anthony Grant

Coaching is a collaborative, solution-focused process that facilitates coachees’ self-directed learning, personal growth, and goal attainment, according to University of Sydney’s Anthony Grant.

Anthony Grant modelHe integrated practices from solution-focused and cognitive-behavioral interventions into Solution-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral (SF-CB) Coaching and a “Coach Yourself” program with Jane Greene.

Participants reported increased:

John Franklin

on the Self-Reflection and Insight Scaledeveloped with Macquarie University colleagues John Franklin and Peter Langford.

Two types of empirical studies provide evidence about coaching’s efficacy:

  • Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT), in which participants receive one of several interventions or no intervention.
    This is considered the more credible research approach.
  • Peter Langford

    Peter Langford

    Quasi-Experimental Field Studies (QEFS), which use “time series analysis” but not random participants assignment to measure outcomes.

Linley Curtayne

Linley Curtayne

Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT) found several effects among executives who received 360-degree feedback and four coaching sessions over ten weeks:

Lower stress, according to Grant with University of Sydney colleagues Linley Curtayne and Geraldine Burton,

Geraldine Burton

Geraldine Burton

  • Greater goal attainment compared with an eight week educational mindfulness-based health coaching program, reported by University of Sydney’s Gordon B. Spence, Michael J. Cavanagh and Grant,
  • Lindsay Oades

    Lindsay Oades

    • Increased goal striving, well-being, hope, with gains maintained up to 30 weeks, reported by Grant and Green with University of Wollongong colleague Lindsay G. Oades.
C. RIck Snyder

C. RIck Snyder

This last effect, increased hope is crucial to pursue any goal, according to University of Kansas’s C.R. Snyder, Scott T. Michael of University of Washington, and Ohio State’s Jennifer Cheavens.
Individuals seeking change must be able to:

  • Develop one or more ways to achieve a goals (“pathways”),
  • Use these routes to reach the goal (“agency”).
Edward Deci - Richard Ryan

Edward Deci – Richard Ryan

Three additional elements are essential to goal achievement, suggested University of Rochester’s Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan:

  • Competence,
  • Autonomy,
  • Relatedness.

According to their Self-Determination Theory (SDT), these characteristics are associated with increased:

  • Goal motivation,
  • Enhanced performance,
  • Persistence,
  • Mental health.
Kristina Gyllensten

Kristina Gyllensten

The other category of research, Quasi-Experimental Field Studies (QEFS), reported that coaching for managers of a federal government:

  • Stephen Palmer

    Stephen Palmer

    • Decreased anxiety and stress among UK finance organization participants, in findings by Kristina Gyllensten and Stephen Palmer of City University London.

Despite the low “barriers to entry” for offering life coaching services and low quality control across providers, empirical studies appear to validate coaching’s contribution to participants’ increased goal attainment and increased satisfaction, well-being, and hope.

-*How do you “coach yourself” and others toward increased goal attainment and performance?

-*What are the “active ingredients” of effective coaching practices?

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©Kathryn Welds

 

Transference in Everyday Life Biases Memory, Emotions

-*Ever catch yourself re-enacting scenarios from your past, but with different people?

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

 Sigmund Freud described this experience as “transference,” redirecting feelings toward one person onto a different individual in the present.

The current recipient of feelings may have different characteristics, motivations, and behaviors than the original person, but something about the present individual triggers a repeat of earlier feelings and actions.

Susan Andersen

Susan Andersen

NYU’s Susan Andersen and Alana Baum demonstrated transference in lab studies when they asked volunteers for descriptions of important people in their lives for whom they had positive feelings or negative feelings.
To contrast the results, Andersen and Baum also presented descriptions of other people’s significant others.

Later, Anderson and Baum described a person seated next door, using either the emotionally-positive or emotionally-negative descriptions of someone from the volunteer’s life or someone else’s life.

Participants more accurately recalled the stranger’s description when it resembled their own significant other.
Recall was enhanced because the salient features of the significant other’s description were memorable when assigned to a new person, suggesting transference.

In addition, biased inference and memory are based on “accessibility” and distinctiveness of the earlier triggering memory, according to Anderson’s collaborators Steve W. Cole and Noah Glassman.

Transference is an outgrowth of attachment to others in the past, according to Queens College’s Claudia Chloe Brumbaugh and R. Chris Fraley University of Illinois.

R. Chris Fraley

R. Chris Fraley

In their research, participants learned about two potential dating partners:  One description resembled a romantic partner from the person’s past, whereas another description matched another participant’s former partner.

These volunteers reported feeling both less avoidant and more anxious toward potential dating partners described as similar to previous significant others.
Brumbaugh and Fraley noted that participants “applied attachment representations of past partners” to any potential future partner, but to a greater extent when the new partner was described as resembling an important past partner.

Susan Fiske

Earlier, Princeton’s Susan Fiske described this transfer of affective responses to a new individual as schema-triggered affect.
Andersen used this framework and a socio-cognitive explanation in a paper with Berkeley’s Serena Chen.

Serena Chen

Serena Chen

People modify views of themselves and others in transference situations, found Katrina Hinkley and Andersen.
Volunteers also demonstrated biased recall of details about a new person when a representation of an earlier significant other was activated.
Participants’ list of the new person’s attributes changed on re-test to include elements of the self when the participant had been with the former significant person.

Michael Kraus

Michael Kraus

Transference occurs even when a target person possesses an attribute incompatible with the significant other’s characteristics, found University of Illinois’s Michael W. Kraus with Berkeley’s Chen, Victoria A. Lee, and Laura D. Straus.

Participants demonstrated transference in biased memories and judgments about a person they perceived as similar to a former significant other.

This effect was manipulated to elicit positive impressions even when the target was from an ethnic out-group, suggesting ways to reduce stigma and discrimination by evoking positive transference from past experiences to present actors.

Baum and Anderson observed that participants’ transient mood was more positive when the target of their transference resembled their own significant other and occupied a similar role to the original person.

These findings suggest that transference in the workplace can be problematic when employees react to one another as they responded to others from the past, introducing unconscious emotional elements to work situations.

-*How do you manage transference reactions in work and social situations?

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©Kathryn Welds

Ask for What You Want: You Have More Influence Than You Think

Most people underestimate the likelihood that requests for help will be granted, particularly after experiencing previous refusals, according to Stanford’s Daniel Newark and Francis Flynn with Vanessa Lake Bohns of University of Waterloo.

Francis Flynn

Help-seekers were more likely to believe that a previous refusal would be followed by another refusal to a similar request. 
However, help-seekers underestimated the compliance rate of potential helpers who previously refused assistance.
This suggests that most people agree with a subsequent request, often to reduce discomfort of rejecting others’ overtures for help.

Vanessa Bohns

Vanessa Bohns

Participants estimated they would need to ask 10 people to have three agree to lend their mobile phones for brief calls.
In fact, these volunteers had to ask only six people for help before it was given, 40% fewer than expected.
Most people have a pessimistic bias about the likelihood that others will provide assistance, they concluded.

Volunteers requested two favors of strangers:  Complete a brief survey and take a letter to a nearby post office.
Help seekers predicted that people who refused the first request to complete the survey would be less likely to take the letter to the post office.

More people agreed to the second request than to the first request, showing that after people refused a request, they were more likely to agree the second time.
Requesters tended to “anchor” on the first refusal, and hesitated to make a second request.
However, this finding suggests that requesters have a greater chance of success after initial refusal, so it’s advisable to muster resilience and persistence.

Requesters and help-seekers analyzed requests using different criteria:  Requesters focused on the magnitude of the “ask,” whereas potential helpers receiving the request considered the inconvenience costs of saying “yes” compare with the interpersonal and self-image costs of saying “no.”

Requesters benefit from expanding the pool of those they ask, not just those who reliably and consistently agree.
These individuals are typically overburdened by requests, and those who are more selective in their assistance are underutilized and may be willing to assist.

Potential helpers underestimated help-seekers’ discomfort and embarrassment in asking for assistance, in previous studies by the team.
This may result in less willingness to help underutilized formal support programs.
The most effective way to increase help-seeking is to encourage helpers to focus on reducing help-seekers’ subjective discomfort in asking rather than advocating the practical benefits of asking for help.

Mahdi Roghanizad

Mahdi Roghanizad

Bohns extended this focus on the impact of interpersonal discomfort in deciding whether to commit an unethical act in research with University of Waterloo colleagues Mahdi Roghanizad and Amy Xu.

People who observed the unethical act but didn’t participate (“instigators”) underestimated their influence over those who committed the asocial acts.

Volunteers enlisted people they didn’t know to tell a small untruth or to commit a small act of vandalism after predicting the ease of enlisting others in these acts.
In related investigations, online participants responded to hypothetical vignettes about buying alcohol for children, and taking office supplies home for personal use.

Bystanders underestimated their impact on others when they suggested engaging in unethical acts.
Further, interpersonal discomfort caused participants to commit the asocial act to avoid conflict.

These results suggest that most people inaccurately estimate their influence, particularly in situations that can evoke interpersonal discomfort.
At the same time, Bohns and Flynn reported that employees’ systematically underestimate their influence over others in the workplace.
Most employees expect their efforts to be futile.

This pessimistic bias can limit employees’ willingness to:

  • Lead business transformation initiatives,
  • Recognize personal contributions to others’ performance issues,
  • Voice concerns about unethical workplace practices.

This underestimation bias may be mitigated by variations in:

  • Comparative judgments,
  • Objectifying an influence target,
  • Actual degree of personal influence compared to perceived influence,
  • Means of influence, ranging across incentives, suggestions, reinforcements, punishments,
  • Organizational culture. 

These findings suggest the benefit of asking for what you want, even after rejection and that you have more influence over others than you expect.

-*How do you assess your likelihood of getting what you want when you ask?

-*How likely are others to influence you by evoking social discomfort to increase your compliance?

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©Kathryn Welds

How Accurate are Personality Judgments Based on Physical Appearance?

Appearance, including facial expression, posture, and clothing provide visual communications to observers.
-*But how accurate are inferences made from these clues?

Laura Naumann

Laura Naumann

Simine Vazire

Simine Vazire

Sonoma State University’s Laura Naumann, with Simine Vazire then of Washington University in St. Louis, University of Cambridge’s Peter Rentfrow, and Samuel Gosling of University of Texas at Austin investigated by asking volunteers to rate 10 personality traits, including Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism.
These Big Five personality traits
, proposed by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, were evaluated in addition to likability, self-esteem, loneliness, religiosity, and political orientation for people pictured full-body photographs.

Samuel Gosling

Samuel Gosling

Peter Jason Rentfrow

These measures were compared with ratings by the photographed person and people acquainted with these individuals.

Observers’ judgments were accurate when they rated extraversion, self-esteem, and religiosity among people photographed in a “standardized” pose, and were correct for additional personality traits when judging photographs in spontaneous poses and facial expressions.

Paul Costa

This suggests that candid photographs provide more accurate cues to some personality characteristics than planned poses.

Robert McCrae

Robert McCrae

Clothing style, a static cue, provided less information to raters, resulting in less accurate judgments of personality characteristics.
In contrast,
 facial expression and posture are dynamic cues that enabled observers to make more accurate judgments.

John Irving

John Irving

These findings confirmed that observers make accurate inferences about some personality characteristics based on visual cues.
Novelist John Irving’s narrator, John Wheelwright, in A Prayer for Owen Meany, explained this finding as common sense: “Things often are as they appear. First impressions matter.

-*How accurate are your judgments of personality traits for people you don’t already know?
-*How accurate are other people’s inferences about your personality traits?

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©Kathryn Welds

Inferring, Predicting Others’ Thoughts, Intentions, Behavior

Developing accurate inferences about others’ expectations and possible actions is essential for successful social interactions.

Demis Hassabis

Demis Hassabis

The brain’s process to develop predictions about others’ thoughts and behaviors was investigated by University College London’s Demis Hassabis, with R. Nathan Spreng of Cornell University, Vrije Universiteit’s Andrei A. Rusu, Harvard’s Clifford A. Robbins and Daniel Schacter, and Raymond A. Mar of York University.

R. Nathan Spreng

R. Nathan Spreng

Volunteers read about four fictional protagonists’ personality traits (Agreeableness, Extraversion), then imagined each character’s behaviors in different situations.
Each volunteer then participated in fMRI brain scans.

Andrei Rusu

Andrei Rusu

Medial prefrontal cortex activity in the brain was associated with accurate inferences about protagonists’ personality characteristics and behaviors, demonstrating that “brain activity can reveal whom someone is thinking about.

Clifford Robbins

Clifford Robbins

Lateral temporal cingulate cortex activity occurred when participants accurately determined protagonists’ degree of agreeableness, whereas activity in the posterior cingulate cortex activity was associated with correct judgments of protagonists’ degree of extraversion.

Daniel Schachter

Daniel Schachter

Brain regions responsible for processing inferences of personality traits and behaviors are functionally coupled with areas that differentiate people’s identities, found Hassabis’s group.

Raymond Mar

Raymond Mar

This means that specific brain regions “code” inferred personality traits in others and synthesize these characteristics into “personality models” that represent individuals and their likely behavior in new situations.

Matthew Hertenstein

Matthew Hertenstein

People can even infer others’ emotional intentions through unseen touchreported Matthew Hertenstein with DePauw University colleagues Brittany Bulleit and Ariane Jaskolka, UC Berkeley’s Dacher Keltner and Betsy App of University of Denver.

Brittany Bulleit-Ariane Jaskolka

Brittany Bulleit-Ariane Jaskolka

Two hundred volunteers in the United States and Spain accurately perceived anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, and sympathy conveyed by unseen touch.
However, they were not able to accurately identify touch signalling happiness, sadness, surprise, embarrassment, envy, or pride.

Dacher Keltner

Observers also accurately identified emotions conveyed by participants’ “tactile displays” when they touched paired volunteers.

Betsy App

Betsy App

Gian Gonzaga of UCLA collaborated with Keltner and University of Wisconsin’s Daniel Ward to investigate male-female communication pairs’ ability to infer and detect emotion.

Gian Gonzaga

Gian Gonzaga

Guided by Keltner’s “approach/inhibition theory of power,” the researchers attributed high power to one volunteer in a communication pair, then compared communications when both people were in an equal-power condition between women and men.

Participants ascribed high power showed behavioral disinhibition, and made less accurate judgments of the communication partner’s emotion.
In contrast, individuals assigned the low-power role demonstrated more behavioral inhibition and reported greater self-consciousness and anxiety.

Men in engaged in power behaviors even when participants were attributed equal power, and
this behavior was less apparent when both participants were men.
This finding confirms the continuing existence of power differentials between women and men.
The team confirmed gender-related “emotion blindness” when male-female pairs misinterpreted each other’s attempts to convey specific emotions. 

Male pairs accurately detected anger, but men did not understand women’s attempts to convey anger in male-female pairs.
Likewise, women did not accurately detect men’s attempts to convey compassion, but female pairs accurately perceived expressions of happiness.

Sympathy was accurately communicated only when at least one woman was in the volunteer pair, demonstrating gender-related limitations to accurate empathy and emotionally intelligent interpersonal inferences.

-*How do you develop accurate inferences about others’ opinions and likely behaviors?
-*How do you revise your models of others’ personalities?

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©Kathryn Welds

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 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 of 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 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.

However, lawyers in other of Robbennolt’s studies expressed concern that admission of guilt may lead to larger settlements.
This concern led to at least thirty-five U.S. states making 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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©Kathryn Welds