Category Archives: Career Development

Career Development

How Much Does Appearance Matter?

Hillary Clinton

Even before Hillary Clinton‘s historic 2016 campaign for President of the U.S., attorney and image consultant Orene Kearn,questioned the impact of Clinton’s appearance on her perceived competence as US Secretary of State.

Orene Kearn

Perceived attractiveness was correlated with perceived competence and likeability in a meta-analysis by Michigan State University’s Linda A. Jackson, John E. Hunter, and Carole N. Hodge.
They reported that physically attractive people are perceived as more intellectually competent, supporting  status generalization theory and implicit personality theory.

Nancy Etcoff

Women who wore cosmetics were rated more highly on attractiveness, competence, likability and trustworthiness when viewed for as little as 250 milliseconds, found Harvard’s Nancy L. Etcoff, Lauren E. Haley, and David M. House, with Shannon Stock of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Proctor & Gamble’s Sarah A. Vickery.

Models without makeup, with natural, professional, “glamorous” makeup

However, when participants looked at the faces for a longer period of time, ratings for competence and attractiveness remained the same, but ratings for likability and trustworthiness changed based on specific makeup looks.

Volunteers accurately distinguished between
judgments of facial trustworthiness vs attractiveness and attractiveness was related to positive judgments of competence, but less systematically to perceived social warmth.

The researchers concluded that cosmetics could influence automatic and deliberative judgments because attractiveness “rivets attention, and impels actions that help ensure the survival of our genes.”

Most people recognize the bias in assuming that attractive people are competent and that unattractive people are not, yet impression management remains crucial in the workplace and in the political arena.

-*Where have you seen appearance exert an influence in workplace credibility, decision-making and role advancement?

 

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Consequences of “Facades of Conformity”

Patricia Hewlin

Patricia Hewlin

Employees, especially minority group members, adopt Façades of conformity (FOC) when they “act as if” they embrace an organization’s values to remain employed or to succeed in that organization, found Georgetown University’s Patricia Hewlin.

Facades of Conformity can lead to employees developing “rationalizations” that enable them to carry out distasteful or even assignments, found University of Alberta’s Flora Stormer and Kay Devine of Athabasca University.

Jerome Kerviel

Jerome Kerviel

This may explain Jerome Kerviels experience at Societe General.
He was branded as a “rogue trader,” though he seemed not to personally benefit from unauthorized trades.

He and others explained his motivation to please his managers and to earn a bonus based on his trades, in the context of his “outsider status” as someone who had not attended elite universities and was not considered a “star.”

-*In what organizational contexts have you observed “Facades of Conformity” and their consequences?

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How Much Positive Feedback Counterbalances Criticism?

Sandra Mashihi

Sandra Mashihi

Does 360-degree feedback do more harm than good?
Envisia’s Kenneth Nowack and Sandra Mashihi provided “evidence-based answers”:

Kenneth Nowack

Kenneth Nowack

Poorly-designed 360-degree feedback assessments and interventions can increase disengagement and contribute to poor individual and team performance.

Individuals can “experience strong discouragement and frustration” when feedback is not as affirming as anticipated.
In addition, negatively-perceived information may be discounted and disregarded.

John Gottman

John Gottman

The ratio of positive to negative feedback may determine whether it is incorporated and used.
University of Washington’s John Gottman and Pepper Schwartz found that well-functioning marriages have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback.

A positive-negative ratio of 3:1 in 360-feedback sessions encouraged enhanced individual and team performance, individual workplace engagement, effectiveness, and emotional “flourishing,” according to University of North Carolina’s Barbara Frederickson and Marcial Losada of University of Michigan.

Barbara Fredrickson

Barbara Fredrickson

Proportions of negative feedback and interactions that exceed these ratios can interfere with insight and motivation and diminish willingness to engage in work-related practice and performance effectiveness.
Fredrickson suggested that this 3:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback is a “tipping point.”

Naomi Eisenberger

Naomi Eisenberger

When people are overloaded with negative feedback, neurophysiologic pathways associated with physical pain are triggered, reported UCLA’s Naomi Eisenberger and Matthew Lieberman collaborating with Kipling Williams of Macquarie University.

Zhansheng Chen

Zhansheng Chen

This effect was corroborated when volunteers reported higher levels of physical pain and demonstrated diminished performance on a cognitively-demanding task, in research by Williams, University of Hong Kong’s Zhansheng Chen, Julie Fitness of Macquarie University, and University of New South Wales’s Nicola C. Newton.

“Titrating” negative feedback in 360 degree evaluations within recommended ratios can enable recipients to more effectively assimilate and execute recommendations.

-*What ratios of positive to negative feedback do you apply in helping others improve performance?

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Empathy Paradox:  Similar Adversity Reduces Compassion

Many intuitively believe that people are more empathic toward those who experience difficulties they also encountered.

Ervin Staub

Ervin Staub

This linkage between challenging life experiences and subsequent empathy was posited by University of Massachusetts’s Ervin Staub and Joanna Vollhardt of Clark University, and confirmed in experiments by Northeastern’s Daniel Lim and David DiSteno.

Daniel Lim

Daniel Lim

However, this connection is more complicated, found Northwestern’s Rachel Ruttan and Loran Nordgren with Mary-Hunter McDonnell of Wharton.

Rachel Ruttan

Rachel Ruttan

The team exposed volunteers to people who expressed dejection in enduring a hardship such as bullying or unemployment.

Participants who recalled similar past hardships remembered them as less distressing than they were originally experienced, and were more likely to harshly judge others in similar circumstances for their difficulties in enduring the situation.

Antonin Scalia

Antonin Scalia

In fact, volunteers who previously coped with severe bullying felt less — not more — compassion for current bullying victims.

Likewise, those who had faced greater difficulty with unemployment had less empathy for people who were currently jobless.

This confirms the “tough love” approach implied in the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s directive to Americans dismayed with the 2000 election outcome: “Get over it!”

Mary-Hunter McDonnell

Mary-Hunter McDonnell

However, when the the volunteers’ adversity experiences differed from the current suffers’ difficulties, participants were more compassionate.

The “empathy gap” emerged only when survivors of similar hardships showed less understanding for current suffers.

  • -*How do you reduce the “empathy gap” in workplace situations?

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Gender-Neutral Language Associated with Greater Gender Wage Parity

Lucas van der Velde

Lucas van der Velde

Nations that use gender-neutral languages have a smaller Gender Wage Gap (GWG) than countries with clear gender differentions in their languages, reported University of Warsaw’s Lucas van der Velde, Joanna Tyrowicz, and Joanna Siwinska.

Gender-Neutral Language

Gender-Neutral Language

The team evaluated Yale linguists Benjamin Whorf and Edward Sapir’s hypothesis that linguistic categories influence perception, thinking, and behavior by examining data from the World Atlas of Linguistic Structures to determine whether the primary language spoken in a given country had a “sex-based gender system” of grammar rules like gender-specific noun and pronouns.

Benjamin Whorf

Benjamin Whorf

For example, French language links specific nouns to genders, whereas English generally uses different pronouns for men and women (“his” and “hers”) — despite the increasing use of “they” to indicate an individual of either gender, not a group of people.
In contrast, Mandarin and Finnish languages “have no system of gender identification.”

The researchers analyzed whether the primary language contained expressions that celebrate one gender while disparaging another, and compared these findings with estimates for Gender Wage Disparities (GWD) in more than 50 countries from 117 studies published between 2005 and 2014.

Benjamin Whorf

The gender wage gap may be driven by some deep societal features stemming from such basic social codes as language,” they concluded, supporting the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

Katarzyna Bojarska

Katarzyna Bojarska

Gender cues are implicitly and unconsciously used to decode a message’s full meaning in addition to its semantic content, suggested University of Gdańsk’s Katarzyna Bojarska.

She argued that when gender is not clearly specified, unconscious cognitive processing attempts to plausibly reconstruct missing gender information with non-semantic cues.

Gender Neutral Occupational Titles

Gender Neutral Occupational Titles

These findings suggest that countries that favor policies to reduce disparate earnings by gender can enable this goal by providing early training to set children’s expectations of gender equality, particularly in countries using a gendered language,

-*To what extent has your workplace adopted gender-inclusive language?

-*How does your organization’s use of gendered language relate to its wage parity practices?

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Fewer US Employees Have Workplace Friendships Compared with Other Countries

Workplace friendships positively affect task performance, yet Americans claim fewer friendships at work than employees in other countries.
The result could be competitive disadvantage for U.S. companies in world markets.

Karen Jehn

Karen Jehn

Teams composed of friends outperformed acquaintance groups in decision making and effort tasks, reported University of Melbourne’s Karen A. Jehn and Priti Pradhan Shah of University of Minnesota.

Likewise, workplace friendships and coworker support were associated with greater performance effectiveness in a meta-analytic study of more than 160 groups with nearly 78,000 employees by Penn State’s Dan S. Chiaburu and David A. Harrison of University of Texas.

Even employees’ perceptions of workplace friendship opportunities directly affected job involvement and job satisfaction.

Christine M. Riordan

Christine M. Riordan

These perceptions also indirectly affected organizational commitment and turnover intent among more than 170 employees in a small electric utility, reported Adelphi University’s Christine M. Riordan and Rodger W. Griffith of Ohio University.

Olenka Kacperczyk

Olenka Kacperczyk

However, fewer than one-third of Americans reported having a close friend at work, one indicator of employee engagement according to The Gallup Organization.
More importantly, workplace friendships have significantly declined over the past 3 decades in the U.S, but continue to be strong social connections in Polish and Indian organizations, found MIT’s Olenka Kacperczyk with Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, and  Wayne E. Baker of University of Michigan in an unpublished working paper.

Jeffrey Sanchez-Burkes

Jeffrey Sanchez-Burkes

They conducted surveys across the U.S., Poland, and India and determined that less than one-third of Americans reported inviting their closest colleagues to their homes, compared with two-thirds of Polish participants and nearly three-quarters Indian employees.

Even more dramatic is the discrepancy between groups for spending longer off-work time with workplace friends:  Just under half of Indian survey volunteers reported going on vacation with closest co-workers, whereas one-quarter of Polish workers and only 6% of Americans said they shared a holiday with colleagues.

Richard Nisbett

Richard Nisbett

Americans were also significantly less concerned with social interactions during work tasks, compared with Mexican and Mexican-American participants, found University of Southern California’s Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks with Richard E. Nisbett and Oscar Ybarra of University of Michigan.

Oscar Ybarra

Oscar Ybarra

After volunteers from each cultural background watched a four-minute video of two people working together, Mexicans and Mexican Americans more accurately recalled social and emotional group content.

Mexicans and Mexican Americans also preferred workgroups with a strong interpersonal orientation, and opined that group work performance could be improved by focusing on socio-emotional elements.

This focus on socio-emotional performance more greatly influenced group task success than the group’s ethnic composition, again suggesting that Americans’ trend toward social disengagement could undermine their productivity.

Robert D. Putnam

Robert D. Putnam

Continuing disengagement from American co-workers was described as ‘bowling alone’ by Harvard’s Robert D. Putnam, who contrasted current social disconnection with previous cohesiveness in after-hours U.S. company bowling leagues.

Adam Grant

Adam Grant

One explanation for national differences is that in the U.S., long-term employment is less secure than in countries with labor protection statues.
As a result, people can’t expect to stay indefinitely in one role, so remain detached to prepare for voluntary or involuntary job changes.
In fact, Wharton’s Adam Grant argued that “We view co-workers as transitory ties, greeting them with arms-length civility while reserving real camaraderie for outside work.”

Some observers attribute interpersonal disengagement to newer models of working, such as telecommuting and working remotely.

Ravi S. Gajendran

Ravi S. Gajendran

However, evidence from more than 45 studies of at least 12,000 employees that “telecommuting had no generally detrimental effects on the quality of workplace relationships,” particularly when people came to an office at least half the time, according to University of Illinois’s Ravi S. Gajendran and David A. Harrison of University of Texas.

Even if workplace relationships don’t become friendships, brief encounters can be high-quality connections characterized by respect, trust and mutual engagement.

Jane Dutton

Jane Dutton

These interactions energize both parties, posited University of Michigan’s Jane E. Dutton, and may address potential decreases in employee engagement and collaborative productivity.

-*To what extent do you have strong workplace friendships?

-*How have you seen workplace friendships affect work quality and productivity

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Attractive Men May Appear More Competent, But May Not Be Hired

Sun Young Lee

Sun Young Lee

Previous blog posts have noted bias in favor of attractive people for hiring and venture funding decisions, as well as for positive impression formation by others.

As a result, less attractive yet capable individuals may face “workplace attractiveness discrimination,” according to Sun Young Lee of University College London, University of Maryland’s Marko Pitesa, Madan Pillutla of London Business School, and INSEAD’s Stefan Thau.

Marko Pitesa

Marko Pitesa

Their four studies found that people making employment decisions show systematic selection bias based on perceived attractiveness and organizational context.

Lee’s team drew on two theories to explain differential impact of attractiveness in employment and work task situation: Status generalization and interpersonal interdependence.

Murray Webster

Murray Webster

Status generalization describes how unrelated characteristics like gender, ethnicity, national origin and attractiveness, become relevant to task performance when observers associate these characteristics with behavioral expectations for performance.
These associations often occur without conscious, logical or evidential basis, and lead to group inequalities, according to University of South Carolina’s Murray Webster and Martha Foschi.

James Driskell

James Driskell

Separately, Webster and University of South Carolina colleague James Driskell demonstrated that status characteristics significantly affect face-to-face interactions.
The researchers made physical status characteristics salient in group tasks.
In this condition, participants with preferred characteristics were more likely to be rewarded with power and prestige, even when these physical status characteristics were irrelevant to the task.

Martha Foschi

Martha Foschi

As a result, people with relevant skills may be overlooked in favor of individuals with perceived high status characteristics.
More specifically, Lee’s team suspected that decision makers associate attractiveness with competence in male but not in female candidates based on  status generalization theory.

Harold Kelley

Harold Kelley

They suggested that people’s expectations of interpersonal relationships affect their attempts to maximize relational rewards and minimize accompanying costs, based on interdependence theory. Proposed by UCLA’s Harold Kelley and John Thibaut of University of North Carolina, interdependence theory proposed that people who are interdependent in cooperative or competitive situations discriminate differently based on perceived attractiveness.

John Thibault

John Thibault

To evaluate this notion, Lee’s group assigned male and female volunteers to simulated employment selection situations  in which team members interviewed and provided hiring recommendations for job candidates.
In this situation, interviewers were in both cooperative and competitive situations with these candidates because they would be cooperating for shared team rewards yet competing for recognition, promotions, commissions, and bonuses.

Participants read a hiring scenario describing different types of interdependencies between themselves as decision-makers and the person to be hired, including competitive, cooperative, and no interdependence.

Madan Pillutla

Madan Pillutla

Volunteers evaluated two similar resumes accompanied by photos of an “attractive” applicant and an “unattractive” candidate.
Assessors answered questions about the person’s competence, likely impact on their own success, and their likelihood of recommending the candidate for the position.

When the decision-maker expected to cooperate with the candidate, male candidates perceived as more attractive were also judged as more competent, more likely to enable the evaluator’s career success, and were more frequently recommended for employment.

Stefan Thau

Stefan Thau

However, when decision makers expected to compete with the candidate, they perceived attractive male candidates as less capable.
Evaluators less frequently recommended attractive male candidates for employment, suggesting a systematic bias to preserve the evaluator’s place in the current workplace skill hierarchy.
Attractive and unattractive female candidates were judged as equally competent, but attractive male candidates were rated as much more competent than unattractive male candidates.

Three subsequent studies provided evaluators with candidates’ age, race, education and a manipulated headshot to consider in selecting their competitor or collaborator in a tournament task.
Decision-makers generally preferred attractive male or female candidates unless their personal outcomes were affected by the selection decision.

These studies suggest that attractiveness discrimination is “calculated self-interested behavior” in which men sometimes discriminate in favor and sometimes against attractive males.

-*How do you align with “calculated self-interest behavior” to mitigate bias?

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