Category Archives: Performance

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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Self-Distancing Pronouns Use Can Increase Self-Management

Ethan Kross

Ethan Kross

Despite years of popular guidance to use self-statements for difficult conversations with partners, spouses, and bosses, research argues for using self-distancing alternatives to manage stress and increase self-control.

Emma Bruehlman-Senecal

Emma Bruehlman-Senecal

University of Michigan’s Ethan Kross, Jiyoung Park, Aleah Burson, Adrienne Dougherty, Holly Shablack, and Ryan Bremner with Emma Bruehlman-Senecal and Ozlem Ayduk of University of California, Berkeley, plus Michigan State’s Jason Moser studied more than 580 people’s ability to self-regulate reactions to social stress by using different ways of referring to the self during introspection.

LeBron James

LeBron James

One example of variations in self-reference is LeBron James’ statement, One thing I didn’t want to do was make an emotional decision. I wanted to do what’s best for LeBron James and to do what makes LeBron James happy.”

The team demonstrated that using non-first-person pronouns (such as “he” or “she”)  and one’s own name (rather than “I”) during introspection enhanced self-distancing, or focusing on the self from a distant perspective.

Stephen Hayes

Stephen Hayes

Distancing, also called “decentering” or “self as context,” allows people to observe and accept their feelings, according to University of Nevada’s Steven Hayes, Jason Luoma, Akihiko Masuda and Jason Lillis collaborating with Frank Bond of University of London.

Ozlem Ayduk

Ozlem Ayduk

Self-distancing verbalizations were associated with less distress and less maladaptive “post-event processing  (reviewing performance) when delivering a speech without sufficient time to prepare, and when seeking to make a good first impression on others.
Post-event processing can lead to increased social anxiety, noted Temple University’s Faith Brozovich and Richard Heimberg.

Faith Brozovich

Faith Brozovich

They found that participantsexperienced less global negative affect and shame after delivering a speech without sufficient preparation time, and engaged in less post-event processing.

Adrienne Dougherty

People who talked about themselves with non-first person pronouns also performed better in speaking and impression-formation social tasks, according to ratings by observers.

Participants who used self-distancing language appraised future stressors as less threatening, and they more effectively reconstrued experiences for greater coping, insight, and closure, in another study by Kross and Ayduk.

Ryan Bremner

Ryan Bremner

People with elevated scores on measures of depression or bipolar disorder experienced less distress when applying a self-distanced visual perspective as they contemplated emotional experiences, noted Kross and Ayduk, collaborating with San Francisco State University’s David Gard, Patricia Deldin of University of Michigan, and Jessica Clifton of University of Vermont.

David Gard

Using second-person pronouns (“you”) seems to be a self-distancing strategy when people reflect on situations that involve self-control, noted University of North Carolina’s Ethan Zell, Amy Beth Warriner of McMaster University and University of Illinois’s Dolores Albarracín.

Ethan Zell

These findings demonstrate that small changes in self-referencing words during introspection significantly increase self-regulation of thoughts, feelings, and behavior during social stress experiences.

Self-distancing references may help people manage depression and anger about past and anticipated social anxiety.

Dolores Albarracín

-*What impact do you experience when you use “self-distancing language”?

-*How do you react when you hear others using “self-distancing language,” like referring to “you” when speaking about their own experience?

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Creating Productive Thought Patterns through “Thought Self-Leadership”

Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis

Many leaders’ actions and decisions are influenced by internal commentaries and related judgments.
Often, these thoughts are self-critical, provoking apprehension and anxiety.

Aaron Beck

Aaron Beck

Cognitive Behavior Therapy, developed by University of Pennsylvania’s Aaron Beck, provides a systematic way to restructure sometimes irrational “self-talk“,  as do Albert Ellis‘s Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy, and Stanford University’s David Burns‘ synthesis of these approaches.

David Burns

David Burns

Arizona State University’s Charles Manz and Chris Neck  translated these self-management concepts to managerial development.
They outlined a Thought Self-Leadership Procedure as a five-step feedback loop:

Charles Manz

Charles Manz

1. Observe and record thoughts,
2. Analyze thoughts,
3. Develop new thoughts,
4. Substitute new thoughts,
5. Monitor and Maintain new, productive thoughts.

-*What practices do you use to develop and apply productive thought patterns under pressure?

Chris Neck

Chris Neck

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Restructuring Cognitive Errors at Work

Charles Manz

Charles Manz

Arizona State University’s Charles C. Manz and Chris P. Neck translated concepts from therapeutic cognitive restructuring to managerial development and employee relations, using ideas from Aaron Beck‘s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Albert Ellis‘s Rational-Emotive Therapy (RET), and David Burns’ synthesis of these approaches, “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.”

Chris Neck

Chris Neck

Manz and Neck adapted these therapeutic concepts to business organizations and managerial relationships, while retaining key concepts including identifying cognitive errors, and developing disputation strategies, followed by replacement self-statements.

Aaron Beck

Aaron Beck

They outlined a five-step self-management process they called Integrative Thought Self-Leadership Procedure, drawing on CBT, RET and “Feeling Good”:

  1. Observe and Record thoughts,
  2. Analyze thoughts,
  3. Develop new thoughts,
  4. Substitute new thoughts,
  5. Monitor and Maintain new, productive thoughts.

-*What practices do you use to develop and apply productive thought patterns under pressure?

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Action vs Visualization to Improve Performance

Richard Wiseman

Richard Wiseman

University of Hertfordshire psychology researcher and magician Richard Wiseman refuted the popular belief that visualizing desired outcomes achieves results more effectively than direct action.

Lien Pham

Lien Pham

In fact, students who visualized the outcome of a high grade actually received poorer outcomes that those who visualized a better process to achieve a higher grade in research by Orange Coast College’s Lien Pham.

Gabriele Oettingen

Gabriele Oettingen

Similarly, Gabriele Oettingen of New York University asked students to record the duration of fantasies about leaving college and starting a “dream job”.
She found that students who spent more time imagining these positive outcomes, but had lower expectations of actually achieving these goals received fewer job offers and lower starting salaries.

From these studies, Wiseman argued that action rather than imagined rehearsal, fantasy or visualization leads to successful performance outcomes.

Napoleon Bonaparte

This principle was implied by Napoleon Bonaparte more than two centuries ago as he anticipated battle: On s’engage et puis on voit, translated as “You commit yourself and then you see.”

In the 1880s, William James, brother of novelist Henry James and considered “The Father of American Psychology,” asserted that action precedes emotional experience: “You do not run from a bear because you are afraid of it, but rather become afraid of the bear because you run from it.”

William James

This notion contrasts popular concepts, which led to numerous books encouraging people to change their thinking to change their behaviors and feelings.

Since the 1970s, research has focused on whether changing behavior can change feelings.
To test this relationship, James Laird of Clark University asked volunteers to create an angry facial expression by drawing down their eyebrows and clenching their teeth and to create a happy facial expression by drawing back the corners of the mouth.

James Laird

Participants reported feeling significantly happier when they forced their faces into smiles, and much angrier when they were clenching their teeth.

Acting ‘as-if’” and “faking it until you make it” are examples of initiating behaviors to drive emotional and attitudinal change.

Wiseman offered ten actions – not just thoughts – that can lead to feeling better and improved performance.

David Neal

David Neal

INCREASE:

  • Happiness: Smile as widely as possible, extend eyebrow muscles slightly upward, and hold for 20 seconds
  • Willpower: Tense muscles –  Make a fist, contract biceps or press thumb and first finger together
  • Health Eating: Eat with the non-dominant hand to increase “mindful” awareness of eating, based on research by University of Southern California’s David Neal, Wendy Wood, Mengju Wu and David Kurlander of Duke University.
  • David Neal

    David Neal

    Persistence: Sit up straight, cross your arms, from research by Ron Friedman of University of Rochester.
    He found that volunteers who sat with erect posture and crossed arms persisted nearly twice as long to solve challenging problems  as volunteers who didn’t assume this posture

  • Confidence: Adopt expanded chest posture
    Sit down, lean back, look up, and interlock hands behind your head.
    Stand up, place feet flat on the floor, push shoulders back, and chest forward.
  • Negotiation Effectiveness: Use soft chairs
    Joshua Ackerman

    Joshua Ackerman

    University of Michigan’s Joshua Ackerman of  conducted simulated negotiations for a used car, and found that volunteers who sat on soft chairs were more flexible in their negotiations and likely to pay higher prices than those who sat on firm chairs.

  • Persuasion: Nod
    Gary Wells of Iowa State University reported that when volunteers nodded their heads, they were more easily able to learn and retain information with which they didn’t agree or that wasn’t true.
  • Love: Open up
    Robert Epstein

    Robert Epstein

    Cambridge Centre for Behavioral Studies’s Robert Epstein found that eye contact, self-disclosure, sharing vulnerability increase perceived liking, loving, and closeness.

DECREASE:

  • Procrastination: Start for Five Minutes
    Do the task for five minutes, and ask yourself if you want to stop or continue at the end of the time.
    Often, it is easy to continue after 5 minutes.
    If not, stop and begin again for 5 minutes several hours later.
  • Guilt: Wash your hands
    Chen-Bo Zhong

    Chen-Bo Zhong

    Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto found that volunteers who carried out a perceived immoral act, then cleaned their hands with an antiseptic wipe felt significantly less guilty than others who didn’t wash.

Kim Silverman

Kim Silverman

If magic seems more appealing that intentional action, Wiseman’s psychologist-magician colleague, Kim Silverman of Apple, and the Academy of Magical Arts, notes that ma that magic can change the way we think about our lives:

-Things that seem impossible may be possible,

-Things that are separated and broken may be rejoined,

-There is always a way,

-We can get free from something that holds us back,

-When we feel trapped by a problem, it is just an illusion.

He asserts that magic provides a change of perspective from negative thoughts, and provides a broader perspective because “things may not be as they appear.”

These varied streams of research support intentional action over contemplation and magic to improve mood and initiate positive behavior changes.

-*How can the metaphors of perceptual illusion accelerate problem-solving in complex situations?

-*What counterarguments would you offer to Wiseman?

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Learning Mindsets Enable Employee Development at Work

David Perkins

David Perkins

People adopt differing mindsets when trying to achieve quality results and increase learning at work, according to Harvard’s David Perkins, Michele Rigolizzo, and Marga Biller.

They expanded the distinction between fixed mindset and growth mindset described by Stanford’s Carol Dweck, and assessed with a brief questionnaire.

  • Michele Rigolizzo

    Michele Rigolizzo

    Completion mindset focuses on finishing a routine task with little mental investment.
    Accidental learning occurs with this stance, and employees who experience fear of failure, impersonal work environments, and monotonous tasks usually operate with this mindset.

  • Performance mindset aims to complete a task  without reflecting on how to can re-apply the process in the future.
    Marga Biller

    Marga Biller

    An example is temporarily using a technology but not investing attention to become an expert user.
    Incidental learning is a by-product of this mindset, described by Columbia’s Victoria Marsick and Karen Watkins of University of Georgia.

  • Development mindset seeks to complete a task and to learn applicable approaches when completing similar future tasks.
    An example is leading an effective kickoff meeting to set the tone for productive work sessions.

    Victoria Marsick

    Victoria Marsick

    Intentional learning occurs with active involvement in observing, analyzing, and reflecting on the process.

To move beyond a Completion stance, Perkins and team suggested that organizational leaders  encourage quality work and active reflection on that work to set the expectation of a Development mindset.
In addition, leaders can also implement collaboration and feedback systems with time for reflection on completed tasks.

-*How do you enable team members to adopt a Development Mindset?

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Implicit Discrimination Associated with Meritocratic Beliefs, Low Empathy

Michael Young

Michael Young

Americans more than other nationalities, embrace the idea of meritocracy – that rewards are distributed based on merit, a combination of ability + effort with success, described by University of London’s Michael Young with Sheri Kunovich of Southern Methodist University, and Ohio State’s Kazimierz M. Slomczynski.

Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella

Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, made headlines when asked his advice for women who are uncomfortable asking for a raise at the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
He told more than 12,000 women: “It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise … It’s good karma. It will come back.”

Although his response resulted in widespread criticism, he may have been referring to the social penalty women experience when negotiating for salary increases and promotions.

Hannah Riley Bowles

Hannah Riley Bowles

Harvard’s Hannah Riley Bowles with Linda Babcock and Lei Lai of Carnegie Mellon demonstrated this social penalty when they showed volunteers videos of men and women asking for a raise using identical scripts.
Participants agreed to give both genders a pay increase, but evaluated women as “too aggressive” and not someone they would want to work with.
However, men in these salary negotiation situations were seen as “likable.”

Emilio Castilla

Emilio Castilla

The unequal impact of merit-based compensation on minorities was demonstrated in MIT’s Emilio J. Castilla’s analysis of almost 9,000 employees in support roles at a large service-sector company.
The organization espoused commitment to diversity and had implemented a merit-based compensation system intended to reward high-level performance and equitably reward employees.

Lei Lai

Lei Lai

Despite these egalitarian goals, women, ethnic minorities, and non-U.S.-born employees received smaller increases in compensation compared with white men, despite holding the same jobs, having the same performance score, working in the same units for the same supervisors.

These results illustrated what he called the performance-reward bias – the need for minority groups “to work harder and obtain higher performance scores in order to receive similar salary increases to white men.”

Stephen Benard

Stephen Benard

With his Indiana University colleague, Stephen Benard, Castilla uncovered the paradox of meritocracy” – organizations that espouse meritocratic values awarded a larger monetary reward to male employees compared with equally performing female employees.

Despite their positive intentions and policies, these organizations perpetuated unequal evaluations and rewards across equally performing employee groups.

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Eric Luis Uhlmann

In fact, people who think they are the most objective exhibited greatest evaluation bias, found Northwestern’s Eric Luis Uhlmann and Geoffrey L. Cohen of University of Colorado.
They attributed this finding to overconfidence in objectivity, leading to lack of self-scrutiny and self-assessment of potential and implicit bias.

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Corinne Moss-Racusin

This bias was also demonstrated when volunteers provided significantly more positive evaluations of resumes were attributed to whites and men than identical resumes linked to minority-group members and women, reported by Yale’s Corinne A. Moss-Racusin, John F. Dovidio, Victoria L. Brescoll, Mark J. Graham, and Jo Handelsman.

John Dovidio

John Dovidio

Since egalitarian aspirations and performance management systems do not result in equitable reward distribution, MIT’s Castilla advocated increased transparency and accountability by creating a performance-reward committee to monitor compensation increases and to share information about pay segmented by gender, race, and nationality.
Five years after these changes were introduced in companies Castilla studied, he found that the demographic pay gap had disappeared.

Grit Hein

Grit Hein

Another way to reduce bias is to increase empathy, found Universität Bern’s Grit Hein, Jan B. Engelmann of Tinbergen Institute, and University of Zurich’s Philippe N. Tobler, with Marius C. Vollberg of University College London, in their study of 40 young men of Swiss or Balkan descent.

Participants and two research confederates received an electric charge on the back of the hand.
Next, one of the two confederates was attributed a typical Balkan name or a Swiss name, and was designated a “decision maker.”

Jan B. Engelmann

Jan B. Engelmann

Volunteers were then told they would receive “painful shocks,” but the “decision maker” could prevent this “by giving up money he would otherwise earn.”
Participants received help from the other person 15 times out of 20 trials, and received a shock five times.

Two new confederates, one with a Swiss name and one with a Balkan name, replaced the first two and the participant watched as one of them received the painful electrical pulses.
A brain scan measured the volunteers’s level of empathy for the person receiving the shock.

Philippe Tobler

Philippe Tobler

When the confederate with the Balkan minority name “helped” the participant avoid a shock by “sacrificing” a payoff, the volunteer’s brain scans demonstrated increased empathy for both the specific helper, and for other Balkan people.

The team interpreted this finding to suggest, “…empathy with an out-group member can be learned, and generalizes to other out-group individuals.”

If this trend can be replicated in the workplace by increasing organizational and managerial empathy for members of minority groups during the appraisal process, organizational rewards may be more equitably distributed.

-*How do you reduce bias in appraisal and reward processes?

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