How Much Does Appearance Matter?

Linda A. Jackson

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.
Physically attractive people were seen as more intellectually competent.

Nancy Etcoff

Similarly, 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 time, ratings for competence and attractiveness remained the same, but ratings for likability and trustworthiness changed based on specific makeup looks.

Trustworthiness was differentiated from attractiveness, which was seen as linked to competence, but not consistently with social warmth.

Etcoff’s team concluded that cosmetics could influence automatic 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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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

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 more effective performance in a meta-analytic study of more than 160 groups with nearly 78,000 employees by David A. Harrison of University of Texas and colleagues.

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

Christine M. Riordan

Christine M. Riordan

These perceptions 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.

The discrepancy between groups for spending longer off-work time with workplace friends is dramatic:  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 said that group work performance could be improved by focusing on socio-emotional elements.

Robert D. Putnam

This focus on socio-emotional performance more greatly influenced group task success than the group’s ethnic composition.
This suggesting that Americans’ trend toward social disengagement, described as ‘bowling alone’ by Harvard’s Robert D. Putnam, could undermine their productivity.

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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©Kathryn Welds

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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Coping or Complacency? Rationalization Instead of Behavior Change Is Learned Early

Sigmund Freud, Ernest Jones

Rationalization was described by Freud biographer and psychoanalyst Ernest Jones as an unconscious maneuver to provide plausible explanations that manages unacceptable behavior, motives, or feelings.

Gil Diesendruck

This tactic was observed among children as young as ages four to six, by Bar-Ilan University’s Avi Benozio and Gil Diesendruck.
They suggested that these children had already learned to “reframe” disappointing circumstances to reduce uncomfortable cognitive dissonance, described by New School’s Leon Festinger.

Leon Festinger

In Benozio’s and Diesendruck’s experiments, children three, four, five and six years old completed tasks in exchange for adhesive stickers that varied in attractiveness to each age group.

The participants could invest considerable effort or minimal work in activities ranging from reporting current age to closing eyes and counting as far as possible, then counting five more.
The children were permitted to keep these prizes or to give them to an unidentified person.

Six year olds who invested substantial effort to obtain attractive rewards were less likely to relinquish stickers to others.
However, four year olds did not

Elliot Aronson

When six year olds applied significant effort to obtain less desirable rewards, they also distributed fewer to others, but their reasoning differed.
They adjusted their appraisal of the less attractive stickers, judging these prizes as more appealing.
In contrast, four year olds discarded stickers rather than bolstering the value of the stickers they had.

Aesop

These differences suggest that these children learn to rationalize by age six and this strategy persists among adults, found Stanford’s Elliot Aronson and the U.S. Army’s Judson Mills.
Their studies validated Aesop‘s observation of “sweet lemons” and “sour grapes” in the well-known fable The Fox and the Grapes.

To check errors in inferring preference and rationalization from this type of study, UCLA’s Johanna M. Jarcho and Matthew D. Lieberman with Elliot T. Berkman of University of Oregon conducted fMRIs while participants completed decisions to test attitude change linked to cognitive dissonance.

Joanna Jarcho

Joanna Jarcho

Brain activity significantly increased a rapid reappraisal pattern used in emotional regulation, suggesting that rationalization may be an automatic coping mechanism rather than an unconscious defense mechanism.

Reinhold Niebuhr

Reinhold Niebuhr

Benozio and Diesendruck warned that this adaptive capacity could lead to complacent acceptance instead of working to change negative circumstances, articulated in the well-known Serenity Prayer attributed to Yale’s Reinhold Niebuhr:

…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

-*To what extent is rationalization a logical error?
-*How effective is rationalization as an emotional regulation strategy?

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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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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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