Tag Archives: concentration

Costs of Workplace Incivility

Christine Pearson

A single incident of incivility in the workplace can result in significant operational costs, reported Christine Pearson of Thunderbird School of Global Management and Christine Porath of Georgetown University.
They cited consequences including:

  • Intentional decrease in work effort due to disengagement (48% affected employees),

    Christine Porath

    Christine Porath

  • Intentional decrease time at work to reduce contact with perpetrator (47%),
  • Lost work time due to worrying about the incident (80%),
  • Lost work productivity due to avoiding the perpetrator (63%),
  • Reduced commitment to the organization after the incident (78%),
  • Attrition (12% change jobs).

Less tangible organizational symptoms include:

  • Increased consumer complaints,
  • Cultural and communications barriers,
  • Lack of confidence in leadership,
  • Inability to adapt effectively to change,
  • Lack of individual accountability.

Workplace incivility behaviors are typically “rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others,” noted Pearson and Lynne Andersson, then of St. Joseph’s University.
Specific behaviors deemed “uncivil”, acceptable, and violent were enumerated in The Baltimore Workplace Civility Study by Johns Hopkins’ P.M. Forni and Daniel L. Buccino with David Stevens and Treva Stack of University of Baltimore.

 P.M. Forni

P.M. Forni

Respondents agreed that unacceptable, “uncivil” behaviors include:

  • Taking a co-worker’s food from the office refrigerator without asking (93%),
  • Refusing to collaborate on a team project (90%),
  • Shifting blame for an error to a co-worker (88%),
  • Reading another’s mail (88%),
  • Neglecting to say “please,” “thank you” (88%).

Fewer respondents evaluated the following items as “acceptable workplace behavior:”

  • Taking the last cup of coffee without making a new pot (20%),
  • Not returning telephone calls and/or e-mails (17%),
  • Ignoring a co-worker (12%).

Respondents classified the following unacceptable behaviors as “violent”:

  • Pushing a co-worker during an argument (85%),
  • Yelling at a co-worker (59%),
  • Firing a subordinate during a disagreement (41%),
  • Criticizing a subordinate in public (34%),
  • Using foul language in the workplace (28%).
Gary Namie

Gary Namie

Workplace bullying was also included in the Campaign Against Workplace Bullying  report by Gary Namie.
He defined bullying as “the deliberate repeated, hurtful verbal mistreatment of a person (target) by a cruel perpetrator (bully).

His survey of more than 1300 respondents found that:

  • More than one-third of respondents observed bullying in the previous two years,
  • More than 80% of perpetrators were workplace supervisors,
  • Women bullied as frequently as men (50% of perpetrators),
  • Women were targets of bullying 75% of the time,
  • Few bullies were punished, transferred, or terminated from jobs (7%).

Quantifiable costs of health-related symptoms experienced by bullying targets included:

  • Depression (41%),
  • Sleep loss, anxiety, inability to concentrate (80%), which reduced work productivity,
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among 31% of women and 21% of men,
  • Frequent rumination about past bullying, leading to inattention, poor concentration, and reduced productivity (79%).

Choosing Civility
Widespread prevalence of workplace incivility was noted by Forni, who offered specific suggestions to improve workplace interactions and inclusion:

  • Assume that others have positive intentions,
  • Pay attention, listen,
  • Be agreeable, inclusive,
  • Speak kindly, avoid complaints,
  • Acknowledge others, accept and give praise,
  • Respect others’ opinions, time, space, indirect refusals,
  • Embrace silence, avoid personal questions, be selective in asking for favors,
  • Apologize earnestly,
  • Assert yourself, provide criticism constructively,
  • Respect others by attending to grooming, health, environment,
  • Accept responsibility and blame, if deserved.

More than 95% of respondents in The Baltimore Workplace Civility Study suggested an aspirational and sometimes challenging intervention: “Keep stress and fatigue at manageable levels.”

Structural and process change recommentations include:

  • Instituting a grievance process to investigate and address complaints of incivility (95%),
  • Selecting prospective employees with effective interpersonal skills in (91%),
  • Clear, written policy on interpersonal conduct (90%),
  • Adopting flexibility in scheduling, assignments, and work-life issues (90%).

-*How do you handle workplace incivility when you observe or experience it?

Related Post:
White Men can Lead in Improving Workplace Culture

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Evidence-Based Stress Management – Mindful Attention – Part 2 of 5

Workplace stress reduces employees’ ability to concentrate and pay attention to work, but mindfulness training can enhance these skills while reducing stress.

Matthew Killingsworth

Matthew Killingsworth

Inattentiveness and distraction are both frequent and unpleasant, according to Harvard’s Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert.
They surveyed more than 2,000 adults, who reported that 47 percent of the time, their focus was not on their current activities.
In addition, these volunteers reported being less happy when distracted.

Lee Ann Cardaciotto

Lee Ann Cardaciotto

Another way to measure distraction and attentiveness is The Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale, developed by La Salle University’s Lee Ann Cardaciotto and James Herbert, Evan Forman, Ethan Moitra, and Victoria Farrow of Drexel University.
This tool provides a baseline measure of potential need for stress management and mindfulness training, and can demonstrate impact of training.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Current approaches to stress management training are typically based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which trains participants to focus on breathing, which slows respiration and heart rate, and triggers the “relaxation response.”

Wendy Hasenkamp

Wendy Hasenkamp

Using these frameworks, Emory’s Wendy Hasenkamp, Christine Wilson-Mendenhall, Erica Duncan, and Lawrence Barsalou investigated the neurological activity during distraction and mind-wandering experiences using fMRI scans of 14 meditators.

Participants focused on breathing and pressed a button when they realized their minds were wandering, then returned focus to the breathing.
Scans pinpointed active brain regions before, during, or after the button press.

Erica Duncan

Erica Duncan

Hasenkamp and team proposed four intervals in a cognitive cycle, based on button-pressing patterns:

  • Mind wandering (default mode activity), controlled by the medial prefrontal cortex, leading to  self-focused thoughts
  • Awareness of mind wandering (attentional subnetworks)
  • Shifting of attention (executive subnetworks)
  • Sustained attention (executive subnetworks).
Lawrence Barsalou

Lawrence Barsalou

These experienced meditators disengaged attention and deactivated medial prefrontal cortex more quickly after identifying mind-wandering, suggesting that their mindfulness practice helped them voluntarily shift from perseverative, ruminating thoughts.
They demonstrated increased connectivity between default mode and attention brain regions, enabling less default mode activity while meditating.

Britta Hölzel

Britta Hölzel

Besides reducing stress, mindfulness meditation trains attention, improves working memory, fluid intelligence, introspection, and standardized test scores, according to Britta Hölzel team at Harvard and Justus Liebig Universität Giessen.
In addition, mindfulness meditation has shown beneficial results in comprehensive treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction.

Fadel Zeidan

Fadel Zeidan

Hölzel’s group conducted anatomical magnetic resonance (MR) images for 16 volunteers with no previous mindfulness meditation experience before and after they participated in the 8-week training program.
Gray matter concentration increased in the meditators’ left hippocampus, posterior cingulate cortex, temporo-parietal junction, and cerebellum, areas responsible for learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.

Further support for mindfulness meditation’s value in reducing perceived stress and anxiety comes from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Fadel Zeidan.
His study identified brain areas activated and deactivated during meditation and participants reported that anxiety decreased by 39 percent during practice.

Norman Farb

Norman Farb

Mindfulness meditation training modifies the way people experience themselves over time and in the present moment, according to University of Toronto’s Norman Farb and six collaborators.
The team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine monitoring of two self-reference processes:  Focus on enduring traits (’narrative’ focus) or momentary experience (’experiential’ focus).

They compared participants with no previous meditation experience, and volunteers who completed an 8-week mindfulness meditation training to increase attention on the present.

Herbert Benson

Herbert Benson

Brain scans of inexperienced and experienced meditators differed significantly in tasks that required these two forms of self-awareness: the self across time and in the present moment.
These two experiences are usually integrated but can be dissociated through mindfulness attention training.
Results suggest that mindfulness training enables people to focus on the present moment without the distraction of intrusive, ruminative thoughts which can increase stress.

Manoj Bhasin

Manoj Bhasin

Mindfulness-based stress management has significant long term effects by modifying gene expression.
Harvard’s Herbert Benson, who led research on “the relaxation response” almost four decades ago, along with colleagues including Harvard’s Manoj Bhasin and Abbott Northwestern Hospital Jeffery Dusek and four others, assert that meditation evokes “a specific genomic response that counteracts the harmful genomic effects of stress.”

Jeffrey Dusek

Jeffrey Dusek

Genes associated with inflammation and stress are less active and those involved in energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance are activated.

Bhasin, Dusek and team measured peripheral blood transcriptome in experienced and inexperienced meditators before and after they listened to a relaxation response-inducing tape or a health education message.

Both short-term and long-term practitioners showed significant temporal gene expression changes with a greater effect among the experienced meditators.

This and other research evidence supports the effectiveness of mindfulness attention training as a stress management practice.
Mindful attention training enables people to voluntarily control body processes like respiration and heart rate, which reduces perceived stress.
The practice can induce calm thoughts that reciprocally reduce the physical expressions of stress.

Jonathan Smallwood

Jonathan Smallwood

Like other stress management techniques, this practice requires willingness and commitment to take full advantage of benefits demonstrated in lab studies.

If efforts to cultivate mindfulness falter, mind-wandering or “self-generated thoughts” can be channeled away from self-referential worries to enable creativity problem-solving and planning.

Jessica Andrews-Hanna

Jessica Andrews-Hanna

Max Planck Institute’s Jonathan Smallwood and Jessica Andrews-Hanna of University of Colorado argue that “a wandering mind helps project past and future selves.”

Thomas Suddendorf

Thomas Suddendorf

Similarly, University of Queensland’s Thomas Suddendorf and Michael Corballis of University of Auckland posit that this hindsight and foresight enables experience and memory integration into a sense of self through this “mental time travel.” 

Michael Corballis

Michael Corballis

University of California, Santa Barbara’s Benjamin Baird collaborated with Jonathan Smallwood and four colleagues to evaluate the impact of mind-wandering on a creativity task during a demanding task, rest, or an undemanding task.

Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird

They found that engaging in an undemanding task during an incubation period led to substantial performance improvements, suggesting the value of mind-wandering to develop creative solutions.

Although mindfulness training has been reliably associated with effective stress management, even moments of mind-wandering can be channeled to productive ends in creative problem-solving.

-*How applicable are mindfulness attention training practice for workplace stress?

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Does Workplace Co-Location Increase Collaboration and Innovation?

John Chambers

John Chambers

In 2009, Cisco CEO John Chambers asserted that “the face-to-face meeting is a dinosaur,” and he demonstrated his point in a Telepresence-enabled company meeting from Bangalore, India with his fellow executive, Marthin de Beer, in San Jose, California.

Marthin de Beer

Marthin de Beer

Marisa Mayer of Yahoo seems not to agree with Chambers’ premise.

Her highly-publicized decision to require remote workers to work on-site every day in Yahoo offices received mixed reviews from advocates of flexible work practices such as ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment).

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer

Mayer argued that co-location will enable Yahoos to more effectively collaborate and innovate.

-*What is the evidence for – or against – her assertion?

Eduardo Salas

Eduardo Salas

A decade ago, in 2003, a meta-analysis of face-to-face meetings’ impact on group cohesiveness, task commitment, authority, communication noted the one benefit of virtual meetings: “status-equalizing impact of computer-supported cooperative work … enables greater participation by women, minorities and other traditionally lower status groups.

Florida Maxima Corporation’s James Driskell collaborated with Paul Radtke, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division and University of Central Florida’s Eduardo Salas summarized often-conflicting findings on the impact of virtual teams  and concluded that interaction in virtual environments requires consideration of the type of task that the team is performing.
Agile software development is an example of a process that originally assumed – and required –  team member co-location.

Sandeep Joshi

Sandeep Joshi

Microsoft trainer Sandeep Joshi offered an alternate model to co-location for Agile development, and argued that some tasks in the Agile development process are suitable for remote work by distributed teams.
Because more than half of respondents to VersionOne’s 2012 State of Agile survey said they use Agile with co-located and distributed teams, or plan to do so in the future, Joshi advocates maintaining collaborative, co-located design processes to capitalize on group interaction, then “de-Agilizing” the process to enable individual coding before re-convening to evaluate the work in “rapid turns.”

Karen Sobel-Lojeski

Karen Sobel-Lojeski

Distance is not only physical, according to SUNY Stony Brook’s Karen Sobel-Lojeski. 
She conceptualizes three types of virtual distance:

  • Affinity (culture and background differences like ethnicity, educational background, past familiarity, shared vision, and commitment that affect team productivity and cohesiveness
  • Operational (type and frequency of communication)
  • Physical (geographic separation)
Richard Reilly

Richard Reilly

She collaborated with Richard Reilly of Stevens Institute of Technology on two books that explored perceived distance among co-workers, which can be reduced or increased by communication technology.

They argue that virtual distance changes the ways people learn, perform, and develop relationships with others in the workplace.

Like Joshi, they advocate analyzing the nature of the tasks and existing interpersonal relationships among team members before mandating co-location, virtual, or blended work arrangements.

Sobel-Lojeski and Reilly conclude that important workplace competencies are traversing boundaries, glocalization, and authenticity, leading to what they call “techno-dexterity” required for effective leadership in a wired world.

Among the drawbacks of co-location are increased work interruptions, which can reduce productivity and cognitive performance.

Alessandro Acquisti

Alessandro Acquisti

Carnegie Mellon University’s Alessandro Acquisti and  Eyal Pe’er  demonstrated decreased cognitive task performance after electronic interruptions and task-shifts similar to responding to a mobile phone call, text message or email.

More than 135 volunteers read a short document and answered questions about the content.
One third of the participants completed this portion of the experiment and served as the control group.

Eyal Pe'er

Eyal Pe’er

The remaining individuals were told they “might be contacted for further instructions” via instant message.

This alerted group completed a similar reading comprehension test, and half of this group actually received instant messages, whereas the other half didn’t receive the anticipated notices.

Both interrupted groups provided 20% less accurate responses than the control group, suggesting a significant cost to interruptions and task shifting.

However, when the interrupted group performed the similar task a second time, this group reduced the under-performance by 6%.
Those who were warned of an interruption that never came improved by 43 percent, and even outperformed the control test takers who were left alone.

Acquisti and Pe’er suggested that people may develop compensatory strategies to manage the performance impact of interruptions.

Gloria Mark

Gloria Mark

Likewise, University of California, Irvine’s Gloria Mark with Daniela Gudith and Ulrich Klocke of Germany’s Humboldt University reported that a typical office worker is interrupted about every 3-11 minutes and requires an average of 23-25 minutes to return to the original task.

Daniela Gudith

Daniela Gudith

Volunteers worked faster when they anticipate interruptions, particularly those who measured high on openness to experience and high on need for personal structure.
However, participants reported increased stress, higher workload, greater frustration, more time pressure and effort when they increased work speed.

Ulrich Klocke

Ulrich Klocke

These findings provide equivocal support for Mayer’s anticipated benefits from workplace co-location.
Her team may experience increased stress due to interruptions, task-shifting, and noise, in addition to any personal concerns about lengthy commutes and work-life balance.

This inference was supported in research by Harvard’s Leslie Perlow, who studied engineers working in an open-space environment.
These highly-skilled knowledge workers reported frequent interruptions and reduced productivity.

Leslie Perlow

Leslie Perlow

Perlow offered these engineers a recommendation:  Pre-scheduled interruption-free “quiet time”.
She found that this intervention led to increased productivity.

Catherine Kerr

Catherine Kerr

Similarly, Catherine Kerr of Brown University suggests that the impact of frequent task-shifts in open work environments can be mitigated by mindfulness meditation as brain training to enable increased attentional focus by attending to breathing.

Workplace inclusion and diversity issues add to questions of whether co-location actually increases innovation, collaboration, and productivity.
Pew Research Center reported that working mothers were more concerned with having a flexible schedule whereas working fathers placed more importance on having a high-paying job.

When employees actually use increasingly-available flexible work options, including job-sharing, telecommuting, and compressed work weeks, they may experience adverse career impacts.

Joan Williams

Joan Williams

Jennifer Glass

Jennifer Glass

Joan Williams, founding director of the Center for Work-Life Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law with  University of Iowas’ Jennifer Glass, Shelley Correll of Stanford and University of Toronto’s Jennifer Berdahl reported that men who take leave from work after the birth of a child were more likely to be penalized and less likely to get promoted or receive raises.

Shelley Correll

Shelley Correll

Jennifer Berdahl

Jennifer Berdahl

In addition, they found that women using flexible work arrangements receive differing feedback from others depending on their socioeconomic statusAffluent women were encouraged to stay at home, whereas less affluent women were more likely to be counseled not to have children.

Despite John Chamber’s death-of-face-to-face meetings assessment and recent findings by Kenneth Matos and Ellen Galinsky of the Families and Work Institute, Cisco Systems executives seem aligned with Mayer’s advocacy for in-person collaboration.

Kenneth Matos

Kenneth Matos

During a recent preview of renovated office buildings featuring “Collaborative Work Spaces,” Cisco business leaders asserted that the layout is intended to increase collaboration and attract recent graduates and other “younger talent” by “projecting a hip, innovative image in the work environment.”
They noted that this arrangement is actually more costly than offices and cubicles despite accommodating more workers in the same amount of space.

Ellen Galinsky

Ellen Galinsky

Past research suggest costs to adopting computer-mediated work processes, yet these technologies have improved, become more prevalent, and workers have become more skilled in their use.
Further, virtual collaboration enables workplace participation by people who might require flexible schedules, and reduces the environmental impact, cost, and perceived stress of commuting.

-*How is your productivity affected by physical proximity to your co-workers?
-*How do you manage distractions in open office environments?

——–

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Video Games as Cognitive Enhancers

Adam Gazzaley

Neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley of UCSF presents convincing data to suggest that video games can improve cognitive functioning in people of all ages, due to increasing performance based on training and generalization of learning in three limiting areas of:

• Processing speed
• Attention
• Working memory

Training in one skill has been shown in previous research not to generalize to other skills, so Gazzaley’s lab investigated whether training with video games can generalize to improve the brain’s three limitations (above).

His recent work has confirmed this trend, and next studies are intended to monitor generalizability to Activities of Daily Living such as shopping and finding directions.

Training may be strategic, to instruct in “tips” to manage challenging situations, as in occupational therapy or physical therapy or plasticity-based, using repetition, feedback, adaptive adjustment of difficulty based on performance.

Medal of Honor, a first person shooter game, proved more effective than Tetris or crossword puzzles in counteracting the brain’s three limitations (above).

Most effective games are:
• Fast-paced
• Unpredictable
• Engaging, immersive
• Provide feedback
• Adjust difficulty based on performance
• Provide changes to the brain’s three limitations: working memory, attention, processing speed via interference

Cliff Nass

Mastering interference is important because research in Gazzaley’s lab as well as work by Cliff Nass of Stanford, and Daphne Bavelier, University of Rochester, confirm that attention can be impaired by internal intrusions (mind-wandering), intentional multi-tasking (for fun, diversion) or external interference through distraction or interruption (semi-intentional multi-tasking).

Distraction and interruption reduce cognitive performance when people try to multi-task.
These researchers conclude that “multi-tasking is a myth” because “task-switching” occurs instead of simultaneous processing.
They note that task-switching (also important in driving skills) becomes slower with age, but can be improved through training on video games like Neuroracer.

Daphne Bavelier

Bavelier demonstrated that video gamers show improved skills in visual perception (contrast sensitivity, resolve small detail in context of clutter, resolve different levels of threat), attention (retain focus, less distractable).
In addition, these skills can generalize to improvements in other “real-world skills” like spatial cognition.

Skilled gamers’ have efficient neural firings and in different areas of the brain than in less adept individuals, similar to a trend seen among musicians vs non-musicians.
fMRI studies have demonstrated that gamers’ brain structures actually change in brain networks that control attention:

• Parietal cortex – orienting attention
• Frontal lobe – maintaining attention
• Anterior cingulate –allocate, regulate attention, resolve conflicts
Your brains on action games

Games may be recommended for people of all ages to enhance cognition as further research findings add to these trends in the next decade.

Videogames as cognitive neurotherapeutics
Brain – Memory and Multitasking
Exercising Your Brain
Memory and the Aging Brain
The Distracted Mind

-*How have you used game-based training to strengthen your brain functioning?
-*How effective is multi-tasking in your work organization?

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