Tag Archives: helping

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 had 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 needed to ask only six people for help, 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.
Requestors tended to “anchor” on the first refusal, and hesitate to make a second request.
However, this finding suggests that requestors have a greater chance of success after initial refusal, and that this is the time to muster resilience and persistence.

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

Requestors 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 five variables:

  • 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 asking for what you want, even after rejection.
In addition, 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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Reduce “Time Famine” By Doing for Others

Feeling “starved for time,” with “too much to do and too little time to do it”? University of Michigan’s Leslie Perlow identified the subjective experience “time famine” among software engineers, whose productivity was reduced based on frequent interruptions by others, a pervasive “crisis mentality,” rewards linked to “individual heroics.”

Cassie Moligner

Cassie Moligner

One counterintuitive remedy for “time famine” is giving time by helping other people.
This use of time increased feelings of “time affluence” in a study by Wharton’s Cassie MolignerZoë Chance of Yaleand Harvard’s Michael I. Norton.

Ernst Pöppel

Ernst Pöppel

Volunteers judged that they “did a lot with their time,” and had more available time when they helped others.
Mogilner and colleagues analyzed people’s elementary time experiences,” described by Ernst Pöppel of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.

Francis Wade

Francis Wade

As Francis Wade of 2Time Labs pointed out, people cannot increase actual chronological time, but individual time experiences can vary based on physiological state, emotion, and context.

Moligner’s team compared people’s perceptions of time abundance when they:

  • Did something for someone else by writing an encouraging note to a gravely ill child or helping an at-risk student by editing his or her research essay for 15 minutes,
  • Spent 10 minutes doing something “for yourself that you weren’t already planning to do today,”
  • Spent 30 minutes doing something for someone else “that you weren’t already planning to do today,”
  • “Wasted” time on a low-meaning task by counting the letter “e” in multiple pages of Latin text,
  • Gained unexpected “free” time when they learned that “all essays had been edited,” so they could leave early.

Spending time on others seemed to “expand the future” and increase the perceived amount of available time, compared with spending time on oneself or “finding” free time.
In fact, people who unexpectedly gained fifteen minutes actually spent less time on a later required task than those who invested time helping another person.
This suggests that spending time pro-socially may increase one’s future work efforts, whereas finding free time may diminish work motivation.

Michael DeDonno

Michael DeDonno

Perceived time pressure undermined learning performance more than actual time constraints on the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), found Florida Atlantic University’s Michael DeDonno and Heath Demaree of Case Western.

The team told more than 80 volunteers that time available for the task was “insufficient,” whereas they advised another group of more than 80 people that they had “sufficient” time to complete the task.
The time available to both groups was identical and adequate to complete the IGT, which asks participants to select from four decks of cards to win as much “money” as possible.

Heath Demaree

Heath Demaree

Two of the decks yield higher payoffs or “positive utility” whereas the remaining two decks render less favorable winnings, offering “negative utility.”
To win, participant learn which decks offer the greatest payoff in the shortest time for 100 trials.

Each group of more than 80 volunteers was separated into two sub-groups given different amounts of time between card selections to consider the task, while the total time available remained the same.

People who thought they had insufficient time for the task achieved lower payoff than volunteers who believed they had enough time.
Since both groups had the same amount of time, the performance difference was attributed to their beliefs about time constraints, suggesting the importance of focusing on the task rather than on potential time limits.

Steven J. Karau

Steven J. Karau

Actual time constraints affected both group interactions and task performance in a planning task evaluated by Southern Illinois University’s Steven J Karau and Janice R Kelly of Purdue.

They asked 36 groups of three volunteers to complete a planning task while group interactions were videotaped and coded using the Time-by-Event-by-Member Pattern Observation (TEMPO) system, developed by Texas Tech’s Gail Clark Futoran, Janice Kelly of Purdue, and University of Illinois’s Joseph McGrath.

Gail Clark Futoran

Gail Clark Futoran

Twelve of the groups had inadequate time, whereas another twelve groups had optimal time for task completion, and the final twelve groups has more than enough time.

Group performance was evaluated based on:

  • Length,
  • Originality,
  • Creativity,
  • Adequacy,
  • Issue Involvement,
  • Presentation quality,
  • Optimism,
  • Action orientation.

The groups that had greater time constraints actually focused less on the task than groups with more time, supporting Karau and Kelly’s recommendation to maintain task focus when performance time is limited to optimize performance.

Janice Kelly

Janice Kelly

Time constraints differentially affected each performance evaluation, and one way to mitigate the impact of time constraints is to shift focus from perceived time scarcity and stress to attend to the task.

-*How do you maintain task focus when perceiving time pressure?

-*To what extent does investing time in other people give you the sense of greater “time abundance”?

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Executives with Daughters and Sisters: More Generous?

Michael Dahl

Michael Dahl

Cristian Dezső

Cristian Dezső

Male CEOs paid employees more after the birth of their first child when it is a daughter, but paid employees an average of $100 less annually after the birth of a son, according to Michael Dahl of Aalborg University with University of Maryland’s Cristian Dezső and David Gaddis Ross of Columbia Business School in their study of more than 10,000 Danish companies between 1996 and 2006.

David Gaddis Ross

David Gaddis Ross

Female employees typically received higher wages after the birth the CEO’s first child of either gender, and were less adversely-affected than their male colleagues by wage decreases after the birth of CEOs’ children.

Paul Van Lange

Paul Van Lange

People with more sisters tended to show more generous “pro-social” behaviors in laboratory studies of 600 volunteers who played a simulation game requiring decisions about resource-sharing with strangers, according to Paul Van Lange of Free University in Amsterdam with colleagues Ellen De Bruin, Wilma Otten, and Jeffrey Joireman of Washington State University.

Jeffrey Joireman

Jeffrey Joireman

Alice Eagly at Northwestern University suggests that men with sisters are significantly more likely to help others, based on her meta-analysis of 172 research studies.

Alice Eagly

Alice Eagly

In addition, she noted that men tend to help women more than other men.

Men behaved more generously when the cost was minimal in a modified dictator game, according to James Andreoni at the University of California, San Diego and Lise Vesterlund at the University of Pittsburgh.

James Andreoni

James Andreoni

In contrast, they noticed that women demonstrated greater generosity when the cost was high.

Lise Vesterlund

Lise Vesterlund

Andreoni and Vesterlund suggest that men are more responsive to price changes when mens “demand curves for altruism” cross those of women.
As a result, in this lab simulation, men behaved either extremely generously or selfishly, but women shared gains more equally.

Women’s direct presence on corporate boards – rather than their influence as sisters or daughts –  was correlated with increased economic value, according to Dezső  and Ross’s evaluation of the S&P 1,500 firms’ financial performance between 1992 and 2006.
Boards that included women generated an average of 1 percent more economic value – more than $40 million each – when the firm’s strategy is focused on innovation.

-*What corporate impact have you seen of male executives with daughters and sisters?

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