Tag Archives: self-regulation

Negotiation Drama: Strategic Umbrage, Line-Crossing Illusion, and Assertiveness Biases

Daniel R Ames

Daniel R Ames

Ability to optimally match one’s style of assertiveness to specific situations can determine success as a leader and negotiator, according to Columbia University’s Daniel Ames and Abbie Wazlawek.

Abbie Wazlawek

Abbie Wazlawek

Earlier, Ames and Stanford’s Frank Flynn reported that moderate levels of assertiveness are associated with career advancement, and with effective negotiation and influence in conflict situations.
In addition, they found that most observers provided consistent ratings of managerial under-assertiveness and over-assertiveness.

Francis Flynn

Francis Flynn

However, most people do not accurately assess others’ evaluation of their assertiveness in specific situations.
Over-assertive individuals tend to have less-accurate self-perception than less assertive people, and both groups experience “self-awareness blindness.
These inaccurate self-perceptions may develop from polite yet inaccurate feedback from others, which provides faulty information.

A frequently-employed negotiation tactic is overly-emotional verbalizations during negotiations.
More than 80% of participants reported that they had expressed greater objections than they actually felt to influence the negotiation partner, and a different 80% of volunteers said they observed exaggerated objections by their negotiation partners.

Daniel Ames AssertivenessParticipants in Ames and Watzlawek’s studies reported whether they or their counterpart used these excessive emotional displays in negotiation role-plays.
In addition, they rated their own and their negotiation partner’s assertiveness styles.

Self-awareness resulted in most favorable negotiation outcomes: More than 80% of negotiators rated by others and by themselves as “appropriately assertive in the situation” negotiated greatest value to both parties.

Ames Assertiveness U CurveStrategic umbrage also appeared effective:  People who received strategic umbrage displays by their negotiation partners were more likely to rate themselves as over-assertive in their negotiation position.
However, negotiators who applied strategic umbrage rated these self-critical negotiation partners as appropriately assertiveness.
Ames and Watzlawek called this misperception of others’ perceptions the line-crossing illusion.

This mismatch between negotiation partners’ ratings of appropriate assertiveness was linked with poorer negotiation outcomes:  Just 40% of negotiators who were rated as appropriately but felt they were over-assertive (line-crossing illusion) negotiated the best possible deal for themselves and their counterparts.
This suggests that disingenuous emotional displays of strategic umbrage lead negotiation partners to seek the first acceptable deal, rather than pushing for an optimal deal.

Jeffrey Kern

Jeffrey Kern

To improve accuracy of meta-perception – other people’s perception of assertiveness style – Ames and Wazlawek suggested:

  • Participate in 360 degree feedback,
  • Increase skill in listening for content and meaning,
  • Consider whether the positions discussed in negotiation are “reasonable” in the situation in light of comparable alternatives and options,
  • Request feedback on “strategic umbrage” reactions, to better understand additional factors that modify perceptions of “offer reasonableness,
  • Evaluate costs and benefits of specific assertiveness styles:
    Gary Yukl

    Gary Yukl

    Over-assertiveness may provide the benefit of “claiming value” in a negotiation or but the cost may be ruptured interpersonal relationships and a legacy of ill-will, according to Jeffrey M Kern of Texas A&M as well as SUNY’s Cecilia Falbe and Gary Yukl.

  • Consider cultural norms for assertiveness regulation in “low context” cultures like Israel, dramatic displays are frequent and expected in negotiations.
    In contrast, “high context” cultures like Japan require more nuanced assertiveness, with fewer direct disagreements and “strategic umbrage” displays, according to Edward T. Hall, then of the U.S. Department of State.
Edward T Hall

Edward T Hall

Likewise, under-assertiveness may benefit by minimizing interpersonal conflict, but may lead to poorer negotiation outcomes and undermined credibility, in future interactions, according to Ames’ related research.

To augment a less assertiveness style:

  • Set slightly higher goals,
  • Reconsider assumptions that greater assertion leads to conflict, and consider that proactivity may lead to increased respect and improved outcomes
  • Assess the outcome of collaborating with more assertive others.

To modulate a more assertiveness style:

  • Make slight concessions to increase rapport and trust with others,
  • Observe and evaluate the impact of collaborating with less assertive others .

The line-crossing illusion is an example of a self-perception bias in which personal ratings of behavior may not match other people’s perceptions, and others’ behaviors can attenuate individual confidence and assertiveness.

*How do you reduce the risk of developing the line-crossing illusion in response to other people’s displays of “strategic umbrage”?

*How do you match your degree of assertiveness to negotiation situations?

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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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Increase Self-Control with Purpose in Life, Positive Outlook, Humility

Anthony Burrow

Anthony Burrow

People with a sense of purpose are more likely to make choices with long-term benefits like saving for retirement and children’s education.
In addition, they are less likely to be diverted by short-term gratification and impulsive actions like such as cigarette smoking, drug use, gambling, and driving under the influence, found Cornell’s Anthony L. Burrow and R. Nathan Spreng in work with more than 500 adults.
As a result, Purpose in Life was related to reduced impulsivity and increased self-control.

Nathan Spreng

Nathan Spreng

Volunteers completed a personality inventory and a self-rating of Purpose in Life before making choices about whether to take a smaller amount of money immediately or a larger amount at some later date.

Waiting times and amount of the payoffs differed during each trial.
Participants who said they had a clear life purpose made longer-term, higher-payoff choices, suggesting greater ability to curb the impulse for an immediate reward, and greater self-management capacity.

Chai Jing

Chai Jing

Another factor in reducing one type of impulsive behavior – dangerous driving – is a “positivity bias,” hallmarked by seeing positive events as more salient than negative incidents, reported University of Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Chai Jing , Weina Qu, Xianghong Sun, Kan Zhang, and Yan Ge.

Weina Qu

Weina Qu

They studied more than 40 non-professional drivers using electroencephalograph data, self-reports of driving, violation reports, and International Affective Picture System (IAPS)  scores to measure negativity biases.

Volunteers identified whether a series of 80 pictures had blue borders or red borders around images that implicitly evoke negative, positive, or neutral emotions.
Dangerous drivers took longer to respond on the border-color task when the image was negative, suggesting greater attention to negative input.

Patrick Hill

Patrick Hill

Sense of purpose is also linked to greater longevity in a study by Carleton University’s Patrick Hill and Nicholas Turiano of the University of Rochester, in their study of more than 6100 Americans followed over 14 years.

Rachel Sumner

Rachel Sumner

Purpose in Life can increase White adult’s comfort with diverse groups, and may be associated with reduced prejudice, noted Cornell’s Burrow and Rachel Sumner, Maclen Stanley of Harvard, and Carlton University’s Patrick L. Hill in their study of more than 500 Americans.

Maclen Stanley

Maclen Stanley

Participants who received an experimental prime of life purpose also reported less preference for living in an ethnically homogeneous White city.
These effects persisted were independent of volunteers’ positive affect and perceived connections to ethnic out-groups.

Eddie M.W. Tong

Eddie M.W. Tong

Humility is another characteristic associated with reduced impulsivity and greater self-control in research by National University of Singapore’s Eddie M.W. Tong, Kenny W.T. Tan, Agapera A.B. Chor, Emmeline P.S. Koh, Jehanne S.Y. Lee, and Regina W.Y. Tan.

Defined as the ability to tolerate failures without self-deprecation, and to view successes without developing a sense of superiority, humility primes were associated with improved performance in a physical stamina (handgrip), resisting chocolate, and an insoluble tracing task.

Kenny W.T. Tan

Kenny W.T. Tan

Humility’s effect on self-regulation was significantly different from self-esteem, which had no impact on self-control.
Likewise, achievement motivation and compliance motivation did not explain increased performance.

Taken together, these findings suggest that effectively managing oneself in the face of challenging and tempting circumstances is enhanced by having a clear purpose in life, cultivating a positive bias and humility.

-*To what extent does having a sense of purpose make it easier to maintain self-control in challenging situations?

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Positive Thinking, Mental Contrasting Plus WOOP to Improve Performance

Gabriele Oettingen

Gabriele Oettingen

Positive thinking without additional evaluation and implementation strategies is wishful thinking that may lead to poor performance, found NYU’s Gabriele Oettingen.
She advocates coupling an optimistic outlook with considering obstacles and potential ways to manage them, using a mnemonic WOOP:

  • Wish,
  • Outcome
  • Obstacle
  • Plan.
Andreas Kappes

Andreas Kappes

Visualizing good outcomes without considering potential obstacles and a specific plan to achieve the goal led volunteers to become complacent, she noted.

To mitigate reduced motivation triggered by wishful thinking, Oettingen and University of London colleague Andreas Kappas taught volunteers “Mental Contrast” to consider potential obstacles to desired future outcomes, and identify ways to manage these potential challenges.

The team differentiated Mental Contrast from two less effective approaches to goal engagement:

  • Indulging by mentally elaborating only desired future,
  • Dwelling by mentally elaborating only the present reality.

These practices lead to less strong goal commitment than Mental Contrast, even when chances of success appear good across interpersonal relations, academic achievement, professional achievement, health, life management experiences.

Mental Contrast was an effective self-regulatory technique when coupled with Implementation Intentions (MCII) to improve achievement, interpersonal, and health habits.
These trends changed when perceived chances of success were low:  Mentally Contrasting a desired future with present reality led to disengagement from goals, whereas Indulging in the future goal fantasy or Dwelling only in the present reality both maintained goal commitment.

Probability of Success-Mental Contrast-Indulve-Dwelling

However, in another study, volunteers who spent more time imagining working in a “dream job,” but who also had lower expectations of achieving this goal, received fewer job offers and lower starting salaries, found Oettingen and Doris Mayer of University of Hamburg.
They differentiated the motivational impact of:

  • Positive expectations for future success, which predicted high effort and successful performance,
  • Positive fantasies, which didn’t increase effort.

Mental Contrasting helped people disengage from unfeasible goals like rehabilitating an ended relationship or achieving an unattainable professional identity.
When chances of success are low, people Mentally Contrast desired future with present reality to moved on to more feasible goals.

Similarly, Mental Contrasting linked negative thoughts about an undesirable future situation to avoidance goals provided that the probability of successfully avoiding the undesired future is high.
This strategy can be useful for people with difficulty generating positive fantasies about future health domain or reducing prejudice toward members of a minority or “out-group.”

When facing controllable and escapable tasks, people benefitted from Mentally Contrasting fantasy with reality.
However, when facing tasks that cannot be mastered such as terminal illness, Indulging in positive fantasies enabled people to maintain a positive outlook.

Volunteers who held a “silver lining theory” that a negative personal attribute is associated with a positive attribute, increased effortful performance toward the positive attribute when informed that:

  • They were impulsive
  • The silver lining theory states that “impulsivity is associated with creativity.”
Timur Sevincer

Timur Sevincer

These on-line and in-person participants showed greater effort-based creativity than those who were given no information or for whom the silver lining theory was refuted.
The Silver Lining Theory increased performance and enabled people to mitigate a perceived negative attributes by promoting effortful behavior toward a positive attribute linked to the negative attribute.

Mentally Contrasting a desired future (such as excelling in an intelligence test and writing an excellent essay) with a present reality increased physiological energization measured by systolic blood pressure and grip strength to the degree a person expected to attain the desired future.
Mental contrasting may trigger energization that fuels effort to perform an unrelated task, concluded University of Hamburg’s A. Timur Sevincer and P. Daniel Busatta collaborating with Oettingen.

Philip Daniel Busatta

Philip Daniel Busatta

Coupling Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII) helped economically-disadvantaged children convert positive thoughts about future outcomes into effective action, found University of Pennsylvania’s Angela Lee Duckworth, Teri A. Kirby of University of Washington with NYU’s Anton Gollwitzer and and Oettingen.

Teri Kirby

Teri Kirby

Student volunteers learned to compare a desired future with potential obstacles, then developed if–then implementation intentions to expected overcomes.
More than 75 U.S. urban middle school 10 year olds were randomly assigned to learn either MCII or a Positive Thinking strategy as a control comparison.

Those who applied MCII tools to their academic goals significantly improved their report card grades, attendance, and conduct, suggesting the value of Mental Contrasting to enhance goal commitment and realization.

Mental Contrasting can be a powerful tool to increase motivation, particularly when coupled with Implementation Intentions, except when the realistic probability of success in achieving goals is low.
In those cases, Indulging or Dwelling strategies are more effective in maintaining goal motivation.

  • How have you seen Mental Contrasting and considering your probability of success to manage your motivation and performance?

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“Surface Acting” At Work Leads to Stress Spillover

David Wagner

David Wagner

Employers, employees, and benefits providers recognize that experiences at work can affect employees’ quality of life outside of work, leading to increasing availability of work-life programs including Employee Assistance Programs, on-site medical centers, concierges, meals, and fitness centers in the US.

Christopher Barnes

Christopher Barnes

When employees mask their true feelings in work situations, they may engage in “surface acting” — or displaying appropriate, but unfelt facial expressions, verbal interactions, and body language.

Brent Scott

Brent Scott

Surface acting at work was associated with emotional exhaustion, work-to-family conflict, and insomnia outside of work for more than 70 volunteers in a high stress public service occupation, according to Singapore Management University’s David T. Wagner, Christopher M. Barnes of University of Washington and Brent A. Scott of Michigan State University.

Arlie Hochschild

Arlie Hochschild

Emotional labor” is Arlie Hochshild’s earlier term for “surface acting” in customer service interactions, in which employees present prescribed verbalizations and emotions, even when they are not genuinely felt.

She contrasted “surface acting” with “deep acting” in which the person:

  • Exhibits the emotion actually felt
  • Uses past emotional experiences to elicit real emotion and empathic connection with others, in a form of “organizational method acting.
Christina Maslach

Christina Maslach

Surface acting can lead to occupational “burnout,” characterized by emotional exhaustion and detachment from others and reduced workplace performance, noted University of California Berkeley’s Christina Maslach and Susan Jackson.

Céleste Brotheridge

Céleste Brotheridge

In contrast, high emotional labor via deep acting has been associated with a greater sense of personal accomplishment in research by University of Regina’s Celeste Brotheridge and Alicia Grandey of Penn State.

Veikko Surakka

Veikko Surakka

Recipients of “surface acting” are usually adept at detecting that it’s an inauthentic display, according to University of Tampere Veikko Surakka and Jari K Hietanen of University of Helsinki.

Patricia Hewlin

Patricia Hewlin

Related experiences can also take a toll, resulting in generalized stress and reduced quality of life outside of work, according to Georgetown’s Patricia Hewlin as well as to University of Lethbridge’s Karen H. Hunter, Andrew A. Luchak of University of Alberta and Athabasca University’s Kay Devine.

They identified stress-inducing behaviors including:

Kay Devine

Kay Devine

  • Impression management, characterized by ingratiating behaviors in two-person relationships.
    Terence Mitchell

    Terence Mitchell

    In the workplace, these can influence career outcomes, according to Georgia Tech’s Robert C. Liden and Terence R. Mitchell of University of Washington

Leon Festinger

Leon Festinger

Even people not performing customer-facing roles may encounter situations in which they must behave in “appropriate” ways inconsistent with their true feelings, and experience similar stress spillover from “surface acting” at work.

-*How do you prevent “burnout” when workplace settings seem to require “surface acting”?

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Recasting Unattainable Goals into Refreshed Options

Several previous posts have showcased research findings linking perseverance and persistence with expert performance and career advancement.

Faizel Mohidin

Faizel Mohidin

Faizel Mohidin SMART goal mind mapMind Map expert Faizel Mohidin shared an augmented understanding of SMART goals in a compelling graphic that showcases the necessity of goal achievability.

Goals may become unattainable due to:

  • Lack of opportunity (older than usual childbearing age, divorce)
  • Negative life event (death of a spouse, job loss)
  • Lack of resources (insufficient time, health, or money), or
  • Unattractive opportunity cost
Carsten Wrosch

Carsten Wrosch

Michael Scheier

Michael Scheier

Concordia University’ s Carsten Wrosch collaborated with Michael Scheier of Carnegie Mellon University, University of British Columbia’s Gregory Miller, Richard Schulz  of University of Pittsburgh, and University of Miami’s Charles Carver to examine disengagement from unattainable, goals, reengagement with more achievable goals, and subjective well-being among 280 volunteers in three studies.

Gregory Miller

Gregory Miller

Richard Schulz

Richard Schulz

Participants rated their ease in stopping focus on unattainable goals, and the amount of effort they invested in alternate achievable goals, along with multiple measures of physical and mental well-being.

They found that people who disengaged from unattainable goals and reengaged with attainable goals reported higher subjective well-being, lower stress, fewer intrusive thoughts about personal issues, and feeling more control in life circumstances than those who persisted with objectively unattainable goals.

Jutta Heckhausen

Jutta Heckhausen

Charles Carver

Charles Carver

Wrosh built on these findings that goal disengagement and reengagement can increase self-efficacy and emotional self-regulation by collaborating with Jutta Heckhausen of University of California, Irvine and Wake Forest University’s William Fleeson, to investigate the special case of women approaching and past the usual age of childbearing.

William Fleeson

William Fleeson

Their observations led them to propose an “action-phase model of developmental regulation,” in which people close to a developmental deadline like end of fertility, focus on “goal pursuit.”

In contrast, people past a developmental deadline without attaining a time-limited goal tend to focus on “disengagement and self-protection.”

This research suggests tempering advice to “never give up” with an assesssment of goal feasibility to decide whether to disengage, then reengage with a more achievable aspiration.

-*What approaches expedite disengagement from an unattainable goal and reengagement  with a revised, achievable objective?

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