Rick Santorum and his one-sided approach

Rick Santorum said a while ago that when/if he’s elected he would not make the mistake that this President has made and surround himself with too many different points of view. He would want to encircle the oval office with like-minded people to solve the country’s problems. Now, whatever your political leanings are aside, this is a terrible terrible idea. Having a bunch of people looking at the problem in the same way is going to get you the same result as looking at it with 1 pair of eyes.

 

Living in California, it is difficult for me to even imagine living or working with people who are not part of a different culture than I am.  Even working in a predominantly white area, there are plenty of other cultures in the area.  There can be many benefits to this as well as some difficulties.  Larson (2007) found that the more heterogeneous a group, the better problem solvers they will be.  Adler and Gunderson (2008) claim that more than 100,000 high-technology, free-market firms are operating outside their own home country.

 

The benefits of a multicultural team can be many.  Earley and Erez (1997) explain that different skill sets, beliefs, values, experiences, and resources will be made available in a multicultural group.  The limitation on group think is a great benefit to a multicultural team as well (Adler & Gunderson, 2007).  The differences in backgrounds and experiences will contribute to more and better ideas, which can lead to more alternatives, but can also contribute to confusion (Adler & Gunderson, 2007).  And we’ve seen what detriments can become of group think: Bay of Pigs, the Challenger, the 2nd Iraq War, and the list goes on and on.

 

Being able to bring many different view points to the table is a benefit to an organization. You get different perspectives, different values, and different strategies. What’s the point of having 5 people with the same skill-set? Do you see any successful football teams that have 2 running backs do the same thing, or WRs with the same value? No. Because having two of the same person is a waste of your time and money. Surround yourself with ideas you don’t have so that you don’t miss anything. Close that window of weakness by getting different sides of the story. If not for your own personal benefit, do it for the organization.

 

References

 

Adler, N. & Gunderson, A. (2008). International Dimensions of Organizational Behavior (5th Ed.). Cincinnati, OH, US: Southwestern.

 

Early, P., & Erez, M. (eds) (1997). New Perspectives on International Industrial Organizational Psychology. San Francisco, CA, US: Pfeiffer.

 

Larson, J.R. (2007). Deep diversity and strong synergy: Modeling the impact of variability in members’ problem-solving strategies on group problem-solving performance. Small Group Research, 38, 413-436. DOI: 10.1177/1046496407301972.

Change Agents

Managers can and should be change agents, but they, in my experience, rarely are. Robbins and Judge (2010) define a change agent as a manager or non-manager in an organization who act as catalysts to change a behavior or activity. In my experience, many managers do not do what they are supposed to do: manage. They do not fix what is broken or change any policies that may be out of date or flawed. Perhaps it is because many managers operate under the fear of making mistakes through change. According to Nutt (1999), identifying a problem can prompt defensiveness, so the energy that could be used to identify the problem and make a change is used for protecting themselves. If we know a problem exists but cannot define what it is, then no resolution can be made and no changes can enhance the organization.

So what is it we can do to become a change agent? Knowing that there is a defensiveness to change and towards your protection can be used to then make changes. If you are aware that you may be protecting yourself instead of truly leading you can bypass this reflex and do yourself and your business a service by stepping up and making that change. Gather information and people’s input on what the issue may be. Do your due diligence and fix the problem by analyzing and brain storming further problems, possible solutions, and symptoms of what you are trying to fix.

 

References

Nutt, P. C. (1999). Surprising but true: Half the decisions in organizations fail. Academy of Management Academy, 13(4), 75-90. (AN 2570556).

Robbins, S. & Judge, T. (2009). Organizational behavior, (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

The Peter Principle and its impact on trust and the team

Everyone who has ever worked has probably witnessed the Peter Principle at work. This is where someone is hired and placed, or promoted passed their level of competence. As I am sure we can all attest, this is not a fun thing to have to deal with (assuming it is not you who has been PP’d).

There is a lot to be said about trust in a supervisor. If you don’t trust that the person who supervises you, makes decisions that directly affect you, understand the direction they are leading your department/team/business then you won’t feel confident in following them. You will feel apprehensive and doubting.

Friedlander (1970) found that trust helped the formation of group development and facilitates the ease to which a person can assimilate.  Being able to trust that the group is doing the right thing will allow ease of training.  By modifying our expectations and self-handicapping we can modify the impact from failure’s effect on our self-esteem.  By setting lower goals and expectations for ourselves, we allow ourselves to accomplish less or not strive so as to not completely damage our self-worth (Seli, Dembo, & Crocker, 2009).  Trust allows us to feel better and therefore be allowed to effectively be trained.

Yukl (2006) explains that high levels of cooperation and trust will ensure a team in carrying out its mission.  Keeping these values high will keep the team members helping each other, sharing information, and working together better in stressful situations (Yukl, 2006).  It is therefore important for the leader to foster better teamwork and communication to keep the flow of information moving and the team functioning at its highest capacity. But if you don’t trust the leader why would you follow them? Why would this make a stressful situation not as stressful?

The Peter Principle does not end up just placing an incompetent person in one role in the organization. This person ends up infecting the entire culture of trust and productivity of the company. It infects the well-being of departments, output, and teamwork. It is incredibly important then for those that hire and place people in jobs do their homework to make sure they are getting the right person to help make those decisions, foster trust, and enhance their organization.

 

References

Friedlander, F. (1970). The primacy of trust as a facilitator of further group accomplishment. Journal of Applied Behavior Science, 6(4), 387-400. DOI: 10.1177/002188637000600401

Seli, H., Dembo, M.H., & Crocker, S (2009). Self in self-worth protection: The relationship of possible selves and self-protective strategies. College Student Journal, 43(3). 832-842.

Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in organizations (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Cross culture organizations and management

Leadership across cultures is becoming a much more important part of today’s workplace.  Understanding communication, motivation, and other issues that differ cross culturally will help to make a better leader.  Lopes (2006) found that motivation across cultures should not be generalized as they vary too much.  There are things that are shared, but are very basic principles.  Work goals, work centrality, and societal norms were all issues that predicted motivation across cultures (Peterson & Ruiz-Quintanilla, 2003).  Being able to understand the different norms of the cultures a manager works with will increase the organization’s productivity.

There is also the issue of communication in organizations with different cultures.  Being culturally sensitive will increase the attentiveness and output of the employee (Sizoo, 2006).  Despite belief to treat people as if “color blind” where the manager treats everyone the same, this can be detrimental to the group (Brown, Pryzwansky, & Schulte, 2006).  It sets a precedent of ignoring the different cultural norms of the individuals of the group.  Humor has even been found to be of great managerial significance cross-culturally (Kalliny, Cruthirds, & Minor, 2006).  Using humor deemed inappropriate by another culture can impact their perceptions of the manager’s skills and personality.

Based on the many cultures we must encounter and work with today, I do not believe there is a single best leadership style.  I think one that is knowledgeable and patient enough to want to lead all the different types of backgrounds will have better luck, but there are many ways of going about this.  For a leader to have success in an organization, it is important to be culturally sensitive and want to learn about the culture of the organization.

References

Brown, D., Pryzwansky, W., & Schulte, A.C. (2006). Psychological consultation: Introduction to theory and practice (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Kalliny, M., Cruthirds, K.W., & Minor, M.S. (2006). Differences between American, Egyptian and Lebanese humor styles: Implications for international management. International Journal of Cross Culture Management, 6(1), 121-134. DOI: 10.1177/1470595806062354.

Lopes, T.P. (2006). Career development of foreign-born workers: Where is the career motivation research? Human Resource Development Review, 5(4), 478-493. DOI:10.1177/1534484306293925.

Peterson, M.F., & Ruiz-Quintanilla, S.A. (2003). Cultural socialization as a source of intrinsic work motivation. Group & Organizational Management, 28(2), 188-216. DOI: 10.1177/1059601103251228.

Autonomy in the office

I’ve been seeing a lot of blogs and articles about autonomy lately. I’m not sure if this is the buzz word of 2012 or what, but it is an often overlooked part of a business’ success. For those who aren’t quite sure what “autonomy” means, it’s basically doing the opposite of micro-managing. Allowing your employees to work and find their way to do things best. The only universal motivators across cultures are autonomy, variety, and intrinsic value (Peterson & Ruiz-Quintanilla, 2006) so obviously this is a key to an organization’s success.

An often overlooked part of autonomy, an over-compensation perhaps, is allowing too much autonomy. What managers need to realize is there’s a difference between autonomy and passivity. You still need to provide a direction to the employee, an objective for output. The autonomy comes from the employee using their own style to get there. This is incredibly important! I can’t overstate this enough. Often times there is little importance in the process of how things get done. Allowing your employees to figure out what works for them to get the job done is the important thing.

Let’s face it, the important part of business is the bottom line. What difference does it really make how you get there (obviously ethics and legalities are important, but the process and job descriptions are not)? Playford, Dawson, Limbert, Smith, Ward, and Wells (2000) found that participation in one’s own goal setting and program for achieving those goals improved the performance of individuals.  By allowing the managers to take part in their own goal setting and implementation will lead to higher performance. Autonomy of getting to the end goal, in other words, allows the managers and employees to find their own path. Do you like being told exactly what and how to do something? Probably not. Some structure and feedback are important, but leaving the employee some freedom and trust to get the job done that they’ve been hired for goes a long long way.

References

Peterson, M.F., & Ruiz-Quintanilla, S.A. (2003). Cultural socialization as a source of intrinsic work motivation. Group & Organization Management, 28(2), 188-216. DOI: 10.1177/1059601103251228.

Playford, E.D., Dawson, L., Limbert, V., Smith, M., Ward, C.D., & Wells, R. (2000). Goal-setting in rehabilitation: report of a workshop to explore professionals’ perceptions of goal-setting. Clinical Rehabilitation, 14(5), 491-496. DOI: 10.1191/0269215500cr343oa.

On MLK Jr. Day, let’s look at justice in the workplace

The thing that really got me into the field of OD psychology was “justice.” I was, like many people, unhappy in my job. I didn’t think much of it because I saw that everyone was unhappy in their work and I just figured it was the way it was. Work was something to be tolerated, to earn a paycheck, and not be really fulfilling. However, being the son of an attorney, I was constantly thinking there was no “justice” in this practice. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what “it” was but I knew it wasn’t “just.” People being treated poorly, not getting the credit they deserve to help make their respective company’s an extra couple of bucks, being passed over for well-deserved promotions because the boss’ son-in-law was just hired straight out of school and given the corner office…. So what was to be done?

It was at this time that I started taking a class on Psychological research where our term-paper was to find a study published in the last 5 years and write a duplication study that would expand on what it didn’t quite hit. I set off to the library database and entered some search terms having to do with “work” and “justice.” Wow! There are actually people who research this stuff? Who knew? The article that caught my eye was “The Distributive Side of Interactional Justice: The Effects of Interpersonal Treatment on Emotional Arousal.” When I presented this to my professor her eyes lit up. She stopped the class, told everyone to discuss what they were going to do with a partner, and came over to me to praise me on my choice. It turns out she’s a Ph.D. in something called Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She set me up with a ton of resources, told me about SIOP (Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychologists) and I was invigorated to shift my focus from clinical psych to I/O or OD (Organizational Development) Psychology.

The concept of “justice” is one that looks at keeping people engaged when they come to work. As Leventhal defines, the procedural justice side is defined by fair procedures that are deemed unbiased, consistent, fairly represent all employees, and ethical. Distributive justice is the equity of wage and resources among employees. Interactional justice is the fairness perceived among peers (Stecher and Rosse, 229-230). All of these views have an impact on employee morale and output, which in turn, will ultimately have an impact on company output and profit. Past research has shown that employees who perceive to be mistreated “are less satisfied with their jobs, less committed to their organization, less trusting of their coworkers, more psychologically distressed, more resistant to their supervisors’ influence attempts, and less willing to perform prosocial organizational behaviors” (qtd. in Tepper et al, 1).

So, basically it’s looking at how employees are, or perceive, being treated unfairly and how that impacts work performance. Of course this will negatively impact work performance yet so many places fail to acknowledge the importance of keeping the workplace fair and just. On this, the day where we celebrate one of the greatest Americans of all time, one who fought for equality and justice, let’s not forget that these principles are very important inside the walls of the workplace as well.

 

References

Stecher, Mary D., & Rosse, Joseph G. (2005). The Distributive Side of Interactional Justice: The Effects of Interpersonal Treatment on Emotional Arousal. Journal of Managerial Issues, 17(2), 229-246. Retrieved July 12,2006, from CSU Sacramento Library Psychinfo database (2005-07195-006).

Tepper, Bennett J., Michelle K Duffy, Christine A Henie, & Lisa Schurer Lambert. (2006). Procedural Injustice, Victim Precipitation, and Abusive Supervision. Personnel Psychology, 59(1), 101-124. Retrieved July 29, 2006, from Proquest (1003526051)

Anger and Problem Solving

I was doing some reading for my dissertation and came across an article titled “Others’ Anger Makes People Work Harder Not Smarter: The Effect of Observing Anger and Sarcasm on Creative and Analytic Thinking.” It caught my attention as I’ve spent far too many hours of my life working in customer service dealing with people’s problems and having to find ways to solve them to their satisfaction. Often times I did have to use some creativity in order to do this. Whether that was through having to use my creativity to use the technology at work in order to rectify a faulty charge, or find a creative solution to make the customer happy again and ensure their return to the establishment.

 

The authors of the study found that an angry customer essentially inhibits creative problem solving though. Those who had to help an angry customer were successful in analytical problem solving, but not creative problem solving. This is an interesting find to me. To me it is saying that the either the upset customer is communicating things in a way that does not lend itself to creative solutions, or more likely the employee is flustered and just wants to solve things as quickly as possible and wants to take as linear an approach as possible.

 

If an angry customer needs a creative solution though they are more than likely going to leave just as upset as when they encountered the problem. “We predicted and confirmed that others’ anger is a situational cue that activates prevention-oriented motivation and emotions, which in turn restricts people’s ability for complex thinking (Miron-Spektor, Efrat-Treister, Rafaeli, & Schwartz-Cohen, 2011).  So the bigger question is whether or not there is a way that we can circumvent this issue. Dealing with people’s emotions is inherent in dealing with people and especially working with people. There is another article that found that more than half of all decisions made in an organization fail (Nutt, 1999). This was because managers are under too much pressure to come to a solution to the problem quickly without understanding the real issue.

 

Are these things related? Are the increased emotions in the face of a crisis really inhibiting the ability to think clearly and rationalize our way through to a creative solution? As a consultant who has worked in education, non-profit, and for-profit settings I can attest to the importance of effective solutions to problems and improved communication in order to do so. One of the big issues I have convinced a few of my clients on improving was the communication from top to bottom. This has increased morale, time-management, and, more importantly, limits the anger and frustration that everyone has because the clarity they all have about their direction. As communication improves, the problems seem to go away. Is this because they can creatively fix a problem and use all of their faculties to look at them?

 

Keeping a level head and effective communication can help to effectively solve those problems you may be having. It may be a “fight or flight” response to get the angry customer’s problem solved and get them out the door or it may just be lack of training on how to communicate when emotions run high, but it is something very important to address in your business and personal life.