Category: Occupational

Leaders Can Feel Licensed To Behave Badly When They Have Morally Upstanding Followers

By Emma Young

Countless studies have investigated how a leader’s behaviour influences their followers. There’s been very little work, though, on the reverse: how followers might influence their leaders. Now a new paper, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, helps to plug that gap with an alarming finding: good, morally upstanding followers can create less ethical leaders.

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Selfish And Combative People Don’t Actually Get Ahead At Work

By Emily Reynolds

In popular culture, there’s an idea that lots of successful people are… well, not that nice. From Glengarry Glen Ross to The Apprentice, there’s a litany of bad bosses and aggressive success stories in film and television. The message seems to be that to get ahead you need to ditch the niceties and think about number one.

This stereotype might not reflect what’s really going on, however. In a new longitudinal study published in PNAS, a team from the University of California, Berkeley and Colby College tracked individuals over a fourteen year period, looking to see what became of those who were more disagreeable (not a cohort many of us would particularly long to be in).

They found that selfish, combative, and manipulative people have no real advantage at work — not because there are no benefits to such behaviour, but because its positive and negative impacts cancel each other out.

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Black Women With Natural Hair Face Biases From Potential Employers

By Emily Reynolds

Stories about discriminatory practices against Black people with natural hairstyles (e.g. afros, twists, dreadlocks, braids and cornrows) abound. At school, having natural hair has led to detention, punishment and even exclusions, and previous research has also found serious stigma around natural hair when it comes to desirability and professionalism.

A new study in Social Psychological and Personality Science backs this up, finding that such biases can tangibly affect Black women’s chances with potential employers. Christy Zhou Koval at Michigan State University and Ashleigh Shelby Rosette at Duke University found that Black women with natural hairstyles were seen as less competent and less professional than White female applicants or Black applicants with straightened hair — and that they were less likely to get job interviews, too.

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Eating Lunch At Your Desk Again? Study Examines Why Workers Don’t Always Take Breaks

By Emily Reynolds

If you work for more than six hours a day in the UK, you’re legally entitled to a rest break of at least twenty minutes per shift. Many workers get more; if you work an eight hour day, it’s likely your employer will give you an hour-long lunch break.

Whether or not you actually take that break, however, is a different matter. Despite the fact that breaks can increase motivation and productivity and decrease potentially damaging inactivity, research has indicated a growing trend of workers eating their lunch at their desks or not taking their rest time. Some figures suggest 82% of workers don’t always take their breaks — a significant proportion of the workforce.

So why is it that we’re so often eating al desko? A study published in Psychology and Health has some insights.

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Involvement In Workplace Democracy Can Alter Your View Of Authority

By Emily Reynolds

Authoritarianism, as a trait, tends to be thought of as an enduring part of a person’s personality. But can this deference to authority be changed? According to new work in Nature Communications, it can — at least in the short term.

In studies conducted with textile workers in China and administrative staff at a university in the United States, researchers found that encouraging workers to attend weekly democratic meetings led to a significant change in the way they felt about authority, justice and participation.

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Women Are More Likely Than Men To Be Told “White Lies” In Performance Reviews

By Emily Reynolds

It’s not uncommon to tell a white lie at work: why you took a slightly too-long lunch break or how much you’ve really done on that big project. Often, white lies are socially useful — telling someone that you like what they’re wearing is probably a kinder option than admitting that you hate it, for example.

When it comes to performance reviews, however, white lies are less beneficial. The whole point of such a review is to help improve how someone is working and identify and mitigate potential problems, so lying defeats the object. And according to a new study from Cornell University’s Lily Jampol and Vivian Zayas, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, it’s women who most often bear the brunt of untruthful performance reviews.

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Behavioural “Nudges” Are Ineffective At Encouraging Commuters To Carpool Or Take The Bus

By Emma Young

You’ll probably be familiar with the idea of behavioural “nudges” — interventions that encourage people to make better choices, without changing the actual options available. As a concept, nudging has become hugely popular, with at least 200 “nudge units” in governments and institutions around the world. We’ve certainly reported on a few studies finding that simple nudges encourage people to give more to charity, and help people to make healthier soft drink choices from fast food menus, for example. You might be forgiven for thinking, then, that there are no limits to what nudging can do….

Well, a recent set of studies designed to “nudge” commuters’ behaviour, published in Nature Human Behaviour and involving a total of almost 69,000 people, has found that there definitely are limits. “The failure of these well-powered experiments … highlights both the difficulty of changing commuter behaviour and the importance of publishing null results to build cumulative knowledge about how to encourage sustainable travel,” write Ariella S. Kristal and Ashley V. Whillans, of Harvard Business School.

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Looking At Your Phone At Work Might Make You Even More Bored

By Emily Reynolds

There are plenty of things you can do in a five minute break at work — talk to a colleague, make a cup of tea or coffee, or even go outside for some fresh air. But with the advent of digital technology, many of us now spend the short lulls in our day doing something else: looking at our phones.

Previous research has already suggested (fairly unsurprisingly) that smartphone use increases as we get more bored or fatigued. It makes sense: if you’re doing a particularly tedious task at work, you’re much more likely to want to spend a few minutes scrolling on your phone than if you’re doing something deeply engaging.

But does looking at your phone actually relieve boredom? A new study from Jonas Dora and colleagues at Radboud University, available as a preprint at PsyArXiv, seems to suggest not.

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Companies Are Judged More Harshly For Their Ethical Failures If The CEO Is A Woman

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By Emily Reynolds

Gender inequality in the business world has been much discussed over the last few years, with a host of mentoring schemes, grants, business books and political activity all aimed at getting women into leadership positions.

But what happens when this goal is achieved? According to new research, unequal gender dynamics still prevail even at the very top. Nicole Votolato Montgomery and Amanda P. Cowen from the University of Virginia found that women CEOs are judged far more harshly than their male counterparts when a business fails ethically. However, when a failure is down to incompetence, they find, women receive less negative backlash.

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People Prefer Their Jobs To Be Taken By Robots, Not Other Workers

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By Emily Reynolds

The rise of automation has already had a significant impact on the work lives of millions of people — and it shows no signs of stopping. In a study released earlier this year, the Office for National Statistics found 1.5 million workers in Britain at “high risk of losing their jobs to automation”, with women and low-paid workers bearing the brunt of the risk. And another paper published in Social Science and Medicine found that exposure to automation risk exacerbated poor health: higher risk of automation meant higher job uncertainty and subsequently a greater chance of physical and mental health problems.

All of which makes the findings of a new Nature Human Behaviour study on almost 2,000 North American and European participants even more surprising. While most people prefer it when workers are replaced by humans, not robots, the majority of those surveyed said that if their job was at risk, they would find it less upsetting for it to be handed to robots rather than other employees.

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