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SIOP Members in the News

Clif Boutelle

Visibility for I-O psychology and its researchers and practitioners will be a major goal for SIOP this coming year. And when it comes to gaining recognition, there are many members who are providing their expertise to news stories in the nations media.

Reporters continue to find SIOP members to be credible resources for the workplace-related stories they are writing. The Administrative Office in Bowling Green is able to match some reporters requests for experts with SIOP members. But a growing number of reporters are relying on Media Resources, which is found on the SIOP Web site. Currently there are more than 100 different workplace topics with over 2,000 SIOP members who are willing to help reporters with their stories.

All of this activity helps to promote the field of I-O and to make its practitioners and researchers better known to the media and their readers; many of them are business leaders.

Following are some of the press mentions that have occurred in the months just prior to the deadline for this issue of TIP:

Mike Zickar of Bowling Green State University appeared on a local radio program May 17 to discuss I-O psychology and its importance in the workplace. The interview was broadcast over WFOB and provided Zickar the opportunity to inform listeners about I-O as well as Bowling Green's I-O program, which recently was rated third in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Most organizations take the high road when discussing competitors but there are some who delight in taking potshots both in their public comments and advertising, noted a May 3 USA Today story. Ben Dattner of Dattner Consulting in New York City said the best companies focus on areas of internal improvement and refrain from preening. Denigrating other companies can be a sign that an organization lacks confidence in its own accomplishments, he said.

A May 2 story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about how long and stressful working hours can take their toll on employees included comments from Steve Jex of Bowling Green State University. He noted that some people feel overworked in a standard 40-hour week but others can put in 80 hours and feel absolutely fine. It all depends upon why theyre working those hours and what they are doing. He also said the mental effects of being overworked arent as severe as the potential effects on a workaholics physical well-being. Heart problems are the most dangerous possibility, he said.

Research by Mike Aamodt of Radford University has been featured in the Kansas City Star, the Miami Herald, and other Knight Ridder newspapers around the country. His study on reference letters, which was presented at the SIOP conference, suggested that reference letters do not help job candidates very much nor do they help the prospective employer whos trying to learn about the candidate. Overall, reference letters are relentlessly positive, he said.

He also was interviewed for an April 23 story in the Toronto Globe and Mail about bullying as a management style. Aamodt noted that collegiality is important, but the extent of its importance is determined by the job. In situations such as a war on terrorism, effectiveness is more important than being a nice guy. However, few jobs are crisis driven. I think that most employers want a good performer who also plays nice, he said.

For an April 20 Cleveland Plain Dealer story about why corporate leaders are led to pad expense accounts, the writer called upon Dory Hollander of WiseWorkplaces in Arlington VA and Ben Dattner of Dattner Consulting in New York City to provide their theories. Hollander said personal misbehavior often springs from a culture that promotes an anything goes mentality. Dattner added that although companies often have firm rules about expense accounts, top executives feel they are above the fray and justify expense padding as something that is due to them.

The Wonderlic test, given to all NFL draftees, came in for some publicity when top choice Alex Smith recorded one of the top scores ever. Doctoral candidates Brian Lyons and John Michel of SUNY-Albany and Brian Hoffman of the University of Tennessee conducted a study to determine if the test could predict success in the NFL. Their study, which was presented at the SIOP conference in Los Angeles, showed no relationship between the Wonderlic and NFL performance. However, the Wonderlic does have some impact upon the quarterback position, where quick decision making and learning complicated offenses is paramount to success. The study was reported in the April 21 Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch.

Three SIOP members contributed to a story on the effective use of surveys to learn what employees really want in the April issue of HR Executive. Jeffrey Saltzman of Sirolta Consulting in Purchase, NY said that employee survey data and the use of that data in improving organizational effectiveness is probably the most underutilized asset most organizations have. Therese Welbourne of eePulse Inc. in Ann Arbor, MI added that timeliness is a key issue. Some HR professionals get the results of their employee surveys or research reports 6 months to 1 year after they are completed and they form their opinions based on that data. Ben Dattner of Dattner Consulting in New York City said senior management must be viewed as committed to the survey process and making changes based upon the survey results. If youre surveying each year and it doesnt lead to results or improvement, HR should not be surprised if a certain cynicism develops, with employees wondering about the effectiveness and usefulness of the survey.

The April 19 Halifax Herald covered the opening of Acadia Universitys Centre for Organizational Research & Development, which was founded and is directed by Michael Leiter. He is leading a Health Canada-funded project to study workplace issues for nurses in hospitals throughout the Atlantic provinces. He also is developing an ongoing education strategy for employees for workers in the Nova Scotia Continuing Care sector.

The April 5 New York Times carried a story on research conducted by Stacey Turner, Sarah Singletary, and Eden King of Rice University and Janessa Shapiro of Arizona State University. The study, which received the Flanagan Award at the recent SIOP conference, dealt with interpersonal discrimination toward obese customers. In addition to the Times, stories appeared in a large number of media outlets, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chicago Sun-Times, Indianapolis Star, Reuters, Good Morning America, and Fox Television News. Mikki Hebl of Rice University was the faculty adviser.

Tracey Rizzuto of Louisana State University received considerable media attention for her research on workplace technology and the myth about older workers, which she presented at the conference. Contrary to previous research suggesting that as workers age they lose some ability to master complicated tasks, she found that older workers welcomed and adapted quite well to new technology. Stories appeared in the March 23 issue of HR Week as well as ComputerWorld and several Gannett News Service papers.

Steve Scullen of Drake University was the lead author of a study that suggested the quiet but common practice of culling lowest ranked workers can systematically improve company performance. Called rank and yank, the practice should be reconsidered after 3 or 4 years because after that, new hires are less likely to be any better than workers who are eased out of the company. Coverage of the study appeared in several newspapers and Web sites, including USA Today, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and The (Madison, Wisc.) Capital Times.

The March 17 Albany Times Union carried a story on life in office cubicles, which included some comments from Wendy Becker of SUNY at Albany. She said that putting workers in cubicles may be good for a companys bottom line, but the results are unpredictable. You can go into any organization and see one section where a cubicle is working and one section where it is not, she said. Behavior and relationships are not something that can be legislated in a company very well.

When unemployment benefit claims dropped in mid-March, the March 16 Bloomberg News had a story quoting Fred Frank of Orlando-based TalentKeepers. Its becoming an employees labor market for the first time since the dot.com crash 4 years ago, he said. The advantage is shifting to employees and companies are under more pressure to hold on to their people.

He also was mentioned in a March 8 Bloomberg News story about employee retention. He noted that companies are seeing more churn in the labor market because, as the economy improves, employees are more comfortable switching jobs. The story also quoted Barry Gerhart of the University of Wisconsin-Madison who said employers need to make retention a priority. If they dont they may find themselves waving goodbye to their most important asset.

For a story on personality testing that appeared in the March 26 Washington Post, the writer talked to Gary G. Kaufman of Human Resources Consulting near Nashville, TN. A well-developed test is probably the cheapest and most valuable selection tool an employer can have, he said. The problem, he added, is that personality testing in general is a largely unregulated business, which means that anyone can make up a test and put it on the Internet and make any claims that they choose about the test.

Christopher Mulligan of TalentKeepers also chipped in on the retention story for the February 2 BusinessWeek online, which carried an extensive interview with him. In an accompanying story he said that one of the biggest factors in an employee wanting to leave is the relationship with the supervisor. Few companies hold supervisors accountable for retention of top producers, he said. One of the best ways of ensuring that employees wont get itchy feet is to make sure they are a good fit from Day 1.

The Chronicle of Higher Education in its February 15 issue ran a story about universities providing childcare centers to help address gender-equity issues. Despite their growing popularity, they are not a panacea. They still dont solve the problem that faculty jobs are becoming more time consuming, said Ellen Ernst Kossek of Michigan State University. People are trying to be excellent researchers, get the best teaching ratings, bring in grants, and be on committees, she said. What I think universities need to do is provide ways for people to cut back so they have more time with their kids. But building a daycare center, she acknowledges, is much easier than restructuring work.

She also contributed to a February 17 story for The Kansas City InfoZine about research on part-time work she conducted with a colleague at McGill University. Their study found that part-time work is a viable path to career success and that when salaries were adjusted according to workload, those working part time were earning salaries equivalent to those working full-time, Kossek said.

A February 21 USA Today story suggesting that workers under stress can be more creative than those who are not included research by Jennifer George of Rice University. Her study determined that happy workers may be too content with the status quo to be creative. People in a good mood can get overconfident and complacent, she said. The point is not to put people in a bad mood, but you can foster a proactive (climate) if they are, she said. 

A February 25 article on CNN.com cited R. Wendell Williams of ScientficSelection.com in Atlanta about the value of personality assessments. The investment in personality testing is going to cost less than one or two turnovers caused by hiring the wrong person because of a lack of salient information, he said.

A Chicago Tribune column on grievance research by Julie B. Olson-Buchanan of California State University at Fresno, and Wendy R. Boswell of Texas A&M found that grievance filers were neither significantly more likely than nonfilers to be looking for a job or to be less productive. They suggested that workers be given a say in daily operations. Your employees are your best asset. Listen to them, they said.

Please let us know if you or a SIOP colleague have contributed to a news story. We would like to include it in SIOP Members in the News.

Send copies of the article to SIOP at PO Box 87, Bowling Green, OH 43402, or e-mail them to siop@siop.org, or fax to (419) 352-2645.

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