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SIOP Members in the News

Clif Boutelle

Media of all stripes and colors are looking for credible resources for the stories their reporters are writing or airing, and when it comes to workplace related stories, industrial and organizational psychologists possess a wide variety of expertise that writers value. We often receive calls from reporters asking for I-O psychologists to contribute to their stories or they find experts through the SIOP Media Resources that is available on the website. The result is that many I-Os are being quoted and featured in a variety of media outlets; exposure that is beneficial to both SIOP and the field of I-O psychology.

Following are some of the media mentions from the past several months.

The July 31 Wall Street Journal ran a column on workplace meetings that included comments from Steve Rogelberg of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. When managers and others are constantly on their phones while a meeting is in progress, he suggested several tactics to keep the meeting on track, including taking a short survey to evaluate the meetings and being sure distractions are mentioned as a problem. Share the findings and discuss solutions with the group, he said.

He also contributed to a similar story about making meetings more productive in the May 22 Wall Street Journal.

A new measure of workplace arrogance developed by Stanley Silverman of the University of Akron and Russell Johnson of Michigan State University was featured in the July 25 issue of Science Daily, as well as the United Press International and other media outlets. Their research can help organizations identify arrogant managers before they have a costly and damaging impact.

Gordon Curphy of Curphy Consulting in North Lake, MN was interviewed on a July 9 National Public Radio program about different team building exercises companies employ to motivate workers.

Following a spate of stories in the media about misdeeds by major bank executives, the July 19 CNN Money ran a story describing how business leaders rationalize their poor choices that included comments by David Mayer of the University of Michigan and Mark Frame of Middle Tennessee State University. Noting the considerable distance between those making questionable decisions and the people hurt by those choices, Mayer said, “It’s totally depersonalized, you’re looking at just numbers. People tend to not think about business decisions as a moral domain.” Rewards for unethical behavior at big banks are large and fast, said Frame. “Simply put, people will do what you reward them to do,” he said. If big bank leaders are to demonstrate ethical behavior, we should think about ways to reward them for it, he added.

Research about screening social networking sites by organizations looking for information on applicants conducted by Will Stoughton, Lori Foster Thompson, and Adam Meade at North Carolina State University was featured in the July 9 Science Daily and the July 12 San Francisco Examiner. The study found that social network screening actually reduced the organizations’ attractiveness to both applicants and current employees who perceived the practice as an invasion of their privacy. Also, they found no evidence of applicants vetted through their social network sites being any better than other applicants.

A study about the importance of hiring people genuinely interested in and passionate about a job by Chris Nye of Bowling Green State University and colleagues at the University of Illinois was featured in the July 6 issue of Time Magazine. There are people working jobs that don’t really interest them even though they tell hiring managers they are. While applicants often take career surveys, Nye contends those surveys can be used by managers to help decide who to hire. He said evaluating applicant compatibility with a position through testing would provide a counterbalance to more subjective parts of the hiring process.

The July 4 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine included a story on the importance of giving employees a sense of independence without losing control that quoted Ben Dattner of Dattner Consulting in New York City and Dustin Jundt of Saint Louis University. Dattner noted that employee autonomy is an essential component of a healthy workplace, and among other things, independence gives workers a sense of control in stressful situations. Jundt added “Greater autonomy can lead to lower turnover and higher levels of creativity, innovation, and even performance. The benefits for business owners are quite clear.”

Dattner also contributed to a June 29 Wall Street Journal story about the reaction to being demoted using as an example when NBC-TV removed Ann Curry from the “Today” show. He said maintaining a balance between work and life is the single best way to normalize a demotion. Employees who tie too much of their sense of identity and fulfillment to their jobs risk feeling depressed and incompetent when they lose their jobs, he said.

When to take the blame for something that happens at work was the subject of a June 8 Businessweek story that quoted Dattner. People hate accepting responsibility for mistakes, but there are times when a person is blamed for minor infractions even when not at fault, when it is often best to simply let it go. One reason is that an explanation may seem like buck passing, said Dattner.

The June 10 Daily Oklahoman referenced research by Elizabeth Lentz of PDRI suggesting that organizations consider an alternative method of learning why employees leave an organization rather than the traditional exit interview. One way of gathering that kind of information is to ask the peers of leaving workers. It turns out their motivations and thoughts mirror separating staff. “The study suggests such proxy surveys offer a cost-effective, timely solution for organizations to consider when managing employee retention,” she said.

In the June 6 issue of The Smart CEO, Matt Barney, director of the Infosys Leadership Institute in India, was interviewed about aspects of leadership. He said good leaders need to be open to experience and to be good followers. Entrepreneurs should continuously observe, read, and learn ideas from a wide variety of leaders from many different fields. They should also be open to learning from team members.

Lynda Zugec of The Workforce Consultants based in Toronto contributed to a May 30 MSN Careers story about whether students should work between undergrad and graduate school. She said it was important that the work experience be applicable to the intended graduate studies field, even if the person has to volunteer rather than obtaining paid work. “Working within the field demonstrates an interest in the field and provides a sense of what the field entails,” she said.

Ronald Riggio of Claremont McKenna College contributed to a May 29 InformationWeek story about tell-tale signs of ineffective IT managers. He cited ego-driven and narcissistic leaders who abuse their power and fail to develop people, and do not empower team members and foster trust, instead they focus on errors and punish employees rather than encourage positive behavior. Bad leaders are also poor communicators, he said.

More men are entering female dominated positions like teaching and nursing, a trend that is good for men but is problematic for women, according to a May 21 story in Forbes. “Men who enter traditional female professions tend to be promoted at faster rates than women,” said Caren Goldberg of American University. She said senior management in these professions tend to be more men than women, “So while men may represent fewer than 5% of all nurses there is a much larger percentage than 5% in senior level positions like hospital administration.” She adds that more men moving into fields with 70% or more women “does not bode well for women.”

When the American military made it a strategy to win over the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi and Afghan people, it required different kinds of experts—social scientists trained to understand human nature and its implications. A story in the May 18 Science Magazine about this topic included comments from Michele Gelfand, a cultural psychologist at the University of Maryland. Her research is focused on better understanding the cultural beliefs and norms that spur conflict among the various ethnic and religious factions across many Middle Easter cultures. Training soldiers to recognize those differences could prevent or mitigate conflict, she says.

A May 18 story about being bored at work in the Business News Daily quoted Lynda Zugec of The Workforce Consultants, Toronto. Not feeling challenged or being bored at work might be an indication of a stalled career, she said. “If your daily work routine lacks mental stimulation and you already know the answers and can usually anticipate the questions, it may be time to move on,” she said.

A similar story in the May 12 London Daily Mail suggested that boredom in the workplace is growing. Following anger, boredom is the second most commonly suppressed emotion in the workplace and people are leaving good jobs because they are not challenging or satisfying them. Paul Spector of the University of South Florida noted that people experiencing boredom are more likely to display aggression and hostility and lack honesty and humility.

Human performance used to be measured in terms of a bell curve that distributed human abilities in different levels—identifying top performers, average ones, and poor workers. New research conducted by Herman Aguinis of Indiana University and Ernest O’Boyle Jr. of Longwood University in Virginia suggests that the bell curve doesn’t adequately capture individual performance; rather, performance follows a “power distribution curve.” In a study of more than 600,000 people in a variety of performance areas, they found a larger-than-expected amount of productivity came from a small percentage of people. “In some of the data we have, the top 5% of workers produce 25% of the output. The implication is that you have a few superstars who, with the systems most companies use to measure performance, are not always detected. They’re sometimes not even acknowledged.” The study was reported in several media outlets including the May 8 Toronto Star and NPR Radio, April issue of HR Magazine and March 4 Chicago Tribune.

Making career choices can be difficult for college students who are sometimes caught in their own decision trap, says Jason Dahling of the College of New Jersey, who recently explained his research on a segment of the April 30 Fox Business News program. He said decision making follows two basic approaches—“satisficers” who tend to jump at the first option that meets their minimum criteria and “maximizers” who tend to be more exhaustive in their search. Maximizers tend to less satisfied with their final choice because they have evaluated so many options they tend to second guess themselves, he said.

Pushing political beliefs on coworkers can be problematic, Michael Woodward of Human Capital Integrated in Miami, FL said in an April 27 story in Forbes. “When it comes to topics of conversation, every workplace has its own set of norms and standards for what’s off limits,” and politics, especially during an election year, often falls into the off-limits category. “Generally it is best to avoid getting into politics at work. When you are at work or on the job, you are being paid to execute an assigned set of tasks, not campaign for your party.”

Michael Cunningham of the University of Louisville contributed to an April 22 Chicago Tribune story about workplace complainers. He said there were varying motives for office gripes. Some complain in order to receive social support, others may complain with the hope of gathering enough supporters to achieve something actionable. Then there are the chronic complainers whose gripes wear thin on coworkers. Much complaining can be dealt with through better office communication.

Joyce E. A. Russell of the University of Maryland writes periodic columns for the Washington Post. Her April 22 piece was about managing Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000. Millennials are the largest generation since the Baby Boomers and are expected to have a huge social and economic impact in the workplace. Many organizations have created mentoring programs for younger workers and devised strategies for keeping them engaged. They need to be respected for what they can and do bring to the workplace, she wrote.

Paul Babiak of HRBackOffice, a New York-based consulting firm, was featured in a CNN story about psychopaths in the workplace. He notes that a surprising number of people with psychopathic tendencies can be found in senior management positions. They get there because they are often charismatic charmers and exhibit confidence, though it is usually rooted in deception. They lie without remorse, steal credit for others’ work, and are adroit at blaming others for their mistakes;” however “they are not stupid. They can decode what is expected of them and play the part,” he added.

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

Send copies of the article to SIOP at boutelle@siop.org, fax to 419-352-2645, or mail to SIOP at 440 East Poe Road, Suite 101, Bowling Green, OH 43402.