Category Archives: Management

Stress at Work: Individuals or Structures?

Source: A C L Davies, Industrial Law Journal, Advance Access, April 23, 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Stress is a significant practical problem in modern workplaces. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), more than half of all working days lost to ill health each year are attributed to stress, depression or anxiety. This article offers an overview of the occupational psychology literature on workplace stress, focusing on the job demands–resources or JD-R model, developed by Demerouti et al., and highlighting two important points: first, that stress at work is not just about excessive job ‘demands’ but also about inadequate ‘resources’ to cope with those demands; second, that stress-related ill-health is not just a matter of vulnerability on the part of the individual worker, but is also about the way in which the workplace is organized. The article then draws on these insights to offer a critique of the way in which health and safety law and tort law approach workplace stress, arguing that both bodies of law are overly focused on treating stress as a matter of individual vulnerability. It concludes by drawing out some broader implications of the occupational psychology literature for areas of employment law less obviously related to workplace stress, and for casual or platform working.

How Men Can Be More Inclusive Leaders

Source: David G. Smith, W. Brad Johnson, and Lisen Stromberg, Harvard Business Review, May 12, 2021
(subscription required)

Despite the Covid-19 “Shecession,” which has driven millions of women out of the workforce, women are the majority of the college-educated talent pool. Because of this, male leaders — and men more broadly — must pursue gender inclusion and equity through deliberate allyship with women. There are four inclusive leadership strategies male leaders should follow. First, get comfortable being uncomfortable. Have the humility to know that there’s much you don’t know about others’ experiences. Second, make inclusive leadership personal and visible. Your messaging should come from the heart, and it must be personal and authentic. Third, design transparency into your workplace by being clear about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you’re progressing. Finally, design accountability into your workplace. Ensure your governance policies align with your inclusion goals, and extend diversity and representation requirements to your suppliers and customers.

4 Lessons for Building Diverse Teams

Source: Naomi Wheeless, Harvard Business Review, May 17, 2021
(subscription required)

Companies often hire the exact same type of employee over and over. The thinking is that if employee X is doing a great job and everyone gets along with them, then the smart thing to do must be to hire more people exactly like them. This mentality leads to hiring managers seeking out candidates that identically mirror their existing workforce. They’ll look for the same educational background and skillsets, source from the same narrow list of companies, and look for similar personality traits during interviews. Before you know it, you end up with an entire staff that looks, thinks, and — to a degree — acts almost exactly the same. Not only does this tend to result in a reduction in diversity of thought (among other aspects of diversity), but it can prevent the company from realizing its true potential. Fresh new perspectives are necessary to bring forth bold new ideas, challenge long-standing internal thinking, and provide a more complete internal representation of the customer base.

Research: What Do People Need to Perform at a High Level?

Source: Zorana Ivcevic, Robin Stern, and Andrew Faas, Harvard Business Review, May 17, 2021
(subscription required)

The researchers identified common factors helping (or hurting) employee effectiveness. Among them were personal factors including mindsets and skills that the individual brings to the job and over which they have some control. Others are managed at an organizational level: managing rules about how work is done and showing emotional intelligence. Turning to nurses during the Covid-19 pandemic, the researchers found that these factors became even more important during crisis. They found that when the background uncertainty and anxiety are high, if the organization does not provide clear expectations and the supervisors do not acknowledge staff feelings and help them manage them, workers will not be able to work to their full potential.

Of practical importance to organizational leaders, our research provides insight about how managers can boost employees’ potential – even in times of crisis.

Handling Resistance to Change When Societal and Workplace Logics Conflict


Source: Namrata Malhotra, Charlene Zietsma, Timothy Morris, Michael Smets, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol 66, Issue 2, 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Changes in societal logics often leave firms’ policies and practices out of step. Yet when firms introduce a change that brings in a new societal logic, employees may resist, even though they personally value the change, because the incoming logic conflicts with existing organizational logics. How can change agents handle logic-based resistance to an organizational initiative that introduces a new logic? We studied elite law firms that introduced a new role into their traditional up-or-out career path in response to associates’ anonymously expressed desire for better work–life balance, which associates resisted because expressing family concerns was illegitimate within the firms. Change agents responded to three forms of resisters’ logic-based concerns—irreconcilability, ambiguity, and contradiction—with three tailored responses—redirecting, reinforcing, and reassuring—using contextually legitimate logic elements. Over time logic elements of each concern–response pair harmonized to enable individuals to enact their logics seamlessly and organizations to update the existing logic settlement to assimilate the societal change. We demonstrate that the way available logics are accessed and activated between pluralistic change agents and resisters can enable logic settlements to be updated in response to societal change. We draw insights about how logics do or do not constrain agency.

Effecting Real Progress in Executive Diversity and Inclusion

Source: Adam Payne and Dana Kaminstein, MIT Sloan Management Review, February 24, 2021
(subscription required)

Why diversity and inclusion efforts often fail to produce the intended changes, and proactive approaches leaders can take.

Well-run companies expect good returns on their spending, and leaders who continue to support initiatives that don’t produce results usually find themselves demoted or fired. So why have the billions of dollars that many organizations have spent on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts produced so little substantive progress toward greater diversity?

Numerous reports indicate that the percentage of Black people in the leadership ranks of large U.S. companies hovers at just above 3%. This percentage remains persistently low despite large investments in diversity and inclusion training, the creation of offices of diversity and inclusion, and other companywide initiatives. Studies now indicate that DEI training rarely improves an organization’s record of hiring or promoting Black people. Companies that bemoan a dearth of qualified Black candidates for leadership roles rarely consider that the hiring process itself may disqualify potential applicants of color.

Aware of the ways in which organizations defend themselves against change that threatens their social structures, philosopher and social theorist Donald Schön noted that organizations will “fight like mad to stay the same.”…

Breaking the Cycle of Bias That Works Against Women Leaders

Source: Maryam Kouchaki, Burak Oc, and Ekaterina Netchaeva, MIT Sloan Management Review, March 31, 2021
(subscription required)

Women are presented job opportunities differently than men — depending on the hiring manager’s political ideology.

It turns out that gender bias in hiring and advancement is more pervasive than we thought.

While progress has certainly been made toward workplace gender parity — some companies, for example, are writing more gender-balanced performance reviews — the reality is that women are still underrepresented in private-sector leadership positions. There are likely multiple drivers of this. Outright discrimination — denying women jobs on the basis of their gender rather than their skill sets — is certainly one. But another, harder-to-detect factor can contribute to the leadership gap: the tendency of some organizational decision makers to subtly dissuade women from pursuing leadership roles….

Related:
It’s a man’s world! The role of political ideology in the early stages of leader recruitment
Source: Burak Oc, Ekaterina Netchaeva, Maryam Kouchaki, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Volume 162, January 2021
(subscription required)

Highlights
• Conservatives describe a leadership position less positively to a female candidate.
• Liberals do not demonstrate such gender bias.
• Conservatives experience greater anxiety when communicating with female candidates.
• Anxious decision makers describe the position less positively to candidates.

Abstract:
Previous research has demonstrated the impact of political ideology on a wide variety of psychological and behavioral processes. Contributing to this research, we examine the effect of organizational decision makers’ political ideology and job candidates’ gender on how the decision makers communicate information about leadership positions to the candidate. In five studies, we demonstrate that decision makers who are more conservative exhibit gender bias by providing a female (versus male) candidate with a less positive description of a leadership position, an effect driven by the decision makers’ felt anxiety. We further show that making information on women’s success in leadership positions salient diminishes the effect of political ideology insofar as both more and less conservative decision makers will exhibit similar levels of positivity when communicating with a prospective female candidate. Finally, we discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our findings.

Redesigning the Post-Pandemic Workplace

Source: Gerald C. Kane, Rich Nanda, Anh Phillips, and Jonathan Copulsky, MIT Sloan Management Review, February 10, 2021
(subscription required)

Work as we know it is forever changed by COVID-19. Now is the time for managers to envision the office that employees will return to. …. The anticipated gradual return to colocated work in the coming months provides opportunities to experiment with hybrid ways of working. Returning to the office strategically, by focusing first on the activities best performed in person and, in the process, evaluating the effectiveness of both remote and colocated work, gives managers the ability to critically consider the ways in which a hybrid workplace might be more effective. ….

Persuading the Unpersuadable

Source: Adam Grant, Harvard Business Review, March-April, 2021
(subscription required)

Lessons from science—and the people who were able to sway Steve Jobs. …. The bad news is that plenty of leaders are so sure of themselves that they reject worthy opinions and ideas from others and refuse to abandon their own bad ones. The good news is that it is possible to get even the most overconfident, stubborn, narcissistic, and disagreeable people to open their minds. …. So if you want to reason with people who seem unreasonable, pay attention to instances when they—or others like them—change their minds. Here are some approaches that can help you encourage a know-it-all to recognize when there’s something to be learned, a stubborn colleague to make a U-turn, a narcissist to show humility, and a disagreeable boss to agree with you. ….