Speaking of Management Things
If you want to spur creativity in and among your staff, try building
empathy. At least that’s what the research referred to here indicates. An
analysis of three prior studies, the article gets us the researchers’
“Managers typically seek to stimulate creativity by creating conditions that are conductive to intrinsic motivation, such as designing challenging and complex tasks, providing autonomy, and developing supportive feedback and evaluation systems,” they write. But to “facilitate the production of ideas that are creative in context,” they suggest managers “will find it advantageous to create conditions that support prosocial motivation and perspective-taking.”
Two ways to do so, according to Grant, are to “provide opportunities for employees to meet and interact with the people who benefit from their work, such as clients, customers, and other end users,” and to ”provide vivid information and stories from others that communicate the importance of the problem to be solved.”
And an added benefit of these opportunities and stories in corrections could be their extension into the community and media where people in general could see that success stories do occur and that careers in corrections can add value to the community and lives. Sounds “win-win,” doesn’t it? 02/23/10.
Nap Time—Not Just for Babies Anymore
Yes, they’re discovering all the positive learning impact that naps can
have for infants,
but the benefits aren’t limited just to babies. Afternoon
siestas turn out to recharge brains for more productive work in
the latter part of days as well. Here are some of the details,
but you’ll need the whole thing if you’re going to convince your boss
(good luck with that, BTW):
“In the recent UC Berkeley sleep study, 39 healthy young adults were divided into two groups -- nap and no-nap. At noon, all the participants were subjected to a rigorous learning task intended to tax the hippocampus, a region of the brain that helps store fact-based memories. Both groups performed at comparable levels.
At 2 p.m., the nap group took a 90-minute siesta while the no-nap group stayed awake. Later that day, at 6 p.m., participants performed a new round of learning exercises. Those who remained awake throughout the day became worse at learning. In contrast, those who napped did markedly better and actually improved in their capacity to learn.
These findings reinforce the researchers' hypothesis that sleep is needed to clear the brain's short-term memory storage and make room for new information, said Walker, who presented his preliminary findings on Feb. 21, at the annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego, Calif.”
And, should you be caught recharging before this research becomes recognized practice in your facility, just remember to jerk your head upright and say, “Amen.” 02/23/10.
Must Resist "More Time for Gambling?" Headline . . .
Looks like Nevada may join Utah and Iowa in going to four-day weeks for state employees in order to cut expenses (utilities, transport, etc.) to meet stringent new budget demands. What do you think the over/under is for how many more states will go that way before this is all over? 02/16/10
ROWE, ROWE, ROWE Your Work
More on a topic we’ve discussed a time or two here, Results-Only Work
Environments, aka letting people work from home on assignments monitored
and measured. This time, it’s an
interview with someone who’s implemented the scheme, which will undoubtedly
become more interesting to even corrections departments as the financial
turnaround we need holds off arriving in the future. The article
covers most of the details and concerns, including one of the biggest,
that workers might goof off in this system. Like most things, if
this is done correctly, the results turn out to be exactly the opposite
of the “traditional wisdom”:
“[We have] seen that the people who aren't doing any work rise to the surface very quickly. When people have these work standards, there is no way to disguise whom [sic] is not working. In the end, they have seen some involuntary turnover because people just aren't doing the work or can't do the work. It's not a reason we went into it. We went into it because times are tough. Budgets are slim. Any way we could increase productivity and give people back control over their life is a really huge benefit. Really that's what this is. ROWE gives people the power over their work life within a context. If you're a zookeeper, you can't feed the animals from a different location. But there's no reason you can't work with your coworkers to work out some flexibility. You can be more focused on your work, but you're also happier so you produce more.”
“Seat-time” management can turn into a wasteful luxury that makes it harder to show who’s working and who’s not. It tends to protect the less productive but lets managers off the hook for supervision and distinguishing among staff as long as the worker is visibly in a chair (or walking around with an 8½ X 11 in his hand like Wally in “Dilbert”). It’s very likely that the savings in rent, transportation and government vehicles, utilities, etc. that the interview details will start being more attractive to more public officials as the recession does its own work in the coming years. 02/11/10.
Speaking of Thinking
This is more fun. A British survey of the Top 10 most annoying occurrences and jargon in most offices. Number one annoying occurrence? “Grumpy or moody colleagues (37 percent).” Most annoying jargon? Surprise, surprise: “Thinking outside the box (21 percent).” This will probably drop a bit in future surveys in the current economy as most boxes are swirling down the drain. Of course, since it’s British, it really doesn’t have anything to do with US organizations, much less corrections departments. 02/10/10.
Clean Smells, Dark Rooms, and Bonuses
Researchers have been turning up some surprises as they figure out experiments
to get into that part of our brains where we generally don’t want to
go, with implications for how we do corrections and correctional policy. For
piece will alert you to the power that clean smells have over behavior
(and in a good way) and to how darkness (or sunglasses) can literally
change what you do (and in a bad way). Here are a couple of excerpts
to get you interested in clicking the link:
“You could argue that nice smells make people feel better, and these positive moods underlie their sudden burst of charitable behaviour. But questionnaires handed out after the tasks showed that neither room affected the volunteers' mood. Nor did the volunteers realise what was going on. In both experiments, they didn't believe that smells were influencing their behaviour and they didn't think that their room was any cleaner or dirtier than usual.
The idea that a simple scent can influence behaviour to this degree may be surprising to many people, but I've blogged about many such studies before. Social exclusion can make you feel cold, a warm cup of tea can make people behave more warmly or charitably to others, and holding heavy objects can make us see things as more important. All of these are examples of a fascinating concept called "embodied cognition", where many of the abstract concepts we use daily, like virtue, are related to concrete parts of our environment, like smells.
Zhong's new study also provides some indirect support for the broken windows theory, which suggests that signs of petty crime, like the eponymous broken windows, can trigger yet more criminal behaviour. Disorder breeds disorder. So far, Zhong has only shown that clean smells promote charity and generosity, not that dirty smells promote self-interested behaviour. However, he has found that darkness will do the job.
Darkness can obviously shroud one's identity, giving people a licence to misbehave. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Gaslight is the best nocturnal police, so the universe protects itself by pitiless publicity." But Zhong thinks that darkness doesn't need to provide anonymity to affect our behaviour - just creating the illusion of anonymity is enough.”
So, for those of us in the correctional business, are there any lessons here for wall colors, lighting, and Glade Mist? And the research discussed here extends the mining of our minds into whether and how bonuses really get the best performance (from staff or offenders). Here’s the main point but read the whole thing for the context and other links:
“To see the effect of bonuses on performance, [we]conducted three experiments. In one we gave subjects tasks that demanded attention, memory, concentration and creativity. We asked them, for example, to assemble puzzles and to play memory games while throwing tennis balls at a target. We promised about a third of them one day's pay if they performed well. Another third were promised two weeks' pay. The last third could earn a full five months' pay. (Before you ask where you can participate in our experiments, I should tell you that we ran this study in India, where the cost of living is relatively low.)
What happened? The low-and medium-bonus groups performed the same. The big-bonus group performed worst of all.”
It wasn’t that the big bonus folks didn’t put out. It was that, even though they may have done more, they did it worse. Of course, given the budget situations most state corrections departments face these days, the question of any bonuses at all, much less what level they should be, really isn’t likely to come up much, is it? 02/09/10.
That’s a Lovely Dress You’re Wearing, Mrs. Cleaver
How dated does that title make us? The point, though, is this
research that indicates that, no matter how far back in her head
June rolled her eyes at Eddie, at some point when she looks in the
mirror at her lovely self, she will have incorporated the flattery
implicitly. The lesson for corrections management? Well,
maybe that slathering your superiors with obsequious praise isn’t as
gross as everyone around you perceives it and you to be. And
as a manager, you can’t automatically assume that you aren’t affected
by it in the way that the Eddie Haskells of the world want you to be. And
maybe there are ideas for how to deliver positive and negative messages
to offenders that we might overlook as being “too obvious” or “over
the top” that actually are worth our time after all. Anyone up
for that research?
And may we say that those are great shoes you’re wearing today? 01/12/10.
Noble Cause Corruption
Central feature of this interesting opinion piece by an “ethics in corrections” instructor. He’s basically detailing the ethical pressures on correctional staff in dealing with offenders, especially in the trenches and difficult times. He particularly warns against the “ends justify means” approach (aka “noble cause corruption”), which ends up more often than we suppose messing things up more and ending careers. His main advice is to remember and implement training, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Go over and check it out. Prepare for your brain cells to keep firing after you’ve finished. 01/08/10.
GOVERNING en Fuego
LOTS of interesting articles online at GOVERNING right now. Stuff
like a Dallas
effort to get prostitutes taken to treatment rather than jail, like
the things you have to look for when trying to replicate
programs that have been effective other places, and like a Danish
program were encouraging and implementing innovation in public organizations. The
last one has one particular bit of advice that might be relevant to corrections:
"We've found it very important to include in the design of innovations those who will be involved in the actual implementation. It is critical to make the connection, to have those who develop an innovation to then go and implement it. Otherwise, it can be rejected as "NIH" — Not Invented Here."
Yes, you’ve heard it before but consider: how many times have you actually applied it to involving former inmates and probationers in your discussions and plans? And we’re surprised when they decide “Not Invented Here”? 01/08/10.
Job Satisfaction Levels Tanking
Lowest levels recorded, across the board, all types of jobs, apparently. You can imagine how all the furloughs, RIFs, and pay cuts that state corrections departments are facing will factor into this in the next few years. Puts extra onus on managers to find ways to keep morale, productivity, and professionalism up. Maybe your ideas and efforts will find their way to a post here!! 01/05/10.
Tweeting for the Public Good
It’s not in our correctional nature to welcome tweeting employees, but this
article describes why we should do so and how it might actually
help us if we manage it right, which the article helps to explain. Looks
like it has already in Utah, and we can’t have them beat us, can we? As
a teaser, here’s why we might want to allow it, with proper guidelines,
“As productive ways of using these tools keep emerging, you have to wonder what potential uses governments are missing out on. Could social networking promote regional collaboration between workers performing similar tasks in neighboring cities? Could it reinvent relationships between social services caseworkers and benefits recipients? It's hard to say unless public-sector workforces are given some freedom to experiment.”
Maybe We Should Feel Bad for Peter Principle Managers
story detailing the actual reality of the Peter Principle in administration
and why it happens. But it may not be the result of incompetent
or silly promotions, though.
“In other words, following promotion a person is likely to regress to their baseline competence, losing that extra something that prompted their rise. That baseline might be above or below the degree of competence demanded in the new, high-level job. If in a particular workplace the staff who are promoted consistently fall short in this respect, promotion can become the dominant force driving pervasive ineptitude, Lazear's mathematical models showed.
It is a view underpinned by simulations of promotion dynamics performed in early 2009 by physicist Alessandro Pluchino and colleagues at the University of Catania in Italy (Physica A, vol 389, p 467). They started by accepting the conventional notion that people who do well at one level will do well at the next one up. If the employees who are most successful in their job are always selected to move up the ladder, then the organisation rapidly fills with competent individuals, especially at the higher levels.
But what happens if the conventional idea is false and employees' ability to perform at higher levels has no link to their competence at lower levels? The result is profoundly different, as you might expect. Promoting the best-performing employees merely takes people out of positions where they are doing well and pushes them upwards until they arrive at a position for which they lack the requisite skills. Their promotion history then comes to an end: the Peter principle wins out.
"The system locks incompetence into place," says sociologist Cesare Garofalo, one of the authors. "This might happen in any organisation where the tasks of the different levels are very different from each other."”
The proposed solution? Randomly promote, which, yes, might mean moving someone seemingly not doing well in one position, but that person might do better in the new position. . . . Okay, there’s not a lot of expectation that that will happen, but it does get you a little more interested in clicking on the article, doesn’t it? 12/29/09.
Like Some Rebate with That Utility Bill? You would if you were in Arkansas:
“The Arkansas Department of Correction earned a $119,345.40 rebate from
Entergy Arkansas, Inc. for participating in a program that provides incentives
for commercial and industrial customers to upgrade their facilities with
more energy-efficient equipment.
The Department of Correction retrofitted all its lighting at its Tucker, Varner, Cummins and Wrightsville units. The upgrades have reduced electrical load at those four sites by 848 kilowatts.” Details here. 12/22/09.
Part Three of Aging Series
Is up at The Crime Report,
continuing the excellent coverage of this hovering and vital issue facing
virtually every corrections department in the nation. What
makes Part Three different but still important is that its focus is not
the aging inmate but the aging staff and its implications for recruitment
and hiring and for management. Here’s the basic statement of the
“A study we concluded last year, shows that the median age of U.S. police officers increased five years to 38.7 years between 1991 and 2008, while the median age for correctional officers increased by seven years to 40.8 . [See Footnote 1] Many of these criminal justice personnel are baby boomers who are now eligible for retirement. Replacing these workers will become increasingly difficult: population projections from the Census Bureau show that the proportion of the population aged 25-44—the age group representing over two-thirds (68 percent) of all patrol officers in 2008—will decrease over the next four decades.”
Now go read the analysis.
And when you finish that story, go ahead and check out the news items available right now on the site. You’ll find a lot of good stuff, including (1) California’s crisis in dealing with potential parolees who, courts have ruled, can’t be refused parole simply because of the severity of their original crime, (2) questions about felons permitted to pursue jobs working with kids in Florida, and (3) the “biggest enemies” in white-collar prisons (which many in the “blue collar” prisons would eagerly trade even for). 12/15/09.
Speaking of Management Issues
A couple of interesting items here and here. The first talks about the right situations for brainstorming . . . and the wrong ones. And the second points out that we old peo . . . older workers don’t really match up that badly on interpersonal and decision-making skills compared to the younger workers who normally get favored because of the assumptions about skills. Not to mention the importance of experience, which only gets mentioned once you become one of the . . . older workers. 12/15/09.
With furloughs announced on the Oklahoma corrections horizon and being
planned or implemented in other states, this
article on how to handle them might be particularly well-timed
for us. California’s chief IT administrator answers questions
about how she’s done it there, including triaging workload when hours
cut = projects hindered:
“I think the greatest challenge is that state employees really want to do the absolute best they can to serve the public, and so we run into really two challenges. One challenge is for those offices which actually are public-facing ... because we want to serve the citizens and yet, because of the budget crisis, we are not able to keep all of our offices running on a daily basis. There is some sort of personal responsibility feeling that we can't do something more. The second is because the work is tough, the challenge is to figure out what things will have to become second priority and how to actually get the essential work of government done.
In my particular area, an example would be that we still have major IT projects that we have to be working on—that we have to get implemented—and those are actually exacerbated by the fact that in many cases we have actually contracted with external resources, and now of course we're still trying to make those timelines with working three fewer days in the month. So that causes a significant amount of stress in being able to still get the projects done. And we're still trying to get the projects done while keeping the day-to-day going. And we're still trying to keep the tech running. And trying to do all of that, as well as taking the furlough days, is really challenging.”
More stuff there on maintaining morale and on staff continuing to work when they’re not being paid for it. Good material for designing our own plans. 12/10/09.
Or accountant staff in corrections departments? Looks like the near-term future of employment will be temp work for a quarter of the work force. What will the implications of that be for correctional management? 12/07/09.
What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate
Did we just date ourselves with a movie quote from the ‘60s? Anyway, great
note over at one of GOVERNING’s columns on the language gap between
academics and consultants and policymakers that should be a cautionary
tale for both:
“We were on the phone the other day with a prominent Southern state legislator. We were talking about things like cost-benefit analysis and results-informed budgeting. And he sounded kind of ticked off. He didn't care about all that ivory tower stuff, he told us. He just wanted to know what things cost and what good they did. Actually, we thought that was exactly what we were talking about in the first place. Lesson learned: Jargon not only has the potential to confuse people, it can even stand in the way of forward motion.” 12/04/09.
Supporting Support Services
start to a series of articles over at GOVERNING on the importance
of solid departmental support services and how to get them. The
piece is the intro to the series and the first “lesson” to be provided. Here’s
the overview to give you the flavor, but you need to go over there
to read the whole thing:
“Lesson 1: Start by getting specific about the results you are seeking to create.
Where you start makes all the difference. Know what you want before you start problem solving. In working with clients on this question over the years, these four desired results emerged most frequently:
- Deliver high quality services to support line agencies in their work. Make sure the service is timely, accurate and responsive to the customers' needs.
- Get everyone to comply with internal rules or norms such as software standards, fair procurement practices or adherence to the terms of collective bargaining agreements. It is best to try to get people to voluntarily comply; coercive compliance is expensive.
- Apply an enterprise perspective on certain things. For instance, some states are seeking to capture a citizen's contact information once, for use in multiple circumstances. This means databases of various departments have to communicate with one another.
Do all this at the lowest possible cost.” 12/02/09.
The Other Effect of Furloughs
As Oklahoma and other states ponder or effect state employee furloughs
in corrections and other departments, we all know the impact that cutting
staff time on the job can have on actual administration. This
article, though, details the personal toll that the cuts can have
on those left behind to do the work that actually may increase with fewer
people to do it. And it affects your best people the worst:
“In fact, sad to say, it may well be that the best workers are the most vulnerable to burning out. Social scientists and psychologists who have studied the topic have theorized that the most motivated workers suffer the greatest psychological damage when they simply can’t do a really good job anymore—there’s just too much work for one person to do competently. We talked to Thomas Britt, a psychology professor at Clemson University who studies employee engagement and the burnout phenomenon. He agreed that employees who really care about their work and about their job performance may be most affected. That’s because, he said, “they stake part of their identity on how well they do.””
With most state finance experts seeing the impact of the current downturn lasting into 2013 or longer (that is, if things don’t drop anymore), this is a situation that all state managers will need expertise in. The article’s a good starting point for you if you haven’t already begun. 12/01/09.
Black Women, Discrimination, and Mental Health
Mental health issues are a concern now in these tough fiscal and administrative
times, but they may be particularly so for black women, especially if
you have discrimination problems in your facilities and districts. Here’s
an article and here’s an excerpt to get you to click on that link:
“African American women who viewed themselves as being able to exercise some control over their life circumstances reported fewer depressive symptoms. Women who were subjected to higher levels of unfair treatment experienced more depressive symptoms, in part, because day-to-day discrimination undermined their overall confidence in their ability to manage life challenges, leaving them feeling powerless and depressed.
The authors' analyses also showed that skin tone was not linked to level of discrimination, mastery or depressive symptoms. Older African American women reported slightly fewer experiences of discrimination, lower levels of mastery and fewer depressive symptoms than younger women. The more educated women felt more in control of their lives and experienced fewer depressive symptoms.” 11/12/09.
For your weekend, some reading on some management concerns that may help what you do and don’t. GOVERNING has a column up on facilitating change and how it’s best to approach the potential changees with appeals for help and with change proposed as puzzle-like, since people like to help and they like puzzles. Okay, just click on it. It makes more sense than just described. And here is a book review that could be called “Your Brain on Work.” It goes through the ways to maximize your cognitive output (and that of others’) and the ways that your brain literally gets shut down by so much that happens in the workplace. It considerately also provides tips for maximizing your brain’s comfort. Here is an analysis of the social contexts within which we accept responsibility and blame and those within which we don’t. Seems to boil down to whether others started blaming others first and whether you’ve been asked to stand for something beforehand. Clear management implications both for leaders and followers. And finally, here’s a report on the way to present your graphic and other info so that your audience will be able to actually understand what you’re saying and not want to run screaming from the room or start pounding nails into their foreheads (not, you know, like you or I have, you know, ever reeeaaallllyyyy felt like that during a powerpoint or something similar). Some good ideas so go read. 11/06/09.
Work Stress = Lost Resources
Work-related stress, according to this article from Britain, whacks at organizational resources, such as lost time and dollars for sick leave, including mental illness, and “presentee-ism” (or, showing up but not getting anything much done). Which would indicate efforts to get at the causes (the article says “bad managers” the major problem, but what do they know?) to be cost-effective in the long run. But the study subjects were British and we all know how little the US is related to them. 11/05/09.
Despite What You Thought
Apparently it’s okay to break the rules . . . sometimes. When? What
read. And those high
IQ folks? More to intelligence than that. Which you probably
already knew, but here’s why it’s potentially important for what you do with
offenders in corrections:
“A more useful measure than IQ, the article suggests, is RQ: Rationality Quotient. Studies, like this one, have indicated that one’s ability to make rational decisions is more important than IQ when it comes to life outcomes. Solid decision-making skills are associated with lower levels of alcoholism, drug addiction, unplanned pregnancy, problems in school and overall risky behavior (Journal of Behavioral Decision-Making, vol 18).” 11/04/09.
Glass Half-Empty? Maybe That’s a Good Thing
A kind reader sends along this
story about the virtues of negative thinking, such as making people less
gullible, more realistic about other people, and helping your memory. Really.
“The study, authored by psychology professor Joseph Forgas at the University of New South Wales, showed that people in a negative mood were more critical of, and paid more attention to, their surroundings than happier people, who were more likely to believe anything they were told.
"Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, cooperation, and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking paying greater attention to the external world," Forgas wrote.
"Our research suggests that sadness ... promotes information processing strategies best suited to dealing with more demanding situations."”
“People in a bad mood were also less likely to make snap decisions based on racial or religious prejudices, and they were less likely to make mistakes when asked to recall an event that they witnessed.
The study also found that sad people were better at stating their case through written arguments, which Forgas said showed that a "mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style."
"Positive mood is not universally desirable: people in negative mood are less prone to judgmental errors, are more resistant to eyewitness distortions and are better at producing high-quality, effective persuasive messages," Forgas wrote.”
So go ahead. Think about that old sweetheart who dumped on you so badly. It’s good for your job performance. (And in the meantime, try to figure out who put that #?!@* glass there anyway.) 11/02/09.
Start Rewriting the Management Texts
A couple of interesting heresies to traditional management concerns here and here. The
first says, basically, if they’re getting their work done, why worry
if they’re on Facebook sometimes, and, if they’re not, you really think
Facebook is the problem? A couple of excerpts to challenge your
status quo before you go read to defend it:
“The prevailing wisdom of the “social media expert” universe is: Every company needs to have a policy regarding staff social media use, and it is important that it is clearly articulated to employees.
But where does a company executive start? Younger employees are generally more net-savvy than their bosses, and that can cause a strange dynamic in the workplace. Executives often remain detached or even antagonistic toward the hyper-connectivity that modern technology allows – especially when related to strange terms like “Twitter” and “tweets.” So what do they do? Firewall it all away?
Experts say no. Eliminating the Internet in the workplace would be as counterproductive as shutting off the phones to keep employees from making personal calls. . . .
Another conundrum is that unless you constantly monitor Internet use in some draconian fashion, it is virtually impossible to tell who is working and who is surfing.
Stodder suggests that a good indicator of appropriate use is measuring productivity and goal achievement.
“I would thus focus on productivity measures completely outside the social media realm,” he said. “If workers are meeting or exceeding their agreed-upon expectations, then who cares how much time they spend on Facebook or surfing the Web? If workers are slacking off, it doesn’t matter why, they need to get back on track toward meeting their daily goals.” . . .
A University of Melbourne (Australia) study published in April contends that leisure Internet surfing during the day can actually help a work force become more productive.
“Dr. Brent Coker, from the Department of Management and Marketing, says that workers who engage in ‘Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing’ (WILB) are more productive than those who don’t,” according to the study published on the University of Melbourne Web site.”
Uh-oh. Evidence-based practice. Do we really want to go there? And here’s another table-over-turner:
“Programs in the workplace designed to get people to exercise can improve fitness, cut cholesterol levels, reduce job stress and even improve attendance, a new analysis of the medical literature shows. . . .
The more effective programs had several characteristics in common: a facility for exercising on site; they were developed with the help of the company; and people were able to exercise during the workday rather than having to come in early or stay late. But it wasn't clear whether offering rewards helped.
While evidence is scarce on the long-term costs of workplace physical activity interventions, Conn noted, the fact that they reduce absenteeism suggests they could indeed save money.”
Of course, you need to read the whole thing for the details. We’re sure we’ll see all this accepted right after the “naps improve productivity” evidence goes systemwide across the country. 10/29/09.
Over at GOVERNING, a good
article on the problems of information overload in public decision-making
and the importance of having good data and knowing how to use it well. Here’s
a bit on the necessary ingredients but go read the whole thing for all the
“Successful program executives develop and use analytic programs with the following characteristics, according to Davenport and Jarvenpaa:
Accessible, high-quality data. Government often has access to a great volume of data; it needs to not only collect and "warehouse" it, but the data must be of high-enough quality to be used to make decisions. The data needs to be current, and it needs to be separate from agencies' transaction systems. Many state revenue agencies, for example, are using commercial data management software to detect tax cheaters.
An enterprise orientation. Oftentimes data are segregated into specific programs and cannot be compared or analyzed across programs. Agencies need to be able to provide a unified face to citizens and users of the agencies' own internal data, such as finance or personnel. Davenport and Jarvenpaa believe the fragmented nature of many government programs is probably the greatest difference between public and private use of analytics.
Analytic leadership. Leaders who recognize and understand the value of analytics are key. A good example is the former undersecretary for health at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Kenneth Kizer. He understood the value of identifying key health outcomes and using analytics to drive improvements that resulted in veterans receiving higher-quality than at most private sector hospitals.
A long-term strategic target. Closely tied to leadership, having a clear strategic intent is critical. Setting a long-term goal with intermediate targets begins to develop an enterprise-wide common understanding of priorities and innovations to achieve those goals. Employees respond once they realized that it isn't "measurement for measurement's sake."
A cadre of analysts. Having a cadre of trained analysts is important. In cities using a Citi-Stat approach, there is always a small core of analysts. In the federal government, there are federally funded research and development centers such as RAND and MITRE that provide analytic support, especially for the military. State governments sometimes create partnerships with local universities to provide such capacities, as well.” 10/28/09.
That’s What She Said
Oh, the rest of the title of the article? “Gender Discrimination
Still A Factor In Modern Organizations.” That’s news? Want more? Here’s
“The World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Report states: "No country in the world has yet managed to eliminate the gender gap." In the U.S., the Bureau of Labor Statistics cites women working 41 to 44 hours per week earn 84.6% of what men working similar hours earn; women working more than 60 hours per week earn only 78.3% of what men in the same time category earn. The disparity between men and women in the workplace is the subject of a recent study by Elisabeth Kelan, Ph.D., from King's College London.
Dr. Kelan found that workers acknowledge gender discrimination is possible in modern organizations, but at the same time maintain their workplaces to be gender neutral. The author notes, "gender fatigue" as the cause for workers not acknowledging that bias against women can occur. The findings are available in the September issue of the Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, published on behalf of the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.”
Details here. 10/09/09.
Speaking of Org Conflict
People warning again of the generational
problems on the horizon as Baby Boomers retire, putting pension program
under pressure (alliteration at no extra charge). Here’s a bit of what
you might want to be aware of, but read the whole thing for the full impact:
“Generation X and Gen Y are getting fed up and might not take much more. That's what I'm hearing from a number of younger public employees who responded to my column last month on the incumbent employee conundrum. The gist of their feedback was this: They don't appreciate bearing the brunt of pay cuts and benefits reductions — the ones imposed by employers who try to balance the books on their pension and retiree medical plans by slashing compensation for younger employees and new hires. They'd like to see their elders share in the pain — or at least pay their share.” 10/09/09.
College Kids and Old School
Good opinion piece here on how corrections departments can and need to work on creating cooperative and constructive environments between the college types we all talk about wanting now and the “old school” officers who’ve been our backbone when we start mixing them in our institutions and districts. Looks at perceptions from both sides, the accommodations each side should make, and what a department should do to make it work. 10/08/09.
Employment Issues in Corrections
GOVERNING’s blog has a couple of items going right now relevant to correctional
hiring and retention concerns. This
one deals with states adopting policies to not even hire people who smoke
because of the associated costs, which is apparently legal, and this
one on the factors that attract and keep employees in government service,
including this bit of advice:
“So how can governments make sure they're places people want to work?
Toby Futrell, the former city manager of Austin, Texas, broke it down into what she called "the three F's: focus, fun and far-out." That is, a focus on employee satisfaction, a sense of fun and recognition of high performance, and an environment that fosters and nurtures "far-out" innovation and creative solutions.”
Is it just us, or is Toby talking keggers? 10/02/09.
Challenge of Bad Data
piece at GOVERNING this month on the problems of not just not having
good data but of actually having bad data, especially in these times when
demonstrating what you’re doing and improving or jettisoning things you’re
doing badly are so important. Several examples and tips, but here’s
the authors’ takeaway which echoes a recent NIC webinar for corrections departments:
“If good, reliable data hasn’t been sufficiently available in the past, we fear that things are only going to get worse now. As Florida’s Gary VanLandingham puts it, “when times are tough, data systems and data folks and evaluation units are some of the first that get cut. They’re not seen as direct service-provision folks.” For example, when Florida’s budget called for across-the-board reductions this year, the state’s Department of Children and Families cut several evaluation units. “They don’t really have one now,” says VanLandingham. “It’s easy to cut a program like that in one year, but then it takes years to build it back up.”” 10/01/09.
CORRECTIONS TODAY Today
Been too busy to catch up on your latest CORRECTIONS TODAY or to hunt down the one your unit provides in the break room? Well, the good folks at NCJRS have the abstracts of the latest issue’s articles on personnel growth and development and other topics posted at their place so you could do a quick review and see what you’re missing. Here are the titles of the abstracts, but go over and check them out. Consider it personal growth and development.
Fostering Professional Growth in Corrections
Structured On-the-Job Training Addresses Turnover in Ohio
Why Corrections Should Clear the Hurdles
ACA's Correctional Certification Program is What Professionals Do
Samberg Program Improves Leadership and Addresses Turnover
Correctional Safety: It Doesn't Happen by Accident
Groups, Info Sharing, and Failure
If you get bored and annoyed at meetings, imagine studying
if researchers didn’t study them, we wouldn’t find out the important things
about why meetings so often fail to deliver on promises and what we can do
to make them more effective. For example, this
post (h/t The
Situationist) summarizes some of the research on how and why meeting participants
tend to only tell each other what everyone already knows and don’t tend to
tell the things each individual uniquely knows. Which leads to worse
decisions than had to happen. Want to prevent that? Here are some
of the tips given:
“. . . Here are some of the attributes of groups that do tend to divulge more of that critical unshared information with each other (from Wittenbaum et al., 2004):
- Groups where members disagree and who display less groupthink are more likely to share unpooled information.
- When people are told to try and recall relevant information before the meeting, this makes them more likely to mention facts that only they know.
- Members of a group should be made aware of each other's expertise, so they know (broadly speaking) what everyone else knows.
- The longer meetings go on, the more likely that people will recall previously unshared information (unfortunately!).
- People are more likely to share if they have a higher status in the group. So to encourage lower status members to share, their expertise needs to be specifically acknowledged to the group.
Next time you're in a decision-making meeting, try consciously noticing the
extent to which the group is sharing information that everyone already knows.
Then, if it seems that little new information is emerging, there's a case for
using some of these techniques.”
Better meetings = better decisions = better reasons to appreciate and even look forward to meetings (!!!). Who knew? 09/29/09.
What Language Do You Speak?
In the “We Keep Confusing Sounding Smart with Being Smart” category, we find this story demonstrating how simple ideas don’t sound as smart as vague but impressively worded ideas, even when they’re the same ideas. Which explains so much about so much it’s kinda sad, and not just the communication problems that can result in our management efforts. And while we think about how we talk, do you speak criminal? Turns out there are good reasons why those who are, do. Might be worth our time both in offender prevention and offender management to understand that. 09/28/09.
Speaking of Management
Some tips at GOVERNING’s online site right now you might benefit from. This piece features some thoughts on the importance of context and comparisons when judging the utility of performance measures, the costs of furloughing (which aren’t as direct as we make it sound), and the origin of the term “boondoggle,” which wasn’t invented by Jed Clampett no matter what you might have believed. 09/28/09.
Us/Them and Ethics
Looks like we’re more likely to do the ethically correct thing when we observe people we consider rivals doing the ethically incorrect thing. Common sense, probably, and it might have some implications for smarter brains than ours about how to motivate your staffs into more consideration of the ethical courses of behavior in the workplace. And think of the magazines covers you’ll get if you can figure out how to make it apply to offenders. 09/25/09.
Connecting Colleges and Corrections
Nice article here emphasizing the too-often neglected partnerships and symbiosis that can occur between corrections departments (needing educated staff and support help) and higher ed (needing job opportunities for grads and research options for faculty and students). The whole piece needs to be read to get the details of the 6 cooperative possibilities cited:
#1: Start an internship program
#2: Host a workshop
#3: Establish service learning opportunities
#4: Be a classroom guest speaker
#5: Organize a field trip
#6: Become a college professor… seriously!
Holding Our Breaths
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections can likely see its way through another couple of months of budget cuts without furloughing correctional staff, but, as this article details, after that, furloughs are on the table for the department. Read the article to be sure you have the info. 09/21/09.
Multitasking Is Unethical?
Actually, it makes for a good discussion at this site. The basic argument is that, since research is finding that multitasking generally means all the tasks get done worse than if you did them separately (which you already knew since we posted on it a few days back), then you’re hurting those around you, including your organization, if you do it. But, of course, it’s not as simple as that, as the post indicates. But it should help you to think through more how you do organize your time in order to get work done not just quickly but well. 09/18/09.
The Wellness Path to Health Cost Savings
Looking for a way to cut your health costs for your correctional staff? Maybe preventative is the way to go. This article focuses on businesses realizing savings on wellness programs but they don’t seem to preclude public orgs like corrections departments from seeing similar results if they went that way. 09/16/09.
Innovation Built on Genius?
Not genius, according to a book reviewed here. The author, an economist known for his innovative intro of positive feedback and complexity into economic studies, argues that “new technology is just combining old technologies in new ways. And all technology is, at its core, simply the harnessing of nature and its manifold phenomena for human needs.” The implications for those of us wanting (or forced) to be innovative in these difficult fiscal times? “Since technological innovation arises from combinations, it follows that the more tools one can command, the more potential combinations one can produce. And the more potential combinations, the more likely one is to find the truly innovative solution — the new technology that neatly solves the problem at hand, and perhaps makes all that came before it obsolete.” Which would seem to argue against siloing of our people, regular interactions and cross-fertilization of our ideas, and an openness to the possible change and need to adapt that bring innovation about. All worthy things to think about as we read the latest grimness in the morning newspaper. 09/15/09.
Not kind, we know, but this article also points out that the stereotypes associated with managing IT types are not always totally true, either. Or at least, there are reasons for the problems that earn the stereotypes. LOTS of good ideas and perspective here, at least for those of us who do manage such personnel, and even some helpful advice, starting with this:
“So, if you want to have a really happy, healthy and valuable IT group, I recommend one thing: Take an interest. IT pros work their butts off for people they respect, so you need to give them every reason to afford you some.” 09/14/09.
Bits and Pieces
From some various articles. For instance, here’s a list of summaries of recent social research with some management applications you might find helpful, including the impact of recessions on worker psychology and how the kind of face a man has may really indicate how aggressive he is, despite decades of sociologists laughing at the concept. (If nothing else, go find out why females are more afraid of snakes than males are . . . if you can figure out how to work it into corrections.) And GOVERNING currently has up some nice management tidbits including the likelihood that states will be backing off their current fiscal projections in the near future (and not in a good way). And a piece on our current storing of our data on CDs may not stand up for even a decade, putting all that info at risk. That’s not the worst part. No, that’s the Y2K type of problem we’ll face then when our systems no longer can read the CDs. Finally, also at GOVERNING, “The Paradoxical Commandments of Government,” which exhort change agents to keep working at it even in the face of the obstacles they predictably will face. Here’s one “commandment”: “3. All the bold reforms you make will be undone by the next administration. Make bold reforms anyway.” (Although you may keep hearing the old proverb, “If at first you don’t succeed, quit. No sense in being a fool about it” as you read these things. 09/14/09.
Managing Inmate Behavior
A new publication you can find out about over at the National
Institute of Corrections’ site on how to manage inmate behavior. Designed
more for jails than prisons but with relevant material for both, and includes
a training program. Here are some of the details:
“The National Institute of Corrections has published Inmate Behavior Management: The Key to a Safe and Secure Jail by Virginia Hutchinson, Kristin Keller, and Thomas Reid, Ph.D. The six elements of the inmate behavior management plan are:
- Assessing Risk and Needs
- Assigning Inmates to Housing
- Meeting Inmates' Basic Needs
- Defining and Conveying Expectations for Inmate Behavior
- Supervising Inmates
- Keeping Inmates Productively Occupied
A 42-hour training program on Inmate Behavior Management
will also be
offered by the Jails Division at the National Corrections Academy in Aurora,
Colorado. If you are interested in developing a formal plan to better
manage inmate behavior in your jail read
more about this program and the application process.”
OK DOC Training in CORRECTIONS TODAY
Congratulations to Lenora Jordan and Pam Ferguson for their new article on their leadership development training courses just published in CORRECTIONS TODAY. (Not online yet, but you can find the abstract and details here.) Here’s part of the abstract to get you to follow through:
“This article describes the Oklahoma Department of Corrections Correctional Leadership Development (CLD) program, which offers employees a progressive curriculum, beginning at the pre-supervisory level through upper-level and executive-level development. . . . Working with the agency’s Evaluation and Analysis Unit, the CLD program has been continually evaluated and improved. The most recent impact analysis indicates that a significant number of CLD program participants have been promoted to leadership positions within the agency.”
And, if you see Lenora and/or Pam, give them the love they have coming. 09/09/09.
Speaking of Leadership Training
The National Institute of Corrections has some training
coming up on skills for new supervisors. Here’s
their blurb and the contact info to find out more:
“The National Institute of Corrections is introducing Essential Skills for New Supervisors on September 23-24, 2009. This will be presented as an 8-hour curriculum orientation and facilitator training which will be delivered live via satellite teleconference and Internet webcast. By focusing on the core competencies required to make the transition from a line staff member to a supervisor it will incorporate training in the following areas:
- developing personal and professional goals
- demonstrating leadership
- solving problems, thinking critically, making decisions, managing conflict, coaching, counseling, providing discipline
- and encouraging staff performance
Trainers will be able to use this curriculum to to train new supervisors in all correctional settings, including prisons, jails, and community corrections.” 09/09/09.
10% Pay Cut for More Leisure Time?
That’s what they traded off in Atlanta for
a while to meet that city’s fiscal emergency, going from 5 8-hour days to 4
9-hour days. 4 hours lost per week = 10% pay cut. But guess what? Productivity
improved and employees actually expressed some satisfaction over having the
“"Employees love it," says David Edwards, a senior policy advisor to Mayor Franklin. "They really love having the three-day weekends." Employee commute time and gas usage has been reduced by 20 percent, and the increased leisure time of a steady stream of three-day weekends has been a major quality-of-life boost.
In addition to improved morale, it appears that the reduced work week may be cutting absenteeism. "One area we looked at closely was corrections," says Edwards. "We found a 40 percent decrease in absenteeism." With close to 450 employees working in Atlanta's city jails, the productivity benefits go hand in hand with improved quality of life for employees.
The biggest surprise with the Atlanta four-day work week program has been the unexpected boosts to productivity. "There has been a direct productivity boost in a lot of operations, particularly those that entail travel, setup and breakdown time, such as road repairs," says Edwards. For those jobs with one-hour transitions on each end, the four-hour weekly reduction in compensation translates into only two hours fewer of productive labor.”
There’s a lot more interesting info there if you think you may be moving in a similar direction and want some ideas. 09/03/09.
So, Should I Really Believe This Stuff?
We provide regular posts on management topics (like the 4-hour day above), backed by either anecdotes or data on effectiveness, but you’ve probably wondered, would that really work for us (like the 4-hour day above)? Evidence-based management is popular in lots of fields, but the evidence for the utility of its application in a variety of settings is not always there. (A cynic, for example, might ask whether research has clearly demonstrated that doing performance reviews actually improved the performance of the overall organization compared to their performance prior to their adoption and/or to other similar organizations in the same period that didn’t adopt them, but good thing we’re not cynics here . . . pssst, if you’ve ever actually seen any objective research on it, let us know.) Turns out that there are a few academics who otherwise make their livings on churning out the articles who have their own doubts and questions. This guy raises a few points for his colleagues to consider that may sound familiar to you, if you can get through the academise. 09/03/09.
Accounting for Energy
No, not what you start doing when you hit 50. This deals with governmental efforts to get better at energy conservation. Even if you aren’t worried about our energy future and the associated costs, certainly figuring out ways to cut energy bills and maybe even create our own is relevant in these fiscally dark times. This advisory piece at GOVERNING gives you tips for enhancing and evaluating your current efforts. 09/02/09.
No Payoff to Overtime?
Given the employment crises facing the states, the use of overtime is understandable. Maybe also understandable, though, is the tendency to not think it through well and actually spend more than you need to. Two analysts over at GOVERNING can talk you through the problem and maybe help with advice if you let them. 09/01/09.
Furloughs, Garage Sales, and Morale
Stateline has a
piece up updating where states are on furloughing employees to meet budget
declines, including state-by-state details and recommended options for your
strategy to deal with these things yourself. Here’s a bit of the piece,
but you need to check out the whole article and its sidebars:
“Still, as states’ financial woes worsen, personnel cuts will get deeper and experts say most states will not likely return to pre-recession workforce levels in the foreseeable future. As a result, some are concerned that productivity-enhancing human resource practices will fall by the wayside and government services will suffer.
According to Pattison, states may cut their overall payrolls by about 7 percent this fiscal year, but schools, corrections and health care will be largely spared. To make up the difference, administrative agencies could see cuts of 20 percent or more, he said. “Frankly it comes down to what’s more politically justifiable.””
Yikes. To offset the revenue declines, some state and local governments are attaching more or higher fees to practically everything or holding the equivalents of mega-garage sales. In the meantime, you can read here and here about the impact all this is already having on the lives of state employees and their families. And to end on a down note, as Stateline points out, the trick is how to do all this without killing employee motivation and morale, a tough line to walk at any time, especially in light of research that demonstrates “the downward spiral process which is triggered when an employee experiences perceived injustices at the work. Such events create a major stressor which may potentially lead to damaged psychological well being and extreme emotional exhaustion, which directly affect a worker’s ability to cope with workload demands and performance-related expectations.
These individuals are also likely to feel singled out within their work environment and may start to feel unhappy about their jobs as a whole, leading to a change in job-related attitudes and behavior. This in turn leads to a general depletion in their sense of commitment to the organization, and in the worst-case scenario, an increased risk of voluntary termination and high turnover within organizations.”
Looks like a bumpy ride. 08/31/09.
Time to Think
Got enough of it? Not likely, according to this analyst writing in GOVERNING. And blocking off even 5% of your time for the different kinds of thinking he describes will help you with your work and planning. He thinks. 08/28/09.
How Many Balls Can You Juggle?
The more you try, the worse you do, apparently. That’s the conclusion
research on multitasking, which says the people who do it most do it worst. Why?
“"They couldn't help thinking about the task they weren't doing," lead author Eyal Ophir said. "The high multitaskers are always drawing from all the information in front of them. They can't keep things separate in their minds."
The next step is to look into what multitaskers are good at and see if the difference between high and low multitaskers is one of "exploring" versus "exploiting" information.
"High multitaskers just love more and more information. Their greatest thrill is to get more," he said. On the other hand, "exploiters like to think about the information they already have."”
So the answer is to do less and think about it more? Why does “Wally” in the Dilbert cartoons suddenly come to mind? 08/25/09.
How (Not) to Brainstorm
Turns out the benefits of brainstorming
sessions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be when the participants either
groupthink or hold back ideas for fear of being shot down or penalized. How
to do it better? Well, this article might help you figure out ways:
“Inspiration for ways to get around these problems comes from the research on electronic brainstorming. Gallupe and Cooper (1993) found that electronically mediated brainstormers generated more high quality ideas than face-to-face brainstomers.”
Click the link to find out how. 08/24/09.
Will We Live Long Enough . . .
. . . to see the day when these findings and recommendations are actually put into effect in state government? Like the finding that Europeans, with so much more vacation time than we have here in the US, actually maintain comparable productivity levels? Or that powerpoint presentations get deadlier the more you put into them, especially with those ever-popular bullet-points? Since the findings that brief afternoon naps raise individual productivity levels were so well implemented when they came out a couple of years ago, let’s all hold our breaths. 08/20/09.
Quote of the Day
From the management guru Henry Mintzberg:
“I talk about what I call “the inevitably flawed manager.” We’re all flawed, but basically, effective managers are people whose flaws are not fatal under the circumstances. Maybe the best managers are simply ordinary, healthy people who aren’t too screwed up.” (h/t Organizations and Markets). 08/1/09.
Funny how a little thing like the worst econ downturn since the Depression can change the accuracy of predictions. Like all those predictions of public employee shortfalls as Baby Boomers hit retirement age. Turns out that that’s slowed down with the economy. This will give you an overview of how/why that’s both a problem and an advantage right now, complete with some insights into successful and unsuccessful buy-outs and how the younger workers who expected promotions are dealing with it.
And while on management concerns, here’s
an article on something many female supervisors may unfortunately have experience
“Women who hold supervisory positions are more likely to be sexually harassed at work, according to the first-ever, large-scale longitudinal study to examine workplace power, gender and sexual harassment.
The study, which will be presented at the 104th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, reveals that nearly fifty percent of women supervisors, but only one-third of women who do not supervise others, reported sexual harassment in the workplace. In more conservative models with stringent statistical controls, women supervisors were 137 percent more likely to be sexually harassed than women who did not hold managerial roles. While supervisory status increased the likelihood of harassment among women, it did not significantly impact the likelihood for men.”
There are details at the link if you want more. 08/14/09.
The Experience Strategy
“A few years ago the city manager of a medium-size city was getting frustrated
with his department heads. The manager kept hearing from residents who were
upset by the city's long, tedious processes for obtaining services, permits
and information. He passed on those complaints, but the department heads
just got defensive. "The citizens don't understand that we are required
to use a certain process," they protested. "We're bound by federal
and state laws and regulations." It was all true, but that didn't make
any difference. The department heads weren't willing to get creative, and
the city manager wasn't getting through to them.
So he tried something different. He sent the department heads on a scavenger hunt. He formed three-person teams and gave each team the task of applying for something that the city offered: a building permit, a parks-and-recreation program, a business license and the like. They had to navigate the entire process, document the steps they took and the time required, and note their experiences dealing with the various city employees.
A month later, the very same department heads who had been so unwilling to consider change were now demanding it!”
A column in GOVERNING is calling this “the experience strategy,” that is, having staff actually working on the line and in the field to get a clear picture of what is going on rather than acting on their assumptions, and recommending its practice. The payoff?
“When staff have the experience of working in other agencies or units, they start to see the work world through a different lens. They gain insights into how communications between the units could improve, and inevitably they start to see how their work fits into the larger scheme of things. Rotations, like the other examples of the experience strategy, help people learn why things work as they do. Such experiences also leave most people hungry for change. Smart leaders will tap that hunger and provide direction for the change.” 08/11/09.
The Practice of Evidence-Based Government
Interesting article here on
the use of scientific research and evidence in government operations. Doesn’t
take the usual “oh, politics never listens to science” approach, but discusses
the conditions under which policymakers and practitioners are most likely to
do so. The problem, of course, is that the research on that really isn’t
done much and not much evidence is available on the topic of evidence:
“Prewitt is chairing a committee of the National Research Council that's charged with improving the use of social science evidence in the policy process. In an overview of its mission, the committee says it hopes to answer a series of basic but vital questions, including: "What are the best ways to measure quality and promote improvement of research? How much evidence of various sorts is necessary (or sufficient) to support programs and policies? What happens if the evidentiary standard is set too high or too low? How can research evidence contribute to improved policy and practice decisions? What types of policies are most amenable to various types of research and how are research results best communicated to decision makers?"
Prewitt says it's become clear that the science base doesn't yet exist to answer those questions definitively and to put forward a solid report about how research is acquired and used by policymakers. The lack of authoritative findings in this regard is impressive; Prewitt says he can't now document, for example, whether policymakers are more likely to use social science the government pays for than science that comes in "over the transom" from other sources. "Therefore, I think we have to sort of clear out the underbrush ... and start fresh by doing some serious social science about what is actually happening in the interaction between getting knowledge and using knowledge," Prewitt said.”
Still, worth your time if you have ever wondered these same sorts of things. Or have answers and want to get famous. 08/11/09.
Where You Stand Depends on Where You Sit?
Research here showing
that, depending on your place on the power pole, you have a more or less flexible
view of morals and following rules.
“In determining whether an act is right or wrong, the powerful focus on whether rules and principles are violated, whereas the powerless focus on the consequences,” states the study “How Power Influences Moral Thinking,” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “For this reason, the powerful are also more inclined to stick to the rules — irrespective of whether this has positive or negative effects — while the powerless are more inclined to make exceptions.” . . .
Whatever the reasons for the phenomenon, the realization that a person’s relative level of power influences moral thinking is a valuable one. As the researchers note, many conflicts are between individuals with different levels of power: employer/employee, teacher/student, traffic cop/driver, etc.
In such cases, they write, “high-power parties may appear rigid and unbending to low-power parties. At the same time, low-power parties may appear irresponsible and too much focused on immediate implications in the eyes of the powerful.” The result can be two people talking past one another, while each claims the moral high ground.”
This would tend to play out in more hierarchical organizations so it probably doesn’t have any relevance to corrections departments, though. 08/10/09.
Ewwww. The word makes you want to run and hide, right? Well, don’t. Turns out it’s one of the top career choices right now with organizations private and public realizing that, especially in tough economic times, the people who can get and analyze the data that allow you to make cost-effective decisions rather than just blindly doing the same old could actually be valuable and earn their salaries back several times over. Too late for you maybe, but remind your kids that they could be the next Bill Gates. . . . okay, don’t. 08/06/09.
Mentoring Matters and Other Management Issues
A survey reported here finds
that all but one of the female corporate leaders questioned identified a male
as the one person who helped them most to their success. Here’s some
of the logic:
“One reason the path to success for some women almost always leads through men may be the sheer matter of numbers: There are only 29 Fortune 1,000 companies with a female CEO and not enough other women in very high-ranking positions to do the mentoring.
So what do these mentors have in common besides standing on the other side of the gender divide? One thread appears to be that they often have a daughter. Others have had a strong female influence in their lives. Female CEOs say their male mentors believed in them enough to push them beyond their comfort zones. The best mentors won't waste their time on women unless they see a strong desire for success, says Laura Wellington, CEO of The Giddy Gander Co.
The best male mentor won't be the guy who is nicest to you in the office, but the one who is wise enough to know that there is no one more loyal than the women he champions, says Sen, who names as her key mentor BJ's Chairman Herb Zarkin.
"Early on, I recognized that women were not interested in the games that men play, the politics or the sports analogies that were endemic in the male workplace," says Zarkin. "Women were interested in getting the job done."
"Men have the power to make women great," says Laura Herring, chairwoman of human resources consultants Impact Group. Juliet Huck, founder of a communications consulting firm, says her key mentor, Dan Winter, had "more confidence in my talent than I did." . . .
Of course, many women may flinch at statements that give any one person credit for their success — whether it is a man or not. And sometimes older men will mentor younger women for the wrong reasons. "Shocking, I know," deadpans Andréa White-Kjoss, CEO at Mobis Transportation/Bikestation, a small company with 20 employees that designs, builds and manages facilities that encourage cycling. Even so, "I have found female champions to be rare," says White-Kjoss, who says men have been her key mentors, and she can think of only one woman over 15 years whom she would include on any list of mentors.
Catalyst, an organization whose mission is to expand opportunities for women in business, released a study of male mentors to women in May called "Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives: What Change Agents Need to Know." Men who impeded or who were indifferent to the progress of women viewed the workplace as a zero-sum game where promotions of women came at the expense of men. Catalyst found that if there is one thing that stands out among male champions of women, it is a strong sense of fairness.”
Want more semi-counterintuitive findings? Well, turns out there are two kinds of perfectionism, one that drives you productively to do better and one that drives you (and those around you) crazy and keeps you from finishing anything but does let you feel like a failure. The first seems to be considered the best:
“Perfectionists, research shows, can become easily discouraged by failing to meet impossibly high standards, making them reluctant to take on new challenges or even complete agreed-upon tasks. The insistence on dotting all the i’s can also breed inefficiency, causing delays, work overload and even poor results. Perfectionism can hurt health and relationships, too. It is associated with anorexia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, writer’s block, alcoholism and depression. Such problems may be prevalent: a 2007 study that evaluated more than 1,500 college students revealed that nearly one quarter of them suffered from an unhealthy form of perfectionism.
And yet in recent years, some psychologists have amassed evidence suggesting that perfectionism encompasses positive qualities, including a drive to succeed, an inclination to plan and organize, and a focus on excellence. Why else would people brag about the trait in job interviews? Healthy perfectionists embrace the trait’s sunnier side while minimizing its darker features. Hilary Bowen, a straight-A senior at Northwestern University who made the U.S. World Cup lacrosse training team, considers herself a perfectionist. She sets the bar at the highest notch when it comes to athletics and academics. But Bowen’s goals, though ambitious, are realistic, and she does not let mistakes get her down. “If I get a good grade, maybe it wasn’t 100, but it was a good grade, then I see it as, ‘That’s awesome, that’s what I wanted to do,’ ” she says. “But at the same time, I still push myself. I’m like, okay, I still want to get even better.”
In recent years researchers have developed tools to parse and measure the beneficial, along with the detrimental, aspects of perfectionism. In addition, they are developing treatment programs that push perfectionistic tendencies in a more positive direction. Perfectionism is not an official psychiatric illness. Nevertheless, therapy not only may make the afflicted happier and more successful but may even help ameliorate associated mental illnesses, from anorexia to anxiety disorders.”
Okay, one more. But is it really surprising to learn that the promises your organization makes to you aren’t as important as whether they follow through with what you think you should be getting? If so, this should shock you:
“In a study to be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the authors found that the influence of promises has little effect on employee’s emotional reactions toward the organization, their intentions to stay with the organization, and intentions to engage in citizenship behaviors.
People care more about what they receive from their organization, not what they were promised. Contrary to much of the research in this area, employees still feel like the psychological contract has been “broken” even in the absence of any promises made and when they don’t get what they think they should from their organization.” 08/05/09.
An article here on studies showing that it’s not necessarily intelligence that pays off. It’s “grit.” Also known as perseverance, or sticking with your goals until you get them done. Here’s a bit of the article to get you to click over to the whole thing:
“While stories of grit have long been associated with self-help manuals and life coaches - Samuel Smiles, the author of the influential Victorian text “Self-Help” preached the virtue of perseverance - these new scientific studies rely on new techniques for reliably measuring grit in individuals. As a result, they’re able to compare the relative importance of grit, intelligence, and innate talent when it comes to determining lifetime achievement. Although this field of study is only a few years old, it’s already made important progress toward identifying the mental traits that allow some people to accomplish their goals, while others struggle and quit. Grit, it turns out, is an essential (and often overlooked) component of success.”
As part of that article, there was a sidebar discussing the research on impact of preschool education on long-term life outcomes. The really good preschools show payoff in terms of reduced unemployment, crime, other bad social outcomes, but researchers were puzzled why when the “IQ” increases associated with the programs seemed to wear off within a couple of grades. Well, turns out it was the “grit” the preschool kids learned, not the “knowledge.” This fits well with research on inadequate self-control being a major force behind criminal behavior. It also should remind you of related research we’ve cited here indicating that confidence isn’t necessarily a sign of intelligence either. In fact, it may be the opposite:
“. . . as a famous paper by Kruger and Sunning showed, people who are bad at what they do are generally also incapable of understanding that they s*ck — and this directly contributes to inflated self-perception. So, incompetence tends to make people cocky and people prefer cocky judgements [sic] over demonstrated expertise, which is pretty much the worst of both worlds.”
Grit and humility. Who would have thought those would ever prove valuable characteristics? 08/03/09.