Tag Archives: agreeable

My most-read business posts in 2012

P1000377It’s that time of year when the back office team at WordPress give me my feedback on which posts have been read the most.

Last year I only wrote 33 posts bringing the total up to 128 since I started the blog in 2010.

That’s far fewer than I planned (one a week) partly due to my micro-blogging ie twitter as well.

I also used a lot of photographs most of which I took myself on my travels so I hope you found them relevant and interesting.

My readers came from 100 different countries, mostly from the UK but with the USA and India close behind.

My fifth most read post was: “Is social media the key to small business marketing?” from June 2011. This was in 3rd place last year

My fourth most read post was: “Erotic Capital – boobs, Botox, and making the best of yourself” from April 2010. This was number one last year.

My third most read post was: “It doesn’t pay to be too nice” from November 2012 which made 4th place last year.

My second most read post was: “No-one likes to be average” from June 2011. This was also in second place in 2011.

And my most read post was “Stress back on the agenda” from August 2011. This was the only post which didn’t feature in the top 5 last year.

Some food for though about my performance targets for this year as you seem to prefer the older posts (4 out of 5 appeared in last year’s most-read list).

So thank you for  reading, liking, and following.

All my posts generate a tweet from @ukSGandA and you can follow me there too.

And if you want to read my posts on business psychology and related topics check out EI4U

Hope you have a prosperous and successful 2013!

It doesn’t pay to be too nice 

P1000657 - Version 2Professor Adrian Furnham’s column in The Sunday Times is always of interest to psychologically minded executives and his book; “The Elephant in the Boardroom – the causes of leadership derailment”, should be essential reading for all would-be directors.

As a psychologist I liked the piece in which he explained why nice guys don’t always win – because of their Agreeable personality.

Agreeableness is one of the Big 5 Personality Factors (along with Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Neuroticism).

He points out that Agreeableness can be a handicap in business as the higher you score on this factor, the less likely you are to succeed as a business leader!

Most of us would prefer to work for an agreeable rather than a disagreeable boss, wouldn’t we? Well perhaps not says Furnham. Agreeable bosses may make you dissatisfied by not dealing with poor performers and being too forgiving, maybe treating you all the same, or being manipulated by your more devious colleagues.

One of my earlier posts Sometimes you just have to tell em” was about research at Roffey Park that showed that we are not very good at dealing with underperformance or telling people what we want, that strong managers get more respect, and that a firm consistent approach is better for morale and performance generally.

And it gets worse – if you’re a female. The Times reported last year on some research carried out by the Institute of Employment Research and concluded that;  “It doesn’t pay for a female boss to be too nice. The research showed that personality factors do come into account and that, for example, nice people earn less.

Too niceApparently nice women are being swept away by openly aggressive ones who know what they want.

A more recent paper presented to the Academy of Management by Beth A Livingston from Cornell University analysed surveys spread over 20 years. She found that  significantly less agreeable men earned 18.3% more than men who were significantly more agreeable. For women the difference was less, just 5.5%.

Livingston said; “Men’s disagreeable behaviour conforms to expectations of masculine behaviour“.

Apparently nice women are being swept away by openly aggressive ones who know what they want.

Working hard obviously helps but if you are too conscientious you may be seen as neurotic (or get bullied), and extraverts do no better than introverts.

Professor Cary Cooper, at the University of Lancaster Management School, agrees but also thinks women have more emotional intelligence than men and are not generally as egocentric.

So agreeable managers have to learn how to toughen up – for the sake of their team and the organisation, just as the disagreeable ones have to learn how to be nice – if only for the PR.

The July 2010 issue of Psychologies magazine has picked up on this topic in their article; “Why it pays to be tough at work“. It suggests that the prevailing view that it’s not the cleverest (presumably meaning IQ) but those with the highest emotional intelligence that succeed is wrong.

That was always a simplistic view at best and one that Adrian Furnham disagrees with as he says there is evidence that disagreeable poeple do better. The German research quoted says agreeable women earned £40,000 less over a lifetime than women who behaved more like ruthless men.

The article’s author then has a go at empathy. She quotes Jack Welch’s wife as saying that; “too much empathy is paralysing” when you have to give tough feedback or make tough decisions, and goes on to talk about women being prone to slipping into “good mother” roles where they create “gardens of entitlement” sowing seeds of future problems (such as?).

After dismissing empathy – by quoting Neutron Jack’s wife for goodness sake – the author next attacks self-knowledge which she doesn’t consider essential for top jobs as it can detract from self-confidence if it makes you aware of your failings (is she serious that these people don’t need feedback ?

Some people have short memories; what about Enron, the banks or BP?. Furnham is quoted as saying that people who get on may be narcissistic – which is not the only dark-side attribute.

If men overestimate their abilities and don’t navel gaze while women underestimate themselves and have self-doubt (imposter syndrome) then women seemed doomed to fail according to the author and people like Suzy Welch.

In fact the author seems to welcome emotional stupidity as it makes less demands on her. She even has a dig at Anne Mulcahy, ex-CEO of Xerox, because, although she has written about what women can bring to the workplace in terms of emotionality which makes them better leaders, she cut 1/3 of the workforce.

Did she not wonder how Neutron Jack got his nickname?

Original published on 12 April 2010

Men and Women at Work

Work affects men and women differently, no doubt about it.

Being happily married helps women resist work-place stress whilst men dissatisfied with their jobs are more likely to flirt.

If you’re a working mum stop worrying about it having negative effects on your kids but try not to work more than 30 hours a week.

If you’re a stay-at-home dad then you’re probably more satisfied with your life than dads who go out to work but, like many women, miss adult conversation.

If you are an independent women rejecting help may make people believe you are competent but cold, and vice versa. Not so for men.

In a mixed group women cooperate more than men but men are more cooperative than women when working in a single sex group.

But men and women do have one thing in common: taking work home – whether mentally or physically –  can depress you and make you feel tired.

A study at UCLA, published in 2008 in Health Psychology, showed that happily married working women rebounded quicker from daily stress than women in less happy relationships.

Men showed lower stress levels as the day progressed – as measured by levels of cortisol in their saliva – whether happily married or not. So while marriage is often seen as good for men’s health it may come at a price for women in unhappy relationships.

But there is good news for working mums. Research at the University of Bath, published this year, shows that working mums are significantly less likely to suffer from depression whether part-time or full-time and regardless of salary level: single mums 15% less likely and mums in a partnership 6% less likely.

The researchers said there seems to be little evidence to link stress at work to depression. Women going back to work showed a 26% drop in mental health problems compared to an increase of 25% for women giving up work. And the same results have been found in a 10-year study in America where working mums also report fewer symptoms of depression than mums who don’t work. Working part-time was the healthiest option of all.

We have known for decades that unemployment was bad for men and now the same applies to women. Work gives you a sense of identity and boosts your self-esteem which impacts on your well-being.

And there’s no evidence that babies suffer when their mums work. Past research has found that returning to work early results in children who are slower learners and UNICEF recommended in 2008 that women stay at home for the first 12 months rather than put their children at risk.

But the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care followed 1,000 children over 7 years tracking their families and their development. The research published by the Society for Research in Child Development in 2010 showed that overall the net impact was neutral: the advantages of more income and better child care offset any downsides of the mums returning to work. Again part-time working of up to 30 hours a week offered better outcomes than full-time working.

But women don’t have it all their own way at work. When it comes to “benevolent sexism” a study reported in the European Journal of Social Psychology  last year showed that women couldn’t win. If they accept someone’s offer of help, for example opening a door for them or helping with a computer problem, they are seen as warmer but less competent; if they reject help they are seen as competent but cold.

And the same researchers found that accepting help meant that women were judged less suitable for managerial jobs while rejecting help led to their being judged less suitable for care jobs that relied on emotional skills.

For men the results were different. Rejecting offers of help led to them being judged as competent but not less warm. And it seems men are judged both competent and warmer when they offer help which is accepted.

It seem that independent women are seen as competent but cold mainly by people who believe in benevolent sexism and who adopt paternalistic attitudes.

A review by Balliet of 50 years of research discovered that men are actually more cooperative than women. And they are more likely to help strangers and be cooperative in large groups, whereas women are seen as more supportive and agreeable.

Perhaps surprisingly men are more cooperative in single sex groups than women but in mixed sex groups women are more cooperative.

It seems that when men and women are working together they resort to stereotypical behaviours because of the presence of the opposite sex. Perhaps men like to show women how dominant they are which reduces cooperation.

And sexist men earn more, at least in the USA. Research at Florida University (published in the Journal of Applied Psychology) showed that men with traditional attitudes earned substantially more than their egalitarian colleagues whereas for women it was the other way round – although not such a big salary difference.

Over a 25-year period the traditionally-minded men earned an average of $8,459 more annually than egalitarian-minded men and $11,374 on average more than traditionally-minded women. The gap between egalitarian men and women was much less at $1,330.

The differences occurred regardless of education, type of job, family commitments or hours worked and the researchers aren’t really sure why. They surmise it might be unconscious bias.

Talking of egalitarian men, it seems that “stay at home” dads do better in terms of life, marital, and job satisfaction, than dads who work outside the home, according to research reported at the American Psychological Association’s 2007 Annual Convention.

Men were staying at home for a number of reasons including deferring to their wives’ higher earnings potential and wanted to be more involved in bringing up their children. Being a full-time dad did have some stigmas attached and they also reported missing the adult work-place interactions (something often mentioned by women when they decide to return to work).

Finally one thing that applies to everybody: taking work home, whether mentally or physically, can make you feel depressed and tired. Researchers at the University of Konstanz found that the greater people’s workload and work hours the harder it was to detach themselves from work. Workers experiencing high work demands need more recovery time but are less likely to get it because of their work habits and not having time to switch off.

Those workers with hobbies or who engaged in physical activity reported feeling less tired and more engaged. But the researchers also point out that thinking about work can be a mood booster as well if people are reflecting on their successes and accomplishments.

But let’s give the final words to women. There is evidence that while women can contribute a lot to teams they don’t always perform at their best in them. They are also more critical of organisations. And there are people who believe that women are the winners at work anyway!

My most read posts on Leadership & Management in 2011

As last year the competition is really hot out there with some great writers and experts but here are the figures from WordPress showing which of my posts you read the most.

My readers come mainly from the UK, USA, and Canada, followed by India, Oceania and Brazil.

In 5th spot was: Most people prefer male bosses. Despite all the posts I’ve written about getting women on board!

In 4th spot, but with the most comments, was: It doesn’t pay to be too nice This was number 1 by a big margin in 2010 so it’s obviously still struck a chord with you all.

In 3rd spot was: Is social media the key to small business marketing? Seen by many as the answer to their marketing problems but it won’t completely replace traditional methods.

In 2nd spot was: No-one ones to be rated as average This was prompted by the poor reactions people have to performance appraisal systems and my experience in implementing them.

And in top spot was: Erotic capital, boobs and Botox. Making the best of yourself Carol Hakim’s work has obviously struck a chord – or perhaps readers wanted a bit of spice to brighten up their day? A page 3 of the management blog!

So thanks for reading my posts and I hope you have a prosperous 2012

You’ll find posts on work psychology and other business-related psychology topics at EI4U


Women & Teams

not always words you find together given that many women in business have reputations as either “Queen Bees”, people who make the most of their “erotic capital”, or simply aggressive. 

BusMtg07Then we had the research finding that said that to make a team more intelligent – simply add more women.

But the question is whether or not women like working in teams?

The Observer this  weekend reported that two academic economists (and have you noticed how economists are trespassing on research topics more typically associated with psychologists) have published results of an experiment in the Economic Journal.

They found that in competitive tasks 80% of men chose to do it as individuals compared to just under 30% of women (they were equally able on the tasks). They called this the “gender competition gap” and found that it shrank by more than half when the only option was to compete in teams. Then 67% of men and 45% of women chose to compete.

Previous research has shown that men prefer to compete more than women even when they are equally able to do the task. The economists, Andrew Healey and Jennifer Pate, say that it is the environment which is important and changing that can narrow the gender competition gap.

They point out that there are only 5 women CEOs of FTSE100 companies and think that if the emphasis was shifted away from “testosterone-fuelled gladiatorial-style competition” to an environment that focusses on their team-working ability, things could change in favour of women. We know that women are frustrated by their perceived under-representation on boards but it is improving, and some writers think that women have already won the battle of the sexes at work.

They also point out that men will apply for jobs for which they are under-qualified  whilst women do the opposite and if selection or competition was based on teamwork more women and fewer men might apply.

I posted on this issue a year ago following the publication of a management survey which showed that people trusted female CEOs more than male ones to get their company out of recession and save jobs. But women suffer more than men from “imposter syndrome” and are therefore less likely to apply for jobs unless they are highly confident they can do them, whereas men are more likely to overestimate their capability and apply regardless.

My most read business posts in 2010

Writing a business blog means that you are competing in a busy arena against some very big organisations and expert writers.

And everyone has an opinion about their company or boss don’t they?.

So it’s gratifying that so many of you have read my posts and also taken the trouble to add comments or e-mail me.

These were the most read of my posts in 2010.

No 5 (actually there were 4 sharing 4th spot)

Leaders, charisma and NVC

We had plenty of examples of leaders who were less than charismatic in 2010 but does it matter?

Female CEOs still trusted more than males

Whilst most people prefer to work for male bosses, even females, it  seems the recession has brought out the best in women CEOs.

PR=Protecting Reputations

And there were lots of reputations that needed protecting – just think BP!

Stressful Days are here again

A re-blog from EI4U where it was the second most read post. So unfortunately stress is back on the agenda. Resilient leadership needs to be the order of the day.

No 3: Leadership – the Dark Side

And talking of leadership – we all love reading about psychopaths but dealing with them at work is a different kettle of fish.

No 2: What kind of manager are you?

A bit of light-heartedness from the Chartered Management Institute but people like to know these things (but being compared with Posh Spice?).

And No 1 by a big margin: It doesn’t pay to be too nice

So no more Mr Nice Guy!

But best wishes to all of you for a happy and prosperous 2011

Gender and Pay differentials

So men earn more than women but is it that simple? And is it legislation on equal pay that has narrowed the gap or is it actually due to the fact that as the computer has replaced many routine jobs previously carried out by women eg machine operators, calculating and book-keeping, this meant women moved into more highly paid analytical jobs?

When it comes to executive pay however, research at the University of Essex in the UK shows that “performance related pay” doesn’t seem to apply to women. Between 1998 and 2004 women’s bonuses stayed flat no matter how well the company did whilst men’s bonuses reflected strong company performance.

And research at Melbourne Business School shows that it is more important for women to appear likeable than competent when it comes to pay rises and promotions.

Professor Mara Olekains, who specialises in negotiating, said; “… the behaviour we normally associate with strong negotiators – competence – is also a male gender stereotype. When women increase their competitiveness by demonstrating that competence, they violate their gender stereotype” (that women should be more accommodating and relationship-focused).

She says in performance reviews women suffer a backlash if the negotiate harder because they lose on likeability and may be seen as pushy. She recommends that women should always try to score on likeability before they demonstrate their work competencies. (But see “It doesn’t pay to be too nice“)

Does it matter? A Swiss study showed that it wasn’t the pay gap that affected women’s satisfaction with life and work but whether or not the women’s community valued equal pay. Employed women in communities with traditional gender views and high wage differentials between men and women were more satisfied with life and work than women who worked in areas with smaller wage differentials but more emphasis in that community on equal pay.

And what about parenthood?  According to research at the University of Houston using the 2000 census, in the USA having children tends to result in higher wages for men. And that’s whether they are straight, gay, married or in a partnership. Most mothers however earn less than childless women – unless they are lesbians. Gay women get an even greater advantage from having kids that men.

The researchers think this is because employers’ have a stereotyped view that lesbians will maintain a career trajectory like a man or a childless woman on returning to work. Whereas they think straight women’s competence drops when they have children.