Psychological Science at Work


The indispensable research blog on the science of the modern workplace, covering everything from leadership and management to the behavioral, social, and cognitive dynamics behind performance and achievement.


For Managers, Upholding Fairness Comes at a Cost

The French novelist Victor Hugo wrote that “being good is easy, what is difficult is being just.” A recent study on fairness in the workplace may lend support to his claim.

PAFF_082614_WorkJusticeMFB_newsfeatureAlthough fairness is typically heralded as something good, psychological scientists Russell E. Johnson (Michigan State University), Klodiana Lanaj (University of Florida), and Christopher M. Barnes (University of Washington) found that for those charged with enforcing it, workplace justice may actually come at a cost.

Abiding by rules and procedures has been shown to drain mental resources, leading the researchers to hypothesize that enforcing the rules could also be mentally draining. When people’s mental resources are low it’s tougher for them to maintain the self-control needed to resist negative behaviors and behave in positive ways.

In the workplace, procedural justice refers to the way employees perceive organizational rules and polices meant to…

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In Hiring, Resume Info Could Help Employers Predict Who Will Quit

Replacing an employee isn’t just expensive. When an employee leaves, organizations often have to plan for dips in productivity and loss of institutional knowledge, not to mention having to dedicate time and effort to hire PAFF_081914_ResumeHiringMFB_newsfeature and train a new employee.

Given all of these costs, many organizations are interested in identifying strategies that will help them retain their employees. New research shows that information included in most resumes could serve as a cheap and effective predictor for how long someone is likely to stay in a new job, suggesting that retention might be boosted early on in the initial screening process.

Psychological scientist James A. Breaugh of the University of Missouri in St. Louis compared job turnover rates for 414 customer service agents who had recently been hired at a large call center to job application information.

To predict who would…

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Networking Style May Predict Profits for Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship is a risky endeavor. Of all new firms, around one-third will close within the first two years and over half will have closed within their first four years. However, one thing that has been shown to greatly PAFF_081214_networkingrevenueMFB_newsfeatureimprove the odds of success for new businesses: face-to-face networking.

A team of psychological scientists, led by Jeffrey M. Pollack of North Carolina State University, investigated how different approaches to networking might end up impacting the bottom line for entrepreneurs.

In a recent study, Pollack and colleagues hypothesized that even though all entrepreneurs have the same ultimate goal of making more money, they might be utilizing different strategies for balancing risk and security in their networking styles.

For example, someone more inclined to “play it safe” might focus on interacting with a select group of people they already know, rather than wasting time and…

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Feminine Faces Offered Less at the Negotiation Table

Women often come away from the negotiation table with lower salaries and less advantageous terms than men. New research suggests that in the first moments of bargaining negotiators may be equating feminine features PAFF_0804_WomenNegotiationMFB_newsfeaturewith negative stereotypes about women’s negotiating skills.

In a recent study, psychological scientists Eric Gladstone and Kathleen M. O’Connor of Cornell University looked at how the possession of feminine facial features impacted negotiations. The researchers hypothesized that people with feminine facial features, even men, would be perceived as more cooperative, less aggressive, and less assertive.

Based on this instantaneous visual assessment, negotiators are likely to treat people with more feminine features as less effective bargainers.

Gladstone and O’Connor used a standardized set of photos of real faces of men and women for the experiment. Several distinct feature make faces appear more feminine, such as faces with less prominent eye-brow…

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The Key to Work-Life Balance is Really Work-Life Harmony

PAFF_0725_WorkLifeHarmony_newsfeatureShould you leave now to make it on time to a family dinner, or stay late at work to finish up that last minute project? At some point, most of us have probably had to choose between the demands of work and our personal lives.

Research has consistently shown that a healthy “work-life balance” is vital for maintaining job satisfaction and avoiding burnout. However, a new study suggests that the idea of “work-life balance” itself may be a problem.

The standard concept of work-life balance is often seen as a zero-sum game, where work and life are completely separate domains that are constantly competing for time and energy.

In contrast, the concept of “work-life harmony” visualizes work and life roles as being interconnected and dependent on each other, rather than separate and in competition.

In a recent study, psychological scientists He Lu…

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