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.

The Leadership Style That Can Make Men Look Inferior

PAFF_110315_MaleLeadershipInferior_newsfeatureModern leadership consultants often counsel managers about the importance of seeking help and input from staff to enact change. Asking for assistance and input enhances creativity, improves decision-making, and boosts an organization’s performance.

But requesting help also carries a reputational cost. Research dating back to the 1970s shows that asking for help can lead others to question your competence. A new study indicates that this phenomenon has a particularly undermining effect on men’s professional image.

The study draws from research on gender roles, expectations, and biases. Duke University business professor Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, psychological scientist Jennifer S. Mueller of University of San Diego, and behavioral researcher R. David Lebel of University of Pittsburgh wanted to find out how men who seek help are evaluated in workplace settings.

To do so, they first referenced studies on biases and conventions that impede women from…


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Uncovering the Extravert Advantage

PAFF_102915_ExtravertAdvantageMFB_newsfeatureWhen it comes to winning the office personality contest, extraverts seem to have the advantage.

Several studies have found that extraverts, compared with their more introverted colleagues, often have higher-quality social interactions that help them build rapport with other people. This social proficiency gives extraverts a distinct edge when it comes to networking for a new job or getting noticed by the boss for a promotion.

But scientists have yet to pinpoint the exact behaviors that lead to this “extravert advantage.” Studies haven’t found any consistent differences between extraverts and introverts when it comes to nonverbal behaviors related to social bonding, such as eye-contact, smiling, and openness.

In a new study, Duke University psychological scientists Korrina Duffy and Tanya Chartrand identified one key behavior that help explain why and how extraverts are so socially adept: mimicry.

Mimicry occurs when people unconsciously copy…


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The Trouble with Too Much Talent

PAFF_102715_TooMuchTalentMFB_newsfeatureWhether they’re trying to build a professional sports team or a team of software engineers, recruiters try to nab as much top talent as possible. Surveys show that across countries and industries, organizations see recruiting high-level talent as their top priority. But does bringing together the most talented individuals actually guarantee the best possible team performance?

Maybe not: Research suggests that packing a team with too much talent may actually backfire, diminishing overall performance.

In 2010, the Miami Heat basketball team managed to recruit two of the top players in the NBA—LeBron James and Chris Bosh. With a superstar lineup that included local favorite Dwayne Wade, the Heat was predicted to become a championship powerhouse — but they actually performed worse than they had the year before.

In a new book, Friend and Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and…


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When Decisions Satisfy, and When They Upset

This is an image of a person standing at a crossroads.Should I sign that contract? Should I fire that lazy employee? Should I eat lunch at my desk or go out?

Business professionals face a daily dose of decisions like these — some that we can change, others that are irreversible. While it may seem safer to make choices we can later revise, a small body of research suggests that people tend to be more satisfied after making unalterable decisions rather than those they can undo. This partly stems from humans’ tendency, demonstrated in psychological research, to overestimate the regret they’ll feel over their decisions.

In one experiment several years ago, for example, researchers had participants take part in a two-person negotiation for money, which enabled them to observe participants’ negotiation style and measure how much regret they would feel if their…


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How Being Laid Off Affects Your Job Prospects

This is a photo of a businessman with a box of office supplies.Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently sent 330 employees emails letting them know the company—in an effort to control costs as its user base declines—would be eliminating their jobs. And the layoff is small in comparison to other players in the technology world. In July, Microsoft shed 7,800 positions. And Hewlett-Packard is slashing up to 30,000 jobs as part of a massive reorganization plan.

There will no doubt be thousands of highly skilled and talented professionals on the job market as the result of downsizing moves like these. But a new study appears to have identified the type of prospective employers who will view these professionals with skepticism—even though they’re unemployed through no fault of their own.

A group of researchers led by Margo J. Monteith, a psychological scientist at…


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