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.

Why Office Jerks Get Ahead

PAFF_121015_OfficeJerksGetAhead_newsfeatureThink your boss is a psychopath? You may be right. New research finds that employees who displayed certain Dark Triad traits – psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism – are more likely to climb to the top of the corporate ladder than those who don’t show the traits.

University of Bern psychological scientists Daniel Spurk, Anita Keller, and Andreas Hirschi conducted the new study, concluding that high scores on some of these malignant traits were linked to better career prospects, including more leadership positions and higher salaries.

Even though the Dark Triad traits are associated with negative behaviors (e.g., lying, cheating, recklessness, manipulation) that can cost businesses billions, research also suggests that ruthless corporate climbers with the traits can also be charming, ambitious, and excellent negotiators.

The researchers hypothesized that some of these sinister traits may help people succeed, while other traits may hinder…


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Maximizing the Gains and Minimizing the Pains of Diversity

PAFF_120815_PainsGainsDiversity_newsfeatureFor organizations, diversity pays off. Empirical research has shown that diversity increases creativity and innovation and promotes better decision making because it spurs deeper information processing and complex thinking.

In a new report, an international research team led by APS Fellow Adam Galinsky (Columbia University) reviewed the available scientific research on the economics of diversity, concluding that “diverse groups of people are simply more effective at responding to dynamic contexts and unforeseen challenges.”

“Homogeneous groups run the risk of narrow mindedness and groupthink (i.e., premature consensus) through misplaced comfort and overconfidence,” Galinsky and colleagues write. “Diverse groups, in contrast, are often more innovative and make better decisions, in both cooperative and competitive contexts.”

Although diverse groups may be better for business, interacting with people from different backgrounds also has the potential to generate mistrust, resentment, and conflict.

“The amount of…


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Get Up, Stand Up! How to Get People to Quit Sitting

PAFF_120315_GetUpStandUp_newsfeatureIf you work a typical office job, you might be spending more than 10 hours a day sitting down. Across numerous studies, extensive sitting has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even an early death.

People are becoming increasingly aware of the health risks associated with sitting, but with many employees desk-bound, how do you convince people to get up and get moving at work? According to a new meta-analysis, interventions that specifically targeted sitting, rather than just getting people to exercise more often, were the most effective at getting people to be less sedentary at work.

After analyzing 38 different interventions from 26 studies that included more than 10,000 participants, an international team led by King’s College London professor of psychology Benjamin Gardner identified the most promising strategies for getting employees moving.

“Developing effective sedentary reduction interventions depends on…


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Three Tactics for Tackling Unethical Behavior

PAFF_120115_REVISEunethicalbehavior_newsfeatureFrom the boardroom to the breakroom, unscrupulous behavior in the business world costs the global economy billions of dollars each year. For instance, economists estimate annual losses in the US of $1 trillion paid in bribes, $270 billion lost due to unreported income, and $42 billion lost in retail due to shoplifting and employee theft.

But such unethical behavior isn’t necessarily the price of doing business. An international team of researchers — Shahar Ayal (Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya), Francesca Gino (Harvard University), Rachel Barkan (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev), and Dan Ariely (Duke University) — have identified three concrete steps that organizations can take to combat unethical behavior on the job.

“The immediate financial costs are worrying, but the threat to society is even more serious because seemingly isolated violations chip away trust, encourage negative social norms, and increase the prevalence and spread…


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Wake Up! The Working World Has a Sleep Crisis

PAFF_112015_SleepCrisisPerspectivesMFB_newsfeatureThe United States is facing a public health crisis when it comes to sleep, and psychological scientists are calling for action.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 10 hours of daily sleep for school-age children and 7–8 hours of sleep per night for adults. However, recent reports indicate that nearly 30% of American adults report an average of 6 or fewer hours of sleep per night.

In a new article, published in a special section of Perspectives on Psychological Science, Christopher Barnes (University of Washington) and Christopher Drake (Henry Ford Hospital, Sleep Disorders and Research Center) explain how this epidemic of sleep deprivation is not only harming Americans’ health, but costing businesses billions of dollar each year.

“Overall, sleep deprived employees will be more prone to mistakes, less aware that they are making mistakes, less creative,…


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