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.

Entitled at the Top: Are Leaders More Selfish Than the Rest of Us?

PAFF_072616_SelfishLeaders_newsfeatureLeaders’ propensity for generosity seems to depend on whether they feel like they’ve earned their high-status position, according to new research conducted by psychological scientists Nicholas Hays (Michigan State University) and Steven Blader (New York University).

The findings indicate that a boss or colleague who feels that their high-status position is unearned is likely to be much more generous compared to someone who feels like they’re entitled to a spot at the top.

“For instance, high-status CEOs—who have a greater sense of hubris and thus are likely to have an exaggerated sense of their value to their organizations— extract more compensation and yet devote less time and effort to advancing organizational goals compared to lower-status CEO,” write Hays and Blader. “Because generosity is often strategically demonstrated to attain status, generosity may decrease once status-attainment goals are achieved.”

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How Rude Co-Workers Can Mess Up Your Marriage

PAFF_072216_RudenessMarriage_newsfeatureHaving to work with rude or disrespectful colleagues can take a toll on an employees’ family life, according to new research.

An international team of psychological scientists led by Sandy Lim of the University of Singapore hypothesized that employees who deal with high levels of incivility at work are more likely to take out their negative mood on their spouses once they get home.

“Workplace incivility is a subtle form of interpersonal mistreatment,” Lim and colleagues explain. “Uncivil behaviors are typically rude or discourteous behaviors that violate workplace norms of respect, for example, insulting remarks, addressing others in unprofessional terms, and the use of a condescending tone.”

Previous research has shown that rudeness can be “contagious,” spreading from one individual to another throughout an office. The new study, published in the Journal of Management, suggests that a bad mood caused by an…


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Putting Corporate Quotas to Work for Women

PAFF_071916_GenderQuotasWork_newsfeatureMen outnumber women in corporate leadership positions to such an extent that in the US that there are more top chief executives named John than there are women leading major companies. Across the world, women are underrepresented in leadership positions. One tactic to help break down barriers is for companies or governments to institute requirements or quotas designed to increase women’s representation in leadership positions. But do these well-intentioned tactics actually work?

To answer this question, a team of Australian psychological scientists including Victor Sojo, Robert Wood, Sally Wood, and Melissa Wheeler evaluated whether quotas, laws, and target goals actually helped to close the gender gap in leadership on an international scale.

“The evidence indicates that women rarely get appointed or elected into top leadership positions,” Sojo and colleagues write. “By the end…


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Failure, Emotions, and Explaining It to Your Boss

PAFF_071416_EmotionsExplainingBoss_newsfeatureWe all make mistakes in the workplace at one point or another, but is there an optimal way to explain it to your supervisor?

In a 2015 paper published by Europe’s Journal of Psychology, David and Hareli Shlomo and APS Fellow Ursula Hess investigated whether showing emotion (or the lack thereof) and whether admitting guilt, blaming someone else, or giving an ambiguous response after a service failure could impact the believability of an employee’s account and their chances of being fired or promoted.

The researchers recruited business school alumni from the University of Haifa in Israel to participate in an online experiment.

In the first study, 416 participants read a scenario about an office software update gone terribly wrong. Following the upgrade, the customer’s entire system crashed and was inoperative for several hours, causing the client considerable damage. The participants were informed…


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There’s a Better Way to Manage Time Management

PAFF_071316_TimeCrunch_newsfeatureFor many people, it feels as if we have more to do and less time to do it in than ever before: children need to be fed, bosses need you to stay late, and someone needs to get the car to the mechanic. Juggling all of our responsibilities can make it feel as though there just isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything.

To wrangle our crunched calendars, we turn to “productivity hacks” and the newest time-saving apps, but new research suggests that maybe we would be better off spending some time managing our time management.

In a recent study, a team led by APS Fellow Gabriele Oettingen (New York University) examined the psychological strategies that actually help people effectively manage their time. Where lifehacks and calendar apps fail, a strategy called MCII — mental contrasting with implementation intentions —…


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